Sunday, April 27, 2014

Standing Before God

1 Corinthians 15:1–2 (NKJV)
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

Following Jesus’ resurrection on the first day of the week, he appeared to the disciples over a period of 40 days, manifesting Himself to them, convincing them of the reality of the resurrection, and enlightening their minds to understand the things that had been written about him in the law and the prophets. This 40 day period has historically been called Eastertide, a time to celebrate the way the resurrection of Jesus has transformed the world. The entire cosmos has been changed, shaken at its very core. And because the world has been changed, we can be changed. Hope has arrived; forgiveness has been achieved; new life has entered into the world; consequently, we can have hope, can receive forgiveness, and can experience new life.

So for Eastertide we begin a series of exhortations from the 15th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. What is the significance of the resurrection? Why does it matter?

The first answer Paul gives, the introductory declaration, is that the resurrection matters because it enables us to stand before God unto salvation rather than damnation. The word Gospel means “good news” – and the good news of Jesus’ resurrection shines in its brilliance only when set in context of the bad news of our sin and rebellion.

Biblically heaven is for real as the recent book and movie by that name announce; but the tragic reality is that hell is for real too. And by nature we all are alienated from God, pursuing our own passions and desires and priorities rather than those of God Himself, and hence heading to judgment, heading to hell. We all like sheep have gone astray, each to his own way – some of us worship other gods, some of us think of no god but ourselves, some of us claim the Name of Jesus but live for our own lusts and pleasures – we all like sheep have gone astray, each to his own way. And the consequence of this straying is death and judgment. It is appointed unto men to die once and after this to face judgment. And shall not the judge of all the earth deal justly?

When we come before God, when we stand before Him to give an account for what we have done, when we rise from our graves and give an account to Him who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, the inevitable result – if we endeavor to stand before him on the basis of what we have done – the inevitable result will be condemnation.

But thanks be to God that though we all like sheep have gone astray, each to his own way, the Lord has laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all. The Good News is that God provides a substitute, someone to take our punishment, to stand in our place, to endure the judgment of God for us. Through faith in Him, through trust in His work on the cross, we can stand in the day of judgment, we can be saved.

And how do we know that this man’s sacrificial offering has been accepted by God? Because, on the third day, he rose again from the dead. He rose – and sin was conquered. He rose – and death was overthrown. He rose – and the gaping jaws of hell that opened before our feet, preparing to welcome us to the grave, were broken.

So let us believe, let us entrust ourselves to Christ, to this One who gave Himself for us that He might reconcile us to God. And let us not merely believe for a time, let us not be among those who believe in vain, but let us trust Him all the way to the end of our days and so have an entrance abundantly supplied to us into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

And this morning, let us confess our sins to the Lord, rejoicing that in Christ he freely forgives us.