Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Beautiful Gospel

Happy Easter!  We have a special treat this morning.  McH's husband is guest blogging with a special Easter message.

                Hello again everyone.  I would like to thank the ladies of “Without Directions” for allowing me to guest blog again.  It is always fun.  I am writing of course because Easter is upon us and when thinking about what I would write, I decided to be a little challenging.  I will open with a series of statements and you decide if they are true or false.  Be honest.

The ultimate enemy of a Christian is Satan

When a Christian dies they go to heaven and live forever with Jesus

                Believe it or not both are false and I am not crazy.  These statements are not false because they contain wrong doctrine.  These statements are false because they contain small doctrine.  The Christian hope is far more beautiful than we give it credit for and our gospel is far more amazing than we can imagine.  I want to talk about the beauty of our gospel and hope as seen and understood in the resurrection of our Messiah Jesus.  

                Jesus’ ministry bursts onto the scene of history with the incredible announcement the kingdom of God is at hand.  Then everywhere Jesus goes He demonstrates the power of the kingdom by healing all kinds of sickness and disease, casting out demons, and raising the dead.  He also teaches on the kingdom with parables and stories.  The kingdom of God was the primary message of Jesus.  In fact, in the gospels, the “gospel” is not that Jesus loved you and died for you sins it is the kingdom of God had come.  It is called the gospel of the kingdom.  At that point in history no one knew Jesus was going to die yet.

                To be incredibly short, the kingdom of God is life, hope, freedom, and relationship with God.  This was viewed as a future age post resurrection.  This age is evil and under the power of Satan.  This age is characterized by sin, sickness, and death.  The moment in history where one ends and the other begins is resurrection.  Our gospel is Jesus declared the kingdom of God at hand and the resurrection has begun with the resurrection of Jesus.  

What does this mean?  Well, let me refer you to one of my sneaky false statements above.  The ultimate enemy of a Christian is not Satan, it is death.  I challenge you, the reader, to search the scriptures for the word death.  You will find quite a story.  It begins in the Garden with the warning on the day we eat the forbidden fruit we will surely die.  It goes on to show creation subjected to futility and death because of our sin.  It shows God conquering sin and death in His life, death, and resurrection.  Then the scriptures tell us we have been set free from the law of sin and death and given new life instead.  One of my favorite passages of scripture is 1 Corinthians 15.  Let me share two quotes from it.

1 Corinthians 15:25-26

25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.

1 Corinthians 15:54-55

54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

55    “O Death, where is your sting?

      O Hades, where is your victory?”

                Our Christian hope is the resurrection that has begun in Jesus Christ and is waiting for us.  This leads me to my second sneaky statement above about our hope of living forever in heaven with Jesus.  If we say our hope is to live forever in heaven with Jesus then death is not defeated.  Our bodies remain forever destroyed and we simply have a life after death as a spirit.  Resurrection means we believe our bodies will be raised and we will live physically again.  We will be incorruptible to use Paul’s language.

                This works itself out in many amazing fashion.  For instance I often hear well-meaning Christians consoling others after the death of a loved one or a child by saying, “Now they are in heaven with Jesus” or “God needed them home with Him.”  Any time we tell someone death was part of the plan or a good thing from God we are telling a false story.  We should be telling people NO.  Death was not the plan.  Your hurt is real.  Your soul was never meant to feel the hurt of this tragic loss.  God has done all that He has done that He might defeat death for you.  

                This works itself out in fighting away certain modern theologies such as rapture.  God is not going to miracle His people out of the world to be with Him in heaven and then judge the world under harsh tribulation.  Frankly it’s an abuse of scripture to teach that.  God has Himself come into the world in Christ who is Emmanuel which means God with us.  He came to us and He is coming back again.  God is not casting creation away He is redeeming it with resurrection power and the whole world is groaning while waiting for it (Romans 8:18-25).  On the first Easter morning the tomb was empty because Jesus was alive.  His old body was glorified into a new one.  It still had scars but it was made new.  We need to stop teaching God destroying the earth or creation.  It will pass away but it will also be made new.

                Many of you know John 3:16.  16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Are you familiar with verse 17?  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”  

                Resurrection works itself out in having hope for today.  If God is redeeming creation back to Him then I am not waiting to escape a sinking ship I am a missionary demonstrating hope and believing my actions matter.  I believe a cup of cold water in His name is eternally significant and I can begin living kingdom life even today.

I want to close this by saying there is simply no room in a short blog to really lay this all out.  But be encouraged!  God is good.  God is beautiful.  Our faith is not in vain; it is vibrant because Jesus is alive and that is Good News.  The resurrection forever radically alters everything and we can celebrate that. 

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