Monday, July 22, 2013

Unity in Diversity, Part 14 of 33

TEXT: "For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living" (Romans 14:9).

IDEA: When we acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, we settle questions about eternity and time.

PURPOSE: Jesus died and rose again. So what?

Haddon Robinson monologue:

Every Sunday Christians in different fellowships around the world confess their faith by reciting the Apostles’ Creed. It wasn’t written by the apostles—in spite of its title—but it appeared first as a part of what Christians in second-century Rome confessed when they were being baptized. It states the basic truths of the Christian faith. Part of that great statement of belief affirms:

I believe in God Almighty
And in Christ Jesus, His only Son, our Lord,
Who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
Who was crucified under Pontius Pilate and was buried
And the third day rose from the dead
Who ascended into heaven
And sits on the right hand of the Father
From whence He comes to judge the living and the dead.

Whether or not other Christians recite a version of that ancient declaration of belief, all Christians believe that Jesus “died and rose and lives again.” If you are a Christian, then you believe that.

But so what? What difference does it make whether you believe that Jesus died on a Roman torture rack, was buried in a tomb near the city of Jerusalem, and then rose again from that grave? Of course, all Christians should believe that, but granting that we do, what difference does it make to any of us?

Well, it makes a difference in our dying. Men and women are afraid of death. Francis Bacon in one of his essays wrote that we “fear death as children fear going into the dark.” Some people do everything possible to cover up the inevitability of death. Louis XV, King of France, ordered that death was never to be spoken of in his presence. Nothing that could in any way remind him of death was to be mentioned or displayed, and he tried to avoid every place and sign and monument which in any way suggested death. He was like an ostrich that sticks its head in the sand and thinks that he can hide his body as well.

Yet death is a reality that all of us recognize will happen to other people. We don’t want to believe it will happen to us. That’s why our culture does everything it can to disguise it. We cover the corpse with polished wood, heap flowers around it, dim the lighting, and place it in a beautiful setting. It’s hard to face up to death and that it will happen to us.

T.S. Eliot made the astute observation, “It is not death we fear. It is what is after death, that we fear, that we fear.” What happens if we go out into death and discover that we have to stand before God and be judged for our sin? What happens if God doesn’t grade on the curve, but on an absolute standard? What happens then? What happens if we have to stand before Holiness Himself and we know that we are full of darkness? It is not death we fear; it is what happens after death. That we fear; that we fear.

That is why Christ died, and that is what He died about. Listen to how Paul explains it in Romans chapter 5:

“When we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly... God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

That’s the message of Romans. You and I have done wrong. We have sinned. Not some slip, mind you. We have deliberately, consciously done what we knew we should not do. Quite frankly, we deserved hell. But by His death on the cross, Jesus took our hell. He died in our place. Now, God is free to offer us forgiveness and heaven forever. That’s why Jesus died.

That’s why Jesus came back from the dead. That was God’s way of showing us that He was satisfied with the death of Jesus to take away our sin. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what you think about the death of Jesus. What matters supremely is what God thinks about it. The resurrection of Jesus is like God’s signed receipt that Jesus’ death on the cross was completely sufficient to pay the penalty of our sin.

When you throw yourself with a reckless abandon on Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for your sin, you don’t have to fear what lies beyond death. Therefore you don’t have to fear death.

Pilgrim's Progress is one of the greatest books ever written. In it two pilgrims called Christian and Hopeful received their summons and came down to the river. But when they saw how deep and wide and swift and dark its waters were, they were stunned. They met two men whose garments shone like gold, and their faces like light. The two pilgrims asked the men if there was no other way to the gate of the Heavenly City. Were there no boats, no bridges, no fords, no ferries? But the men replied, “You must go across the river, or you cannot come to the gate.” Then they asked the men if the waters were all of the same depth, and they answered [in what is the greatest passage in the entire book], “You shall find it deeper or shallower as you believe in the King of the place.”

Then as they entered the water, Christian, one of the two pilgrims began to sink. He cried out to his companion, “I sink in deep waters; the billows go over my head; all the waves go over me.”

But Hopeful answered: “Be of good cheer, my brother I feel the bottom and it is solid.”

And with that Christian broke out with a loud voice, "Oh, I see him again, and he tells me, 'When thou passeth through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow.' " Then they both took courage and they passed over to the other side.

That’s one reason that Jesus died and rose and lived—that He might be Lord of those who come to death. If you place your confidence in Him, you don’t have to fear death.

There is something else. Trusting Jesus Christ is not like believing a mathematical formula. It trusts a person. He died so that He could become Lord of your life, and lead you into what is best for you. He died and rose again to be your Lord. He alone is Lord of all who trust Him. That’s why no Christian can judge another. How dare I judge another believer if Christ is his Lord? He has brought us to Himself. He alone is to be the Lord over all the life of each Christian.

Years ago a Korean layman was invited to address the General Assembly of his denomination during one of the devotional periods. He said that he wasn’t qualified to preach, but he wanted to present to the group a problem he was facing and ask for their advice.

“A year or two ago,” he began, “I received a letter from a friend of mine in Seoul. He was a young dentist and wanted to establish himself in my city. He asked me to find a place suitable for his home and office combined. Now we had a great housing shortage, but I did all I could to help him. For three days I searched my city. Finally, I found a place and wrote him about it I told him that the house was in bad condition. The wall surrounding the place was in disrepair there was a hole in the house wall, the roof leaked badly. The house was in a wretched neighborhood. Furthermore, the price was exorbitant.

In spite of my bad report, my friend sent me a telegram telling me to buy the house. A day or so later I received a check for several thousand yen as a down payment. So I signed the papers and purchased the house. The down payment was made and the final payments were to be made in three days, at which time the old owner agreed to vacate the house. The final payments were made, but then the owner asked for a day or two more until he could find another house. I granted him this period of grace. But after a week he was still there. Two weeks, three weeks, a month, three months, six months have passed.

The man who sold the house has purchased new clothes for his family, and they are eating out at the best restaurants. He knows I am a Christian and that in Korea we Christians never go to court with other Christians and we try not to go to court with unbelievers. He laughs at me when I come.

“Now, Fathers and Brothers,” the layman continued, “my friend is greatly embarrassed because his capital is tied up in this house, and he is in a very difficult position. What am I to do?”

Several members of the General Assembly responded. One pointed out that the layman was not acting in his own behalf but as an agent Another pointed out that he was obviously dealing with a man who was a thief at heart. All agreed that the speaker had a right to go to the authorities and ask for an eviction order. The speaker asked for a show of hands and all voted that he had a right to proceed legally.

Then the layman said, “Thank you, Elders and Brothers, for the way you have considered my problem. Before I sit down, I would like to draw one conclusion. Nineteen hundred years ago the Lord Jesus Christ came down from Heaven to purchase for Himself a dwelling place.” Then he put his hand on his heart. “He bought the old shack. It was in a rundown condition. It was in a bad neighborhood. He bought me because He wanted to take possession and dwell in my heart. But I cling to my tenement and leave Him outside. Now if you say that I have the right to seek the help of the authorities to evict the man who is occupying my friend’s house, what shall you and I say of ourselves when we deny the Lord Jesus the full possession of that for which He gave His own life?”

“Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again that He might be Lord both of the dead and the living.”