March 29, 2009

The Essentials

What all Christians believe and why it matters

Part 11: I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting

 

Opening:

ILL: “Do you believe in life after death?” the boss asked one of his employees.

“Yes, sir,” he replied.

“Well, then, that makes everything just fine,” the boss went on, “because after you left early yesterday to go to your grandmother’s funeral, she stopped in to see you.”

Do you believe in life after death?  That’s the question we’re going to discuss today as we wrap up “The Essentials” with the last two articles of the Apostles Creed: I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

 

 

Prayer:

Conspiracy of Hope (this week in Upcoming Events) – please pray for the students and leaders participating in CoH!

Well update: we got the permits; pray for well-drillers to get there, get set up in the right place and find water!

          Easter invites.  We talk all the time about Find, Tell, Bring.  Find someone you love.  Tell them what you know.  Bring them with you to church.  There is power in an invitation!  I am a Christian because an 8th grade boy invited me to come to a youth rally at his church.  That invitation changed my life and eternity.  How many of you first came to Life Center because someone invited you?  There is power in an invitation.  Research consistently indicates that more than 90% of those who come to Jesus do so because of the influence and invitation of a trusted friend or family member.  There is power in an invitation!

ILL: Joe Aldrich told the story of a friend of his who was doing find tell bring with his neighbors.  He loved them, served them, and built great friendships.  He shared his faith very naturally-not pushy-and made invitations.  He had invited the guy across the street 41 times-he’d kept track-41 “no thank you’s”.  But on the 42nd invitation, the guy said yes, came to church and met Jesus, and eventually became a pastor in their church!

There is power in an invitation.  Did you know that half of the people you invite are likely to say yes and come?  Who do you know that may be one invitation away from Jesus?  Let’s make the invite!

 

Introduction:

          This is the final message in this series, “The Essentials: what all Christians believe and why it matters.”  We’re working our way through the Apostles Creed, the oldest and most widely accepted of the ancient creeds of the church.  A creed is a summary of core beliefs-the essentials that all Christians believe.  There are 12 articles in the creed and this is the 11th message because we are combining the last two articles: I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.  These two are the Christian hope.

 

The Apostles Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth,

and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

    Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.

    He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead.

    He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
    whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

    the holy catholic church, the communion of saints,

    the forgiveness of sins,

    the resurrection of the body,

    and life everlasting.  Amen.

 

1. I believe in the resurrection of the body.

          Christians believe that our physical body will be resurrected. 

          Christianity is an embodied faith.  At the time of Jesus, the Mediterranean world was steeped in Greek dualism.  The Greeks believed in the immortality of the soul.  Many of them believed that matter was fundamentally evil, that the soul was imprisoned in the body and was finally freed at death.  Our souls continued, they believed, but without a body, without any physical existence.  Many people today believe in the immortality of the soul.  But Christians believe in a bodily resurrection, that our whole self-spirit, soul and body-will be redeemed.

          Christianity is an embodied faith.  This is clearly seen in three great truths, each contained in the creed.

  • Creation: We believe that God created the physical world and said that it was good. Creation is fundamentally good. This is why it is a good thing to enjoy physical pleasures as God intended them. God intended us to enjoy good food and drink, sex in marriage, and the beauty of nature and of human creativity. All of these can be and have been misused and abused with disastrous results. But that doesn’t negate the fact that God created them to be good, and for our enjoyment. As the hymn says, “This is my Father’s world, He shines in all that’s fair.” It’s good. However, creation has been corrupted by human sin, and as Paul says in Romans 8, is groaning to “be liberated from its bondage to decay.” This will happen when Jesus returns and creates “a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” 2 Peter 3:13. Than all of physical creation will be redeemed and made new. Don’t think of heaven as floating around as disembodied spirits on clouds, playing Amazing Grace on invisible harps! Heaven is being with Jesus in new bodies in a new creation-a new heaven and earth. It is pictured as the marriage supper of the Lamb-the ultimate buffet! Heaven will be all the best of you and me, purified and redeemed, enjoying all the best of the earth, purified and redeemed. God will redeem all of creation, physical and spiritual. Christianity is an embodied faith.
  • Incarnation: God Himself entered His creation, taking on a human body, becoming one of us. This was unthinkable to those who believed that matter was fundamentally evil. How could a pure God ever contaminate Himself by becoming flesh? But we believe that matter is fundamentally good, created by God-and then it was inhabited by God. God took on human flesh. Jesus was God in a bod! Christianity is an embodied faith.
  • Resurrection: Jesus died and then rose bodily from the dead, and promised that we also would be raised from the dead. We will not spend eternity as disembodied souls-we will have bodies, and we’ll recognize each other.

Christianity is an embodied faith.  And human beings are embodied persons.  The Bible always treats us as spirit, soul and body.  It is incomplete to think or talk about saving souls.  God saves the whole person: spirit, soul and body.  Our redemption or salvation is not complete until the resurrection of the body.  We believe in whole salvation, not just soul salvation.  

          Let’s explore the resurrection of the body.

Death is the fundamental human problem-everyone dies.  The mortality rate is still 100%.  What happens when you die?  Naturalists or materialists believe that we are physical creatures only, and when the body dies, you cease to exist.  You are a body-nothing more.  If this life is all there is, then nothing matters except self-indulgence.  “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.'” 1 Corinthians 15:33.  If this life is all there is, then live it up, because when you die, it’s over.  Death is the end of life.

          But Jesus taught and demonstrated by His own resurrection that life doesn’t end at death, that our bodies will be resurrected and we’ll live forever. 

John 6:40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus taught that all who believe in Him will be raised and have eternal life.  Do you believe this?  This was the faith of the Jesus’ first followers.  They believed that Jesus’ resurrection guaranteed theirs.

Romans 6:5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.

1 Corinthians 6:14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.

2 Corinthians 4:14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.

Philippians 3:20-21 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Our citizenship is in heaven; we are aliens here, just temporary visitors, but our home is somewhere else.  And when Jesus comes, He will transform our lowly bodies so that they will become like His glorious body.  What a promise! 

ILL: I’m getting older, and my body is becoming more “lowly”.  I play racquetball and my mind says “Move” and my body says “No”.  I was playing basketball awhile back, made a great move to the bucket and then dribbled the ball off my leg out of bounds.  A friend said, “I could see that you knew what you wanted to do, but your body wouldn’t cooperate.”  I’m getting older and my chest has sunk into my drawers!  I’m sagging in places where I didn’t use to have places!  I found this:

          51 Signs you’re getting older-Large Print Edition

  • Everything hurts and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work.
  • You look forward to a dull evening.
  • You sit in a rocking chair and can’t get it going.
  • Your knees buckle but your belt won’t.
  • Your back goes out more than you do.
  • You sink your teeth into a steak, and they stay there.
  • You have a dream about prunes.
  • When you bend over, you look for something else to do while you’re down there.

Our bodies are wearing out, but we have the promise that our lowly bodies will become like His glorious body.  That promise is especially meaningful to me when I think about those who live with handicaps.  One day they will be whole; their lowly bodies transformed to be like Jesus.  I was out for breakfast with my sons yesterday and saw a family with a boy with severe physical handicaps.  I prayed for them, and I thought, “One day, that lowly broken body will be raised and be whole.”  My son, Jeff, had Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism that made social interaction like a foreign language for him.  He also was hyper-sensitive to touch; he didn’t like to be hugged.  This is a typical response to a hug (picture).  But when I see Jeff again, he will be whole-and I’m going to give him a big, long hug-and he’ll like it!

          Our lowly bodies will be transformed to be like His glorious body.  What will that be like?  We know a little.  We know that after Jesus’ resurrection:

  • His body was recognizable. Those who knew Him, recognized Him. He even showed them the scars of His crucifixion. Our resurrection bodies will be new, but still us; you’ll recognize those you love.
  • His body was truly physical; it wasn’t a mirage. He told them, “It is me! Touch me and see; a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” Luke 24:39. It was a physical body that you could touch and see. To show that He had a physical body, He even ate a piece of fish. Our resurrection bodies will be truly physical. We will touch and see…and eat!
  • His body wasn’t bound by the normal limits of time and space. Jesus could suddenly appear in a locked room, and disappear just as suddenly. Our resurrection bodies will be physical, but not bound by the limits of time and space, as we know them now. I’ll finally be able to dunk!
  • His body will never die. Romans 6:9 “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.” Our resurrection bodies will never die: no more sickness, pain, disability or death. We’ll be free and whole…forever.

All this-and much more-are included in that idea that our lowly bodies will be transformed to be like His glorious body.  What will this resurrected body be like?  In 1 Corinthians 15, an entire chapter of the Bible devoted to explaining the resurrection of the body, Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 15:35-37 But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.

If you want to understand the resurrection, go to your garden!  You plant a tiny seed-a radish seed, or carrot seed, or zucchini seed-and then you water it and leave it alone.  The seed dies, and out of its death comes new life-a life that is the same life as the seed, but different. 

ILL: These are acorns (picture).  Imagine seeing an acorn for the first time, and someone asks you, “What will you get if you plant this in the ground?”  If you knew nothing about acorns, you’d never imagine that an acorn would produce this: an oak tree (picture).  Studying an acorn by itself, you would never figure out that it would produce an oak tree.  The acorn is so small and insignificant; the oak tree is so large and impressive.  But the lowly acorn contained the mighty oak tree; it was there all along.  The acorn had to be planted in the ground and die so that the oak tree could appear.

This is Paul’s explanation of how the body is resurrected.  Today, we are lowly acorns-a bunch of nuts-not much to look at and not very impressive.  One day, we’ll die and be planted in the ground, but that planting isn’t the end of the story, but the beginning of something much bigger.  Just as the acorn has to die to produce the oak tree, so our death becomes the gateway to a new life that is greater than anything we can imagine. 

          How will the resurrection happen?  Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 15:51-55 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-(this verse should be posted in every church nursery) 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”  55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

Paul tells us:

  • The resurrection will happen instantly: “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye.”
  • The resurrection will happen when Jesus comes again: “at the last trumpet,” which refers to the final trumpet that will sound at Christ’s coming. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 tells us that when Jesus comes, the trumpet shall sound, the dead in Christ will be raised, and those still alive will rise to meet Him in the air, and so we will be with the Lord forever.
  • The resurrection will result in our total transformation: “we will be changed,” from perishable to imperishable, from mortal to immortal.

Again, we can’t imagine how wonderful our transformed and resurrected bodies are going to be.

          Two questions I get asked: First, if our bodies are not resurrected until the second coming of Christ, what happens to us in the meantime?  Short answer: if you are a believer, when you die, you go to be with the Lord. Paul was in prison, facing death; here’s what he wrote. 

Philippians 1:21-24 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.

Paul believed that if he died, he would “be with Christ, which is better by far.”  This is why he could say, “to die is gain.”  To die is to be with Jesus.  Will we have a body then, if ours is not yet resurrected?  That seems to be what Paul says in:

2 Corinthians 5:1-2 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling,

When we die, we are with Jesus, and are clothed with a heavenly dwelling.  I don’t know the relation between that heavenly body and our earthly body that is resurrected later.

          Second, I’m often asked, “Should we be cremated if our bodies are going to be raised.”  Or what about those who are lost at sea, or eaten by animals?  The God who holds every molecule of the universe in His hand can certainly rearrange them as needed.  No matter how you die, or how you’re buried, God can raise your body.  God can do anything.  There is nothing in the Bible that forbids cremation.

          I believe in the resurrection of the body.

 

2. I believe in life everlasting.

          Do you believe in life after death?  Christians do.  We believe in life everlasting, eternal life. Jesus said:    

John 6:40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

This is what God wants: everyone who looks to Jesus and believes in him shall have eternal life.  Jesus is the giver of eternal life. 

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  Jesus is the giver of eternal life.

          What is eternal life?  It is both a quantity and a quality of life that comes from Jesus.  It is life that never ends, everlasting life.  But it is also life that is abundant and full.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Jesus came to bring life: life to the full!  Abundant life!  A rich and satisfying life.  Life in all its fullness.  More and better life than you ever dreamed of.  Jesus came to make you fully alive-forever!  He brings this eternal life now.

John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

Eternal life is knowing Jesus.  It is a relationship with the living God.  This is what makes life full.  You come fully alive when you know the God who made you and loves you.  If you know Jesus, you already have eternal life.  Eternal life begins the moment we believe, not the moment we die. Eternal life is a relationship with Jesus. 

1 John 5:11-13 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.  (Note the tense of the verbs: present tense “has” and “have”.)

If you have a relationship with Jesus, you have eternal life right now.  If you have Jesus, you have eternal life.

And the good news is that life goes on forever.  Death cannot stop it.  Eternal life is a relationship with Jesus, and that relationship doesn’t end at death; it gets better.  We see Him face to face; we get to be with Him like never before.  Heaven is where Jesus is; it’s being “at home with the Lord.” 

2 Corinthians 5:8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

As long as we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord.  So Paul says he would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  Think about home.  Where is home for you? 

ILL: Sometimes when Andy and Nicole and Jenna are at our house, Jenna will get tired, and she’ll go to the front door and say, “Home.  Home.”  She’s like ET. 

I understand that.  When I’ve been away for a few days, I love to come home and sleep in my own bed. We say that home is our castle, our refuge.  Home is a place.  Home is “my place.” 

But what makes that place home is the people who are there.  I don’t go home and hug the drapes, or hug my bed, or hug the HDTV…well maybe I hug that!  I go home and hug Laina!  Home is where Laina and the kids are.  If they were all gone, it wouldn’t feel like home very long.

For Christians, home is where Jesus is.  Being with Jesus is the essence of heaven.  We aren’t home until we’re with the Lord.

ILL: Many years ago, a missionary couple gave their lives bringing the gospel to Africa.  They toiled in obscurity and poverty their entire lives, and came home penniless and in poor health to retire.  Former President Teddy Roosevelt happened to be on their ship going home, returning from a big-game hunt in Africa, and this missionary man couldn’t help resenting all the attention paid to the great man. 

          When they docked in New York, a band was playing, crowds were cheering and a host of dignitaries were there to welcome Roosevelt.  Not a single person was there to welcome them.  The man seethed with more resentment. 

They gathered their meager belongings and caught a taxi to a cheap flat they had rented.  There, the man fumed.  “This man goes on a safari, and people fawn all over him when he comes home.  We’ve given our whole lives serving the poor, taking the gospel to those who have never heard.  And what kind of welcome do we get when we come home?  Nothing.”  His wife tried to encourage him, but he angrily brushed her off and slammed the bedroom door. 

An hour later he came out, but he wasn’t angry; he was peaceful.  “What happened?” his wife asked.  He told her: “I had it out with God.  I told him how unfair this was, that there was no one to welcome us home.  And God said to me, ‘You’re not home yet.'”

You’re not home yet.  We’re still at home in the body, but away from the Lord. 

Hebrews 13:14 For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.

As wonderful as life can be here, this world is not our permanent home.  Home is where Jesus is.  Sometimes, like Jenna, our heart cries, “Home.  Home.”

ILL: On the final page of the final book of The Chronicles of Narnia, some of the children who have been to Narnia lament that they once again must return to their homeland-the Shadow-Lands. But Aslan (the lion who represents Jesus) has the best news of all for them:

“You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.”

Lucy said, “We’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.”

“No fear of that,” said Aslan. “Have you not guessed?”

Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them.

“There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are-as you used to call it in the Shadow-Lands-dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream has ended; this is morning.”

And as he spoke he no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

The best is yet to come!  As good as this life is, the best is yet to come.  I believe in life everlasting.  Home!  Home!

 

3. Amen!

          There’s one more point on your outline.  The last word of the creed is “Amen!”  For many of us, that means, “It’s time to eat.”  The word “amen” means, “so be it” or “it is true”.  The creed starts with “I believe” and it ends with “amen”-so be it.  Let it happen!  So let’s finish by saying…AMEN.