Built to Last
Old Testament Reading- Isaiah 26:19
New Testament Reading- Philippians 3:15-21
By Henry J. Rafferty CLP -April 24, 2022
Pastor Henry answers the question many people ask: Jesus died and was resurrected because he was God's son but what does that have to do with me personally?
Here we are one week after the events of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on what we now call Easter Sunday. Last week we talked about the fact that the death of Jesus and his resurrection is the basis for belief in calling oneself a Christian. You cannot just believe Jesus was born and was a great person. Nor can you believe that Jesus didn’t really die, or that Jesus died, but wasn’t resurrected. If you want to call yourself a Christian you must believe that Jesus was born, lived a sinless life, allowed Himself to be put to death for a crime He did not commit, thereby becoming the sacrificial lamb of God, actually died, was brought back to life from death, and is the one and only Son of God. If you can proclaim this and then give yourself over to Him and accept the gift of salvation, then you are a Christian. But what does that mean? Yes, Jesus died and was resurrected because he was God's son but what does that have to do with me personally?
The answer, I suppose, is simple, everything. First let’s look at what Jesus’ whole mission was about. God, through the ages has formed agreements or covenants with people whom He chose. “Why did He choose these people,” like Abraham, for example, because of his great faith and obedience to God. Of course, there is the whole, “omniscient quality of God” too, a quality that we can’t even begin to wrap our brains around, but the point is, God chooses who He will. I don’t think we are in much of a position to argue with the Almighty about it. Anyway, Abraham and others of his lineage, the Israelites, were given direct commands, visions, and prophets to help them to understand God’s Will. God told His people about the plan that He had to provide a Savior for all people, and that this Savior would come through His chosen people, specifically in the lineage of King David. This Savior would have certain attributes that would allow people to recognize Him. Scripture is littered with this plan, and the descriptions of this Anointed Savior, or Messiah. This Messiah would be God’s only Son, and He would have the power to save people from their sins. It is He, that would be the one truly able to return people to God.
God did indeed send the Messiah in the form of Jesus of Nazareth, called Christ, another word for Messiah. Jesus’ mission was to show the people the kingdom of God through Himself and to become the sacrifice for the sins of all humankind. In doing this, He trained disciples to carry on this mission even after Jesus had gone back to God. So, you see, the mission is two-fold. One, Jesus shows the world what God is really like, when you see the Son, you have seen the Father. He also shows us God and His kingdom by the life He lives, a sinless life, the example by which we can gauge our own lives. Two, He must provide the way to live eternally.
In the beginning God created humans in His image. That may not mean what we think, it may not mean that we look like God, physically, but that we are eternal, like God and that we would have awareness of ourselves and others and that we would have the ability to freely love as He does. To have the ability to freely love, God, contrary to what people say they wish He had done, gave us freedom to choose right from wrong. Without the choice, it really wouldn’t be freedom, but a world filled with puppets or thoughtless automatons.
When He gave us the choice, we chose rebellion, which caused a rift to happen in all creation. The law of God, which is perfect, says that to have the knowledge of good and evil means death. Humans, who were created immortal had now become mortal. This is the rift that I just talked about, God, who is immortal, and eternal is now separated from His children who are mortal.
This rift is not possible to fix by human beings, our flesh is a weakness to us, and it keeps us from achieving the thing that could return us to God. We would have to have lived a sinless life, which was impossible. We are born into a sinful world, imagine it as a world filled with a disease and the minute that we are born, we are already infected. Jesus is born into this world as well, but He is human and divine, giving Him the ability to live sinlessly by choice. Notice I said by choice, Jesus still lived with temptation and was surrounded by all the good and bad in the world. He could have chosen to do whatever He wanted but He chose to follow the path the Father had for Him. Jesus would have to give Himself as a sacrifice, become the lamb with no blemish, completely pure, that would die and whose blood would pay the penalty for the sins of human beings. Remember, the penalty for sin is death, there is no getting around that, God cannot break His own rules. Jesus chooses to, as He says, give up His life for His friends, there is no greater love than this. They call Jesus the second Adam. Death came to all humans through the sin of the first Adam, but life eternal returns to humans through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the second Adam.
Now, this is where it gets interesting. As I said before, Jesus is our model, the standard by which we should try to live our lives. He is our example sent by God. That does not mean that we all must go die on a cross as a martyr, that was unique to Jesus, one time sacrifice for all time. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice; you cannot get better than perfect. But, after Jesus dies as the sacrifice something amazing happens that not many realized, not even those closest to Him. God the Father raised Jesus from death to life anew. In this He becomes our example again. Let’s read Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:35-57,
“But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.
So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So, it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.
I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 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. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 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.”
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
We are given the example of what our resurrection bodies will be like in the image of the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus. Luke 24:28-32,
“As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So, he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
And again, in Luke 24:36-51, “While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.
He said to 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.”
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.”
As you can see, Jesus in His resurrection body is able to eat, be touched, be seen, and be heard just like a natural body, but can appear out of nowhere, go through locked doors, be unrecognizable, and fly through the air. I don’t know about you, but I have never seen a natural body do that.
"We all have a nasty habit of only thinking like human beings...we have a God who does not." ~ Pastor Henry Rafferty
So, the earlier question still exists, what does all this have to do with me? The answer is still the same, everything, but now you have some bearing on where this is all going. We all have a nasty habit of only thinking like human beings, luckily, we have a God who does not. God has not done all these things to give us a happy earthly life, although He desires that for us too, but more importantly He did all this to provide us with an eternal life with Him. Jesus’s sacrifice does not save us from a death, we still owe that, but it saves us from an eternal death, that is the death that Christ defeats for all time. Most people think that we die, then our spirits go on to God for eternity, but it doesn’t stop there. Remember, God is the God of the living, not the dead. We are not meant to stay a spirit. When we see Jesus after the resurrection, He has a real body, He says so when He declares to the disciples that He is not a ghost but is able to be touched and to eat. We will be no different, we will follow the second Adam. Hear again what Paul tells the Church in Philippi,
“For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 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.” Philippians 3:18-21
We were created for eternity with God and God has rebuilt the bridge that returns us to Him by the cross of Jesus Christ. We were created to enjoy what has not happened yet but is recorded in the great Book of Revelation, a new heaven and a new earth,
"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 22:1-5
Like Jesus, we will exist in this paradise, Eden made again, to live forever as living children of God, body and soul combined and washed clean by the blood of Christ. What a glorious day that shall be! All honor, praise, and glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit forever and ever! Amen.