So, How Shall We Live?

In the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians, Paul started his exposition by declaring factually the resurrection of Jesus. Then, Paul declared the implications of that resurrection. Ultimately, the implications of the resurrection end up at the place of assuring our own resurrection or eternal life because of the resurrection of Jesus. That leads to Paul’s final words regarding the resurrection. Take a moment to read 1 Corinthians 15:50-58.

I have shared these verses dozens, actually into the hundreds, of times in the cemetery. For the one who has died knowing the Lord, I often share this passage as my closing remarks at the graveside portion of the funeral. I read these words as a prayer of thanksgiving, but I also read these words as a note of challenge to those who remain. These words answer the question, “So now how shall we live?” In view of the resurrection, how shall we live?

First of all, we should live worshipping.

Why worshipping? Consider the glorious results of the resurrection. We encountered six things (vv. 12-19) earlier. He restates three of those reasons here in the crescendo of his praise.

• Death is defeated.

• Sin is defeated.

• Life has meaning.

Incidentally, these are three things that all of us dread the most. My life has no purpose. My sin is too great. Then, finally, we fear death itself. All three are the works of the Devil. All three are defeated at the resurrection. This is why John could declare in 1 John 3:8, “The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the works of the Devil.”

(This post is based on the message “Saviour Forever” which you can watch at fbclaf.org/video)

The Logic of Worship

I spend a lot of my time thinking about public worship. I have had lots of conversations about what ought to happen in public worship and how it ought to happen. I have received quite a bit of correspondence through my years as a pastor about what people like and don’t like about corporate worship. Perhaps one of the things that might surprise us is that there is not a lot about public worship in the New Testament—that is a prescription for the worship service. We know that they gathered regularly if not weekly. Certainly, they prayed. They gave attention to the public reading of Scripture (1 Tim 4). They observed the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11). They sang. (Eph 5) They gave offerings (1 Corinthians 16). But, we don’t get a lot about how they did what they did. The emphasis is not on form or function, but the heart of worship.

All of this is why I think Romans 12:1-2 is a most important text about worship. Believe it or not, the reason for our worship can be summed up by one word in this text. The word is therefore. But this one word takes us back to many words that appear previously in Romans. Looking back, we realize that the cross is the reason for our continued worship. This leads Paul to say that presenting his body to the LORD is his reasonable service.

The word for reasonable service is logikos. You can hear our English word logical in that word. This is logical. Christ died for us. It seems logical or reasonable that we would devote ourselves in worship to Him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

It’s a life fully surrendered to Christ.

Isaac Watts expressed well this idea in the words to When I Survey the Wondrous Cross when he wrote,

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Last Sunday, Easter Sunday, across the world, was probably the most well attended Sunday of the whole year for public worship. While we rejoice that many desired to gather to worship Jesus on the day that commemorates His resurrection, we should also be motivated that every day should be a celebration of His resurrection. I hope that this Sunday also finds you wanting to gather with others to worship Jesus.

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What’s Happening this Week at FBC?

You might think Easter is over, but actually, we should celebrate Easter every day. To illustrate that in preaching, we are returning to 1 Corinthians 15 this coming Sunday. We considered the first of 1 Corinthians 15 last Sunday. Sunday, we are considering the end of 1 Corinthians 15. If 1 Corinthians 15 is the climactic chapter of this letter, the end is the climactic part of the chapter. I look forward to sharing this passage with you on Sunday.

Let’s make this coming Sunday a strong Sunday in attendance. See you then!

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The Plan of God Prevails – Genesis 16

This year on Wednesday nights, I am leading a Bible Study on the book of Genesis.

Last Wednesday night I taught on Genesis 16. In Genesis 16, we learn that Abram and Sarai made a tragic choice that we often make. To put their mistake (and ours) in the simplest terms, “They tried to help God out.” Their plan consisted of having a child through the slave Hagar. Their age and perhaps the culture around them led them to this awful choice. But, as is always the case, their plan just led to problems. Bitterness, blame, and further bad behavior in Sarai’s treatment of Hagar show us the problems associated with their failed choice. The amazing thing is that God sees that His plan prevails.

What can we learn from this tragic story?

1. Rationalizing sin never works out. Abram and Sarai thought they could justify their choice since God had said they would have a child.

2. Limiting God never makes sense. Abram and Sarai, because of their age, gave up on God’s power. Don’t do that. God can do anything He wants to do, and He has the power to do anything He wants to do.

3. God always writes straight with a crooked stick. This is what my college pastor said all the time. Abram and Sarai made the stick crooked, but God took their mess and turned it into a message that we are still learning.

You can join us at 6:00 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall of First Baptist Church, Lafayette. We have a dinner ($6) beginning at 4:45 p.m. This week (April 19) we will take a look at Genesis 17. Come walk with us this year through this book of beginnings.

(This post is based on the message from Genesis Chapter 16, which you can listen to at fbclaf.org/genesis)

The Fifth Miracle of the Cross—The Response of the Soldiers

We have examined so far four supernatural events of the cross—the darkness, the torn veil, the earthquake, and the resurrection of the saints. Today we come to a final supernatural happening. Some may not think the response of the centurion and other soldiers is supernatural. However, any time someone has the faith to see Jesus for who He really is, God is at work!

This would not be the last time that someone would come face to face with the power of Christ and the cross and respond in faith. The confession of the soldiers has been spoken over and over again throughout history. Dan Leach, who lived just outside of Houston, Teas, made this same confession after being presented the evidence about Christ. On January 19, 2004, Dan Leach pulled off the perfect crime. By getting ideas from a popular television crime show, he murdered his girlfriend, but made it appear a suicide. The authorities ruled the death of the girl a suicide. But on March 7, 2004, Dan Leach walked into the local Sheriff’s Department and confessed to the murder giving very specific details that detectives said only the murderer would have known. What made Dan confess? Earlier that day, he went alone to a showing of the movie, The Passion of the Christ. After seeing what he called the death of an innocent man, he realized that he could not truly repent of his sin unless he turned himself in for the murder. A miracle occurs anytime a person turns from sin to the Savior.

As his title suggests, a centurion was commander over one hundred soldiers. “Those with him” suggests regular soldiers. The important thing to understand is that these soldiers were just doing a job. They had presided over countless other crucifixions. The crucifixion of Jesus was no different than any other crucifixion. These soldiers had no emotional attachment whatsoever to what was going on that day. That’s what makes this confession so amazing. They are not looking to follow Jesus. They had not investigated Jesus’ works or His words. But, when confronted with what they saw that day, they had no other choice but to exclaim, “Truly this was the son of God.”

Let’s remind ourselves of a few things in the context of this confession. The centurion and other soldiers made this confession in light of the works of God. The darkness, the torn veil, the earthquake, and the resurrected bodies certainly must have made an impression on the soldiers. Second, the soldiers made their confession in light of the way that Jesus died. We sometimes talk about someone dying with dignity. Never has anyone died in a more humble, yet dignified way as Jesus. Finally, the soldiers made their confession in light of the words of Jesus. Remember that Jesus spoke seven phrases from the cross. Two of these phrases must have stood out to the soldiers. First, Jesus said specifically about the soldiers, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Second, Jesus said to one of the criminals, “Assuredly, I say unto you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Certainly in the midst of the works of God and the way the He died, the soldiers must have been amazed at the words of Jesus.

Most of all, we need to draw some conclusions from this confession. First, God desires that all would be saved. Consider the heart of God:

• There is no past so problematic that God will not pursue.
• There is no heart so hard that God cannot soften.
• There is no sin so sinful that God cannot forgive.

The second conclusion to draw from the confession is that God demands a decision. Just as the cross demanded a response from the soldiers, Jesus, through the cross, demands and deserves a response from us.
In Bach’s oratorio, St. Matthew’s Passion, he designed the finale to make a very specific point. The finale musically dramatized the confession of the centurion. Bach felt that it was not enough to reflect only the confession of the centurion. He knew that every person must be willing to make this confession their confession. So, instead of the line being a solo, the entire choir sings this part. In addition, in the musical score accompanying this phrase, Bach musically wrote in his name for the bass line. This was Bach’s way of saying, “I believe that Jesus is the son of God.”

Can you put your name on this line? You must! For, God desires that all would be saved. God demands your decision today.

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The Fourth Miracle of the Cross: The Resurrection of the Saints

We’ve examined so far three miracles of the cross—the darkness, the torn veil, and the earthquake. Today we come to the fourth and most mysterious miracle of all—the resurrection of some who had previously died. A miracle like this screams for our attention. What was God saying through the resurrection of these saints?

Once I e-mailed seven of my ministry friends to ask them their thoughts on this miracle. Four of these are pastors; the other three are Professors of either New Testament or Theology at Baptist Seminaries or Colleges. Out of the seven that I wrote, only one responded. The first sentence of his otherwise very brief response was, “You picked a good one.” He offered a comment or two before closing his paragraph by saying, “Let me know how you decide to preach on this passage.” In other words, “Good luck.”

Obviously, there is much that we do not know about this passage. The recording of this miracle leaves us with more questions than answers. Here are just a few of the questions we want to ask:

1. Who were these resurrected people? Was Abraham raised? Moses? Noah?
2. Did they continue to live?
3. What kind of bodies did they have?
4. Why didn’t the other Gospel writers mention this miracle?

Though, we do not have the answer to these questions, we can be certain about a few things.

First, these bodies literally came to life. Whatever else you understand, please accept the absolute literal nature of this miracle. I am not sure quite what to make of this miracle, but this much I know—it happened. It would not have been recorded in the Gospel if it had not happened.

Second, like the other miracles, the resurrection of these saints emphasizes the importance of the activity taking place on the cross. The whole context is suggesting that everything in the world was affected by the death of Jesus. In fact, there seems to be good evidence from major sections of Jewish thought of the day that a bodily resurrection of Old Testament saints would occur when Messiah came. Jewish rabbis of that day taught to expect a bodily resurrection to occur at the revealing of Messiah.

We must draw our conclusions from what we know to be true. So, to what does this miracle point us?

The resurrection of these saints reinforces the unlimited power of God and the ultimate purpose of God. Don’t forget the background. The text tells us that many accusations were being made against Jesus. Those who passed by were mocking Him. Some shouted, “Save yourself.” Others called for him to come down from the cross if He really was the Son of God. Through all of this harassment, Jesus remained silent, but His answer was coming.

Jesus did not answer them until the tombs came open. Just because God is silent does not mean that He is incapable. The reason for his silence became evident when the soldiers declared that He was the Son of God. Do You think God ever wants to “answer” some of the critics today? He doesn’t answer them today for the same reason He didn’t answer on that Friday. He wants more people to be saved! This is not the first time that Jesus has delayed one request for a greater miracle. What if Jesus would have answered more immediately his critics? Would the soldiers have believed?

Maybe the silence of God seems too much for you right now? Do not lose heart. God may be about to speak in a way that you never expected.

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The Miracle of the Earthquake

Five miracles happened as Jesus hung on the cross. The day became night, symbolizing Jesus taking the sin of history upon Himself. Next, the temple veil was split from top to bottom, symbolizing a new covenant of salvation available and accessible to all. Today, we examine the third miracle. Matthew reported an earthquake. I believe that this “splitting of the rocks” points back to a statement Jesus made to the Pharisees as He was welcomed into Jerusalem on the Sunday before that Friday.

Luke provides the details of the entry into Jerusalem. 36And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way. 37And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; 38Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. 39And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. 40And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

When we collaborate the accounts from Matthew and Luke, we find an interesting detail. “If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” At the cross, we find the disciples at their worst. I remind you that it is not just Judas that betrayed Jesus. Likewise, it is not just Peter that denied Jesus. In one way or the other, is it not true that all of the disciples deserted Jesus? Is it not true that the “these” of Luke 19:40 did in fact become silent? So, what was the response? Matthew tells us that the stones cried out!

I give you as a hypothesis that the earthquake and the splitting of the rocks were the prophetic fulfillment of Jesus’ words recorded in Luke 19. If this hypothesis is correct, then we have some certain conclusions from the earthquake. First, the earthquake establishes that Jesus is worthy to be praised. The precise reason that He is worthy to be praised was established at the cross.

Second, the earthquake establishes that Jesus will be praised. The fulfillment of this prophecy makes clear that Jesus will always be praised. The whole world may fall silent, but His name will be praised forever.

So, what’s the reason for our silence? Why do we not always praise Him as we should? Some fail to see the significance of the cross. Do you really realize that would it not be for the cross, all of us would be stuck in our sin and bound for Hell? But, because of what Christ did, we are forgiven of sin, have the ability to be free of sin, and are on our way to Heaven at the exact moment of our death. That alone should keep us praising Him every moment of our lives.

Others are limited in their praise because they focus on what is seen rather than on that which is not seen. Here is the problem of the disciples. The disciples could only see Jesus’ death. They could only see the cross. They hadn’t understood Jesus’ words that He would only be three days in the grave. They could only see with human eyes. We do the same. We get distressed by our problems and forget that God is working all things together for our good.

So how should we praise Him? We should praise Him with our lips, of course, but do not forget, we should also praise Him with our lives.

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What’s Happening this Week at FBC?

Easter is happening this week, of course. We have multiple opportunities to gather the rest of this week. We will continue our journey through Genesis tonight (Wednesday) but also take some time to meditate on the significance of this calendar week.

saviour rose fbadOn Thursday and Friday, our Sanctuary Choir and Orchestra along with Ballet Magnificat will present a musical oratorio titled, Saviour. Ballet Magnificat is a professional Christian ballet company that has been described as the premiere Christian dance company in the United States. Their professional touring companies have performed both nationally and internationally.

I have been listening to this music in preparation for preaching for several weeks now. It is stirring and worshipful. This work is about God’s passion for His people. The story, which takes us from creation through resurrection, is a picture of God pursuing His people. Both Thursday and Friday night’s presentations begin at 7:00 p.m.

Then, of course, on Sunday morning we gather for worship. We have all three Sunday School options as well as the 9:45 and 11:11 a.m. services. We will not have an Evening Worship service this Sunday night.

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The Miracle of the Splitting of the Veil

At the cross we see five miracles. Each of the miracles has a distinctive message. The first miracle, three hours of darkness in broad daylight, symbolized that Jesus took upon Himself the sins of the whole world. The second miracle, the miraculous splitting of the veil, symbolizes that we are all welcome into the presence of God. This is how God always wanted to relate to us.

Each year millions of people go to the holy Indian city of Haridwar to bathe in the River Ganges. These multitudes come believing that this Hindu ritual will wash away their sins. Such extreme measures may be uncommon, but people try all sorts of things to build a relationship with God. The splitting of the veil reminds us that the death of Christ upon the cross gives us a way to have a relationship with God.

Matthew reported that the tearing of the veil happened simultaneous to Jesus breathing his last breath. (Matthew 27:50-51) Scholars debate which veil is being referenced. The temple would have had two curtains or veils—one separating the outer court from the Gentiles and another separating the inner court from the Holy of Holies. Since none of the Gospels indicate which veil, we do not know exactly, but in either case the issue is one of separation. The veil reminded that there was a barrier between sinful humanity and Holy God.
Understanding the purpose of the veil helps us to see the significance of this miracle. The tearing of the veil symbolizes several aspects of the nature of our salvation.

First, we see that salvation involves the removal of a barrier. The veil in the temple was a barrier. The first veil kept non-Jews from entering the inner courts. The second veil kept all, except the most High Priest, and this only once a year, from going into the Holiest of Holy Places. Sin is our barrier, but at the tearing of Christ’s flesh on the cross, the temple veil miraculously tore apart, thus symbolizing the removal of the barrier.

Second, in the tearing of the veil, we are reminded that God initiates salvation. Salvation is God’s idea, not our idea. Some have remarked that the Gospel writers were sure to indicate that the veil was torn from top to bottom. Perhaps this imagery is symbolic of God from Heaven ripping down the curtain.

Third, in the tearing of the veil, we are encouraged that God invites all to be saved. The temple being torn dramatically announces that access to God is open to all.

Finally, the tearing of the veil insists that God is the only way of salvation. The simultaneous tearing of the veil with His death announces that we gain access to God only through the cross.

Yes, I think much more was happening than just a tearing of a veil. God was announcing through this miracle, as the writer of Hebrews declared, “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” (Hebrews 9:12) Hallelujah to the Lamb!

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The Miracle of Darkness in the Day

Every Christian will agree that a great miracle occurred that Friday that Jesus took upon Himself the sin of the whole world. Actually, as Matthew related that scene, as recorded in Matthew 27:45-54, one can count as many as five miracles: the sun turning to darkness, the splitting of the temple veil, the shaking of the earth, the resurrection of dead people, and the response of the soldiers. In these miracles is the message of the cross. In the noonday darkness, we learn the first lesson of the cross. Though Paul did not refer to the darkness, his commentary on the cross in 2 Corinthians 5:21 is a good synopsis of the lesson from the darkness. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Reason for the Darkness

Have you ever stopped to ponder the reason for the darkness? Considering the imagery of darkness in other moments of Biblical history, perhaps God was saying something in the darkness of Crucifixion Day. God seemed to use darkness in the period of the Exodus to indicate a significant moment. The ninth plague was total darkness for three days. Right before the plague of death, which was the tenth plague, was the darkness. God was announcing through darkness, “I’m up to something.” The darkness at the Exodus and at the cross announced, “Look, this is a Divine moment! Don’t miss it!”

Does your way seem kind of dark right now? Don’t be in despair! God may be about to make an announcement about your life! Darkness often comes before Divine moments.

In addition to the darkness signaling a Divine moment, the darkness symbolized that the cross was a defining moment in human history. All throughout Scripture, evil and sin are referred to in terms of darkness. Good and righteousness are referred to in terms of light. The darkness of verse 45 is linked to the declaration of verse 46. Christ took upon Himself the sin of the whole world. In that moment, all sin—past, present, and future—fell upon the Savior. No wonder the sky grew dark!

The Theological Relevance of the Darkness

Out of this darkness, we sense some theological truths. First, we are reminded that sin separates us from God. Second, the depth of God’s love is revealed. Stop and think about it. The Bible describes Hell as a place of darkness, a place of torment, and a place of separation from God. Jesus, in those hours of darkness, went through all three so we would not have to go through these ourselves. Sometimes, people get into great debates as to who put Jesus on the cross. Was it the Jews, the Romans, Pilate or Judas? Let’s be clear about the answer. First, all people put Jesus on cross. Second, Jesus placed Himself on the cross. He wanted to save people from sin.

What should be our response to such a display of love? We must join the centurion in saying, “Truly this {is} the Son of God.”

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