Calvary Baptist Church
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above....
New Life In Christ
The Question of Your Life – verse 1 “If ye then be risen with Christ…” the Bible asks a very important question at the outset of this passage. That question is a prerequisite to the other things the Bible discusses here. For you math junkies this is an “if then statement.” The question is this, “If ye then be risen with Christ….” So what is the Lord asking us here? Well I want to tell you that you need to pay attention to this question because it is the most important question that you will ever have the opportunity to answer, and it will determine not only how you spend this life, but also how you will spend eternity! This is very literally The Question of Your Life! Let me now ask you this very same question. Are you risen with Christ? I’m sure you might ask the question now what does that mean. What is being risen with Christ, and how can I be risen with Him? What this verse is talking about is a result of you being saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The verb “risen” is an action that is being taken on the subject or done to the subject and the subject in this case is you and me. In other words, when you put your faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation it results in God’s resurrecting you? What that means is that when you get saved God gives you new life in His Son Jesus Christ! That is what the apostle Paul was saying to the Corinthian Church in II Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” All of this is what God does to your life when you trust in Jesus to save you. If you are saved, then God has made you a totally new person in Christ. Just like Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:7 “…Ye must be born again.” When you put your faith in God’s Son Jesus Christ to save you from your sins God makes you into a new person. He “births you again” into a new family, God’s family, and you are a new person. Colossians 2:8-13 (turn here to read) explains this wonderfully. The old you died, and you are resurrected a new person in Christ Jesus. So when you get saved God no longer sees the old sinful you, but he sees the new saved person that you are in His Son Jesus. Now let me ask you, are you risen in Christ? Have you been born again? Because if you are trying to “be good” then it will never be enough for God. You must be a new person. Like Jesus said “Ye must be born again.” if you have not that is the first step. The rest of your life will have no meaning and no purpose without Christ. If you have not trusted Him, then you cannot live for Him. That brings us to the next part of our “if then statement.”
The Cause of Your Life – “…seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” What does it really mean to “seek those things which are above…”? The word “seek” here is an action verb in the present tense that is a part of an imperative sentence. In other words, it is commanded of us that we actively “seek those things which are above….” Your resurrected life as a Christian is not intended for you to use as you see fit for your own purposes and desires. Christ has given you new life (II Corinthians 5:17), and that new life has a new cause. Whereas your old life would have been lived out actively trying to please yourself your new life is to be spent actively trying to please the Lord. Let me give you an example of this. Those mentioned in Hebrews 11 were those of whom it could have been said they sought things which are above. Hebrews 11:13-16 says of them “These all died in faith, not having received the promise, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city.” To “seek those things which are above…” is to live a life like these mentioned here in the “hall of faith.” They understood that the “cause of their life” was not to live for earthly things or seek earthly joys, pleasures, and wealth, but to “seek a country” that was “better” and “Heavenly” for those who make God’s cause their cause, and God’s home the home they seek in this life the Bible says God has “prepared for them a city.” Once Christ has given you new life you now have a new goal, and that is to “seek those things which are above….” When you make your plans for the future seniors remember to do as Christ said in Matthew 6:33 and “…seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness….” Lastly, in your new life you will not only have a new cause, but you will have a new calling. We will look lastly at:
The Calling of Your Life – “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” At first glance you would think that this statement and “seek those things which are above…” are the same exact thing, but they are really not. “Seek those things which are above…” is like the what, and “Set your affection on things above…” is like the how. Once you know your cause you can then nail down your calling. When you have new life in Christ he gives you a new cause, and that new cause helps you determine your calling. This does not mean that every one of you has to be a preacher or a missionary or in full time Christian service, but it does mean that you must make your life decisions based on the fact that you are a servant of Christ. Christ is your new master now (Romans 6:13 turn here to read), so you should be busy serving Him no matter what your profession is. Romans 8:5 says “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.” Your new purpose should control your life. Everything you do should be to please your new Master Jesus Christ. For most people that are in the same stage of life you are in they are thinking about how much money they can make to give themselves the best life they can possibly have on this earth, but the Bible says here that our affections should be “…above, not on things on the earth.” Your whole decision making process should be different because your life focus is totally different.
Have You Considered?
How often do you stop to think about what you are doing? How often do you reflect on your life? God’s word often reminds us that we need to look introspectively so that we can be sure that we are right with God. Many times though, the truth is that we do not think about what we are doing wrong and the consequences of it until we are caught or confronted with our sin. The Lord through the mouth of Ezekiel wanted to teach the children of Israel to consider their ways!
Have you considered the Wickedness?
A Rebellious House – This word is used at least 17 times in the book of Ezekiel, and 5 times in chapter 12 alone! Do you think that The Lord might have been trying to make a point? ISRAEL WAS REBELLIOUS!! We live in a time when people as a whole are rebellious against authority in general, but more seriously are rebellious against God. Just as the nation of Israel was rebelling, so too is our nation in rebellion against Him today. The sad truth is that there are also Christians around this country and maybe even in this church who are rebelling against God. Let me tell you something right now that is something you need to know. GOD TAKES REBELLION VERY SERIOUSLY! Deuteronomy 21:18-21 shows how seriously God wanted the children of Israel to treat rebellion in their families! I Samuel 15:23 says, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, He hath also rejected thee from being king.” Verse 26 also repeats the phrase “thou hast rejected the word of the LORD” again. Rebellion is quite simply rejecting God’s word! Why is it that people think they can choose what is right and wrong like king Saul??? God takes it so seriously; if a person rejects God’s word and dies without Christ they will spend eternity in Hell because of their rebellion!!
A People Unwilling to Repent – verse 2 of chapter 12 says that the children of Israel had “eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not:”. They knew the truth, but they did not follow the truth! My question is to you and to me why would we rather wallow in sin then to give it up and follow God?? Hebrews 11 tells of those who were willing to forsake their sins and the old life for the Lord! Look at verses 13-16, and then verses 24-27. Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:10 “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world”. The wickedness that is around us has a mighty pull on our lives, but if we look to the Lord He can deliver us.
Have you considered the Warnings?
There is a warning to the wicked!
The warning to the wicked was to turn back to the Lord or face God’s judgment. God has always given ample warning as what will happen if we do not obey Him. From the time of Adam and Eve until now He has been doing nothing but warning us of the coming judgment and the eternal cost of not trusting in Him! We see even today the signs of His coming. II Timothy 3:1-5 tells us of how things will be in the last days.
There is warning to the watchman to blow the trumpet!
Ezekiel was to be a sign to the people – chapter 12:6,11
Ezekiel was commanded to warn the people – chapter 3:17-18, 33:7-8.
Have you considered your Ways?
Read through chapter 18 of Ezekiel to heed what can happen if we do or do not consider our ways.
Those mentioned in Hebrews 11 were willing to consider the wickedness, the warnings and their own ways. They saw through the eyes of faith and realized their treasure was in heaven and not on this earth.
II Chronicles 34-35
Read verses 1 and 2. We know Josiah as the boy king, but how did Josiah being only eight years old get to the point of what verse 2 says about his life? The Bible says he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand nor to the left. He remained faithful to the LORD all his days. This kind of a life does not happen because you are a king, or because you are wealthy, nor is it a hereditary trait. A life that honors the Lord is hard, and met with much opposition from every side. It is a life that many start with the best of intentions and energetic attitudes, but it is the few that remain faithful to the end. I look at the life of the apostle Paul after he trusted Christ, and the lives of Ezra and Nehemiah. How hard was it for them to finish their course? So what is it that gets us to point that Josiah reached? What can we do to have the spiritual life that he had? How can we hear when we stand before God “well done thou good and faithful servant”?
Seek the Lord – verse 3
He began at a young age – let no man despise thy youth! Just live right!
I Timothy 4:12-16. We need to be less concerned with what people think about us and more concerned with doing what is right. Josiah may have been young, but he chose to seek the one true God and was determined to do His will.
He followed a Godly heritage – though the wicked Manasseh was his grandfather, and the wicked Amon his father. Manasseh did humble himself before God at the end of his reign and began himself to follow the Lord. You may not be perfect, but you can and do have an effect on the lives of those you come in contact with especially those in your own family. What a responsibility we have to lead them in the right direction. I can’t help but think that in the last years of his life Manasseh had some good influence on his grandson Josiah.
Separate from the World – verses 3-8
He purged the land of false gods – purge = to decontaminate. We purged and cleaned the reactors at the glue factory where I worked so that the old charred up material did not contaminate the new material that was to be built. Have you purged your life, or is there still some of that old stuff that is contaminating you and preventing spiritual progress? Especially in the Levitical priesthood they had to purge themselves and or sanctify themselves constantly before they could do any of the service of the Lord! My how we need sanctified Christians to serve the Lord today. Too many Christians today have fallen into the lie that separation is the same thing as legalism. It is not. Separation comes after salvation in the spiritual progression of a believer, and the principles of separation and holy living are clearly taught in the scriptures. II Corinthians 6:14-18 uses the word separate which means to mark off from others, to set boundaries, to limit, to sever ties!
He studied and obeyed God’s word. verses 14-21, 29-33
He found it. He read it. He reacted to its truth with a tender heart, humble spirit, weeping and repentance. Then he shared it, and made a commitment to be faithful
Serve the Lord – chapter 35:1-6
He kept the Passover and He reinstituted the levitical process of the temple. Service to the Lord is how we should be spending most of our time for God, but instead we are still stuck on the milk of God’s Word instead of the meat as Paul said to the Jewish people in Hebrews 5:12-14
Back in verse 3 The Bible says that Josiah “began” to seek God, and “began” to purge the land. However, not only did he begin it, but he finished it. Look at verse 33 “And all his days they departed not from following the LORD, the God of their fathers”. The LORD has begun a work in your heart. Will you let Him finish it? Philippians 1:6
Our Missions Minded God
I want to share with you today about our Missions minded God. God, whether you realize it or not, is very missions minded. In fact, that is what He has been busy doing since the very beginning when He created this universe full of His awesome wonders. Even His creation is designed with missions in mind. He ordained the wonders of His power so that they would point to Him as the only answer to all our questions. The Bible says in Psalm 19:1-3 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” The desire of God has always been that man would trust in Him, would seek Him out for their salvation. This was God’s plan even before our existence. I Peter 1:18-20 says “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you….” God’s plan has always been and will always be a missions plan. He has always sought man out and revealed His plan to those who would be willing to listen like Seth, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets, etc. Through all the events of the Old Testament God was bringing to pass His plan to redeem all of mankind from their sin. This plan came to its fruition with the coming of Jesus Christ. He came to die that we might have life. This always was God’s missionary plan. Now that Christ has come should it be the duty of His church to promote and propagate the missions plan that God designed? The answer is a resounding and obvious yes! I would say this: if God is a missions minded God, then His church and His people should be missions minded! That is what my prayer has been for myself and for this church. I want us to be a missions minded church with and outward and upward eternal focus that would line up with the missions mindset of our God and our Savior Jesus Christ. I want us to look at a few things in God’s Word today that show us the missions mind of God and point out the fact that this mindset should also be the goal of His church today.
I. God Sent – John 3:17 says “For Go sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” – God’s love for the souls of men caused Him to send His only Son to save us. God’s heart for missions is clearly seen in the fact that He sent. With just a brief look at the Scriptures I found 17 references to God sending as it relates to the salvation of man. The verses are as follows (I John 4:10, I John 4:14, Romans 3:25, Galatians 4:4, Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:43, John 3:34, John 6:29, John 8:42, John 10:36, John 17:3, Acts 3:26, Acts 10:36, Acts 13:26, Acts 28:28, I John 4:9) We don’t have time to read all those verses, but one of them is a whole passage from I John 4:9-14 which says “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” In at least three of those verses the Bible says that God Sent. We have a missions minded God, because God Sent. When Jesus came to this earth he was sent by God as we have seen, but He was carrying out God’s plan for the world’s evangelization. He was to be the sacrifice for the sins of the world, but He was not to stay here and evangelize the rest of humanity for the rest of time. That is why Jesus also sent. Mark 6:7-12 (turn here to read) gives us this account. Jesus was teaching the disciples that they were to fulfill the missionary plan of God. He was there example, and He was beginning to teach them that it would soon be there responsibility to evangelize the world. Then right before He ascended into heaven Jesus said famously, and we have it in a couple of the gospels but we will quote Matthew 28:19-20, Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe whatsoever I have commanded you: and low I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” This was Jesus last commandment. God sent Jesus, Jesus sent His disciples, and now we are tasked with carrying out God’s Missionary vision for His world. The apostles understood this and in the early days of the church began to act on it. Acts 13:1-3 (turn here to read) records this for us. God sent Jesus, Jesus sent His disciples, now the church sends out missionaries. That is the way our missions minded God has ordained His plan for the world’s redemption to be carried out. The problem is that, even though God is still missions minded, the church has become far less so and is sliding ever so quickly further and further down the slope of apathy towards the great commandment that Christ passed on to His church. someone has said “The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity!” The church has become like the Jewish Christians shortly after Christ left. We think only of ourselves and nothing of the billions of souls lost without Christ in the world around us. God used persecution to disperse them and cause them to evangelize the world. Will it take that with us? After Jesus was resurrected He came into an upper room where some of His disciples were gathered and said to them in John 20:21 “…as My Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” Jesus would have us go just as the Father sent Him. How many of you would be willing to say with Isaiah the prophet when he heard that God needed someone to go in Isaiah 6:8 “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, here am I; send me.” Who is willing this morning to follow the heart of our missions minded God? Who is willing to answer His call? The church is to be busy with the task of missions. Who will get involved, who will give, who will go? We need a fresh reminder today of heart of our Savior! God sent Him to die so that the world might be evangelized and saved. We should be evermore busy making sure that truth gets out to a lost and dying world! David Livingston said “The best remedy for a sick church is to put it on a missionary diet.” That is my desire for Calvary Baptist church. We need a rekindled fervor for missions. It is what consumes the mind of God and our Savior , and should be what takes up our waking thoughts as well! So, if I were to ask you the question: What organization did God intend to send out missionaries to carry out His missionary plan? What would your answer be?
II. God Saves – God would not send us out without knowing that He will change the hearts of men. We have a tendency to be man-worshippers because we like to worship what we can see. That’s why many churches fail when a long-term pastor leaves. Many of the people have been looking to the pastor and not to the Lord as their ultimate leader and authority. In I Corinthians 3:1-7 the apostle Paul addresses this issue. In verse 7 he sums it up with this truth, “SO then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” You see God gave Christ all power and Christ gave us all that power in the person of the Holy Ghost. If we were to ty to go it alone in the missionary ministry that our God has called us all to then we might as well quit, because we are not able to change the hearts of anyone from the smallest child to the oldest adult. Jesus said tot his disciples in Matthew 28:18 “…all power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore….” It is our job to go, preach, and teach, but it is God’s Job to save. We will be better off in our missionary endeavors when we realize that God has to do the work in the hearts. We waste much effort trying to do so. All we can and should do is what Jesus told us to do, “preach the gospel….” That will work! As Paul said in Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” It is the gospel that will change men’s hearts! If God thought we could do it then He would not have sent his Son. The church has lost sight of this truth. It now tries seemingly everything else it can possibly scheme up to try to change men’s hearts, but what people really need is to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ! The church needs this reminder. We need this reminder. When we look around to empty pews we should not think what kind of program do we need to get these filled, or what kind of music should we use to get someone to sit there. No, our thoughts should be we need more of the gospel! That is why the church should strive to be missionary at its heart. God Saves, so why not preach Jesus and let god change the hearts of men!
III. God Supplies – Missionary Hudson Taylor said “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s Supply!” When Jesus sent out the disciples two by two he said to them in the Bible says in Mark 6:8- “And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: but be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats. And he said unto them, in what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place.” What was Jesus saying? He was saying that God will supply your needs! In Philippians 4:10-19 the apostle Paul addresses this issues of the supply for missions work. Of course, this subject is mentioned throughout the New Testament and the Old, but we will look at this one today. The point is that God’s intention is that the church provide for missions through its giving just like these Christians at this church supplied the needs of the missionary apostle! We should not lack in missions giving as a church. we have a faith promise program here at Calvary that is designed to support our missionaries. More often than not we do not have enough in that fund to pay all the support so we have to take from the general fund. This is giving that goes over and above you tithe. That is why it is called faith promise. We promise to give by faith! Listen, I am no mathematician, but I can do some simple math. If everyone in this building this morning (probably about 70-80 people) would make a faith promise to give 10 dollars a month more to missions (that’s not a lot) that would mean 800 more dollars a month in missions giving! That would make a difference for Christ! That would be an eternal investment made! Would you be willing to do that? I am not going to ask you to stand or raise your hand, but I am going to ask you to pray about that and consider it. Ask the Lord what He would have you to do. God will supply your needs if you step out on faith! I Kings 17:9-16 is a good illustration of this.
Because He Lives - You Can Too!
Charles Taze Russell was the founder of what is now known as the Jehovah’s witnesses cult, and the energetic administrator that brought about its far-flung organization. He was born on February 16, 1852 and died on October 31, 1916. Marry Ann Morse Baker-better known among the band of faithful Christian scientists as Mary Baker Eddy-“Mother” and Leader, the “Discoverer and Founder of Christian science” was born July 16, 1821 and died December 3, 1910. Joseph Smith the “Prophet” as his followers called him was the founder of the modern day religion of Mormonism. He was born on December 23, 1805 and died on June 27, 1844. Gautama Buddha was the founder of the religion of Buddhism. He was born around the year 563 B.C. and died around the year 483 B.C. Faustus Socinus was the founder of the Unitarian Universalist religion. He was born on December 5, 1539 and died on March 4, 1604. Muhammad is the prophet of the religion of Islam. He was born around the year 570 A.D. and died on June 8, 632 A.D. These are the birth and death dates of just some of the so-called gods if you will of these cultic religions of the world. Do you see a trend in all of those mentioned in this list? Yes, you guessed it, they all died, and they all stayed dead. That is the chief difference in the religions of the devil and the one true Savior Jesus Christ. We serve a risen Savior. In fact, so far as I know, they don’t even make the claim on those religions that their dear leaders conquered death. We have a God who is real. He existed in eternity past, He came to this earth and took upon Himself the form of a man, he died on the cross, he conquered death, and He will exist for all eternity to come. I don’t know about you, but that is the God I want to serve. I want us to see three things today in this passage about the resurrection of our Savior and what it means to us.
I. The Physical Proof of the Resurrection –verse 1 “…risen with Christ….” The apostle Luke said in Acts 1:3 that Jesus “…shewed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” Why is it so important that we have physical proof of the resurrection? Because the devil knows that there is nothing that he can scheme up to contend with the wonderful power and hope of a risen Savior! In fact. Just as soon as He was risen, actually even before he was risen, the devil was at work trying to discredit the resurrection. The devil knows who God is better than most of us do. I remember watching the passion of the Christ movie to see what it was all about. They had a scene when Christ was going through the torture of the cat of nine tails, and in that scene there was the director’s idea of the devil skulking around invisibly in enjoyment as if he had some part in Christ’s death. Listen, the devil had nothing to do with the death of Christ that day. It was Jesus that gave His life for us. It was His choice, nobody forced Him to do it. I John 3:16 says “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us….” Ephesians 5:2 says “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us and offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” The devil knew what was coming. He knew the power of God and there was nothing he could do to stop the death of Christ or His resurrection. He knew it from the time God promised it in Genesis 3:15 and probably way before that. Therefore, he set out to do what He has always done. He set out to deceive and distort the truth. That is the main reason I believe Jesus “shewed Himself alive by many infallible proofs.” Paul details many of the eyewitnesses that are part of the “infallible proofs” in I Corinthians 15:5-8 which says “And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” Then there are those who say well the resurrection of Christ was not really a bodily one. He just became a “spirit being” or something like that. No, that is not what the Bible says. One of the infallible proofs was that He made sure everyone knew He was real, and not just a spirit. In John 20:27 He said to Thomas “…Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing.” Then in the next chapter the Bible says Jesus “…shewed Himself again unto His disciples at the sea of Tiberias….” This time Jesus actually ate food with the disciples again proving that He was risen in bodily form. Speaking of Jesus in Acts 10:40-41 the Bible says “Him God raised up the third day, and shewed Him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead.” So you understand that Jesus resurrection was proven not only in word, but in real physical proof! He was dead, and then He was alive and still is today folks. If you don’t believe that, then you are lost without hope! Jesus rose bodily so that we too could have the hope of a bodily resurrection from the dead. Romans 8:11 says “But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” He rose bodily, and so will we if we know Him as our personal Savior!
II. The Practical Purpose of the Resurrection – “When Christ, Who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him.” Because of the resurrection Of Christ, we have a hope for the future. When we look around us today we don’t see a whole lot of hope to go around in this world, but we do have a hope that is sure and steadfast for the future. This is what the resurrection means to us. Without the resurrection the gospel would be incomplete. Yes, that’s right. If Christ is not risen, as the apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 15:12-19 “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sin. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” The practical part of the resurrection is just obvious. /Jesus said to Martha when Lazarus had been dead many days in John 11:23-27 “Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” Christ is our life as Paul says here. He didn’t just die, but He conquered death and He lives today. If that were not true we would have no hope! We now face an enemy that cannot defeat us because Jesus already defeated it. Revelation 1:18 Jesus said of Himself “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of death and hell.” Romans 6:9 says “knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him.”
III. The Powerful Pursuit because of the Resurrection – “…seek those things which are above…Set your affection on things above….” The Christian life is life lived in the power of the resurrected Lord and Savior and not in the weakness of the dead works of the flesh! Romans 6:1-14 (turn here) The death and resurrection of Christ has set us free from the power of death, but it has also freed us from slavery to our sinful flesh and the wicked devil’s grasp on our lives. Because of the resurrection as Pauls says here in Romans 6:14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but grace.” The power to live for the Lord does not come from you obeying the law, it comes from you having faith to let Christ live His resurrected life through you!
Don’t Be a Useless Vessel!
I. The Potter’s Power – God made you, and so His power over you is complete. The Bible says in Genesis 2:7 “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” At some point in eternity past God decided to make man, and so He did. God's position of power over mankind is absolute. God was, through this picture of the potter's wheel, reminding the Israelites that He was their God and that He was in control of them. This was something that they often forgot and had to be reminded of. God said to Israel in Deuteronomy 7:6-11 “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face. Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them.” When the people of Israel got into the Promised Land and began experiencing the blessings of God they forgot and eventually forsook God. They forgot who it was that made them and chose them. Have you forgotten in your blessed life who God is? Have you forgotten what He has done for you? Have you forgotten that he is the potter and you are the clay?
II. The Potter’s Plan – The Bible says here that Jeremiah “…went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.” – Now why does a potter make a vessel? He makes it for a purpose doesn’t he? Yes, of course he does. I don’t really understand the common sense of these Calvinistic folks that say God has predestined some to hell and others to heaven. That just doesn’t make any logical sense. Let me ask you this, When Jesus talked about hell, who did He say it was made for? Matthew 25:41 “Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Now God has a plan for everyone that He has ever created in humankind, and that plan never has been nor will it ever be to send them to hell! The word “cursed” in that verse in Matthew is in the middle voice in the Greek which simply means that the subject is doing the action to his or herself. So what Christ is saying is that those who are cast into everlasting fire did that to themselves. Have you forgotten that God made you for the purpose of pleasing and serving Him? That is why a potter makes a vessel. He makes it to be used for a specific purpose, or to meet a specific need. I have socket set with over 100 pieces in it that I have used time and time again since I have had it. That set has different sockets that are different sizes standard and metric. Now I cannot take the 5/16 socket and use it for a bolt that requires a ¾ socket. That’s not what it was made for. It was made for the 5/16 size bolts. How many Christians today are living for themselves after God has blessed them so much? If you are then do you know what you have become? Well this passage tells us. You have become a “Marred” vessel in the hands of the potter. Now what good is that vessel to the potter which is marred? It is not any good in that current condition is it? The good news is, as God points out here in this illustration, that the potter can still make something useful out of a vessel that has become “marred.” However, that is the choice of the vessel as well as becoming “marred” was. This brings us to our next point.
III. The Vessel’s Choice – The Bible says multiple times in this chapter that God gave His people opportunity to repent (verse 8, 10, 11). The problem was not that God did not want to forgive them and show mercy to them, it was that they did not want to obey God (verse 12). You see God loves you, and He wants to make something beautiful out of your life, but He will not force, because that is not part of God’s nature. If God is love, then He will not force anything upon anyone it just goes against His nature. He will however always do right and be just. So you have a choice as clay in the hands of the Master Potter. You can be what He wants you to be, or you can be cast aside, by your own choice, and become a useless vessel!
The Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of Missions.
The nearer we get to Him the more intensely missionary we become.
An Angry Lawyer
“Mary was in trouble. For years she had left gospel tracts on her desk for the students in the algebra class she taught. A lawyer on the school board had vowed to have her fired because of her overt Christian witness, and when he was elected president of the school board, he made good on his threat.
Fighting her dismissal, Mary finally got her job back after six months. In a strange turn of events, she discovered that the board members who had lobbied for her dismissal were themselves guilty of certain misdeeds, and they were in turn dismissed from the board— including the hostile lawyer. Again he vowed that he would one-day ruin her and that his children would never be allowed in her classes.
Months later Mary attended the funeral of a student at her school. She arrived late and was seated next to the irate lawyer! Though uncomfortable, Mary felt compelled to hand the lawyer one of the tracts she always had in her purse. The only one she had happened to be written by a Christian lawyer.
Time passed, and at the beginning of a new semester the lawyer’s daughter was assigned to Mary’s algebra class. Mary told the lawyer’s daughter that she should be assigned to another teacher, in keeping with her father’s wishes. Smiling broadly, the lawyer’s daughter said that would not be necessary, for her father had trusted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior because of Mary’s faithful witness and because of the tract that she had handed him that day at the funeral!
Mary’s story like that of so many others, is that God is still honoring the distribution of gospel literature today, just has He has done for centuries. If God is using Gospel Tracts, then so should we! We must do whatever it takes to win the lost!”
Joshua 23:1 says “And it came to pass a long time after that the LORD had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua waxed old and stricken in age.” Every generation, like Joshua’s generation, has a responsibility to fulfill the task that God has called them to accomplish. However, we find Joshua here in the waning years of his time as the leader of God’s people, and this brings up a point that is often overlooked in our time. That point is this, each generation must face the fact that their time is coming to an end and if the Lord’s work is to continue the spiritual leaders of the future must come from the next generation. This is something that the apostle Paul understood and taught to his understudy Timothy. II Timothy 2:2 says “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” The fact that God’s work must continue is an obvious one, but what needs to be slightly more magnified in these last days is the responsibility of the leaders of the current generation and the future leaders to ensure the work of God continues unimpeded until the day God no longer requires our services. The task of the current generation of Christian leaders is as simple as Paul’s direction to Timothy to teach other faithful men who would subsequently teach more and so on. That is part of the purpose of our children's ministry and Christian school. We look to train the next generation of Christian leaders that will make a difference for Christ in this world. Without that training the church will flounder and falter as if it were leaderless army. Moses trained Joshua, Christ trained the apostles, and now we as leaders are called to raise up the next generation of spiritual leadership. The job of the up and coming generation is to become the leaders God would have them to be. The world the flesh and the devil are always ready to do battle with the followers of Christ, and God is always looking for new leaders who will be willing to take a stand for what is right. Ezekiel 22:30 says “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.” What a sad commentary of that generation, but the same could be said of ours if the leaders of today and tomorrow don't do their part. The danger of our failure to complete these duties is serious. After Joshua died the Bible says in Judges 2:10 “And also all that generation (Joshua’s generation) were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel.” This is what happens when both generations are lax in their responsibilities. By God’s grace we will do what is necessary to train the next generation to lead the cause of Christ. Young people, be the ones that God is looking for to stand in the gap and make up the hedge for His glory!
Jesus said to His disciples in John 13:34 “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye love one another.” Now why did Jesus say this was a “new” commandment when He had already told the disciples that that they should love God and love their neighbor. The stipulation that their love should be the same as His love was what was new about this commandment. Later we see that Jesus repeats this commandment in John 15:12-13 where He said “This is My commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” The commandment to love as Jesus loved is one of the most difficult things for us to learn. First the love of Christ for us is unconditional. Romans 5:6 says “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” When we were lost in the bondage of sin not caring about Christ or anyone else He still loved us. When we had nothing to offer Him but the filthy rags of our man-made righteousness He still loved us. Secondly, the love of Christ was sacrificial. Romans 5:8 says “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Not only did Christ love us in our unworthy state of sin, but He was even willing to go to the cross and pay the penalty of that sin for us so that we could then put on His righteousness! Truly that is the greatest love that humanity has ever known. I hope that you have experienced the power of that love in your life today. If you have not, all you must do is put your faith is Jesus Christ, who loves you unconditionally and sacrificially, and He will save you from your sin. As Romans 10:13 says, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” This kind of love is the kind of love that Jesus commanded His disciples to have when He gave them this “new” commandment. In fact, He said it should be the most dominant character trait by which His people were known. In John 13:35 Jesus said “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” There is no more powerful tool to point people to Christ then loving them as He loved them. I think if Christians in churches across this nation would understand that, then we could make Christ much more attractive to those who do not know Him. Let us be determined to love as Jesus loved so that people might see Him through us.