For it is by grace you have been saved...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Significance of the Resurrection

As you know, the events we celebrate this week are closely tied with the celebration of Passover. The “Last Supper” was in fact, a Passover meal. Jesus is the Passover lamb, who’s blood causes death to pass over the people of God. And during the traditional Jewish Passover celebration, a question that comes up often is why. Why is this night different? Why do we do this? Why do we do that?

Why is a good question. Why do we do anything we do? Why is Easter such a big deal? Why does the resurrection matter? These are good questions. And here’s a good answer: because apart from the resurrection we have no mercy from God, no life, no inheritance, no comfort in trials, no joy; in short, no hope.

Peter writes to the church and says: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9, ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Why? I’ll tell you why, Peter says: because He has shown us mercy, and given us life, and given us an inheritance, and given us comfort, and given us joy. That’s why. And it’s all because of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. So here are those five things that tell us the significance of the resurrection.

I. Number one, IT IS OUR SIGN OF GOD’S MERCY. Because Jesus has died and rose again, we know God accepted His sacrifice for our sin. Remember the reason Jesus told us that He came. He said he came to seek and to save that which was lost. He came to give His life as a sacrifice for the sins of many. The resurrection was preceded by the crucifixion. The reason Christ rose again has to do with the reason He died in the first place.

We come into this world with a rebellious heart, seeking only our own pleasure, our own self gratification, our own sinful desires. We care nothing about God, nothing about the plans of God, nothing about the pleasure of God. And as a result, we deserve nothing from the hand of God but judgment and wrath. But in His great mercy, He sent His own Son to give His life as a sacrifice in our place. Scripture says that he who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God. He took our place, died in our place, suffered judgment and wrath in our place.

That’s what the crucifixion was all about. That’s why Good Friday is good, why the cross is a thing of beauty in the eyes of the Christian. And the resurrection, the empty tomb is a sign that in God’s mercy, that sacrifice was sufficient. Because of the resurrection, we know that the sin of God’s people has been dealt with, and forgiveness is offered.

II. Number two, IT IS OUR SEED FOR NEW BIRTH. Because Jesus died and rose again, because through that act He accomplishes for us the forgiveness of sins, as a result of that we have new life in Him. Here we are told literally that God in Christ has “begat us anew.” He has caused us to be born again through the resurrection of Christ.

This is the idea of regeneration. It’s not just an effort to do better. It’s not just a matter of knowing some Bible verses and trying to do our best to live up to them. Regeneration is an act of God whereby He removes our heart of flesh, as it’s called in Ezekiel, and we are given a heart of flesh, a heart which is then obedient to God and His plans and purposes.

God does this. He caused us to be born again, Peter says. In His great mercy, through the power of the resurrection, God has caused us to be born again. He has given us a new life, a new heart and mind, and new reason for existing, a new set of goals and directions. Again, not just joining a club and trying to do better, but a genuine new heart and mind and life; a life that will be eternal in His Kingdom. Which is our third reason for the importance of the resurrection.

III. Number three, IT IS OUR SOURCE OF INHERITANCE. Because Jesus has died and rose again, we have eternal life. Oh, what a glorious hope. Peter reminds us that this world is not our hope. The words he uses to describe our inheritance is intended to show that it’s the exact opposite of the things of this world. In this world, all the greatest treasures we can set our hearts on are ultimately things that are perishable; they’ll all either die, decay or be destroyed. They are all things that are fading, and one day will pass away; they are fleeting.

But this inheritance that God is holding for His children; it’s something completely different. It’s imperishable, undefiled and unfading. When Christ returns to establish His kingdom, Scripture tells us that God will restore all things. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. The goodness of God’s creation will be restored, and the inheritance of the people of God is being kept for us in that perfect order.

And notice that it is something being kept for you. That’s a reminder that this inheritance is secure. John Calvin wrote that “the inheritance is said to be reserved in heaven so that we may now that it is beyond the reach of danger. If it were not in God’s hand, it would be exposed to endless dangers. If it were in this world, how could we regard it without qualms amidst so many changes? In order, therefore, to free us from all fear, he maintains that our salvation is paced in safety beyond the harms which Satan can do.”

And let’s be honest, we need that freedom from fear. We need that comfort and encouragement, because the truth is, in this world there are many harms of the enemy; there are dangers and difficulties. Which is the next truth here.

IV. Number four, IT IS OUR STRENGTH IN SUFFERING. Because He rose again, we have hope in the midst of suffering in this life. Verse 6 says “in this you rejoice, though now for a little while you have been grieved by various trials.”

I have no idea what trials you’re facing, what struggles you’ve endured, what difficulties face you every morning as you wake up. But I do know this. No matter what they might be, they aren’t bigger than a dead Jesus. I was introduced that particular way of putting it several years ago listening to Voddie Baucham at a conference in Branson. I’ve actually written about that before, and you can read about it here if you want. But the point is simply this: After spending the bulk of the message defending the reality of the resurrection, Baucham then pointed out that regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, it can’t possible be a more “difficult” situation than a dead Christ. And if God can raise Christ, what are you afraid of? Could your problem possibly be bigger than a dead Jesus?

In this we rejoice in spite of our grief Peter says. In what do we rejoice? In the hope and new life and inheritance and mercy of God that come from the resurrection. That’s not to make light of anything you might be going through, but regardless of what it is, the God who raised Jesus from the dead can certainly deal with your trials as well.

V. Number five, IT IS OUR STIMULUS FOR JOY. In this you rejoice, verse 6 says. Then in verse 8 we are reminded that because of Christ, because of His resurrection, because of His promised return, because of the inheritance He has promised, we can rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. A joy that is so great, that I can’t even really fully describe it. I can’t really make a verbal expression of it. Does that mean I won’t try though; of course not.

For centuries man has written poetry and songs trying to express the joy we have in Christ. Books have been written. Sermons have been preached. Testimonies have been given. And yet, still none of them fully express the joy Christ brings to the hearts and lives of those who love Him, who believe on Him, who have trusted Him for life and new life.

O for a thousand tongues to sing my great redeemers praise. Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so rich, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all. And yet even then, as great as Isaac Watts’ words are they are still incomplete, incapable of catching the true nature of the joy we have in Christ.

We can’t express it, but we can experience it. And that’s my greatest prayer, my greatest desire. That you would know this joy. That you would know the hope of Christ; the mercy of God; the reality of new birth; the security of His inheritance and the strength of His comfort in all things. Why is this day so significant? Because apart from the resurrection of Christ, we have none of this. And again, my hope and prayer is that all of this is more than just a holiday story to you. I pray you know the truth of it. And may God continue to add His blessings to your life as the meaning of this glorious truth grows in your heart and draws you closer to Him. To God be the Glory!


Gregg said...

Great message! Good Word! Happy Resurrection Sunday to you and yours!

Gregg Metcalf
Colossians 1:28-29

Gospel-driven Disciples

Michael Wright said...

What a Saviour! Wonderful thoughts.