Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sunday March 31, 2013

Hello Evangelist Temple and guests. Happy Resurrection Sunday. We are here today to celebrate the fact that our savior and master gave his life to redeem us from sin and death and then picked up His life again three days later. We don’t have a lot of time today and to be completely honest any one of us could stand up here for years nonstop covering what God has done for us. Today, I’m going to try to keep this more manageable. I have three topics I have been given to share with you all today. 

  1.    Why Did Jesus have to come and die and be resurrected
  2.      What was Jesus thinking about as he hung on that cross for you and for me? 
  3.        What should you do about it?

Number 1.
For those of you who don’t know, I often have the opportunity to hear and read and watch the opinions of nonbelievers. It’s a blessing. In hearing the pathetic attempts used to deny the Gospel of Jesus Christ you can learn a lot about God and humanity. For example: have you ever stopped to think about why Jesus had to die? It’s an important question and in many ways the one question that matters when all is said and done.  I mean why couldn’t God just wave his hand and somehow forgive our sin such that no one dies or suffer? For some people it is because questions like these that they miss being saved. If you don’t know the answer to this question, shouldn’t you know? It’s not like we have an excuse for not knowing. God had made sure that scripture contains the answer for this question. Let’s kick this around for a short period of time.
Well, let’s look at a person before they come to faith in Christ. The Bible says:

22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. – Romans 3:22-31

The scripture is clear. All people are sinners. Sin is the deeds and thoughts we have that go against who God is and what God’s standards are. This passage tells us what God did despite our sin. He saves us by presenting Jesus as an atoning sacrifice and held off on punishing sin so that we can experience God’s righteousness giving us this salvation through faith in Jesus. Those of us who think that forgiveness of sin is an easy thing don’t understand how bad sin is. Sin is sin. It doesn’t matter how trivial you think it is or how small. All sin has the same result:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23

Let that sink in. Because of our sin we deserve death. Not just physical death but total separation and no fellowship with God. The kicker is that we have earned it. But eternal life is a gift to us through Jesus. But this gift is not cheap. It was so expensive that it cost Jesus’ suffering and death.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. – Romans 5:6-11

We were his enemies, but Jesus still chose to die in our place. In theological terms, this doctrine is called “Substitution”. Life for Life. Instead of the full measure of the wrath of God being brought upon us for which we so deserve, Jesus took the brunt of it for it. All your sin. All my sin. For everything we have ever done. Not just us after his sacrifice but for every human being that has ever lived or will ever live. Think about how good God is. Look at how much Jesus loves us. He is innocent. But he paid for us. Every lie you or I ever told.  Every evil thought and desire. Every mean thing. Not just big things – like rape and murder, but even the things we think are small things. God doesn’t make such distinctions. Neither you nor I are less a sinner than anyone else. No, Hitler is not worse than you. It’s all abominable to God and will send you straight to hell.
Let’s look at it from another point of view. We’ll use one of my favorite words in King James Version of the Bible: propitiation.

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. – 1 John 4:10

In a lot of newer translation the word ilasmon (“hilasmos” G2434)   as “atoning sacrifice” instead of “propitiation”.  Unfortunate because in today’s world you won’t find many people using the word “propitiation”. I’ve been trying to work it in to every day conversation but haven’t been able to make it fit. The word carries with it the notion of appeasement or satisfaction.  It’s more than atonement – making up for an offense. Jesus turned the wrath of God away from us. He gave us peace with God – we no longer have to be God’s enemies.

I don’t have time to go into detail of how just how awful the details of Jesus’ crucifixion was. From a historical point of view, you have to understand the point of Roman crucifixion was humiliation and torture. Jesus did not just die for us - he was tortured and suffered in our place. That should have been you and me on that cross not him. The idea was to show everyone just how powerful Rome was and how much of a nothing that person who was being executed was considered to be in the eyes of the state. It was shameful and not discussed in polite circles. But God took that and based our lives around it. Look at this this way: crucifixion was so horrible that they had to invent a word back then to describe how painful it was – “excruciating”. Today, one of the best ways to understand this in a visual way is Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ” from 2004. Just remember the film makers toned it down a lot – they needed an R rating. 

No one else was worthy. Jesus – God incarnate – had to be the one. Our blood is tainted by sin He was sinless. Neither you nor I could pay for our own sin. Sin is that bad. When we sin we do violence to ourselves, everyone around us, and worse to God. This is what makes hell necessary. Only an eternal punishment is penalty enough against an infinite God. The Son had to take on human flesh and live among us and pay the penalty for us. 

It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you were not pleased. – Hebrews 10:4-6

Okay this take us to the second thing I have to bring up to you today. We know what Jesus was thinking about as He hung on that cross. Here is one of the things he said:

And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). – Mark 15-33-35

Both Mark and Matthew record this saying. Many people think this mean that the Father turned
His back on Jesus because the Father is too holy to look upon sin. Some Muslims and Atheists use it to reject the whole account because they reason that God could never turn his back on one of his own. Each of these viewpoints really upset me and in the interest of time, instead of demolishing these ideas let’s focus on what Jesus did here. Jesus knew the time had come for him to die and yet he wanted to communicate something important with his last breaths. He quoted a scripture – Psalm 22. In first century Judaism, Jews knew the scriptures so well that when they wanted to refer to a scripture they would quote the first phrase or sentence and everyone would know what they were referring to. After all in Jesus’ time there were no Chapter and verse divisions like we have them now.

So what does Psalm 22 say?

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
    by night, but I find no rest.[b]
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
    you are the one Israel praises.[c]
In you our ancestors put their trust;
    they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
    “let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
    since he delights in him.”
Yet you brought me out of the womb;
    you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
    from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me;
    strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
    open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
    it has melted within me.
15 My mouth[d] is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
    you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs surround me,
    a pack of villains encircles me;
    they pierce[e] my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
    people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.
19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
    You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
    save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
22 I will declare your name to my people;
    in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
    Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
    the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
    but has listened to his cry for help.
25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
    before those who fear you[f] I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek the Lord will praise him—
    may your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth
    will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the Lord
    and he rules over the nations.
29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
    all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
    those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
    declaring to a people yet unborn:
    He has done it!

If you take the time to read the Psalm, you recognize that the speaker can’t be King David, although we think he wrote it. David describes what happened to Jesus! And David lived about 1000 years before Jesus! Jesus is saying “I’ve won this!” In John’s account, Jesus said “It is finished.” It is one word in Greek “Telos” and it is equivalent to “Viola”. The one thing you can say after completing a masterpiece.
Finally, what should be our response?

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”[e] 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Romans 10: 9 -13

We make it so difficult but it’s not. If reach out to Jesus in faith he will not reject you. And as for those of us who have been “appointed for eternal life” (Acts 13:48) what is your response after you have turned away from your sins and thrown yourself on the mercy of God? Here is a start.

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

We study the scripture and depend on God for the rest. I feel the need to make one last appeal to all of us. We must put our faith in Jesus. He is everything. Without him we have nothing and we are nothing. Please…..Please….consider Jesus’ words.

23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” – John 8:23-24

If you believe that Jesus is the one who came and paid the debt of sin, you are saved. You can’t express it any more plain than Jesus did. Let us end with a quote from Paul who understood how central Jesus is for us.

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20