Hope in the Resurrection

Posted: April 20, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Resurrection Sunday 2014
“Hope in the Resurrection”

1 Peter 1:3–5, "(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, (5) who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

What comes to mind when you think of “hope”?  Some people hope to lose weight – some hope to win the lottery – but all of those sorts of things are more of wishes or desire, rather than actual hope.  Hope is perhaps better thought of as an expectation for the future.  Someone might hope for a good report from their doctor as they await test results.  Parents have high hopes for their children, expecting the very best out of them in the future.

But what about spiritual matters?  What about eternity?  Can we have any real hope for those sorts of things?

Some would claim that we cannot truly know anything about eternity.  They think it is pointless to believe in God because no one can really know anything about God.  They think that no one can prove God’s existence, and that all religions basically teach the same thing anyway.  So just live your life, try to be nice to people, and don’t worry too much about all the rest…you can’t do anything about it anyway.

That may be a very popular line of through, but it’s wrong.  We CAN know things about eternity.  We CAN know God and spiritual matters.  When it comes to spiritual truth, we can have hope.  Real hope – living hope – confident hope – expectant/assured hope.

How so?  The resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Of course, that is what Easter is all about.  We’ve come to celebrate the reality that Jesus is risen from the dead.  We’ve come to celebrate the abundant mercy of God who would send His Son to die on the cross for our sins, and then resurrect Him from the grave in order that we might be reconciled unto Him.  The resurrection uniquely sets Biblical Christianity apart from other religions.  It’s because of the resurrection that we can know that we know that Biblical Christianity is true.  The resurrection is how know that we can have hope in Jesus.  We have hope because Jesus is risen.

The hopelessness of sin:
Before we get to the good news of the hope we have in Jesus’ resurrection, we’ve got first understand the bad news.  There is a reason that Peter said that we have been begotten to a living hope through the “abundant mercy” of God.  Left to our own devices, apart from God’s mercy, we would have nothing.  There is indeed hope in the living Lord Jesus, but there is utter hopelessness without Him.

Many people don’t understand this.  They live without a care in the world and without a care for God.  They’re perfectly happy and content living their lives, doing the things they do, and they give no real thought to their eternal future.  They just think that if God truly does exist, He’ll let them into eternity because they’ve been mostly nice people.  That may be their belief, but that’s not the truth.  They may desire for it to be otherwise, but that isn’t the spiritual reality.  Here is the reality:

  • We’ve sinned, and sinned greatly.  The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23), and even those without faith in the Bible understand the truth of this.  After all, it’s a cliché to say “no one’s perfect.”  It’s a cliché, because it’s true!  We inherently understand that everyone messes up.  Everyone falls short.  What people might not understand is that what we call “messing up,” the Bible calls “sin.”  And that sin is nothing short of rebellion against God.  God created us to be in fellowship with Him, worshiping Him & giving Him glory.  Yet when we lift ourselves up in our ego & self-worship, then we’re taking what rightfully belongs to God.  When we dwell in our hatred of other people (all of whom are made in the image of God), then we’re committing murder in our hearts.  When we gaze upon others in lust, then we’re committing adultery in our hearts.  When we desire to call the shots in our own lives, rather than submitting ourselves into God, then we’re making ourselves our own king, when only God rightfully has that place.  One definition of sin is “to miss the mark,” and any time we come short of perfection, we miss the mark (be it intentionally or unintentionally).  That’s sin, and that’s a big problem.  Why?
  • We bear guilt because of our sin.  We might object & say “But everyone sins!”  And we’d be right.  But the problem with sin is that it carries a punishment: death.  The Bible says that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23), and this was illustrated throughout the entire OT every time an animal was sacrificed upon the altar.  When someone sins, something has to die.  It was that way in the beginning, and it is that way today.  Even in our sins between one another, we see that there are always consequences to our actions.  If someone lies to us, trust dies.  If someone steals from us, security dies.  If someone speaks rumors about us, reputations die.  Now take it to an infinite level when our sin is against God.  When someone sins, that person bears guilt and something has to die.
  • There’s nothing we can do about it on our own.  We bear our guilt, but we can’t pay the price.  If the price is death, and the sin is infinite, then it means the price is really infinite (eternal) death.  We’d want to get past that, but how?  We can’t scrub ourselves clean – we cannot erase the past – we cannot try to “out-do” our bad with some good.  Even in a court of law, all the judge looks at is the crime.  It doesn’t matter how else we lived our lives if we broke the law of man.  It’s no different with God, and He is a Judge of a far higher standard: perfection. 
  • So put it together: we’ve all sinned against God, we’ve incurred guilt because of our sin, and we’re going to be judged for it because there is no way that we can pay the price.  That’s hopeless!

But that’s not where it has to end.  For many people, it does, as they choose to go to the grave and judgment under the delusion that God is something other than who He has revealed Himself to be in the Scripture.  They will face the truth, even though they denied it their whole lives.

But it doesn’t HAVE to end that way.  It can go to HOPE, as we look at Jesus.  Because Jesus is risen, we have hope of something far better than judgment.  We do not despair in hopelessness.

The hope of the resurrection:
What hope to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus have?  What does His resurrection from the dead tell us in regards to our spiritual hope?  Many things!  We’ll look at three: (1) forgiveness, (2) freedom, (3) future.

  • Forgiveness

Because Jesus is risen from the dead, we have a confident hope for the forgiveness of our sins.  As Peter wrote, God has “begotten us again to a living hope.”  What does it mean that we have been begotten?  It means that we’ve been born!  It was this new spiritual birth that Jesus was speaking of when He told the Pharisee Nicodemus that unless someone is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (Jn 3:3).  We NEED that birth!  And Jesus PROVIDES that birth because He went to the cross and rose from the grave.  It was in that same conversation with Nicodemus that Jesus said what has become some of the most famous verses in all of the Bible: John 3:16–17, "(16) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (17) For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."

All of the sin that we had committed – all of the guilt that we had incurred – it meant that we were doomed to perish.  But those who believe on Christ have a far different hope.  We have a confident assurance that we are saved!  We have a confident hope that our sins have been forgiven and that we have been born again, given everlasting life with God Almighty.  Think about that for a moment: forgiveness – new life.  Everything we’ve done in the past, wiped away and gone.  Every single sin we had committed against God – every single time we had elevated ourselves as our own god and king – all of it is done.  There are sins we’ve committed which we have a hard enough time forgiving ourselves.  We’ve carried that guilt for years on end.  Hear this & know it: Jesus forgives.  Those who believe upon Jesus Christ as Lord have forgiveness from sin!  The Bible tells us that as far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our transgressions from us (Ps 103:12).  It tells us that though we once our sins made us stained as scarlet, God will make us white as snow (Isa 1:18).  This is what is available to every person in Christ Jesus!  The Bible promises that if we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1:9).  This is what is available to everyone in Christ Jesus, because He is risen from the dead.  His resurrection gives us the hope of forgiveness.

  • Freedom

Because Jesus is risen from the dead, we have a confident hope for freedom from the power that sin held upon us.  This is part of the “living hope” of which Peter wrote.  The hope we have in Jesus isn’t merely for our sins of the past (though the past is included) – it’s not only for the hope of the future (which is included, as we’ll see), but it’s also for the present time.  Because Jesus is risen from the dead, we have a wonderful freedom from the slavery of sin.  This is one of the things that is demonstrated through baptism: Romans 6:5–7, "(5) For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, (6) knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. (7) For he who has died has been freed from sin."

Because Jesus lives, and because those who have faith in Jesus are IN Jesus, we are free!  Before Jesus saved us, we gave ourselves over to sin.  We were enslaved to it.  The only choice we exercised was whether we would sin a little, or a lot – but no doubt about it, we would be sinning.  But all that has changed in the resurrection.  Now we are new creations (2 Cor 5:18) – now we have been set free!  We are free to walk in Christ, to live in fellowship with God empowered by the Holy Spirit.  This is a freedom known only by believers in Christ, because it can only come through faith in Him and His resurrection.

Some people may object, saying, “But I don’t feel like a slave!  I can do whatever I want.”  You can do what YOU want, but apart from Jesus, you cannot do what GOD wants.  Because of that, apart from Jesus, we all abide in death.  We’re enslaved to it.  We can even do all the religious acts we can, and we will still be enslaved to sin and death, because that is what we are all originally born into.  The Jews of Jesus’ day had the same objection when Jesus told them that the truth could set them free.  They claimed that they were sons of Abraham’s & had never been anyone’s slaves. (Conveniently forgetting about 400 years in Egypt, among other things!)  John 8:34–36, "(34) Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. (35) And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. (36) Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

THAT is true freedom!  And that is what is available through Jesus’ resurrection.

  • Future

Because Jesus is risen from the dead, we have a confident hope for an eternal future with Jesus away from the very presence of sin.  This is primarily what Peter was referring to in vs. 4: 1 Peter 1:3–5, "(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, (5) who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

There is an inheritance that awaits every believer in Christ.  There is a glorious future that can hardly be imagined in its scope.  This world is corrupt, without question.  All we need to do is pick up any random newspaper and read about the various tragedies that happen every day.  Be it the shooting in Ft. Hood, the sunken South Korean ferryboat, the missing Malaysian airplane, or any number of things that happen around the world.  We see ourselves or our loved ones battle disease like cancer, or struggle with chronic pain.  We see families ripped apart by divorce, and the list could go on.  This world is most definitely defiled!  But for the Christian, our inheritance is not!  We have an eternal future with the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Bible says that we are joint heirs with Him because we have been made the children of God (Rom 8:17).  The book of Revelation famously describes eternity with God as a time when there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain, because all of the former things have passed away (Rev 21:4).  THAT is what awaits every believer in Jesus, and we have a confident assurance of receiving exactly that because our Jesus is risen from the dead!

Today you need to ask yourself if you have a confident hope in this future.  When we speak of heaven, we’re speaking of something far more than some distant dream…we’re speaking of literal eternity with God.  We go to great lengths to ensure our future on earth is taken care of.  We want to ensure that we have a place to sleep tonight (and tomorrow, and the next) – we want to ensure that our families are provided for – we want to take whatever preparations are necessary for our physical needs.  If that’s important to do here, how much more important is it for eternity?  That is a future that won’t just last 1 year, or 5 years, or even 50 years.  That’s a future that will last for billions of years – to the point that time itself is beyond measure.  Do you have a confident hope in THAT future?  You can.  Every person can know.

How can we know?
All of the promises we have in Jesus hinge upon His resurrection.  Without Jesus being raised from the dead, we have no assurance of any of these things.  1 Corinthians 15:17–19, "(17) And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! (18) Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. (19) If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable."

Without a living Jesus, all we have is a false faith.  Without a living Jesus, there is no reason for anyone to become a Christian.  BUT if Jesus truly did rise from the grave, then we have every reason to put our faith in Christ.  If Jesus is alive, then turning away from Him would be the ultimate act of foolishness – equivalent to spiritual suicide.

Jesus IS risen from the dead, and we can KNOW that Jesus is alive.  Jesus’ resurrection is attested to by many people – some of whom we might not expect.

First: the apostles.  Obviously we would expect the apostles to testify of Jesus.  Of anyone, they had believed in Him from the start, even if they weren’t entirely certain what to believe when Jesus spoke of His suffering and death.  That being said, what reason would the disciples have to preach a risen Jesus, if in fact Jesus was still dead?  It was considered a crime to be associated with Jesus (as a potential Messiah King that would challenge Rome), and at the very least, it had been publicly stated that believers in Jesus would be cast out of the synagogues (Jn 9:22).  The disciples had nothing to gain by lying about Jesus’ resurrection.  In fact, it was the opposite: they had everything to lose by saying Jesus had risen from the dead.

And they knew it!  In the hours following Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter and the other disciples could not be found on the streets of Jerusalem.  They were hiding behind locked doors! (Jn 20:19)  Peter could not even admit his faith prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, and the only interrogator he faced at that time was a little girl.  They knew the danger that awaited them.

Yet this is not the same attitude that we find 50 days later on the day of Pentecost.  At that time, the apostles were amazingly bold in their faith, preaching the gospel to thousands.  It’s not that the threat of persecution was removed…after all, they were later repeatedly beaten and jailed.  Some even died torturous deaths as martyrs.  But their faith and proclamation never wavered.  What could have possibly have happened to make this kind of change?  Only one thing: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Second: the Romans. If the disciples testified that Jesus was risen from the dead, surely the Romans would say the opposite, right?  After all, it was a Roman who ordered Jesus’ execution, a Roman who verified Jesus’ death, and Romans who guarded Jesus’ tomb to ward off any potential grave-robbery from the disciples.  They had a vested interest in saying Jesus was still dead – they had overseen every aspect of it from beginning to burial!  Yet it is that same vested interest that testifies of Jesus’ resurrection.

If a Roman soldier failed in his duty because of negligence, it was a serious offense – something for which he could be killed.  Soldiers who fell asleep on the job would sometimes be pushed off a cliff.  This wasn’t something to take lightly!  With that in mind, think of the story that the Jewish elders told the Romans to spread about Jesus’ resurrection: Matthew 28:11–15, "(11) Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. (12) When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, (13) saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ (14) And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” (15) So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day."

The soldiers were to publicly state that they had fell asleep at their posts.  Not just one or two of them – all of them!  (And there would have been between 4-16 men.)  They were to claim that the whole lot of them were so tired that they took no notice of a group of Jesus’ disciples coming to the tomb, presumably stepping over their sleeping bodies rolling back a massively heavy stone in utmost silence, taking Jesus’ body out of the tomb, and walking out again…all without so much as causing a single soldier to stir from sleep.

Not only is the story ludicrous, it’s suicidal.  For the soldiers to claim this publicly, they would be admitting to massive failure and negligence, virtually guaranteeing their deaths.  Yet they didn’t die.  The Jewish elders promised to keep them protected & presumably they did just that.  Each soldier that told the tale of falling asleep thus becomes a walking testimony of Jesus’ resurrection – just by virtue of the fact that the soldier was still alive to spread the lie!

Along these lines, it’s interesting that there is no indication that Pilate and the other Romans did anything to dispute the story.  They didn’t argue the point in spite of Jewish objections, though during Jesus’ crucifixion, Pilate had no problem doing things that the Jewish elders didn’t like (such as the sign he placed over Jesus’ head).  Perhaps this is an indication that they believed something about the true account of the resurrection themselves.  They did not promote the resurrection, but they didn’t argue against it, either.

Third, the Jews.  The Romans had made Jesus’ execution possible, but it was the Jews who asked for it to happen.  Despite the many proofs Jesus had given, the Jewish leadership rejected Jesus as the Messiah, seeing Him as a threat to their own position, and outraged that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God.  Out of anyone, the Jewish leadership seemed to have paid the closest attention to Jesus when He said that He would rise from the dead.  The 12 disciples may not have believed it, but the Jewish Sanhedrin apparently did!  At least, they thought that the disciples would come and steal the body, to promote the rumor.  It was for this reason that they requested the Roman soldiers in the first place.  Yet all of a sudden, they found themselves paying off the soldiers, bribing them to publicly humiliate and potentially endanger themselves with a lie.

Beyond the bribery was something far more simple: any lack of evidence that would be contrary to Jesus’ resurrection.  Think of it: the Pharisees and Sadducees had all the power among the Jews.  When tales of Jesus’ resurrection started to spread, they could have quashed it all easily and simply.  All they needed to do was produce a body.  They could have easily marched to Jesus’ tomb, dragged out His corpse, and proven the disciples to be liars.  The disciples certainly did not have the wherewithal to hide Jesus’ body from the Jews.  They would not have been able to overpower the trained Roman soldiers in a fight, nor somehow sneak past them, despite the ridiculous rumor that had been spread.  The Jewish leadership held all the cards, and yet they still had zero evidence to contradict the disciples.  They had no body, no tomb, and a growing list of people who had physically seen the risen Lord Jesus.  (Not only the initial women – not only the 11 remaining disciples – Jesus had appeared to over 500 people at one time, prior to His ascension. 1 Cor 15:6)  It’s no wonder that 3000 Jews came to faith and were saved on the day of Pentecost.  They were utterly convinced that Jesus HAD risen from the dead!

Conclusion:
There can be no doubt that Jesus is alive!  The witnesses have multiplied in abundance since that first Resurrection Sunday, and there can be but one conclusion: the resurrection is real – Jesus truly rose from the grave.

Because we can know that, we can have hope.  There is glorious hope in the resurrection of Jesus – a glorious confident expectation of what Jesus has done for us. We have:

  • Hope for forgiveness
  • Hope for freedom
  • Hope for a future.

This is a hope in which we can rejoice on Easter Sunday/Resurrection Sunday – and this is a hope in which we can rejoice every day.

Beloved, do you have joy in the resurrection?  For those of us who believe upon Jesus as Lord, there is no greater day of the year than Resurrection Sunday.  This is the foundation upon which all our faith rests, and it is a historical fact.  We have the confidence of building our lives upon Jesus because He has proven Himself to be God, by virtue of the fact that He is risen from the dead.  His resurrection gives us hope beyond hope – a hope that far exceeds whatever trials this current life throws at us.  This day is a day of worship for us.  It is a day of remembrance and joy.  It is a day that compels us to go share this same hope with everyone around us. 

Do you have that hope?  You can.  First, you need to come to grips with the bad news.  God may be perfect, but you’re not.  You’ve sinned against Him horribly and repeatedly, and you bear guilt because of that sin.  That guilt absolutely must be dealt with, and God WILL deal with it because He is perfectly righteous.  But that’s where the good news comes in.  You may be guilty, but Jesus took on your guilt for you.  He died in your place when He died upon the cross.  The punishment He received is the punishment that you & I deserved, and He did it willingly out of obedience to God, and out of amazing love for us.  He died on that cross, but He didn’t stay dead – He rose!  He came out of the grave, and we can know historically that He did it.  And because He did, now we can have hope.

So here’s the point: you’ve got to respond to that somehow.  You cannot go on living your life without a care in the world, now that you know the truth.  There is an eternal future that you must face, and you can either go into that eternity with God as your judge, or as your Savior.  Jesus offers to save you, so respond to Him!  Turn away from your sin in repentance, and turn to Jesus in faith today.  Ask Him to forgive you your sins, and ask Him to be your Lord & King forever. 

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