I am older today than I was yesterday. That is just the way it is. I am pretty sure that first sentence did not make you feel enlightened. Today I am one day closer to the end of my days here on earth and the beginning of my days seeing Jesus face to face.
On any given day I can feel quite different about the fact that I am getting older and there is a finite number of days in this life. Some days I love this current life and some days I look forward to the next. There are days that I thoroughly enjoy and there are days that I will enjoy when they are in the rearview mirror. There are those days where people bless me in so many ways and then there are those days that people – well, they don’t bless me very much.
Can you relate to these mixed feelings? Why is this the case? I think the primary theological reason for this is seen in our text for this upcoming Sunday’s message. Paul describes it this way in I Corinthians 15.
21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
My days are mixed because I am currently living during the “in between time.” I live my life in the reality of sin and death – the world’s and my own. It is quite easy for me to see that I am not living in heaven quite yet. But I am also living in the truth that Jesus has defeated sin and death. He rose from the dead for me.
So, now my days are a combination of these two realities – the death of Adam that affects me and the defeat of death by Jesus that can always affect me in a greater way. The question for me and for you is, will Adam’s mistake or Jesus’ solution affect me more? Most of you know that Jesus is the solution to conquer death when we breathe our last. But do you know that Jesus has also won the battle in such a way that He can also give us the power that conquers the junk that can wreck any given day right now?
In John 10:10 we see that Jesus has come that we might have life and have it to the full! This is for all of eternity, but it is also for today. When difficulties, loneliness, fear, pride and all kinds of mistakes enter our lives – Jesus has a response. It is joy, peace, hope and love that moves in and conquers all the junk; the stuff I create and the stuff that is a part of being in this world. The power of the resurrection is for each of those days where I am getting older and the day at the very end that is really a new beginning.
Today is Valentine’s day. The purpose of this holiday is to appreciate the shape of hearts, the color pink along with purchasing flowers, candy and cards to stimulate our economy. I just feel good about being a part of something so significant. A few of you are probably thinking how blessed Barb is to be the wife of such a romantic guy right now.
Here is another scenario. I notice the gas light come on as I am driving to an out of town meeting, so I promptly pull into the closest Holiday Gas Station. I immediately check the oil and wash the windows. I notice the front passenger side tire is low. I fill it to 35 psi, so all is good with that. I go in and grab a cup of dark roast coffee and a banana for breakfast. I’m all set now, so I hop back in the car and head off to my meeting in Fergus Falls. All is going well for the first 30 miles but then suddenly the car starts sputtering. What could possibly be wrong? I put air in that tire after all!
Right about now you are probably wondering, what in the world is with this guy? How could he be so slow and clueless to miss the main point? Most of us can relate to a time or two in our lives where we look back and wonder how we could have missed the thing that mattered most. We can remember a time we were distracted and completely missed the thing that should have been focused upon. This isn’t such a big deal in many areas of our lives, but then there are those things that are so essential that everything will be “out of whack” if we don’t have it in its proper place.
The Apostle Paul directs us to one of these areas if we are going to be a follower of Jesus. We can appreciate that Jesus was the greatest teacher that ever lived and that he performed some awesome miracles. Along with that, we can appreciate how much he cared for people and confronted injustice. This would all be worth our time to notice, but if this was all we saw in Jesus, we would have missed the main point. Paul wants to make sure Jesus is understood in all His glory.
Our text for this Sunday’s message comes from I Corinthians 15. We will be looking at the first 20 verses of the chapter. Paul wants to make sure that the church in Corinth and Oak Hill understand the most significant thing about Jesus.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…
13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Here is the bottom line. The main thing about Jesus is that He rose again after being dead. This means that Jesus is more powerful than death and that it has no power over Him. That is something to be amazed by, but it is even better than that. Jesus made very clear - His life, death and resurrection were for us. He conquered all sin and death! This means that His invitation to you today is to follow Him all the way into the grave and then out the other side into eternal life.
The main point of Jesus then is to follow Him in all the days of your life, until you breathe your last breath. Then keep following Him on the other side of the grave. Because of Jesus, you have nothing to fear!
Let’s live in Jesus’ main point,
Most of you know that Barb and I just returned from visiting Chad, Africa. We spent time with our North American Missionaries as well as our Chadian Missionaries. It was truly a blessing to be with them and see first hand how they are bringing the Gospel to unreached people groups. At Oak Hill we are connecting to them in very intentional and deliberate ways that matter!
One expected reality of this trip became very apparent as soon as we landed at the airport in Chad. I am the alien, the non-citizen, the one that looks and sounds different. As warm and welcoming as the Chadian people were – I am a guest and I have a lot to learn if I am going to “fit in.” Suddenly, I didn’t understand what was being said by 99% of the people 99% of the time. This situation connects nicely to our text for this upcoming Sunday. Here are a couple verses from I Corinthians 14 that show us what is needed to bring the Gospel to everyone, whether Fulbe or Minnesotan.
10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.
Barb and I were so blessed to see the power of the Gospel spoken in the language of the people. I had the opportunity to watch villages of people hear about Jesus as Savior for the very fist time. It was so humbling to see their receptivity and openness that came through the power of the Word, combined with wells and real caring people speaking the message in their language.
This is Dan Venberg and Pastor Malloum sharing the Gospel In a village with a well that used to take a four hour trip to get water.
I watched kids being taught in the name of Jesus in sacrificial ways by loving teachers. I ate, visited and prayed with our Chadian pastor / missionaries that are choosing the difficult path because they have been called to do this significant work of bringing the Gospel into the villages with the language of the people. I watched Dan and Sonja Narvesen immersing themselves in a new language and a new culture because they are “striving to excel in building up the church.” I could go on and on, but I will leave it there for today.
I want to bring this text back to your personal context today. Part of our congregational calling is to bring the Gospel to the Fulbe people, but another part is to translate it so that your neighbor or friend understands it as well. The work of translating in our context often comes first through listening and loving.
Pastor Nick Mundis