Everything Counts

Easter 2017

Part one of Kenton/Zach story

Introduction and offering:

Have you ever felt that way?  “This is dumb?  Why life?”  I think most of us can relate to Kenton’s struggle.  Life is hard, and there are times when we want to shake our fist at God—or wonder if He is there.  There’s more to Kenton’s story…later.

Today, I want to talk with you about how the resurrection of Jesus changes the way we live every day.  Because Jesus is risen, you will be raised to life too—and because of that, everything counts.  The resurrection transforms “This is dumb.  Why life?” into “This is meaningful.  Life matters.”

Our text is:

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

This is the last verse in 1 Corinthians 15, a chapter that is devoted to the subject of the resurrection.  Evidently, some of the Corinthians Christians were rejecting the idea of a bodily resurrection, that one day they would be raised from the dead just as Jesus had been.  Paul writes to convince them first of the centrality and importance of Jesus’ resurrection, and then of the reality and impact of ours.

1 Corinthians 15:1–8

1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

Paul reminds them of the gospel: Jesus died for our sins and was buried; Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to many.  This is the gospel—it is the good news about what Jesus has done for us.  Jesus has died for our sins, and been raised from the dead.  Because of that, we are forgiven, reconciled to God, and given eternal life.  The gospel is about Jesus and what He has done for us.  That’s why we often say that the gospel is not Do, but Done.  It’s not about what you do for God, but what He has done for you in Jesus.

The resurrection of Jesus is at the very heart of the gospel.  Jesus died for our sins and was buried; Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to many.  Take away the resurrection of Jesus, and you have a dead savior and no gospel.  And yet some of the Corinthians were saying that there is no resurrection of the dead.  They were probably influenced by Greek philosophy of the day that considered the spirit good and the body bad, and the goal was to free the spirit from the body.  To the Greeks, a bodily resurrection was repugnant and rejected.  But Paul understood that if you buy into that philosophy, you not only reject your own resurrection; you reject the resurrection of Jesus and the gospel.

1 Corinthians 15:12–20

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

So Paul clearly says that to reject the idea of the bodily resurrection is to reject the resurrection of Jesus, and the gospel.  If Jesus has not been raised, there is no gospel.  If Jesus has not been raised, our preaching and your faith is useless and futile.  You are still lost in your sins, and those who have died are lost forever.

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Here is Paul’s conviction: Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.  Why is Paul so certain of this?  Because he saw the resurrected Jesus.  He saw the risen Jesus and from that moment on he was all in.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Paul spends the rest of the chapter defending and explaining the nature of the resurrection, and then he finishes with this:

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

“Therefore…”  What’s the therefore there for?  It points back to all Paul has said.  Therefore, because of the resurrection of Jesus, and because you will one day be raised—because this life is not all there is and there is a resurrection coming, everything counts!

Therefore, because of the resurrection, you should do three things.
1. Stand firm!

“Stand firm and let nothing move you!”

The Corinthians were drifting; they were moving away from the gospel.  Paul reminds them that Jesus was raised, so stand firm and let nothing move you.  Let me ask you: how firm is your faith?

What is the opposite of standing firm?  It is wavering, vacillating, wobbling.   Do any of those words describe your faith?  Or are you standing firm, strong, unshakeable?

What is the opposite of immovable?  It is movable, changeable, uncertain.  Do any of these words describe your faith?  Or are you immoveable?

Stand firm!  Be immoveable!  There is a resurrection coming!

This reminds me of a couple other Scriptures.  Jesus said:

Matthew 7:24–27

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Two houses: one stands firm in a storm; the other crashes and is destroyed.  Jesus said that when we hear His words and put them into practice, we are building on a rock—strong, immoveable—and we’ll stand firm no matter what life throws at us.  Are you taking Jesus seriously?  Doing what He says?  Or are you getting blown around?

Paul wrote to the Ephesian church and wanted them to be mature in their faith.

Ephesians 4:14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.

Paul uses the image of boat on a stormy sea—tossed back and forth by the waves, blown here and there by the wind.  Quite the contrast to “stand firm and let nothing move you.”  Which describes you?

Jesus also told a story about a farmer casting his seed; some of it landed on rocky ground with thin soil.  Jesus explained:

Mark 4:16–17 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

Jesus is describing people who hear the gospel and believe, but don’t put down roots.  They don’t go deep—they have a shallow faith.  And that shallow faith doesn’t survive trouble or temptation.  Are you putting down some deep roots?

Have you ever planted something in thin soil?  Plants don’t thrive in thin soil.  And you can’t thrive with a thin faith.   My friend Jerry Sittser, a professor at  Whitworth, likes to talk about developing a thick faith.  So many people have a thin faith.  It’s not strong and firm; it’s weak and thin.  And when trouble comes, or temptation beckons or they just get bored, that thin faith doesn’t hold up.   I think that’s what Paul is saying here: stand firm, be immoveable!  He wants our faith to be strong, firm, immoveable—thick.  A thick faith will last; a thin faith is easily moved.

ILL: At the end of my freshman year in college, we were all packing up our dorm rooms to head home.  My friend, Jim, who was famous for being lazy, didn’t want to haul his stuff down two flights of stairs.  So he had a brilliant idea.  He decided to lower his two suitcases and typewriter (for those of you under 30, a typewriter is a like a computer, only without a brain) out his second story window to the concrete below.  If you’re going to do that, do you want to use this (a nice thick rope) or this (an elastic ace bandage)?  He used the ace bandage, and seconds after lowering all his stuff out the window, the ace bandage gave way and everything smashed on the concrete below.  Destroyed.

Is your faith this (thick rope) or this (ace bandage)?

There is a resurrection coming!  Therefore, stand firm and be immoveable!  And between now and the resurrection, you will face all kinds of hardship, trouble, and temptation.  You need a firm faith, a strong, robust faith, a thick faith.

ILL: This week I read in Sports Illustrated a moving article about NBA ex-player and coach, Monty Williams.  It was entitled, “You Can’t Give In,” and was about how Williams is coping since the tragic death of his wife, Ingrid, in a car accident last year.  Ingrid was hit head on by a driver who was high on meth and was doing 80 in a 40 zone.  Ingrid’s death left Monty a single dad raising 5 kids, ages 5-19.  Monty and Ingrid are both strong Christians, and that shone in the powerful eulogy that Monty delivered at his wife’s funeral.  He confidently declared that God is good, and that God will work all this out for good as well.  And he asked everyone to pray for the other family—the family of the woman who killed his wife—because they were grieving too, and followers of Jesus must forgive.  Monty Williams is standing firm—he has a thick faith.

Friends, there is a resurrection coming.  So stand firm!  Be steadfast and immoveable!  Develop a thick faith that will sustain you.  This is first.  Second, there is a resurrection coming, therefore…
2. Go all in!

“Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord!”

Literally, it reads “always abounding in the work of the Lord.”   Some translations read, “always excelling in the work of the Lord.”  The NLT says, “always work enthusiastically for the Lord.”  And the Message reads, “throw yourselves into the work of the Master.”

Go all in!  Give yourself fully to the work of the Lord.

So, what is the work of the Lord?  There is more than one answer.  The first, and most obvious, is in spreading the gospel—helping other people find and follow Jesus.  This is the Great Commission that Jesus left us: wherever you go—at school, at work, in the neighborhood, around the world—wherever you go, make disciples of all people, all nations, all ethnicities.  Help people find and follow Jesus.   A couple Scriptures:

1 Corinthians 16:10 When Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am.

What was “the work of the Lord” that Paul and Timothy were doing?  They were traveling missionaries, making disciples and planting churches.  They were helping people find and follow Jesus.  Paul repeats this in…

Philippians 2:22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.

So the work of the Lord is the work of the gospel.  It is making disciples, sharing the good news—it is helping people find and follow Jesus.  Every Christian is called to do the Lord’s work where we live.  We help people find and follow Jesus right where we are—at home, in our neighborhoods, at school, at work, on the golf course.

And Paul is saying, “There is a resurrection coming—so go for it!  Go all in!  Give yourself fully to the work of the Lord.”  Help others find and follow Jesus.

There is another important way to do the work of the Lord, and that is to simply do good in Jesus’ name.  The Bible says that we were created in Christ to do good works.

Ephesians 2:10  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

You are God’s handiwork—one translation says you are God’s masterpiece!  The Greek word is poema—we get the English word “poem” from it.  You are God’s work of art—each one of you is a unique and beautiful creation.  And He created you with a purpose.  He has good works He wants you to do—He even prepared them in advance!  You were made to do good and make a difference!

And when you do good in Jesus’ name, God is glorified and His work is done.  Jesus said:

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

When people see your good works, they will glorify God.  Every good deed, every act of kindness is the Lord’s work and brings Him honor.

There is a resurrection coming!  Therefore, always abound in the work of the Lord!  Go all in!

ILL: Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, a physics professor at the University of Texas, wrote a book about the physics of NASCAR racing, and for her research she was given the opportunity to drive a NASCAR racer on the 1.5 mile track of the Texas Motor Speedway. With an instructor in the passenger seat, she drove the car at speeds up to 150 m.p.h. It was while accelerating to get up to that speed that the author learned an interesting lesson about race cars.

A NASCAR engine is optimized for speed, so when you’re puttering along at 100 m.p.h., it chugs uncomfortably. The solution is to go faster.

The car is designed for higher speeds! The solution to a chugging race car is not to slow down—but to go faster! This baby is designed to blister the asphalt.

You were designed to live fully for God. If you live halfway for God, you will feel like you’re driving a race car with a chugging engine. The answer is to “go faster.” Go all in!  Give yourself fully to the work of the Lord.

There is a resurrection coming!  Therefore, stand firm!  Go all in!  And finally…
3. Know that everything counts!

“You know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain!”

Nothing you do for Jesus is in vain.  It is never wasted, useless, or pointless.  The Message translates this: “nothing you do for Him is a waste of time or effort.”  Everything counts.  God will use every effort, every good deed, every act of love, every sharing of the gospel.  You may not see the results until the final resurrection, so remember: the resurrection is coming.  Therefore, know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.  Everything counts.

ILL: Tim Winton is one of Australia’s most celebrated authors and a Christian.  In an interview, he was asked how he came to Christ.  When he was 5, his policeman father was hit by a drunk driver on his motorcycle and was left paralyzed.  He was a big man and Tim’s mother was unable to bath him.  One day, there was a knock on the door, and a man introduced himself.  “G’day, my name’s Len.  I heard your hubby’s not well.  Anything I can do?”  Len Thomas was from a local church; he had heard of the family’s difficulties and wanted to help.  Each day, Len carried Tim’s father from his bed to the tub and bathed him. This simple act of kindness had a powerful effect.  It’s the reason Tim became a follower of Jesus.

“Let your light shine so that others may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in heaven.”  Everything counts.  Every act of kindness counts.  Every time you share the gospel counts.

ILL: It was my junior year in college in Eugene.  I was studying late for finals, and about midnight felt the need to take a break.  I was studying the Bible, and I wanted to share with someone.  So I went outside and prayed, “Lord, if You want me to share the gospel, bring someone along.”  I started walking and before long a young hippie asked me if I had any spare change—he was hungry.  I offered to buy him a burger and coke at the Dairy Queen just a couple blocks away.  As he ate, we talked, and I shared the good news of Jesus.  He wasn’t interested.  When he finished, he thanked me and left and I headed back to my dorm, grateful for the chance to share, but thinking that it was in vain.  Swing and a miss!

Three years later, I had just finished speaking at Faith Center when a young man approached me and asked if I recognized him.(Don’t do that to people!)  I didn’t.  He reminded me of the night I bought a burger and coke for a young hippie—that was him!  After he left me, he hitchhiked to Eureka, California, but he couldn’t get the story of Jesus out of his head. So in Eureka, he went to a church, gave his life to Jesus, and now, three years later, was back in Eugene to go to Bible college!  If I had not bumped into him there at church, I would have gone to my grave thinking that was a wasted effort.  But “nothing you do for Jesus is a waste of time or effort.”  Everything counts.

When you share the gospel, you never know what God will do.  When you do good for others, you never know what God will do.  But the resurrection is coming, and on that day, we’ll get to see all that God did with our efforts. Know that everything counts!

Here’s the rest of Kenton’s story.

Everything counts.  Don’t you wonder if Zach ever felt like giving up on Kenton?  Aren’t you glad that he didn’t?  He just kept loving, listening, and pointing him to Jesus—and even when it didn’t seem like anything was happening, God was at work!  It mattered.  Everything counts.

So stand firm!  Be immoveable!  And go all in!  Like Kenton said, he had dipped his toe in, but never just dove in headfirst without a plan to come back out.  And when he did, he found what he was looking for.  Go all in!  And know that everything counts!  God wants to do remarkable things with your life!
Closing:

Here is how I want to end. Normally at an Easter service we would end with an invitation for people to decide to follow Jesus. We’ve already done that, and many of you have responded! If you haven’t made that decision yet, you can right now!  Starting a new life begins with a decision.  Jesus is calling, “Follow me.”  What’s your answer?  You can say yes, and leave here today as a follower of Jesus.  You can say yes and begin a new life that Jesus described as “life to the full!”  I’m going to give you a moment right now to simply whisper your “yes” to Jesus—He will hear you.  (Pause)  If you said “yes” we have a Bible we’d like to give you—just stop by the info tables just outside the doors.

Now all you followers of Jesus: everything counts!  Nothing you do for Jesus is ever wasted.  What you do counts because it matters for eternity.  Maybe we won’t see the final results now, but there is a resurrection coming, and Jesus promises that your work won’t be in vain. So, I want to send you out of here today with a charge.  If you want your life to count, if you want to live boldly for Jesus in every situation, then I want you to take a bold step and stand to your feet.  By standing, you are saying that you are ready for more, that you want to abound in the work of the Lord and make a difference that will last forever.

I want to send you out into the world as change agents for Jesus. So I charge you:

-Live for Jesus—because everything counts!

-Stand firm, let nothing move you—because everything counts!

-Be steadfast and immovable—because everything counts!

-Abound in the work of the Lord—because everything counts!

-Live boldly for Jesus, in the hope of the resurrection—because everything counts!

-Take risks—because everything counts!

-Love people, even when it seems hopeless—because everything counts!

-Live with an eternal perspective—because everything counts!

Will you do it? Will you live for Jesus and throw yourself into the Lord’s work? If that’s true then will you repeat after me?

-I will follow Jesus!

-I will be steadfast and immovable!

-I will abound in the work of the Lord!

-I will love people!

-I believe that Jesus is alive!

-I believe that He is coming back!

-I believe that He has conquered death forever!

Look around you, this is your team! We are in this together.  You’re not alone!  We are committing together to follow Jesus and abound in the work of the Lord, because everything counts. We are going out to tell the world about the living Jesus, and the hope of the resurrection. In Romans 10:15 it says: And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” You are sent! And your feet are going to be beautiful!

Closing Prayer

Make sure you grab a button on the way out. It says everything counts, and this can be a reminder for you throughout the week of the commitment you have made today. If you didn’t some socks and want some, you can buy a pair at the info center.  Christ is risen, He is risen indeed. Happy Easter everyone.

By | 2017-04-18T08:46:28+00:00 April 18th, 2017|Individual Messages|Comments Off on Everything Counts