God's End Game - Part 28
Series: God's End Game
June 30, 2019
It’s been a while since I’ve used them, but it’s a good time to take a look back at the little graphics I’ve created to help us along the way…
In the beginning… God made it all and it was good. God made us and it was very good. Adam and Eve, the mother and father of us all, enjoyed perfect communion with God and each other. But the devil noticed how special we were to our heavenly father, so he set out to make bad what God had declared good. Which leads to…
The way things are now… Adam and Eve’s disobedience brought shame, a breaking of fellowship with God, an existence of struggling: struggling between the sexes, between good and evil, and in nature, and ultimately darkened hearts for all humanity.
That explains why things are the way they are and why God needed an end game, a strategy, a plan, to set everything back to rights. One which we discover was crafted before he ever even created the world or us.
As we went on in Genesis we came to the sad story of Cain and Abel, Adam and Eve’s two sons. Sin had barely entered our reality and right off we have a murder. Things just got worse from there.
The world became so wicked God sent a flood to destroy mankind except for Noah and his family. God commanded them and their descendants to multiply and fill the earth…
Genesis 9:1 (ESV) — 1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”
But once again mankind exhibited his tendency towards disobeying God by settling in one place and not filling the earth.
Genesis 11:1–4 (ESV) — 1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.
And so was built…
The tower of Babel…
Instead of multiplying and filling the earth with many cities, they settled in one place and made one big city.
3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
The Babelites didn’t build this tower to reach their creator God, as some suggest. Look back at verse 4…
4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
They built this tower to glorify themselves and defy God’s command to multiply and fill the earth. This is why, of course, God pays them a visit, tears the tower down, and confuses their language.
That tower, that stepped pyramid was a statement: We don’t need you God. We can do just fine on our own, thank you very much. We will make our own truth, our own rules, do things our own way. We’ll deal with this sin problem by making it no problem.
That’s an attitude still around today.
We kept going and ended up on top of a mountain, Mt. Sinai, to be exact, where God gave Moses and his people, the Israelites, the Ten Commandments.
Mt. Sinai… Keep going on into the books of Numbers and Leviticus and you find even more laws and commands, over six hundred of them.
Many people thought and still do, this is how God will fix his good world gone bad. The Law and the keeping of it is a way to reach God, to be made right with him. A way to undo what was done in the garden.
It was, after all, a breaking of a commandment that led to such a mess. Wouldn’t it make sense then, that our keeping of commandments would be the way back? Wouldn’t it make sense that having and living out the right religion is the way back to God?
It would seem that way. That fits into how the world works. And it fits into the way many of us think about God.
But to our surprise we discovered God never intended for the Law, for religion, to be the major play in his end game. It was meant to point us toward the major play ahead. Why? Because he knew that if being made right with him depended on us we’d fail (we had it all in the garden and still failed!).
God’s End Game required a play unlike anything we’d have ever thought of. The end all play in God’s end game of God’s plan is bound up in the person of Jesus: his incarnation, his crucifixion, and now his resurrection. He is the apex of the arc of all God is doing, and that’s why we’ve spent a large chunk of our time focusing on those three things.
Of those three things, we tend to major on the crucifixion because so much happened that day involving us personally. Our sins were dealt with. It opened the door for us to have a personal relationship with God again. The devil, our great adversary was defeated and humiliated, ironically, in Jesus’ seaming defeat and humiliation.
Though it’s good to camp out at the foot of the cross, we don’t spend nearly enough time and effort unpacking what happened with the resurrection, especially when we look at it from the perspective of God’s End Game plan.
So that’s what we’re going to do. We will spend the next few weeks unpacking what happened with Jesus’ resurrection but it won’t feel like Easter every Sunday. You’ll see why as we get deeper into it.
To help us really understand what the resurrection is all about, we’re going to once again borrow something from a book on theology.
Yes, I hear you. I’ve been to seminary and got the learning. I’ve sat in classes on theology and wanted to stab my eye with a pencil. I’ve studied so hard on doctrines described by words I cannot pronounce it made my head hurt.
But here’s what I’ve discovered over the years: it’s not theology’s fault it gets a bad rap, it’s ours. It’s boring professors who are more about academics than transformation. It’s learners with a bad attitude not giving the study of God a chance.
One of the greatest preachers alive today is a black professor named Dr. Robert Smith, Jr. He holds the Charles T. Carter Baptist Chair of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School where he teaches Christian Preaching.
He’s got more degrees and letters after his name than we could throw a stick at. Yet I will never forget hearing him say in a sermon one time, “I gots the learning, but what I wants is the burning!”
That sounds as if he’s downplaying all the theology and doctrine he was taught. But it’s not. Look at it this way. Theology is like firewood in the fireplace. All by itself it’s not worth much; it can’t produce a flame on its own. But add God’s Spirit and it flames up, setting our hearts on fire. Without the fuel there’s no fire, though.
If you wants the burning, get serious about the learning. If you let it, what we discover from a theology book on the resurrection can bless you.
So here it is (are you excited?)…
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is that central moment in human history that serves as the foundational doctrine of Christianity. After having truly assumed human nature and submitted to an agonizing and shameful public death, the eternal Son of God was truly raised from the dead in his glorified physical body, no longer subject to decay and death. His resurrection validates his identity as the divine Son of God, demonstrates his irrevocable victory over death and the grave, and secures both the present salvation and future physical resurrection of believers.
As we wind down today’s message, let’s look at that first part:
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is that central moment in human history that serves as the foundational doctrine of Christianity.
The resurrection is the hinge on which all of Christianity swings. Paul the apostle knew this.
1 Corinthians 15:1–19 (ESV) — 1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
Listen to verses 12-18 in the NLT translation…
1 Corinthians 15:12–19 (NLT) — 12 But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? 13 For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 15 And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. 16 And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18 In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.
If the resurrection wasn’t an actual, historical, physical event then we need to disband. Believing in the resurrection of Jesus is a step of faith but it’s not blind faith. The evidence for the resurrection is stronger than it’s ever been thanks to Bible scholars like NT Wright…
[… what can historians in the twenty-first century say about Easter on the basis of the historical evidence? … far and away the best explanation of the early Christian mutation within Jewish resurrection-belief is that two things had happened. First, Jesus’ tomb was found to be empty. Second, several people, including at least one, and perhaps more, who had not previously been followers of Jesus, claimed to have seen him alive in a way for which the readily available language of ghosts, spirits and the like was inappropriate, and for which their previous beliefs about life after death, and resurrection in particular, had not prepared them. Take away either of these historical conclusions, and the belief of the early church becomes itself inexplicable.
The further question then is, why was the tomb empty, and what account can be given of the sightings of the apparently risen Jesus? I.. argue that the best historical explanation is the one which inevitably raises all kinds of theological questions: the tomb was indeed empty, and Jesus was indeed seen alive, because he was truly raised from the dead.]
Remember what I preached on Easter Sunday: the three facts about the resurrection every credible, honest historian will affirm…
(1). Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of women the Sunday following his crucifixion.
(2). Jesus’ disciples had actual encounters with someone they believed to be a resurrected Jesus.
(3). These disciples’ preaching of a resurrected Jesus turned the world upside down.
These three undeniable truths don’t prove that Jesus was the Son of God or that he came back from the dead, but do you have a better explanation?
Conclusion: The resurrection of Jesus Christ is that central moment in human history that serves as the foundational doctrine of Christianity.
That’s why so many have set out to disprove it. Many of them are now on our side.
A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere — "Bibles laid open, millions of surprises," as Herbert says, "fine nets and stratagems." God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”
― C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life
We could spend months on end looking at the evidence for the resurrection. Since most of you probably come into this believing it happened we won’t. But if you’re here today and you think it’s hogwash, please get with me and I’ll point you to resources that will blow your mind.
For today, know this: everything else God is up to in his end game plan flows out of the resurrection. I can’t wait to show you what Jesus’ resurrection shows us about how it’s all going to end and start over again. I can’t wait to fill in the rest of those graphics.
Let’s pray this learning leads to a burning!
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