Rev. Kevin Airrington
Sunday, March 31, 2013, 6:30AM
Easter Sunrise Service
Hillcrest Cemetery, Medford, Oregon
One day a teacher asked her class if anyone could tell her what Easter was. Little Johnny jumped up and down…”I know, I know”, he said with much excitement. That’s the day we eat turkey and celebrate the time Columbus met the Indians. I’m afraid not Johnny…that would be Thanksgiving. “Anyone else?” Asked the teacher. Becky shouted, “That’s when we get presents and candy and Santa comes down the chimney and kisses mommy under the mistletoe. “Oh no!” shaking her head said the teacher, “That’s Christmas.” Just about to give up…Tommy slowly raises his hand. The teacher says, “yes Tommy?” Tommy stands up and says with confidence, “Easter is when we celebrate Jesus dying on the cross.” The teacher got the biggest grin…she sighed and said, “Finally and you are so right Tommy.” She started to move on with her lesson and Tommy jumped up and said, “I almost forgot…after Jesus died on the cross they buried Him in a rich man’s tomb.” The teacher even more impressed says, “Great job Tommy I am so proud of you.” Tommy continued, “…then everyone stands outside Jesus’ tomb for Him to come out…if He sees His shadow there’s six more weeks of winter!”
“Imagine that some archaeologist finds positive proof that he has unearthed evidence of the resurrection of Jesus.” What would that do to your faith?”
The other day I was talking with my children about Easter. I asked them, “What proof or evidence do we have that Jesus rose from the dead?” My six year old son Joshua immediately said, “The big stone was rolled away.” Leila, she’s eight, started naming all kinds of proof…over 500 people saw Jesus alive…He ate with people…the tomb was empty…the Roman guards ran away…His clothes were still in the tomb…the disciples weren’t scared anymore and they were tortured and were killed…there was no body…I mean she was rattling these off so fast I could barely keep up. All the things you would expect to hear when you talk about proof of the resurrection.
My 10 year old Rosebud who is usually very vocal in these kinds of conversations…sat across the table from me in silence. I finally asked her (I had to slow Leila down.)…Rosebud can you think of any evidence that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning. Rosebud looked at me and said, “I can only think of one…my sins are forgiven!” That moment…that instant the hair stood up on the back of my neck. I have been saved for over 25 years…I have taught Bible Studies and preached sermons on this very topic and I have never thought of that being the proof of all proofs…MY SINS ARE FORGIVEN!!!
Paul answers this for us very clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:
If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain or worthless; ye are yet in your sins . . . 19 we are of all men most miserable or men to be pitied. (1 Cor 15:17,19)
Why does Paul say that?
Why is the fact of the resurrection central to true Christianity?
The answer to this most important question is found throughout the New Testament. This beautiful Easter morning I want to focus on the answer Paul gives in his letter to the Philippians. In chapter 3, Paul is reacting to those who say we must follow the Jewish law in order to be saved. In verses 4-9, Paul says, let me paraphrase:
I followed the Law as well as anyone, and better than any of these false teachers. No one could have looked at any part of my life and accused me of breaking the Law. I was, on those terms, perfect. But now I consider all that I did, all my accomplishments, all that striving to prove to God that I was good — I say I consider all of that as garbage, as worthless as manure, compared to the greatest thing of all: knowing Jesus Christ. Indeed, I have given up everything else so I might know him. Once I know him, I will be in him, I will be part of his body, and will be declared good by him, not because of anything I have done, but because I am identified with Christ Jesus.
Paul then writes the verse on which we focus this morning:
Verse 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; (verse 11) If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Philippians 3:10,11)
“I want to know Christ. I want to know the power of his resurrection.” This is Paul’s primary desire, this is what Paul wants more than anything else in this life: To know the living, the resurrected Christ, and to know the power associated with that resurrection.
You see, if Christ is not raised from the dead, if his bones are buried somewhere in Palestine, then we cannot know him. That man is dead. We might read about him, we might revere him, but we cannot know him. This is true of EVERY OTHER HOLY MAN THROUGHOUT HISTORY. They are dead…we know where their bones are…this is not true of Jesus…we have no bones…no body!!! You and I can KNOW HIM…if you don’t know Him you can know Him today!
Furthermore, if he is not raised from the dead, then he has no power today. He is dead. His words might have some influence — but he himself has no power.
This is why the resurrection is so central to Christians: Christianity is not a religion based on abstract principles. Christianity is a relationship with a living Savior, a Savior that you and I can know, a Savior who infuses our life and empowers us, who transforms us into his likeness.
But what does Paul mean when he says he wants to know Christ? And what is this power of his resurrection? We will address these two questions during the remainder of our time together…which I am certain I should be done by lunch.
First of all, what does “knowing Christ” mean?
Let us first consider whether or not this desire belongs to Paul alone. Is Paul stating a personal preference, or a truth that is central for all Christians?
The Bible, time and again, Old Testament and New Testament, portrays the right relationship between man and God as personal. In the Old Testament, for example, the Israelites’ are always seen in relationship to a living God; they are not simply followers of a legal code or believers in a Mosaic philosophy. Consider, for example, Jeremiah 9:23,24:
Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.
Knowing God is more important than wisdom, or strength, or riches. Think about the people who are most admired in this world. They are admired for these three qualities, aren’t they? We tend to admire those who are bright, intelligent, and knowledgeable; or those who are physically gifted in strength, talent, or beauty; or those who have amassed great wealth.
But the Lord says through Jeremiah that none of those are of great importance. What matters more than anything else is understanding and knowing the Lord, Yahweh, the covenant God who delights in kindness, justice, and righteousness. KNOWING GOD…not keeping some rules or being good…not going to church every Sunday. If you go to church twice on Sunday and on Wednesday and never miss…you put 10% of your income in the plate…but you do not know Jesus…all of that is in vain.
I have often said that going to church does not nor will it make you a Christian any more than sitting in your garage will make you a car.
And this prominence of knowing God carries over into the gospels. Jesus himself, on the night prior to his death, prays for his followers, saying:
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)
Eternal life is what? Knowing God, knowing Jesus! Without knowing him, there is no true life.
Peter also emphasizes this point:
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: (2 Peter 1:3)
Our knowledge of him leads to his empowering us with everything we need for life and godliness.
John makes a similar point near the close of his first letter:
And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)
John says that Jesus came so that we might know him. The purpose of the incarnation was our knowing him. This is central to the gospel.
So Old Testament, New Testament, gospels, letters, Paul, Peter, John — all agree that knowing God, knowing Jesus, is central. But what does knowing God mean? We get to know a person in part by being in his physical presence. But how do we get to know Jesus?
Knowing versus Knowing Facts
Let us first make a distinction between knowing a person and knowing facts about that person. I know a lot of facts about Abraham Lincoln — but I don’t know him. To know him, I would have to be in relationship to him.
Consider my relationship with my wife, Kathy. I know more about her than any of you. I know her height, her weight, her birthday, her college experience; I even know about her grades! I know all of the most prized accomplishments in her life, the jobs she has held; I know her brother and sister; I know where she lived growing up; I know the name of the family dogs she lived with for 12 years. I know all her deep darkest secrets. I know all these facts about her life.
In addition to these facts, I could tell you stories that display her character: how she responded to an ill child, how God worked in her life, how she raises children. And all these stories would give you insight into who she is, more than the list of facts.
But still, even after hearing all the stories, you won’t really know her. To know her, you would have to be in relationship with her.
Furthermore, I know her not because I know all these facts about her, or because I can tell stories about her. I know her because for almost seventeen years we have been in a relationship, sharing joys and sorrows, sharing pleasure and pain — . I have seen her lift me up when I am hurt, and stand by me even when she disagrees with me. I have seen her support me with all her strength in all that I do. So I know her. Yes, I know a lot of facts about her. But knowing her is much more than knowing facts about her life.
Surely knowing God also is much more than knowing facts about God. How can we come into this deep, personal relationship with God?
How Do We Know God?
First, surely we must know about him. While knowing Kathy implies more than knowing facts, I can hardly say that I know her if I don’t know at least some facts about her life. So we do indeed need to learn about God.
How do we do this? In part, by listening to faithful preachers of God’s word. In part by regular reading and studying of the Bible. In part by witnessing the impact of God on the lives of others — others that we know, and others who we can only read about through history or biographies.
But, second, we must go beyond learning facts. We must cultivate our own relationship with him. Clearly many sermons could be preached on this topic. Here, let me briefly suggest three steps:
The first step is putting your faith in him: believing that He is the Son of God, believing that the event we celebrate today, the resurrection, really did take place, and wanting Him to make you into a new creation.
A second step is spending time in prayer. Pray alone, and with others. In prayer, you can share all your joys, frustrations, and sorrows with the God of the universe, the God who cares. Try praying through Scripture, using Psalms, or Paul’s prayers, or the prayers of Daniel or Moses. Talking to God builds your relationship with him.
The third step is following. Listen as you pray and read the Bible. Be willing to follow, even when his commands don’t seem to make sense. Depend on God when his requirements seem unreasonable. When you do this — when you step out in faith — He will be there to support you, and you will see Jesus as a living, risen Savior.
KNOWING THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION
The second part of Paul’s desire is “to know . . . the power of his resurrection.” Note that Paul does not ask God for more power. Instead, he asks God that he might know the resurrection power he already has.
Paul’s first prayer for the Ephesians parallels this idea. In chapter 1 of that letter, he prays that the Ephesians might know three things. The third is:
his incomparably great power for us who believe . . . which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead (Ephesians 1:18,20)
All Christians have this power; all Christians have access to this incomparably great power, this resurrection power. Our task is to tap into it.
Let us consider four aspects of this power.
(1) The Power to Have Sins Forgiven
Remember, Rosebud told us that the only proof of His resurrection was that her sins were forgiven. Sin has a hold on all of us. Without God, we are slaves to sin. But Christ, through his death and resurrection, frees us from the power of sin. Paul puts it this way at the end of Romans 4:
Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Rom 4:25)
Christ died as the necessary sacrifice for our sins. But his being raised to life, his resurrection is absolutely vital! As Paul says, he was “raised to life because of our justification.” When Jesus died, God laid on him the iniquity of us all, the punishment that all of us deserve for all our sins. Had there been anything lacking in Jesus’ sacrifice, if his blood had lacked the power to cancel the penalty for anyone’s sin, God could not have raised him. In that case, God’s justice would not have allowed him to raise Jesus from the dead. But the very fact of the resurrection shows once and for all that Jesus’ sacrifice is all that is necessary to pay the penalty for my sin, for yours. Whenever Satan accuses us — saying, “God could never forgive you for what you have done — Think how terrible you are!” — we can say, “Jesus rose from the dead! Jesus rose from the dead because I am justified; having believed in Jesus, I am righteous in God’s eyes.” That is the power of the resurrection.
As Charles Wesley writes,
He breaks the power of canceled sin,
he sets the prisoner free;
his blood can make the foulest clean;
his blood availed for me.
If you are continuing to live in your sin without any remorse…there remains no sacrifice for your sins.
Hebrews 10:26, “ For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,”
GRACE…stands for GOD’s RICHES AT CHRIST’s EXPENSE. This does not mean we can continue in our sin…Grace is an incredible gift from a loving God…it is not a get out of jail free card it is not a license to sin.
If you are willing to obey God and have your sins forgiven…you do not have to do it alone…
(2) The Power to Conquer Sin
But resurrection power doesn’t end with our forgiveness. Christ’s resurrection also empowers us to conquer sin in our lives. As Paul says in Ephesians 4:
And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.(Ephesians 4:24)
In Christ we are a new creation; his Spirit lives within us. We have been renewed, we have a new self — and the purpose of that new self is to be conformed to the image of Christ, to become like him: truly righteous, truly holy — to become what God intends humans to be!
So if this is the case, why do Christians keep on sinning? Paul gives us the answer in today’s verse in Philippians: we don’t know the power! We have all this power, but we continue to act as if we are weak, as if we are still slaves to sin. Satan tries to deceive us, making us think we are still his — and he uses habits ingrained in us over years to make us believe him.
There was a famous Russian physiologist named Ivan Pavlov. He was born in 1849 and died in 1936. What many people do not know about Pavlov is he was studying to be a Pastor…he gave his studies up to become a scientist. Pavlov was made famous for his study on the digestive system in dogs. The behavioral scientist Pavlov rang a bell prior to feeding the dogs he was studying. Every time he rang the bell, he fed the dogs. After a while, as soon as he rang the bell, the dogs would salivate. They had not seen any food, they had not smelled any food — but ringing the bell made them salivate.
We become like Pavlov’s dogs through years of living without the power of God. Someone hurts us — and we automatically lash back. Something happens that tempts us sexually — and our thoughts automatically turn to lust. Sexual sin is spoken more about in the Bible than any other sin. Why? Because of the dangers and the control it has on people. There is a fine line between love and lust. Sex is reserved for marriage…outside of marriage it is lust. The Bible calls it fornication or adultery and it is sin…that can have a powerful grip on you!
God gives us the power to break those habits — but we must first know we have the power! That is why Paul has such a strong desire for this knowledge.
Donald Grey Barnhouse was an American Christian preacher, pastor, theologian, radio pioneer, and writer. He was pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1927 to his death in 1960. Donald Grey Barnhouse illustrates this point wonderfully. Imagine yourself as a prisoner of war; Satan is your captor. He has the gun. You must do whatever he says. He is in control.
Now, God intervenes. You are saved by the blood of Jesus. Does Satan go away? No, but you have the gun! You’ve got the gun! You no longer have to obey him!
What will Satan do? He will try to convince you that the gun is not loaded, that it really has no power. He will try to convince you to put the gun down, to give up using it, and to fight him “fairly” in hand to hand combat. He will try to convince you that it is in your best interests to obey him.
But you’ve got the gun! The resurrection power is yours! You need to know it, and use it!
(3) The Power to Be God’s Agent
But Christianity is not just about forgiveness and overcoming sin. Christianity is not simply a solution to our problems. God has a positive purpose in our salvation. He has determined that we are to be his agents of change in the world.
God empowers us not only to defeat sin but also to share and display his loving message to the world. Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” Paul says,
To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5:19,20)
God could work in the world by zapping directly each person he chooses. He could act in each person’s life the way he worked in Paul’s life — dramatically appear in flashing brilliance and overwhelm the person. But normally he doesn’t act this way. In his wisdom, God has chosen instead to work through us, weak as we are, limited as we are — and to show His power through our very weakness. Later in 2 Corinthians God says to Paul,
My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor 12:9)
That is the idea. God shows his power by working through us, by working mightily through us, even though we are weak and unworthy. Praise him!
(4) The Power to Be Conformed to His Likeness
Finally, resurrection power’s greatest accomplishment is conforming us to the likeness of Christ. We are forgiven for our sins, enabled not to sin, appointed as ambassadors — and perfected in His love. Paul says we:
are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor 3:18)
Into his likeness! Can you imagine what that means? Think of everything about yourself that you don’t like, all the habits, all the negative characteristics — the things you have wanted to change, have tried to change. God will deal with every one of those. You are being made into a perfect creation — you are becoming like Jesus! That is your destiny, Christian — becoming the perfect bride of Christ, spotless, blameless, loving, kind, strong — transformed into his likeness. The power of the resurrection!
Romans 8:28 reminds us that ALL things work too good for those that love God and are called according to His purpose. Most stop there and neglect verse 29 which tells us that we are predestined to be formed in the image of His Son. In other words God knew what He was doing from the very beginning…to mold the lives of those who love Him in the image of His Son’s.
So the fact of the resurrection is central to true Christianity. The resurrection must be true if we are to know, to have a relationship with our Savior; the resurrection must be true if we are to have access to the power which raised Jesus from the dead — power to:
- Be forgiven from sin;
- Overcome sin;
- Be God’s ambassadors;
- And to be conformed to Christ’s likeness
So what about you? More than anything else, Paul wants to know Jesus, and the power of his resurrection. What do you want more than anything else?
- Thrills and excitement?
These are all worthless. In the end, all of these things that people spend their lives pursuing are unsatisfying.
Perhaps some of you instead more than anything else want:
- A happy life
- A good marriage
- A satisfying job
I want to call you to something greater; I want to call you to the source of all true joy and happiness, the source of all great marriages, the source of all true satisfaction.
Some of you may be feeling smug, thinking, “More than anything else, I want to do great things for God!”
But this too misses the mark!
What did Paul want? What did he pray that others would have? To know Christ! Without this relationship, without knowing the power of his resurrection, we will never have true happiness, we will never have true joy — and we certainly will never accomplish anything of lasting value. Make knowing God and his resurrection power your aim — and all these others will follow.
So do you know this Jesus? Do you believe he rose from the dead? Has he been working in your heart? What better day than Resurrection Sunday to fall on your knees and acknowledge Him as your Savior!
Those of you who already have placed your faith in Him as a sacrifice for your sins:
Have you been trying to impress God with you religious activities? God is not interested in your religion…let me say that another way…God is not interested in your church activities and the religious things that you do out of habit or because you think it will get you a ticket into heaven one day.
Have you been putting the cares of finances, of job, of family, ahead of your relationship to Jesus?
Can you really say with Paul that you consider everything else you’ve done to be rubbish compared to knowing Him?
Do you know the power of the resurrection in your life?
Or have you allowed Satan to continue to control you, when you don’t need to?
You believers need, not a decision, but a commitment — a commitment to depend on the power of God, a commitment to knowing him better and better, so that you might be conformed to his likeness.
Christ is risen from the dead! Believe it! Know Him!
Every head bowed and ever eye closed for just a moment…no one looking around…I am not here to embarrass you…I want to take a moment and ask you a couple of questions.
People have asked me, “Pastor Kevin…How do I get saved? What are the magic words?” There are no magic words…what you must do publically according to Paul in Romans 10:9 boldly tells us:
“ That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
What do we “Confess with our mouth?”
John 3:16, “ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
WE MUST BELIEVE
Acts 3:19, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.”
WE MUST REPENT– Asking God to forgive our sins. It’s more than that…it’s us turning from our sins and not going back.
Revelation 3:19, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Invite – WE MUST HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM…WE MUST KNOW HIM!
Do you know Jesus? Do you believe He rose from the dead on the very first Easter Morning some 2000 years ago? Do you believe He is the Son of God and has the power to forgive you of your sins? Are you ready to repent of your sins? Turn away from them and turn toward God. Are you ready to KNOW HIM…Invite Him in and have a relationship with Him? Then right now you can…no one’s looking around…by your uplifted hand you say Brother Kevin… I say yes…I say yes I want to KNOW this Jesus you spoke about today…
I’m talking to believers now. You have said the words…but it was so long ago. You miss church more than you go…your Bible is lost under a pile of newspapers and the current issue of TV Guide. By your uplifted hand you say Brother Kevin…I am ready to make a commitment…I don’t want just the head knowledge…I want to KNOW JESUS!!!! Just slip you hand up and right back down…
Everyone within the sound of my voice…please help me by joining with me and those that have lifted their hands to God this morning…and say this little prayer with me…everyone…please repeat this after me…
Dear Heavenly Father, I know that I am a sinner. I have sinned against you and broken your laws. I believe that you died for my sins 2000 years ago…on a cross. I believe that three days later you performed a miracle and just like you said you would…you rose from the dead for the world to witness. Please forgive me of all my sins and help me not to sin again. Lord, come into my heart…come into my life and be my savior. I want to know you. I want to have a relationship with you. Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross…thank you for rising again…thank you for forgiving me of my sins and thank you for saving me.
If I can be of any help…answer any questions…help you get a Bible or help you find a good church…please let me know.
Thank you again for having me…please enjoy this Resurrection Day with your families…I will now turn it back over to Jammie.