The list of "things that you have to do" has always been quite short for most people. Parents insist that their teens "have to" do certain things, and teens commonly declare either by their words, their decisions, or their actions that they do not "have to" do anything.

Controlling husbands tell their wives that there are certain things that a wife "has to do." Controlling wives tell their husbands that there are certain things that a husband "has to do."

Those in control of occupations remind us that there are things that we "have to do."

Government is constantly revising its list of things that we "have to do" as citizens. And, a number of citizens find ingenious ways to show the government that citizens do not have to do those things.

When we are feeling truly defiant we declare, "We don't have to do anything but die!"

This evening as a Christian I ask you to think about some things each of us as a Christian has to do. I want to suggest that any person who is converted to Jesus Christ quickly discovers that there are three things that a Christian must do.

  1. What three things would you say that a Christian must do?
    1. Our suggestions would reflect the perspectives of past teachings.
      1. One perspective would suggest that a Christian must believe, repent, and be baptized.
        1. I certainly do not disagree with the importance of any one of those three things; I would strongly "amen" that we need a much better understanding of all three.
        2. But those are three things a person does to come to Jesus when he or she becomes a Christian.
        3. The question is what three things must a Christian do?
      2. Another perspective would suggest that a Christian must come to the assemblies on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night.
        1. When I was a boy and a young adult, worship attendance served as the number one criteria for determining faithfulness.
        2. If you attended every time the church building doors opened, you were faithful.
        3. If you attended less than that, your faith needed to grow.
        4. If you attended irregularly you were unfaithful.
        5. Those were simpler days and simpler times.
          1. In those days, you could not live in Fort Smith and commute all over the United States every week as you did your job.
          2. In those days, very few jobs required a person to work on Sunday.
          3. In those days, a weekend had two days--Saturday and Sunday, instead of one day (Sunday).
          4. In those days, you got home from your work before 6:30 p.m. so that you could come to Wednesday Bible study.
          5. In those days one parent, not two, was employed outside the home.
        6. I certainly would emphasize that maturing Christians want to study and worship with their spiritual family on every possible occasion, but I do not believe that our bodies' physical presence in an assembly is the primary evidence of the depth or quality of a person's faith.
      3. Another perspective suggests that a Christian must sing praises to God, take communion, and financially support the congregation.
        1. Basically this perspective says a Christian must worship.
        2. Worship is an essential, critical part of being spiritually alive.
        3. It is a unique form of fellowship with God, with Christ, with the Spirit, and with our Christian family.
    2. The three things that I want to suggest are more fundamental than worship.
      1. Each maturing Christ must do these three things on a continual basis:
        1. He or she must react to Jesus' life.
        2. He or she must react to Jesus' death.
        3. He or she must react to Jesus' resurrection.
      2. Personally, I do not believe that it is possible for any man or woman to be spiritually alive without reacting to those three things.

  2. Tonight I want you to consider the importance of a Christian reacting to Jesus' resurrection. (The thoughts that I share with you certainly are not all encompassing. I freely confess that your thoughts and reactions to the resurrection easily could be superior to these.)
    1. Reaction number one: if God planned for Jesus' resurrection before the foundations of this world (Ephesians 1:4), if it was that serious and urgent to God, the resurrection should reveal one of life's basic messages to me.
      1. You and I--and every other person--desperately needs resurrection in Christ.
      2. We were made and intended for more than a grave.
      3. God was and is determined that our existence would not end in a grave, and that it would not end in hell.
      4. If this matter was so important to God that He let His Son leave heaven and become a human being; that He let His Son live in humiliation and suffering in this physical existence; that He allowed His Son be unjustly executed; and that He brought the lifeless physical body of Jesus back to life again--if it was that important to God, how important is it to me?
      5. Nothing that exists in this world endures indefinitely.
        1. In all history, no nation lasted indefinitely, and this one will not.
        2. In all history, no government lasted indefinitely, and this one will not.
        3. In all history, no human endeavor lasted indefinitely, and none of ours will.
        4. In all history, no specific business lasted indefinitely, and ours won't.
        5. In all history, no specific job lasted indefinitely, and ours won't.
        6. There has never been wealth that lasted indefinitely.
        7. There has never been power that lasted indefinitely.
        8. There has never been pleasure that lasted indefinitely.
        9. There has never been a human body that did not wear out or a life that did not end, and neither you nor I will be the first exception.
      6. This temporary world is filled with the temporary.
        1. Only one thing will endure indefinitely:
        2. Resurrection in Jesus Christ.
      7. There is nothing that we will ever have, there is nothing that we will ever experience, and there is nothing that we will ever achieve that will be even a close second in importance to resurrection in Jesus Christ.
      8. And to me, that is the first message of the resurrection.
    2. Reaction number two: Jesus came with a God-given mission; He can teach me how to become a person with a God-given mission.
      1. Jesus revealed by death and resurrection that having a God-given mission means that I must trust my God rather than myself.
        1. Achieving His mission was horrible--injustice, betrayal, contempt, rejection, extreme pain, extreme loneliness, and death.
        2. The results of achieving the mission are too incredible to comprehend:
          1. God made Him the eternal Savior for all people (Hebrews 5:8,9).
          2. God created direct access to Himself for us through Jesus (Hebrews 4:14-16).
          3. God produced the power of permanent forgiveness through His death (Hebrews 10:10-12).
          4. God made adoption into His family possible for every person (Galatians 3:26,27; 4:4,5).
          5. God was free to give a life that was eternal in a place and relationship that was suitable for eternal existence.
      2. The resurrection screams to me that God can create opportunity in any human circumstance, in any human condition.
        1. No matter how evil has expressed itself in my life or circumstances, God can create for me spiritual opportunity in my situation--which is precisely what God did in the cross.
        2. God used the evil of the cross to reveal eternal resurrection.
        3. God can use the evil of our lives and conditions to resurrect us to newness of life.
        4. God will use spiritual resurrection to produce eternal resurrection.
      3. "Oh, but you don't know--you just don't know."
        1. "You don't know what has happened to me financially."
        2. "You don't know what is happening in my marriage."
        3. "You don't know what is happening with my kids."
        4. "You don't know what is happening with my parents."
        5. "You don't know what has happened since my divorce."
        6. "You don't know what is happening because I am a single parent."
        7. "You don't know about my secret life."
      4. If God could work in the cross, God can work in your circumstances.
      5. If God could resurrect Jesus after the cross, God can spiritually resurrect you after your evil experience.
      6. There will never be a situation in your life that will surpass the evil that surrounded Jesus' cross.
      7. The second message of the resurrection is that evil is no match for God--and cannot stop God--no matter how vile the evil is.
    3. Reaction number three: God can do what the human is not capable of dreaming.
      1. May I share some deeply personal things with you.
      2. Spiritually, the three years before I moved to Fort Smith were possibly the most difficult years of my life thus far.
        1. I was physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually exhausted.
        2. I experienced a kind and depth of pain I had never known, and it was continual, and it did not go away, and many Christian friends who love me deeply could not ease it.
      3. Someone says, "You must have been in an awful place."
        1. No, quite to the contrary--I was in a wonderful place with some wonderful people who richly blessed my life and the lives of my family.
        2. I was loved deeply and genuinely by some of the dearest friends I will ever have.
      4. I felt "locked in," and I was hurdling toward 60, and I was afraid.
        1. Being 60 did not and does not bother me.
        2. Seeing my opportunity to continue to serve disappear was frightening.
        3. For specific reasons, it seemed to me that my usefulness as a preacher was coming to an end at an incredible speed.
        4. It appeared to me that I had no options.
      5. But I was in a very complex situation and in very complicated circumstances.
        1. Most of my life I have been a "fixer."
        2. I learned, at least in my life, that "fixing" works against trusting God instead of for trusting God.
        3. After years of sacrificial work, I also learned that "fixing" never "fixes."
      6. "Fixing" is impossible for many reasons.
        1. "Fixing" entices us to play God, even when we are determined not to play God.
        2. Evil is too complex to be "fixed"--we humans are no match for Satan no matter how gifted or talented we might be.
        3. People are too complex to be "fixed"--there is too much evil in all of us.
      7. The third message of the resurrection: humans can't "fix," but the God who gives life and creates opportunity can forgive, and by forgiving God can resurrect.
        1. Through forgiveness, God can give a person spiritual life that is renewed every day--if the person is in Christ, each day starts new because each day starts in forgiveness.
        2. Through forgiveness, God gives every child newness of life because he or she is in Christ Jesus.
        3. And, if we trust the God of resurrection, He creates incredible opportunities even when we think there is no hope.

Our physical world screams that death is the end of life and the end of hope. The resurrection says that is a lie. And to those who react to Jesus' resurrection, resurrection always thunders louder than this skeptical world can scream.

We invite you to let Jesus give you life.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 12 April 1998

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