February 17, 2019 Getting a New Life
One of the reasons we gather & worship on Sunday mornings is that this is the day Jesus rose from the dead, and we celebrate a little Easter. *Why would we want to celebrate a little Easter each week? Paul gave us the answer in the Epistle lesson today. Our lives of hope over sin & death are lived in view of Jesus’ death & resurrection.
We will all face death, either our own or someone else’s. Death is the enemy of life; it takes life away, & we can’t stop it. Therefore, we all need strength & comfort in the face
of death. People have used their own philosophy & human logic about this life, it’s end, & the future; they have dreamed up nice stories of what it means, and what’s to come after death ‘Just ‘go to the light,’ =they say= ‘you get to see all your relatives & friends, and you get to do your favorite things, forever; it’s your ‘spiritual journey’ & you’ll be an angel.’ Human imagination is endless. But, *how do they know such things? They don’t.
Christians know that there is a better answer: to seek the truth from the Creator Himself. God has given us His resource for dealing properly with death; He’s promised to teach & convince us by His own Word-of-Life, the Scriptures. The HSp used Paul to bring us His Word about it.
In 1Cor.15, Paul talks very pointedly about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and a good bodily resurrection of all of us who ‘fall asleep in Christ’. It won’t be good for all people == /not for those who just hope there’s a better life to come; / not for those who are just ‘spiritual’ & think there’s a higher power/supreme being; / & not for those who merely say Jesus’ name = only for those who trust in Him; who believe that He alone is God-in-the-flesh, and that He is bodily raised from the dead. The HSp says that this true hope is only in Jesus Christ; and only for those who are joined with that Savior by baptism & faith.
Elsewhere in 1Cor.15, Paul even talks about what kind of resurrected body we will have.
You see, these bodies we have now are not suited for heaven, sin has ruined them; which should be obvious by our frailty, diseases, & death itself. But, at the resurrection, those who are in Christ Jesus will be given a new body, just as He had a new one on Easter morning. We’ll have a body that is suited for eternal life in God’s kingdom.
When searching for strength & comfort, or when trying to comfort someone else who is faced with death, turn to 1 Cor.15. It’s not just information, the HSp gives strength in hearing of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. For us who are joined with Him in baptism faith, the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead means He alone can protect those who bear His Name.
He has conquered His own death, and overpowers ours. Because of Jesus alone, death is now the final step toward our own resurrection; which means we are getting a whole new life.
Most of us have had the experience of getting a new car; either brand-new, or just a different & better car. Buying a new car means that you have to select the kind you want & can afford. It often means trading in the old one. Likewise, our passing life & the evidence of the death & loss of lives around us, draws everyone to look toward a new life. That means you’ll have to look around at what kind of a new life is available, ask if you can afford it, and prepare to trade in the old one. The Gospel has drawn you to Christ to get that new life.
The Son of God himself traded in his old life for a new one. Jesus had a good earthly life. He was loved; his Heavenly Father twice opened heaven & proclaimed his love for his Son. Jesus was loved by his earthly parents & family, and by his disciples = who had left their jobs & livelihoods to be his committed disciples.
Jesus was not only loved, he had meaning & purpose, goals & desires in his earthly life: chiefly = to obey his Father, and proclaim the kingdom of God. He was faithful & successful in all he did. There was no reason for him to stop his life at age 33 == but this was one of his purposes: to trade in his life by dying for others. People looked at him on the cross and said, ‘he saved others, but he can’t save himself. What a waste. He was batting a thousand & now he’s struck out. He had such a perfect life. Now he’s given it all up; even abandoned by his Father in heaven.’
But that wasn’t the end; He was making a trade-in on a new life. He did die ~stone dead, but he came back to life. Not ‘resuscitated,’ but ‘resurrected,’ just like the OT Scriptures said the Messiah would. *How can we be sure? Because there were witnesses, many witnesses.
Earlier in chpt.15, vs.5 says that Jesus appeared to Peter, then to the Twelve, & then to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time. After that, He showed himself to James & the other disciples; and finally to Paul. All of these were eye-witnesses to the fact that Jesus was bodily & physically brand new; risen from the dead.
And not just physically new; his whole life was new. He didn’t return to his old life, or to his previous purpose & ministry. He no longer went around from town-to-town doing miracles, and proclaiming repentance & the kingdom of God. Now He would do that in a new way: thru His apostles & believers; thru His Church.
Jesus’ appearance was also changed. All the disciples from Emmaus didn’t recognize him when he sat down for dinner that Easter Sunday evening. His close friend, Mary Magdalene didn’t recognize him in the garden that morning because he was new. And he told her not to hang-on to him anymore in the old way. Because of his resurrection, things would not go back to the way they were before. Jesus’ body, life, & purpose was all brand new. And this is all part of 1Cor. chpt.15.
So, we learn that the purpose of Jesus’ new life was to give US, & all believers, new life, too. So, thru Paul, the HSp reasons with us to think it thru & draw us in: IF the Son of God doesn’t have a new life, then we don’t either, & there is no future. The Sadducees claimed that there is no resurrection for dead bodies; if that’s true, then Jesus hasn’t been raised.
If Jesus wasn’t raised, then we won’t be raised either.
BUT, Jesus DID rise; so resurrection is a real thing = but only with Jesus. His promise is that He is the ‘firstfruits’ of those who have died. Meaning: there will be many to follow with him; everyone connected to Him. Jesus didn’t trade in his old life for a new one just to show us it could be done. With his life, He financed OUR trade-in; he paid off the debt on our old life, & bought a new one for us. Thru the death & resurrection of Jesus, we have been given a new life.
Consider the life you have now; a pretty good life. As you think about the many blessings that you have, you are moved to enjoy them & to be thankful. You have an adequate home, maybe a nice one; // money to live on, food on the table, a helpful spouse, family & friends, a degree of health, & strength for the day; // you have American freedom, some leisure time, hobbies. It’s good to think on & be thankful for those blessings.
BUT put an expiration date on each of them, because they won’t last. They were made for this old life, which also has an expiration date.
Paul says that even our Christian faith is of little value to us if its only for this life. *Why? Because our faith is not a guarantee against the sin & trouble of this world. It teaches us to be civil & to behave; *what fun is that in a fallen world? Christians do not get ahead in a world of sinners. In fact, being Christian will cause us additional persecution! If faith was only for this world, it wouldn’t be worth it.
God convinced Job of that. Job began with a great earthly life, but death took away all his sons & daughters; he lost his possessions and even his health. He learned that true life cannot be in temporary things. He said: “Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure.” (14:1,2)
A deteriorating world & a declining body = that’s life? Everything is expiring: our possessions & money, our youth & health, our family & friends; this life changes day by day. Evil & sin in the world harms us; the sin of others injures us; we hurt others by our sin. Doctors & medicines can only do so much; new machines & technology also includes new frustrations & additional ways to get hurt & die. This old life is beyond repair.
The point is, like an old car, we can /change the tires, /pull the dents, /paint it up, /& it may be ‘like new’, but it isn’t a different or new car. We can try to repair our life & fix it up ‘like new’, but is still this same old life. This life is terminal; and even repaired, its still expires. In order for it to be truly new, we must actually trade-in the old one; we trade-it-in to the only One who can made us new.
The good news =which we call the gospel= is that God has been gracious, and has done all the work for us. He protected us from keeping this old life forever when he expelled Adam & Eve from the Garden of Eden; so that, in their fallen condition, they didn’t get to eat from the Tree of Life, and be eternally sinful. God has let sin & trouble remain in this old life so that we will desire a new life, in a new place; one that doesn’t have the limitations and problems of the old one.
That’s why He sent His Son as Savior. Jesus pays the price, and comes to us to give us new life. Even now, we this faith we’ve been given is new life for us = a down-payment on the whole new life to come. We believe this new life is different & brand new, and it’s worth the wait and the trade of this life for the next. Why? Because Jesus’ Easter has shown us the way.
“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Jesus’s victory over death is the guarantee that the new life we have begun thru baptism is reserved for us; we will sleep, and then we will be changed and receive the new physical vehicle, a new body, designed for eternity.
Sometimes we try to comfort others by assuring them that ‘things will get better’; /they will recover, /tomorrow will be a brighter day, /it’ll just take time, /be patient. But we can’t guarantee that for them, we can only hope & pray. So, there is also true comfort in acknowledging that with Christ Jesus they cannot lose: if they recover = they are blessed; if He calls them to make ‘the trade-in’ = they are blessed.
Christians don’t celebrate death; but we are not to be afraid of it. A Christian will prepare for death, perhaps writing our own life-summary so others don’t have to worry about it; planning some of our funeral things; making our will a real testament to our faith & support of God’s kingdom & mission. People can be superstitious, thinking that planning for your death will make it come sooner. But faith does not believe this; our Lord alone holds our life in His hands. God’s promise & Jesus’ resurrection has taken the fear out of death.
That’s why He gave us 1Cor.15. In chpt.15 we also hear this: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory thru our Lord Jesus Christ.”
God doesn’t hide death from us because He doesn’t want to hide this promise of His resurrection. It is our hope, and our way of life. This is the Christian faith we believe & confess. When we acknowledge the expiration of this life’s blessings =with faith in Christ= then we will enjoy them in the way God intended; then we will we give thanks for our blessings in the way we should. Then we will not be afraid of this life, because God’s love & work in Christ has overcome our fears.
In this faith, we say: let the years pass, come blessings & troubles, death is on its way. But for us this means resurrection & new life. Because Jesus lives, we will live also.