This week we celebrate the birth of our nation. Our nation was born when our ancestors declared independence. Today, our nation is the most powerful nation that exists. This nation does not have the greatest population of all the nations. This nation does not have the greatest land mass of all the nations. This nation has not always had the greatest power of all the nations. Today, at this moment in history, this nation has the greatest power.

If we do not have the greatest population, and if there are nations that control more land than we do, why are we, at this time, the most powerful nation? Many factors work in combination to produce this nation's power. One significant factor is the enormous past sacrifices made for this nation. Without those sacrifices, this nation would not exist. Without those sacrifices, this nation would not have survived. Without those sacrifices, there would be no power.

Each week on Sunday, we individually and as a congregation celebrate the birth of Christianity. Christianity exists because Jesus willingly died by crucifixion to make our forgiveness possible. Christianity exists because God raised the dead body of Jesus from the dead. Forgiveness happens because of God's work in Jesus' death. The power exists because of God's work in the resurrection.

We can become Christians because of Jesus' willing sacrifice of his life in crucifixion. We can be sustained as Christians because God's resurrection power sustains us. Without Jesus' sacrificial death, there would be no Christianity. Without Jesus' resurrection, there would be no power to sustain us as Christians.

This morning I want you to consider two reactions to Jesus' resurrection.

  1. Jesus was raised from the dead early Sunday morning the day after the Jews observed the Passover.
    1. That first day, the resurrected Jesus appeared to several people in many different circumstances.
      1. That first day was the beginning of a forty day period when Jesus physically presented himself to people in a variety of differing circumstances.
      2. On this first day, in the evening, Jesus made a physical appearance to the disciples as a group.
        1. The eleven were still in shock.
        2. Everything happened so fast--Jesus went from the most popular man in Jerusalem to the most despised man in Jerusalem so quickly.
        3. Mary Magdalene reported Jesus' resurrection to the disciples early that first day (John 20:18).
        4. In the early morning Peter and John ran to the empty tomb (John 20:1-9).
        5. The gospel of Luke states that the men who talked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus reported to the disciples as a group that they had seen and talked to the resurrected Jesus (Luke 24:33).
        6. The gospel of Mark states as a group the disciples did not believe those reports (Mark 16:11,13).
      3. That evening the group, excluding Thomas, were together behind locked doors afraid that their enemies might kill them now that Jesus was dead (John 20:19-21).
        1. Suddenly the physical Jesus appeared standing in the middle of them.
        2. He greeted them with the common Jewish greeting, "Peace be with you..."
        3. After greeting them, he showed them his hands and his side--he wanted there to be no doubt that he was physically alive.
        4. They rejoiced; they were excited.
      4. Later Thomas Didymus (Thomas the twin) joined them.
        1. They explained what happened: "We saw the Lord!" (John 20:24,25)
        2. To Thomas, that idea was preposterous: "Unless I see his hands with my own eyes, feel the nail prints with my own finger, and put my hand in his pierced side I will not believe that he is physically alive."
      5. Eight days later Jesus appeared again to the disciples, and this time Thomas is with them (John 20:26-29).
        1. The circumstances are quite similar: as a group they are gathered behind locked doors, and Jesus greets them with the common Jewish greeting, "Peace be with you."
        2. Then Jesus spoke specifically to Thomas: "Stick out your finger and examine my hands; put your hand in my side; believe I am resurrected."
        3. I do not know what Thomas did.
        4. We are only told his verbal response: "My Lord and my God!"
        5. Jesus said to Thomas,
          John 20:29 "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed."
    2. The second man thought Jesus was a fraud and thought the Jews who believed in Jesus were enemies of God.
      1. Then Paul saw and talked to the resurrected Jesus (Act 9:1-9; 22:14; 26:16).
      2. Seeing and hearing the resurrected Jesus totally turned his life around.
        1. What was extremely important before seeing the resurrected Jesus suddenly became totally unimportant.
        2. Prior to knowing the truth of Jesus' resurrection, Paul was the rising star in Judaism (Galatians 1:14).
        3. As a young man, perhaps a child, he left his home in Tarsus to study under the renown Jewish teacher, Gamaliel, in Jerusalem (Acts 22:3).
        4. Yet, after seeing and hearing the resurrected Jesus, he gave up everything he worked so hard to achieve (Philippians 3:7,8).
      3. "Why would anyone do that?"
        1. In Philippians 3:9-11, Paul gave five reasons for making that decision.
          1. He wanted the righteousness God gives when a person has faith in Christ instead of the righteousness produced by personal achievement through the law.
          2. He wanted to know Jesus Christ.
          3. He wanted to know the power of Jesus' resurrection.
          4. He wanted to participate in Jesus' sufferings.
          5. He wanted to experience personal resurrection from the dead in the way Jesus Christ made it possible.
        2. Notice that two of Paul's five reasons directly related to resurrection.
          1. He wanted to know the power of Jesus' resurrection.
          2. He wanted to personally experience resurrection in Jesus.
      4. I want you to focus your attention on Paul's desire to know the power of Jesus' resurrection.
        1. Paul was on his way to Damascus in the conviction that he was absolutely right in his convictions and understanding.
        2. When Jesus appeared to Paul, Paul knew he was completely wrong in his convictions and understanding.
    3. Paul had an entirely new understanding of God's power.
      1. What power could take a dead body killed by crucifixion and sliced open with a spear, and bring that body back to life? (John 19:31-34)
      2. Paul had great faith in God's power.
        1. He had no doubt that God used His power to deliver his ancestor's from Egypt.
        2. He had no doubt that God used His power to allow those ancestor's to cross the Red Sea.
        3. He has no doubt that God used His power to physically feed those people with manna in the wilderness.
        4. He had no doubt that God used His power to provide water to those people in the wilderness.
        5. He had no doubt that God used His power to give Israel the land of Canaan.
        6. Had you asked Paul to illustrate how God used His power to help Israel in the Old Testament, Paul was full of illustrations.
      3. But the power of resurrection was more than any of those powers.
        1. How so?
        2. Those things preserved physical life.
        3. The power of the resurrection created life after there had been death.
        4. The ultimate power of the physical is to cause death.
        5. Resurrection power destroys death.

  2. What is so incredible about resurrection power?
    1. Resurrection power is the power of Re-creation.
      1. Through resurrection power God recreates life after evil destroyed that life.
        1. Resurrection power is the power source of God's grace.
        2. Resurrection power is the power source of God's mercy.
        3. Resurrection power is the power source of God's forgiveness.
        4. Resurrection power is the power source of newness of life in Christ.
      2. Satan used evil to kill everyone of us.
        1. We each were born with life that came from God, but when we yielded to evil Satan destroyed that life.
        2. Through resurrection power, God gives us life that Satan and evil cannot destroy.
        3. No matter how much Satan hates that life and attacks that life, as long as we remain in Christ, Satan cannot destroy that life.
    2. Resurrection power is the greatest power God has ever used in human life.
      1. It is greater than physical miracles because those miracles only affected life on this earth.
      2. It is greater than physical blessings because those blessings only exist now.
      3. Resurrection power gives us life not even physical death can destroy.
    3. What is resurrection power about?
      1. Is it about money? No.
      2. Is it about material things? No.
      3. Is it about prestige and social status? No.
      4. Is it about fulfilling physical desires and wants? No.
      5. "Then what is resurrection power about? It sounds pretty useless."
        1. It is about me becoming the person I have the potential to be through God's power.
        2. It is about me living in this world and the world to come.
        3. It is about living a full life now and living a full life with God.
      6. To me, the Christian's most common and greatest abuse of God's power is seen in this: we try to use God's power to satisfy wants instead of learning to live.
        1. Look at our prayers.
        2. So much of our praying focuses on what we want.
        3. So little of our praying focuses on what we are or can become.
        4. How often in our prayers:
          1. Do you ask for the strength to forgive an enemy?
          2. Do you ask for the compassion to care about people we have a hard time respecting?
          3. Do you ask for the wisdom to be honest and kind?
          4. Do you ask for the ability to be helpful and encouraging?
          5. Do you ask for the attitudes, spirit, heart, and humility of Jesus?
        5. How often do we ask God's guidance and power in helping us change?
      7. Can God make it possible for you to change as a person? Through the resurrection power revealed in Jesus Christ, yes!
    4. The gospel of John stresses the fact that Jesus is the source of life.
      1. John 1:4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
      2. John 8:12 "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."
      3. John 10:10 "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
      4. John 11:25,26 "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?"

Why are you a Christian? If your only motivation is fear, you will never mature spiritually. If your only motivation is to keep your premiums current on hell insurance, you will never mature spiritually. If your only motivation is to fulfill an obligation, you will never mature spiritually. Our motivation for being a Christian must become the same reason Jesus surrendered himself to God in crucifixion. He came to give us life. We must want life.

No matter what sin has done or is doing to kill you, in Jesus Christ there is life. That life is available to you through God's resurrection power.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 1 July 2001

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