“But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.”First Corinthians 15:13-14
Over my vacation I went “antiquing” with my son Lucas and two of my grandkids Brooklyn and Grant. It was a rainy day, so it was a good day to do an inside activity outside the house. Being somewhat an antique myself, it gave me an opportunity to take a stroll down memory lane. As Lucas drove into the parking lot of the first antique store, I was blown away by the size of it from the outside. I knew then that I hit the motherload of all antique dealers, at least in my estimation.
If you have ever walked into a store of modern antiquities (if there is such a thing) you already know the lighting, smells, and sounds. So, you will understand what I was going through as I entered this musty behemoth vintage wonder. I entered the store quickly, but came to a screeching halt because I was on sensory overload. It didn’t take me long to find the book section. As I followed the arrows pointing to my favorite part of all antique stores, I was drawn by an unseen force moving me along like a child being guided by the hand of a parent. Okay, I know, way too dramatic, but honestly that’s what old books do to me. It seemed like books of every description and theme beckoned me to come to them as the shelves cried out, “Buy me I’m a bargain!” and “Buy me and get my brother at half price!” Yes, I know a little too much imagination, but books do that to me. As I walked out of this land of memorabilia, this watershed of collectable objects, I was the proud owner of buy one get one free, stop and make you think, collectable volumes and one 1950ish jack knife (don’t ask).
Over the past few years I have probably read more books on my e-reader than in any other form, so to buy a couple of hard copy books I have to have a really good reason and I think I do. I like reading books that cause me not just to think, but cause me to think deep, the type of thinking that might give you a headache, just stopping short of a nosebleed. Hyperbole for sure, right? But as you continue reading, you will understand what I mean.
One of the books that I purchased at a bargain price was “The Empty Cross of Jesus” by Michael Green. As I began to read Green’s book, I was once again aware of the fact that you cannot separate the cross of our Savior from His bodily deliverance from the grave. Like every coin that was ever minted you cannot have one side without the other. So it is, the cross and His resurrection are forever minted together, inseparable for all eternity.
In Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost that inseparable act is made very clear; “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed… This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you see and hear.” (Acts 2:23, 32)
So, if you could, does separating the cross from the resurrection really matter? The short answer is yes. Green makes it clear that to separate the two will have “unfortunate consequences.” Take for example, if we were to look at Jesus sacrificial death on the cross as just another example of one human being giving up his life for another. This could be thought of in the same line as many liberal theologians proclaim, “Jesus was a very moral man and His moral example should be followed.” But the problem with that is, it eliminates all the spiritual reasons for Jesus going to the cross.
Now, we know that Jesus made it very clear that the greatest love any person could show toward friends is to lay down his or her life for them. John 15:13 says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (KJV) But no self-sacrificing death, even in war can compare to what Jesus did when He went to the cross. Jesus’ death was not for His friends but for His enemies, for sinful men and women who are enemies of God. Think about what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5:6-8, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul said that we were a people “without strength” and “ungodly” before we were saved. This tells us Christ died for us while we were still in the act of sinning and we had no ability in ourselves to change our ungodly behavior into something godly. Jesus is more than just a moral example to be followed because quite frankly, giving up your life for your enemy, for sinful, rebellious people makes no sense unless there is a greater, more eternal, more supernatural reason for dying. Think of it this way, there are countless examples of men and women who sacrificed their lives for their family, friends, co-workers, and fellow soldiers. So why would we look at Jesus’ death on the cross to be any different than theirs if there is not a grander, more magnificent, and glorious scheme?
SO, WHAT IS THE TAKE AWAY? Jesus’ death on the cross was not for us to have a general example of self-sacrifice, but to save a life from sin, sin that separates man from God. And this salvation or lack of it, isn’t just for a day or a week, but for all eternity. And when you put the life of humans in eternal perspective, that their eternal geography hangs in the balance between Heaven and hell, you better have something more than good example of self-sacrifice to back up your claim.
ENTER IN: THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST—The other side of this divine spiritual coin is Jesus’ resurrection. The tomb had to be emptied in order for our preaching of His death and the faith that people place in Him would not be empty. Every day we wake up we can celebrate the fact that there is power in the blood of Jesus because God showed us His power in raising Him from dead. The message of canceled sin is proclaimed in the death of Jesus Christ because the power to do it is found in His bodily resurrection from the dead. Romans 10:9 puts it this way, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in our heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” True Christianity doesn’t keep Christ hanging on a cross, they don’t leave Him hanging! True Christianity sees an empty cross and an empty grave and in doing so we proclaim hope to a world that is living hopelessly without Him. So, what is on your summer reading list that causes you to think so much that it gives you a headache just falling short of a nosebleed?
This is Pastor Pat FROM BEHIND THE PEN wishing you joy in Jesus!