Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter 2009 Message

The Connection Between The Resurrection of Christ & The Great Commission

If I were to ask you if you take the resurrection of Jesus Christ seriously—I am sure that most of you would immediately reply—“absolutely”. But then if I were to ask you how you take it seriously or how it impacts your life everyday to know and believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead—I may not get as quick a reply. Oh eventually, I would probably hear someone say—“well, knowing Christ rose from the dead assures me that my sins have really been paid for and that God the Father really has forgiven me.” And someone else might say—“well, knowing Christ rose from the dead gives me the assurance that I too will be raised from the dead.” And undoubtedly there would be someone who would pipe up and say—“Knowing Jesus rose from the dead assures me that He really was and is Who He said He was—the very Son of God.” And finally and hopefully, one of you would say, that the resurrection of Christ is the basis of our new life in Christ according to such passages as Romans 6:4 and Colossians 3:1-3.

But, even though all of these are great answers—and while they all impact our lives for the good—they do not necessarily prove that we take the resurrection seriously. You see, if we take the resurrection of Jesus Christ seriously, it will do more than give us an assurance of spiritual truth—it will drive us to pursue the ramifications of those spiritual truths. And today, I want us to consider one of the great, predominate, and really essential and necessary ramifications or demands required of those who believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and thus, truly do take it seriously. And that great, predominate, essential, and necessary ramification and demand that is placed upon everyone who takes the resurrection seriously is to also take the Great Commission of Christ seriously.

That’s right. A believer in the Lord Jesus Christ cannot take the resurrection seriously without also taking the Great Commission seriously! Now why do I say that? Because that is what we see in Scripture. Recently, in reading all of the Gospels, I saw that in three of them—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—the resurrection of Christ is coupled with the Great Commission. Let’s look and I’ll show you.

Matthew 28:16-20

Mark 16:14-15

Luke 24:44-47

And then in the Apostle Paul’s teaching on the resurrection, he made the direct application that if those who believe that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead have not shared that with others—they should be ashamed—because obviously they have not taken it seriously. Look at 1 Corinthians 15:32-34. All of this points to the truth that you and I cannot take the resurrection of Jesus Christ seriously and not take the Great Commission just as serious and be seriously biblical.

Now, just in case we are not sure about what the Great Commission is—I want you to go with me to first to Genesis 1:28. This is known as the Creation Mandate, which was essentially given to the whole human race, even though only Adam and Eve existed at the time it was given. Notice that the main gist of this Creation Mandate was that man was to reproduce, multiply, and fill the earth with people who would serve God by taking dominion over the earth. And of course, this mandate, given before the Fall had as its primary goal the filling of the whole earth with people who would know and glorify and worship God and thus God’s Name and glory would be known throughout the Earth. But because of the Fall, whereas man has multiplied and filled the earth—he has not filled it with worshippers of God but rather haters of God.

Now take a look again at Matthew 28:18-20, where the Great Commission is recorded for us. See if you don’t see its similarity with the Creation Mandate. Whereas, the Creation Mandate could not be completely and perfectly fulfilled due to the Fall of man—in the Great Commission it is fulfilled—in the sense that as believers make disciples of all the nations [read: people groups], baptizing them and teaching them to obey all of Christ’s commands—they are in effect reproducing, multiplying, and filling the earth with people who know God, love God, worship God, and glorify God so that His Name and His glory does indeed fill the earth.

Listen, the whole plan of God in Creation and in Salvation is to fill the earth with His Glory and thus all that God has done in history and will do in history has a missional or missions focus. In the Old Testament, this missional focus was centripetal in that the nations were to come to God’s people Israel to hear about God and learn how to worship Him. But in the New Testament, God reverses the missional focus and makes it centrifugal in that God’s people the church are to go to the nations with the Gospel so that they can hear about God and His Gospel and become His worshippers. So—the Great Commission is God’s strategy and in fact His only strategy to fulfill His Creation Mandate by filling the earth with people from every people group who find Him to be their greatest joy.

And because the Great Commission is God’s strategy for filling the earth with His Glory—it must be of primary concern to the church and to Christians. In 1 Corinthians 9:22, Paul states that he has, “become all things to all men, so that [he] may by all means save some.” He reiterated this same idea in 1 Corinthians 10:33, where he writes, “Just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.” In other words, Paul, understood that he had an important role in God’s plan of evangelism and thus his goal was to live his life with the goal in mind of seeing people come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. His goal was to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to as many people as he could knowing that it was the means God would use to save those whom He had chosen from the foundation of the world. And that is what our goal should be too—as a church and as individual believers. We should never look at involving ourselves in anything where we don’t first consider what opportunities this endeavor offers for sharing the Gospel.

If you go to the Edgewood WALMART enough, you have been greeted by an elderly black woman named Loraine who loves the Lord so much it shows. I made a point of driving to WALMART yesterday just to ask her about her faith and her job at Walmart and she told me that she is a “lover of the Lord Jesus” and took this job of greeting people for the purpose of being able to share His love with others. In other words, this elderly woman is a greeter at WALMART—not just because she needed the money but because it gives her a chance to share the Gospel. And the reason why she thinks this way is because she takes the Gospel and the resurrection seriously.

You see, if you take the resurrection seriously and are a Gospel-minded believer—you will be an evangelism-minded believer and if you are an evangelism-minded believer—you will also be a mission-minded believer. And if we as a church take the resurrection seriously and are a Gospel-minded church—we will also be an evangelism-minded and missions-minded church. And if we are not evangelism-minded and missions-minded—it is because we are not Gospel-minded and thus we really are not taking the resurrection of our Savior seriously in spite of how much we love to sing songs about and hear preaching about the resurrection .

This is the kind of biblical reasoning that led William Carey to pursue missions at a time when much of England was under the drab and unbiblical spell of hyper-calvinism, in which many of the churches believed that since God was completely sovereign in salvation that there was simply no need to evangelize or be involved in obeying the Great Commission. They had forgotten the truth that whereas God is indeed completely sovereign in and over every single person’s salvation—His sovereign purpose and plan includes the means of preaching the Gospel, evangelizing the lost, and fulfilling the Great Commission through missions and preaching the Gospel. And Carey, unlike many of his pastoral colleagues, took not only the Gospel seriously and the doctrine of election seriously and the resurrection of Christ seriously—He took the Great Commission seriously and he obeyed it and in 1793 went to India where he spent the rest of his life—41 years—making disciples and translating the Scriptures into 27 languages.

Carey was not alone in his thinking. In fact, he was joined in his burden for missions and taking the Gospel to the lost by six other pastors whose churches were all part of a small fellowship of “Particular Baptists Churches”. So, here were these seven pastors and their seven very small and in fact tiny churches who because they took the resurrection of Christ seriously and believed that since God had sent Jesus to die for people from every tribe, nation, language, and people group and since Jesus rose from the grave—thus proving that God was satisfied with Christ’s payment for these people—that somebody better go and tell them—and so they sent Carey to do exactly that.

What I find so interesting and encouraging about the seven churches that formed the fellowship that sent Carey and his family to India, is that when they added up their combined memberships they came up with about 175 people. Thus, seven churches which averaged about 25 people each—and mostly poor people at that—sent out the first missionary from the West to the East—who became known as “The Father of Modern Missions”. And what motivated them to do pursue this great task and this daunting challenge of sending out one of their own as a missionary was the fact that they took the resurrection of Christ and the Gospel so seriously.

It is also important to realize that Carey was the pastor of one of those seven small churches. He was actually a bi-vocational pastor who also worked as a shoe cobbler to make ends meet. The deacons and most of the church at first truly struggled with the idea of seeing their much loved pastor leave his flock to become a missionary but got firmly behind him when challenged by one of their members, that if they indeed took the Gospel and the resurrection of Jesus seriously that they would have no fear in giving up their best gift for the souls of those who had not yet heard. Furthermore, this missions-minded church member of Carey’s little Baptist church said to this church which had prayed for years to be a missionary sending church:

“And now, God is bidding us make the sacrifice which shall prove our prayers’ sincereness. Let us rise to His call, and show ourselves worthy. Instead of hindering our pastor, let us not even be content to let him go; let us send him.”

And they did so that those whom God had not called to go became the senders of the one God had had called to go because they all took the Gospel and the resurrection of Jesus Christ seriously.

And this is what motivates missions even today. Churches that send out their own as missionaries are churches that take the Gospel and the resurrection of Christ seriously. Christians that share the Gospel with others are Christians who take the Gospel and the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ seriously. And likewise—Churches and Christians who are not interested in missions, outreach, evangelism, and seeing people saved do not take the Gospel or the resurrection seriously. This is why Paul told us that the Gospel is of first importance and not just something that we fit into our lives whenever it is convenient or non-threatening to our privileges and position in life (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Listen, what I am saying to us is that just as the teaching about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is connected and coupled with the teaching that we should be involved in fulfilling the Great Commission—we who take the resurrection of Christ seriously must make the connection between that and the seriousness of taking the Great Commission seriously. You cannot take the resurrection seriously and not be interested in missions and evangelism—you just can’t.

God’s great purpose in missions is to fill the earth with His glory by Making His Great Name known among all the people groups of the earth so that people from each of these thousands and thousands of people groups will become His worshippers. But how will they ever worship Him if they never call upon His Name and how will they ever call upon His Name if they never believe in Him and how will they ever believe in Him whom they have never heard of and how will they hear without someone telling them? And how will someone tell them unless they are sent?

I really struggled with preaching a typical Easter message this year—primarily because through our study in Romans, we all know so very well that Jesus rose from the dead and we all have a pretty good handle on why He rose from the dead. But we don’t have such a good handle on what the ramification of taking the Gospel and in particular the resurrection of Jesus Christ seriously entails—and that is simply that because the resurrection matters—fulfilling the Great Commission matters. To loosely paraphrase John Piper, in terms of missions, every believer must be either a radical goer, a radical sender, a radical supporter, or a radically disobedient Christian.

So. . . .let me ask all of us. . . .are we taking the Great Commission seriously in that we are taking evangelism, missions and the discipleship of others seriously?

Are we involved in supporting, sending, and praying for missionaries? Are we making life decisions so as to intentionally position ourselves in places with greater opportunities to share the Gospel?

In fact, in everything that we decide to do are we asking ourselves how this decision will better help us fulfill the Great Commission?

Have we considered investing our life in reaching an Unreached or unengaged people group?

Are we hindering or helping our children to pursue a course that involves sacrificing a good career and making lots of money in order to go someplace you can’t even pronounce to share the Gospel and make lots of disciples?

Finally, are we as a church going to be a missionary sending and supporting church or just a missionary watching church?

Well the answers to those questions all depend on whether we are going to be Christians and a church that takes the resurrection of Jesus Christ seriously or not.

Romans Message #45

Jesus Died To Make You Holy & Happy!
Romans 4:7-8

Did you know that doctors and psychologists believe that hypertension as a result of unresolved guilt is directly responsible for some 60,000 deaths a year and is a contributing factor in millions of deaths from strokes and cardiovascular disease.

Doctors are also finding that unresolved guilt plays a role in contributing to cancer and other illnesses. Interestingly enough, as early as 1978, Dr. Karl Menninger, stated that there is a spiritual dimension to every person and every person’s illness, whether mental or physical. That is quite a statement, coming from an unbeliever. Now Menninger and other doctors admit that their findings do not prove that every illness, disease, or common cold is the result of unresolved guilt but that all unresolved guilt has a negative effect upon a person’s health in one way or another. And the problem with guilt is that the person who has it cannot resolve it.

The only thing you and I can do with real personal guilt that is the result of our sin is to suppress it, deny it, or simply learn how to muddle through life with it hanging around our neck. We have a great big hound dog that we adopted out of the Estancia dog pound. I don’t think there is a fence big enough to keep in.
And every chance he gets he makes a run for the fence, jumps it and takes off. So that means he has to be tied to a run. Well, in a very rare moment of mercy for the dog, I thought why not just tie him to a chain and attach a large tire to it so that at least he can move around the yard but won’t be able to jump the fence. Well, it worked until I started to notice the damage that was occurring to the trees, plants, walkways, and grass in the backyard due to him dragging his tire everywhere he went. But you know what was interesting to me about that whole thing—Hank—that’s the name of our hound dog—learned to function very well dragging a huge tire around everywhere he went. And that is probably a pretty good description of how people who can’t get rid of their guilt live—they just drag it around and eventually get so used to it being there that it just seems normal.

Well again, all we can do with real guilt over real and personal sin is either suppress it, deny it, or learn to function with it so that we think it is normal to live with guilt. And the problem with these ways of dealing with guilt is that none of them resolve it because none of them can deal with the cause of the guilt and thus truly resolve it and take it away.

But turn with me to Psalm 32:1-5. Did you see what David says about guilt in verse 5? By the way, whereas the some versions translate the word “guilt” as “the iniquity of my sin” the word in Hebrew means the: sum total or the product in terms of the resulting internal consequences of sinful deeds against God or man. The word is most often associated with the guilt that accompanies all sin. Now David writes that once he brought his sin to God and confessed it as sin to God, which means that he agreed with God that what he did was sin and that he was guilty of doing it and had no excuses to offer for what he did—Then God forgave the guilt of his sin. The word “forgave” comes from the Hebrew word, which means to lift, to carry away, to take away and even to destroy. Wow! So what David is saying is that whereas, he could not do anything with his sin or his guilt—God could and did—once he confessed his sin to God. And what God did was to lift it off of David and carry it away because the sin that caused that guilt was going to be paid for by Christ Jesus at the cross and in paying for it—Jesus essentially destroyed it.

Listen, 1 John 3:8, tells us that one of the reasons Jesus came was “to destroy the works of the devil.” And one of the most effective works of the devil is to bind people in the guilt of their sin so as to destroy them. Jesus came to set us free from our sin and from the guilt of our sin. And that makes me wonder about Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 53:5, in which we are told that by our Savior’s scourging—we are healed. And it makes me wonder as well about David’s words in Psalm 103:3, in which he make the point that in Christ’s atonement all our iniquities are pardoned and all our diseases are healed. We have often dismissed these statements by saying that this is referring to when we go to heaven and there is no more sickness but if you look at the passages carefully—they are not talking about the future age in Heaven after we go home to be with the Lord but rather seem to be talking about this current age before Heaven. And if all the other blessings of the atonement are applied to us in this life why is the healing spoken of not applied now as well rather than later when we are in heaven and don’t need to be healed of anything.
Now, understand, I don’t think that these verses are making the blanket statement that believers should never get sick or that if they do they should always be healed.

But I do wonder if perhaps what these verses are saying is that in salvation we have the preventative antidote and healing agent to much of what doctors say causes a great many of our physical problems and diseases—which is unresolved guilt, which can only be resolved in Christ. Because you see in our justification, we are relieved from our sin penalty and the ensuing guilt that accompanies our sin so that we can live as guilt free people and thus as happy people who find their greatest joy in pursuing Christ and thus are holy people.

Now with all this in mind, let’s turn to Romans 4:7-8, which is Paul’s paraphrase of David’s words in PSALM 32, where I want us to see that because Jesus has dealt with our sin problem and has dealt with our guilt over sin so that it can be resolved rather than merely suppressed, denied, or tolerated—that we can truly live lives that are indeed free of the guilt of sin. It is important to understand that the reason we as Christians experience guilt for sin is to drive us back to God in confession of that sin. And as we confess that sin—not only are we agreeing with God that what we did was sin and that we are guilty of having committed it—we are also agreeing with Him that He sent Jesus to the cross to pay for that very sin.
If you do not confess that fact as well in your confession of sin you will have really missed the whole point of why God tells us to confess our sins as believers.

Listen, even as believers, we struggle with guilt over sin—don’t we?! And there are two fundamental reasons for this—one we won’t confess our sin or we while confessing our sin so that we agree with God that we are guilty of having broken His law do not or will not confess—that is agree with God—that the sin has already been paid for by Jesus. Most of us struggle with the second aspect of what it means to confess our sins. Oh we have no problem coming to God and confessing that we have sinned and are guilty and responsible of sinning against Him but for some reason we have great difficulty in confessing and agreeing with God that that sin has already been paid for by Jesus and thus the positional judicial guilt of that sin has already been removed and resolved in Christ Jesus. And because we will not confess this to God and will not agree with God that our sin has already been dealt with effectively by and in Christ we carry it around and subject ourselves to feelings of unresolved guilt that makes us very unhappy people.

The reason people have unresolved guilt is because they cannot resolve the sin that causes the guilt. In other words, since they cannot ever really pay for what they have done wrong—they can never really resolve their sin debt and thus their guilt over that sin. So they either spend the rest of the lives absolutely miserable set on a path of destruction which in their minds is their way of paying for their sin and hopefully will resolve the guilt, or they spend the rest of their lives giving themselves to every humanitarian work they possibly can to somehow make up their sin and hopefully relieve the guilt, or they just stay busy—so that they don’t have to think about their sin and their guilt.

Well, God has provided a better way—in fact the only way that sin and guilt can be resolved and that is through Christ Jesus and His work at the cross. Listen, when we confess our sins to the Lord as we are told to do in 1 John 1:9, it is for the purpose of relieving our sense of guilt that if left undealt with comes between us and the Lord and the wonderful fellowship He wants us to have with Him. Because again, in true confession of sin, you are not only confessing that you have sinned and are responsible for that sin—you are also confessing that God has already dealt with that sin because it was paid for by Jesus on the cross. And as you confess that fact, you realize that the sin is not unresolved but very much resolved and that the sin is not unpaid for but very much paid for and thus your guilt is resolved. And because your sin has been resolve—and your guilt is resolved—you can be happy in Christ Jesus, which is why both David and Paul make this point in their respective writings.

Listen—the Gospel promise is that God sent Jesus to die for sinners in order to make them holy and happy. As we move section by section through the chapters in Romans, don't forget that we are unfolding of the flower of the gospel.
And gospel means good news. And good news is designed to lift not only our sin burden but our guilt burden and in lifting our burden of guilt we are able to experience peace with God and that allows us to enjoy God and this gives us incredible joy.

Effective, biblical, godly, and Christ-honoring confession of sin always includes the confession or the agreement that because of Christ I am at peace with God because my sin, the very sin I am confessing right now, has been paid for by Jesus and thus everything is well between God and me. Again, don’t forget that the Gospel is not only the good news that your sins have been forgiven and removed from you—it is also the good news that your guilt has been resolved and you don’t have to dray it around the yard anymore.

This is the unfolding of the gospel - the good news. It's designed to you’re your burden of sin and your burden of guilt—make you holy and also make you happy in Jesus. This is so basic. And yet how easily we forget it. Please don't miss the note that I am striking today. It is triggered by the word "blessed" found twice in Romans 4:7-8. God wants us to see that his work and his Word are aiming not only at our holiness but also at our happiness. And we cannot be happy in Christ when we are not truly believing and resting in the fact that in Christ Jesus our guilt problem has been resolved because our sin problem has been resolved. And so in saying in Romans 4:7-8, that happy is the person whose sin has been completely, totally, and comprehensively dealt with and resolved in Christ Jesus—he is telling us that God’s desire is that we not just hope for this happiness or dream about this happiness or wish for this happiness—He is telling us that we should be experiencing this happiness but that can only take place if we believe God and agree with God that our sin and thus our guilt has been resolved.

And I can’t help but think that this is exactly what Jesus had in mind on the original Palm Sunday when as He approached Jerusalem He said the words recorded for us in Luke 19:41. Turn there—you need to see this. The word in Greek for peace is eirene and He is using it here to mean a “state of well being” with God. In other words, if only they had searched the Scriptures and had believed that Jesus was coming to pay for sin and deal with the guilt of sinners in such a way as to allow sinners to be at peace with God—they would have experienced great happiness.

And I wonder how many Christians there are in this room who although having come to Christ for salvation have not really accepted the fact that in their salvation—God has also made provision for your guilt—so that you too can be happy.

And I also wonder who is here today who is trying to resolve their own personal guilt and their own personal sin and finding it to be an impossible task that is draining the very life out of them—when all you need to do is come to Christ for the salvation He offers you freely if you would just trust in Him. God sent Jesus to the cross to die for our sins and resolve our guilt so that we can not only be holy but happy in the fact that all is well between you and God.

Are you?

Pursuing the Glory of Christ as though He were the most important pursuit in all the world--Because He Is!

" Looking for the Blessed Hope and the appearing of The Glory of our Great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." Titus 2:13