Bob's Sermon for Sunday, April 8, 2018

 

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“Do you know the Lord’s seating assignments?”

 

Ephesians 2:1-10 NIV

 

      (Ephesians 2:1) “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, (2) in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

     “(3) All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

     “(4) But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, (5) made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved.”

 

     “(6) And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him[1] in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, (7) in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

 

     “(8) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- (9) not by works, so that no one can boast. (10) For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

 

     Today we observe what is called “Easter.” Modern Christians equate Easter with Jesus’ resurrection. An apocryphal story about an individual who appeared at the Pearly Gates and asked Saint Peter for entrance is based on this assumption.

 

     Peter said, "All right, tell me, what is Eas­ter?" The fellow replied, "Isn't that the day that some fellow discovered America?'' ''Wrong,” said Peter, “you'll have to go below." Another man came along asking to enter heaven; Peter asked him, "What is Easter?" This man replied, "That's the day the fat, jolly man in a red suit comes with a big bag of toys for kids.” "Incorrect," said Peter, "Can't let you in.” 

 

     A third man arrived wanting to enter heaven. When Peter asked him, "What's Easter?" he said, "Easter? Isn't that the story about the man who died, was buried, and on the third day came alive and rolled the stone away from his grave?" Peter felt better; happy that someone finally gave the right answer. But then the man continued, "But as he came from the grave, he looked out and saw his shadow, so he went back inside for six more weeks of winter weather.”

 

     In some circles, facts are almost that scarce. Consider this sad irony. In the King James Version, the word Easter appears in only Acts 12:4, but it is a mistranslation of the word for Passover, the Jewish feast.[2] It had nothing to do with Jesus’ resurrection. Easter appears in no other Bible version. The word in the original of Acts 12:4 means Passover, not Jesus’ resurrection day. So how did the word Easter originate?

 

     The word Easter, which most Christians associate with Jesus’ resurrection, is of ancient pagan German origin—Easter referred to the Teuton goddess of spring.

That’s why fertility symbols abound, i.e. eggs and bunny rabbits. The result: many Christians celebrate the   resurrection of God’s only Son using the name of a pagan fertility goddess. You’ll have to decide how appropriate that is.

 

     You came today wanting to hear a positive message and this text tells good news that most Christians overlook. “Because of his great love for us, God . . . made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved.

     And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him[3] in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus . . .”

·         First, did you notice that this text refers to something that has already taken place?

·         Second, did you note the seating arrangement the Lord provides those who believe? --“Seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.”

 

     At concerts, preferred seats are near the stage. Some pay dearly for those artists circle seats. At church, we can’t persuade folks to sit in the artist circle” for free. But we have good, important news today. Our text states it and repeats it, but most folks, including many ministers, do not pick up on it. Colossians 3 says it similarly: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ . . .”

 

     Did you catch what the text said? It says to believers, “You have already been raised from death. Christ has been raised and Christians are, too. For Christians, a resurrection has already happened,

 

     Not long ago I sat in an examining room with an MD, and she brought up the subject of belief. In so many words, she told me that her church experience was not helping her. Tears in her eyes revealed that she earnestly desires better connections with God. If someone came from another planet to observe what we do, what we say, and how we treat one another, what conclusions would that person reach about conditions in our world?

 

     Our text tells where many of us are and how we change our relationships.  In his book, Iron Shoes, C. Roy Angell wrote about the experience a doctor friend shared with him. You can tell by the prices the story is old. Nothing else has changed but the fees.

 

      This physician friend stated "that one of his patients...was in the hospital awaiting an operation. The doctor 'said: "When I went in to see her the day before the operation, she didn't seem in the least perturbed or upset. She was apparently defiant and very smug. In fact, her whole demeanor puzzled me. She had the appearance of having won a victory instead of any apprehension about the operation. I said to her, you are not uneasy about your operation, are you?' "She almost snapped out the answer, 'I am not.' Then she continued with a gleam in her eyes 'I wanted a fur coat for Christmas. I tried my best to get my husband to buy it for me. It would have cost him $600.00. He said he couldn't afford it. This operation is going to cost that old skinflint $1500.00.'

 

     The surgeon "said: 'I sat there dumbfounded. For a long time I as silent. I was thinking. Poor, pour soul. You don't realize what that resentment has cost you in the last six months." The doctor "went on to say, There are literally thousands and thousands of people whose physical health is undermined and wrecked because of grievances and grudges they carry around in their hearts.'"[4]

 

     When we are reactive, angry, not forgiving, and neglect God’s morals, we are as good as dead. Dead in our “transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”

 

     The scholar, Marcus Barth wrote that some scholars probably speculate too freely about this scripture. He said that the best interpretation of the wording in the above is that human hate, venom, and immorality have poisoned the atmosphere in which we live. Ten minutes of primetime TV prove that Barth’s assessment is correct. 

 

     “(3) All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.”

 

     As we do today, Jesus and the Apostles lived among people like that. In fact some of us still behave that way and our consciences tell us something is wrong. Hate, resentment, rebellion, and lawlessness against God are arsenic to our minds and bodies. Jesus told his contemporaries how to correct their lives, but most were so bitter and jealous they refuse to listen. They protested, blamed, and accused. They envied and hated him so much they killed him. God’s love was at work in Christ.

 

     Jesus’ enemies were angry and resentful; to the end, Jesus forgave those who hated him and He obeyed God. Three days later, He was alive showing the scars of death in hands and side, but he ate, talked, and walked with those who believed. We know in our hearts that nothing compares to the unselfish sacrifice of oneself to save others. Jesus epitomized love and sacrificing oneself to save others. God raised Jesus and he is alive forever. We have all sinned. We like money, we enjoy many pleasures, we love attention, and we hold onto our hate. When selfish sin controls us, we are dead. Dead persons cannot do anything to help themselves.

 

     I had a long phone conversation with a very troubled man in his fifties. He was depressed, his physical condition was deteriorating; he was having nightmares, and was on drugs and alcohol. He went through drug and alcohol treatment many times. “Do you think I should check myself into the VA hospital?” He was very upset with certain family members. After listening to him awhile, I said “I think 95% of your difficulty is your anger and hate.”

 

     He said, “You’re wrong Bob. It’s not 95%. It’s closer to 100%.” Then I said, “It’s not going to help you to go through a treatment program until you give up your hate. You need to ask God to forgive you and also to pray for God to bless the ones you hate.” “Bob, I can’t do that!” It amazes me that when I point this out to people about hate, they recognize it, but they refuse to give it up. They prefer holding on to hate than enjoying life. The only way for this man to receive God’s blessing was for him to quit his hate.

 

     Do you remember how Paul said that he and others used to live? “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

 

     “(4) But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, (5) he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. “He saved us through the washing of  rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, (6) whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, (7) so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”[5]

 

     Jesus died to pay our debt and to give us new life. As creator and ruler of the Cosmos, He deserved glory, but he gave it up to help us. He took no shortcuts and compromised nothing; he did everything necessary. Do you see and appreciate what Jesus did for you when he gave up the prospects for a great life ahead of him to help you?   

 

     “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus . . .” If we deny ourselves and follow him, we can join him in a new life with him. This is not just a reboot of our present life. It is an entirely new existence of purpose and hope seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.

 

     We look forward to that day when we shall join him forever in the final resurrection. We have received it. If we do not act as saved people should, we shall lose it. Paul emphasized these facts when he wrote to God’s church in Colossae: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

      “(2) Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (3) For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

     “(4) When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

      “(5) Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (6) Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. (7) You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.

     “(8)But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

 

In summary:

·         Apart from Christ and His righteousness, we are dead.

·         We believe in Christ, the son of God and turn away from selfishness, pride, and hate.

·         We fully submit to Christ and join Christ in baptism.

·          Joined to Him, we are raised with him to new life of love, forgiveness, and purity and sit with Him. 

·         Thus united with Christ and modeling Him, we boldly praise and honor God. 

 

     Happy resurrection Day!

 

 

     Thinking cap questions: Most Christians think the soul leaves the body at death and goes to heaven.

 

·         If that is true, what is the point of Jesus’ resurrection?  

 

·         Why do we need a resurrection?

 

·         Why are the dead raised in the judgment?

 

      For further reading:

                         John 5:16-30; John 6: 16-40

                         Romans 1:1-6; Romans 8: 9-27

                         1 Corinthians 15

                            

     For Christians, every day is Happy Resurrection Day!

 


[1] συγκαθίζω see Mark 14:54 similar word and without the syn in Mark 10:37

[2] πάσχα

[3] συγκαθίζω see Mark 14:54 similar word and without the syn in Mark 10:37

[4] Iron Shoes, C. Roy Angell, Broadman Press, Nashville 1953, pp. 70, 71  

[5] Titus 3:3-7 NIV

 

Bob Blair

PO Box176

Cleghorn, IA 51014

 

 

 

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