This sermon answers the basic question: What does it mean to be saved?
Maybe I’m the only one that secretly worries that God is mad at me. I promise Him something and then don’t follow through. I know the right thing to do, the thing God would want me to do, and I don’t do it. I care more about myself then others. I fail to live up not only to God’s expectations, but even my own. Sometimes I’m a disappointment in my own eyes. Surely I must be a disappointment to God.
But that’s the trap. We assume God sees us the way we see ourselves. We assume God judges us the way we judge ourselves. And when we assume that, we rob the cross of its power. The Son of God didn’t come down and die for our sins so that we could still stumble and struggle to gain acceptance with God. Jesus died so that our sins would be forgiven, once for all. Here’s a beautiful piece of Scripture, “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10)
The Bible is explicit on this: when Jesus died for your sins, he imputed his righteousness to you. Your acceptance before God never has been and never will be based on what you do, but on what Christ has done. As Christians we know this from the theoretical sense, but we forget it on the practical level. We assume that every time we fail, God is up in heaven shaking his head, disappointed with yet another mistake we’ve made.
The Bible is crystal clear for those who believe in Jesus: You and God are fine. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) If you’re living under a constant cloud of self-condemnation, Satan is keeping you in chains that Christ already set you free from. You and God are fine, so quit worrying about it! Go and live in freedom, knowing that your Heavenly Father loves you and has forgiven you.
The whole jigsaw of the Christian faith falls apart if you take out the resurrection. Our faith is not built on a series of beliefs, how we think the world ought to work, or even a holy book (even though we have all of those). Our faith is built on a historical event: the resurrection of Jesus. So if you don’t automatically take the Bible at face value, is there a foundation to believe in the fantastical claims that a man died and rose from the grave? I believe there is a foundation, and I get there in four steps.
1. Jesus really did die. There was a man named Jesus of Nazareth that lived in the first century and was executed by the Romans through crucifixion. Texts outside of the Bible corroborate this. And the Romans were experts at crucifixions. They had been doing it for centuries. When they killed him, he was dead.
2. Jesus’ body really did disappear. The grave was empty few days later. Even Jesus’ enemies had to acknowledge this. They couldn’t produce a body.
3. Hundreds of people claimed to see him. The disciples claimed they saw him. Paul claimed to have seen him. 500 people at one time claimed to have saw him, and group hallucinations don’t happen. They all claimed to see the same person, Jesus resurrected from the dead. That’s what Paul was listing in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, the people who saw Jesus after he rose from the dead.
4. The disciples transformed from cowards to courageous followers willing to die for their claims about the resurrection. For me the most convincing proof of Jesus’ resurrection. If you look at their lives before the resurrection, they were cowards, even with Jesus in their midst. Afterwards, they were so convinced of the resurrection that they were willing to risk their lives for it, and many of them did in fact die for their belief in the resurrection.
To me, it just doesn’t make logical sense for a bunch of cowards to suddenly flip a switch and be willing to lose their lives for something they knew was a lie. If they knew the resurrection of Jesus was a lie, why not just give it up? They had a good run while Jesus was on earth. People don’t die for something they know is a lie. We know that about human nature. These disciples were absolutely convinced that Jesus rose from the dead, and they were willing to lose their lives for it.
If you look at it with an open mind, I believe the easiest explanation to believe is that Jesus really did rise from the dead.
QUESTION: What other steps would you add to build a case for the resurrection of Jesus?
Here is the final week of my sermon series The Jesus You Never Knew.
Here is the fourth installment of our sermon series The Jesus You Never Knew:
Here is week two in our series The Jesus You Never Knew.
Here is the first installment in our series The Jesus You Never Knew.
Recently we kicked off our sermon series The Jesus You Never Knew with a powerful spoken word on the relationship being greater than religion. It’s by spoken word artist Jefferson Bethke, and it’s worth a watch. Enjoy!
If you boiled it all down, stripped everything away, lost the church buildings, programs, Bible studies, choirs, lights, steeples, and every other comfort item from religion, what’s following Jesus really about? We like completing a task, crossing a finish line, an end goal to shoot for. Life would be so much simpler (and more manageable) if following Jesus was a short sprint, a 100 yard dash, something we could complete with a short burst of energy and then move onto other pursuits in our life.
But following Jesus isn’t a 100 yard dash; it’s more like a marathon. And the goal line isn’t something we cross until we cross over into the next life. So if following Jesus really is a lifelong journey, then what’s the most important step? Finding a good church to attend? Getting baptized? Joining a small group? Going on a mission trip? The answer is “yes and.” Christianity is not a destination religion, where we tick off three or four accomplishments and sit back to enjoy the perks. It’s a lifelong, never ending pursuit of a man named Jesus. It doesn’t end until we see him face-to-face. We don’t arrive until we arrive on the other side. Until then, we can never become complacent in following him.
The MOST important step in your Christian faith is the ‘next step’. Jesus’ first command to “follow me” doesn’t have an expiration date to it. He’s never done with you. Our spiritual growth may come in spurts and seasons, but it takes a lifetime to finish. If you look around and realize you haven’t taken a step of faith in months or years, then you haven’t grown in months or years. Christianity is not merely attending a religious service a few times a month. It’s about following Jesus, one step at a time. Your steps may look different than those around you. But never stop taking those steps of faith. The most important step in your Christian faith is the next step.