Sunday, April 21, 2019

Jesus is Literally Alive Right Now

Audio Message:

The disciples were terrified. They hid together in their dwelling in Jerusalem, trembling with fear. They didn’t know if roman soldiers or temple guards might burst through the doors at any moment and arrest them all. They might all die, just like Jesus died, scourged with whips, and nailed to wooden blanks. They didn’t know what would happen.

But something was strange about how Jesus died. There were a series of strange reports. There was an earthquake while Jesus was on the cross, and before the earthquake there had been 3 hours of darkness, from noon until 3. The two women who went to the tomb said they saw Jesus there, and he was alive. But most of them didn’t believe it. Rumors spread that the cloth barrier that separated the holy of holies in the temple had been torn in two from top to bottom, the massive quilt barrier that separated the people from God in the temple, at the very moment Jesus died.

What was happening? What was going on? Would you turn in your Bibles to Luke chapter 24, and we’re looking at verses 36-48. And we see Jesus has been crucified, and his followers are in hiding.

Two of the disciples had just arrived. And they tell the story of how they walked on the Emmaus road and were talking to a fellow traveler on the road. They talked for some time, and then they realized that the man walking with them was Jesus! And then he suddenly vanished. What a strange story!

Then Jesus suddenly appears right in front of all of them. And he says “I’m alive! It’s me!” The disciples are terrified and they think they’re seeing a ghost. He shows them his hands and feet. He tells them that he is no ghost, he is real. He shows them his hands and feet, the holes where he was pierced in his flesh. Those wounds would never fully heal, never. Think about that, what God himself was willing to do for you and me.

Jesus did something eternal for us. Today he bears those same marks. He still has the hole in his side where the spear was driven into his abdomen. And Jesus is alive. Jesus is alive right now!

And He is hard at work. He is hard at work in many beautiful ways. He’s active in the world through his body, the church, which is you. He’s active in heaven, the reality beyond this world, where God lives.

He is actively interceding for us, that is, talking to God on our behalf, and asking for God the Father to have mercy on us who are in the world. Jesus is also active preparing our dwellings in the eternal city of God, which will come down out of heaven when God remakes the world.

Why then are we so often like the disciples? Why are we so afraid? We often fear and misunderstand what God is doing in our lives. Just like the disciples didn’t understand that Jesus intentionally went to the cross for the purpose of being a sacrifice for our sins.

It’s scary when things go wild in our lives. We often don’t understand what’s happening. Especially when something terrible happens. But often it’s a blessing in disguise, even if simply for the fact that it’s molding us into the image of Christ.

The disciples must’ve thought it was over, Jesus had died. And that was it. But it doesn’t end there. It’s the same in our lives. We think it’s over, but it isn’t over.

Yet we so often doubt God. Why do we doubt? Why did the disciples doubt Jesus? I mean they could see him and touch his hands and feet. He was right there in the room, yet they were still doubting.

We often have the same problem today. We’ve seen how Jesus has transformed our lives. We’ve seen how Jesus has changed the lives of our loved ones. We’ve seen it all. Yet we still doubt.

I suppose it’s natural to doubt the supernatural. We don’t naturally see things like resurrection, or miracles. But it’s really not that difficult when you think about it. I mean, think about it, God made the world from nothing. Everything we see. How hard is it then for Him to resurrect Jesus from the dead?

In any case, it’s wise to consider all the facts in a situation. So I’d like to share with you three quotations from prominent thinkers about the resurrection of Christ:

First we have a quotation from Timothy Paul Jones: “The central claim of the NT is that Jesus was physically resurrected after being crucified. If this claim arose from decades of embellishment instead of historical truth, then Jesus is dead, the apostles were liars, and our faith is worthless (1 Cor. 15:14–17). But evidences from the first and second centuries reveal that eyewitness testimony about Jesus emerged rapidly and circulated reliably. The NT texts relied on testimonies from apostolic eyewitnesses, and all of these texts were completed while the eyewitnesses were still alive. That’s why we can declare with confidence: Don’t worry; I read the book. He didn’t stay dead.”

Our second quote comes from Nabeel Qureshi, a muslim man who converted to Christianity:

“After studying the historical origins of the Christian faith, I came to these conclusions: that Jesus died on the cross is as certain as anything historical can be; that he rose from the dead is by far the best explanation of the events surrounding his death; and that Jesus claimed to be God is the best explanation for the immediate Christian proclamation of Jesus’ deity. Putting it all together: Jesus claimed to be God, and he proved it by rising from the dead. The case for Christianity is powerful.”

Finally, we hear from William Lane Craig a Christian apologist:

“When we turn to the Gospels, we find multiple, independent attestation of this burial story, and Joseph of Arimathea is specifically named in all four accounts. On top of that, the burial story in Mark is so extremely early that it’s simply not possible for it to have been subject to legendary corruption. When you read the New Testament, there’s no doubt that the disciples sincerely believed the truth of the resurrection, which they proclaimed to their deaths. The idea that the empty tomb is the result of some hoax, conspiracy, or theft is simply dismissed today.”

Those are really powerful historical evidences for the resurrection. Atheists often try to make it seem like we Christians believe in some legendary myth, but any real historian knows the Christian faith is rooted deeply in history.

But let’s continue forward in the text. I want to direct your attention to verse 44, where Jesus plainly tells them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Jesus is saying, essentially, I told you this would happen. This was the plan all the way back to four thousand years earlier, when it was promised that one in the line of Adam would crush the head of Satan. Everything in the Old Testament was pointing forward to the coming of Jesus, Genesis, Exodus, every book, it all points to Jesus.

Look at verses 46 through 48. This is really powerful:

46 Jesus said “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.48 You are witnesses of these things.”

I want to direct you toward the word “repentance” in verse 47. Jesus could’ve easily said, “this message of faith.” But he used the word repentance. And this is the number one thing that I’ve learned at the Salvation Army officer’s training college. The issue of holiness. I don’t think I really understood repentance and holiness before.

We serve a holy God, who commands us to repent of our sins. What does it mean to repent? To repent means we turn away from sin and live the way God wants us to live. If you don’t remember anything else we’ve talked about today, remember this: You must live a holy life to get into heaven. If you have any active sins in your life, they are a threat to your eternal soul. I never understood this is the past. But it’s a fact. We can’t be cavalier with sin. Sin will lead us to hell.

Jesus is essentially telling his disciples: This is the plan. I died on the cross, I was resurrected on the third day, and now the plan must move forward. Repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached to all the nations. People will be washed in my blood, to be made holy, and their lives will be changed completely. And that’s exactly what has happened over the last two thousand years. The message of the gospel has spread across the face of the Earth, from Jerusalem, across Europe, down into Africa, to the east, to the north, and today here in north America, and if you think about it virtually every nation on the planet has heard the gospel. It’s changed billions of lives. Jesus’ plan is being fulfilled.

Jesus is alive right now! He is in heaven. And the ultimate culmination of history is when Jesus Christ returns. I truly believe that Jesus Christ will return, very very very soon. I believe he will almost certainly return in my lifetime.

It's been nearly six thousand years exactly since God created mankind in the garden. The word says that one day is like a thousand years to the Lord. Could it be that we’re in the six day right now? Could the return of Christ be at hand? Of course no one knows the day and the hour. But with all we see happening in the world, Christ is coming very soon. He is coming for a spotless and blameless church, a church without sin.

Just like the disciples, we often tremble in fear, at what we see happening in the world around us. We can’t imagine how things could change or get better. Just like the disciples, we often doubt Jesus power. But then Jesus walks in that door, and stands in our midst, and reminds us powerfully: Here I am. I’m alive right now. And you are my disciples. When Jesus appeared to the disciples they went from men and women whimpering in fear to mighty proclaimers of the resurrection willing to die for their witness of Christ. We are all such witnesses. Friends, I may never see you again. I’ll be sent out somewhere in 49 days, to minister. But remember friends, Jesus is alive, He will help you, so live zealous service in true holiness, and freedom from sin.

Stay on fire for God. Live out your faith in Christ. Because Christ is alive right now. And he is coming, indeed he is at the door. So be holy, as he is holy.