What a glorious day today is what a glorious day today is. This is the day that we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I suppose that all of us have different customs and traditions for Easter morning. For some of us it may involve sharing presents and perhaps eating a hard-boiled egg or two. For others perhaps the best celebration they can think of is just the ability to sleep a little bit later. Well for some reason I found myself looking at the obituaries and I was exceedingly glad not to see my name in there. There was however an obituary which I read that really struck close to my heart. I thought that I would share that obituary with you today.
Jesus Christ, 33, of Nazareth, died Friday on Mount Calvary, also known as Golgotha, the place of the skull. Betrayed by the apostle Judas, Jesus was crucified by the Romans, by order of the Ruler Pontius Pilate. The causes of death were crucifixion, extreme exhaustion, severe torture, and loss of blood.
Jesus Christ, a descendant of Abraham, was a member of the house of David. He was the Son of the late Joseph, a carpenter of Nazareth, and Mary, His devoted Mother. Jesus was born in a stable in the city of Bethlehem, Judea. He is survived by His mother Mary, His faithful Apostles, numerous disciples, and many other followers.
Jesus was self educated and spent most of his adult life working as a Carpenter and a Teacher. Jesus also occasionally worked as a Medical Doctor and it is reported that he healed many patients. Up until the time of His death, Jesus was teaching and sharing the Good News, healing the sick, touching the lonely, feeding the hungry, and helping the poor.
Jesus was most noted for telling parables about His Father`s Kingdom and performing miracles, such as feeding over 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish, raising Lazarus, a local man, from the dead; and healing a man who was born blind. On the day before His death, He held a Last Supper celebrating the Passover Feast, at which He foretold His death.
The body was quickly buried in a stone grave, which was donated by Joseph of Arimathea, a loyal friend of the family. By order of Pontius Pilate, a boulder was rolled in front of the tomb. Roman soldiers were put on guard.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that everyone try to live as Jesus did. Donations may be sent to anyone in need.
I was sorrowful when I read that obituary because of the sufferings that Jesus went through on my behalf. But I was also full of joy for I knew that the obituary was printed prematurely. I knew that Jesus the Christ was not in that tomb anymore. I knew that under his own power he walked out of the tomb alive. I knew that he had kept his promise, and was resurrected from the dead.
There are two words which we use which can be confusing if we are not sure of their exact meaning. Those words are resurrection and revival. Both words are for ever important in Christ’s church. Both words help shape our future lives as Christians. Both words involve a change that occurs in connection with death or dying.
The word resurrection can be found in several places in the Bible. Over the years of biblical history its meaning has changed to what we know it as today. In general the resurrection, according to the Holman illustrated Bible dictionary, is a future, bodily rising from the dead of all persons. Believers in Christ rise to eternal life and bliss with God; unbelievers to eternal torment and separation from God. If you remember from last week I talked about the rapture of the church, whereby the dead in Christ shall rise and those Christians still living will be called up to meet Jesus in the air. This is the resurrection of the saints. This is when our sad, diseased, aching, wrinkled, and some decaying bodies will be transformed into a new glory filled body where none of the effects of time, sin, and satisfaction of our lusts will no longer have an effect; rather the only effect on our bodies will be the glory of the everlasting God. Similar also is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’d like to read from the same source as to Christ’s resurrection. It says the resurrection of Jesus the Christ is an historical event whereby Jesus came back from physical death to newness of life with a glorified body, never to die again. The bodily resurrection of Jesus is one of the central tenets of the Christian faith. His bodily resurrection validates the claim that he is both Lord and Christ. It substantiate it’s the proposition that his life and death were not just the life and death of a good man but that he indeed was God incarnate and that by his death we have forgiveness of sins.
This quote I just read states some very bold things. First, it states that the resurrection is an historical event. You know what that means? It means that it is not a legend. It is not a myth. It is not a story or a cover up. It actually happened. Second, it states that he has a glorified body, never to die again. That statement is not an exaggeration. That statement is a profound truth. The glorified body does not age, or whither, or die. Third, it states that he is both Lord and Christ. Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one, who was sent into this world to save mankind from their sins. But even greater, he is Lord. He is the authority of God. He is God incarnate ( in the flesh). And fourth, it states that thru him we have our sins completely and permanently forgiven.
The other word I wanted to talk about was the word revival. Oftentimes, we think that resurrection and revival mean the same thing, but that is not true. Revival is a resuscitation. It is the process of bringing back to life someone or something that is dead. However, the person will still be subject to the effects of time, sin, and death. Revival is a temporary return to life which could last minutes or years. Whereas resurrection is a permanent return to life, in a position better than before which will last through all eternity.
Often times we hear about revivals occurring in churches. Or a revival movement that occurred sometime in the past. According to Walter Boldt “revival is God at work, restoring his church to health.”That is an acceptable definition provided that the church is doing the work that the Gospels call it to. Revival must always result in reaping, in growth. Revival is something that can be experienced through the whole body of Christ—all Christians everywhere. It can be experienced within the local church. It can even be experienced in one single Christian.
We read in Psalm 85 verse six "Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?" Psalm 85:6
So what is the psalmist saying here? He is praying to God to resuscitate his people. The people had become distant from God. They seemed to have lost their connection to God because they couldn’t rejoice in him. The first step in revival is the obvious, and that is to recognize that you’re not experiencing the right relationship with God. You come to a point in life where that relationship with God just seems so empty, so void of joy. You may even experience the doldrums of repetitive, ritualistic, and some times just plain, boring, almost dead perceptions and devotions to God. So the psalmist recognizes the need of his people. He recognizes that they have lost their way and their joy has fizzled out. And so he prays for revival. All revivals must begin in prayer. DL Moody once said “every great work of God can be traced to a kneeling figure.”And that is what we must do if we want to see a revival in our church or even in ourselves. We must come before him in prayer. In the second Chronicles Chapter 7 verse 14 it says"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14 you hear that church? Pray in all earnestly and have a desire to do good then will not only God hear your prayer but he will forgive your sin and heal your land. He will restore you to who you should be. Often times it is so lonely when we are not walking with the Lord. Often times we just don’t feel complete.
In acts chapter 4 verse 31 it says "And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness." Acts 4:31 results. There is power in prayer. The prayer of the faithful can move mountains. The prayer of the faithful can move churches. The prayer of the faithful can move others around you. The prayers of the faithful can even move your self. the prayer of the faithful will cause God to act. And when people are praying together, faithfully then their prayer is stronger in unification. Perhaps someday we shall see such prayer that will shake this mountain. Because when that happens God’s Holy Spirit will easily work through us to bring his word, to bring his love back to his church. So I ask this question. As a church what is our prayer life like. Are we just repeating the same prayer over and over? Or are we getting down on our knees and raising our hands to Almighty God in praise and praying like we have never prayed before! There is a song by the southern gospel group the Hoskins family entitled pray down the power in it they sing “it’s the thing the human eye can’t see, but I know it’s real because it’s alive in me. It gives me courage when I need it most, I’m talking about the power of the Holy Ghost. We can move any Mountain-God said we could, if we pray down the power like we really should. There are many promises we don’t claim. We can have them in the power of Jesus’ name. We ought to pray, pray, pray down the power in Jesus’ name.” you see church we need to pray if we want to grow. In Colossians Chapter 4 it is written"Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." Colossians 4:12
You see prayer helps you to stand perfect and complete in the will of God. James chapter 5 says"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." James 5:16 church this healing that James is talking about is more than just physical healing. We can pray for the healing of our church. We can pray for the healing of our brothers and sisters who do what we call backsliding. Backsliding is when as Christians we feel really separated from God to such an extent that the light that is supposed to shine through us becomes dim and unnoticeable.
Revival is something that has been occurring for countless generations. It occurs when the men of God are doing the work of God and they don’t hinder it. In Jonah we read"Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee." Jonah 3:2 God commands Jonah what to say as he goes into Nineveh to start the first revival that we find in the Bible. But most of us know that Jonah had other plans, and he got scared and he got indignant, thinking that the people of Nineveh did not deserve this chance of mercy. Jonah tried to go his own way only to find his way blocked by a big fish. Now that big fish did not immediately bring Jonah to Nineveh, no the fish did not bring Jonah to Nineveh until Jonah repented, until Jonah changed his attitude and began to pray. That fish spit Jonah out and Jonah began preaching like he never preached before. As a result God’s messenger was able to light the fire of revival.
The next revival we read about in the Bible is the one that most of us are familiar with. The day of Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus’s resurrection. This revival took Jerusalem and the middle east by storm. By the power of the Holy Spirit which was sent first to Jesus’ apostles and disciples, power was given unto them to know the Scriptures and to preach the gospel as it had never been preached before. This revival changed individuals, it changed and created local churches, it changed the church, and it changed the world for every generation to come.
The Bible, although our greatest source for understanding God’s will in our lives, and a great historical source; it is not the only place that we’ve read about revivals. John and Charles Wesley brought revival to England back in the late 1700s with the rise of the Methodist movement. The next revival we read about is one that is not overseas in some distant land. It is a revival that began just down the road in Northampton. Jonathan Edwards began preaching as a Congregational minister back in the 1730s. His preaching laid the foundation for what we call the great awakening today. He brought revival “here”. Which spread through out all the colonies and eventually the world. In the year of 1857 Charles Finney and AC Lanphier brought revival of the world starting in the state of New York. You see revival is not something that just happens in a distant land or 1000 years ago. Revival is something that can happen any time, any place, to anyone who is ready to hear what God has to say. And apply it to himself, his church, his community.
There are those that do not believe in revival. And I say to them I have shown you the great revivals that have occurred in our history. There is nothing that says another one cannot occur. But the truth of the matter is like Smokey the bear says only you can prevent forest fires. So in application only you can prevent the fires of revival from consuming your lives, your church and your community. There will always be people that talk against revival. Why they would talk against it I don’t know. Perhaps it is because as a society we fear letting go of all the familiar things we have and giving them over to God. We fear giving away our sinful distractions, our lusts to a life that is devoted in prayer, to a life that is devoted to the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.
Church, revival may not be easy. Look at Jonah, the revival of Nineveh began in the belly of a big fish. So to revival here in the first Congregational Church of Peru can begin with tears, but those tears whether they are for sadness, remorse; those tears can be the forerunner of a great joy that has never been known in this community for hundreds of years. If you are grieving over your past sins you need revival because God’s grace and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon this cross and his resurrection from the dead show us that according to Romans 8:1 "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Romans 8:1. Like today, Easter Sunday, revival brings our focus directly and continuously on Jesus Christ. When we are focused on him then the bad things in this world seem so distant, so unimportant. Revival is something that spreads like wildfire when one heart truly captures the spirit of revival then other hearts will catch a fire with that same joy, with that same passion. We are so overdue for another great revival. It doesn’t have to begin in a mega-church in some city down south or across the globe. Revival begins with just one voice calling to God in honest prayer with the desire to see things change tremendously. The beginning of my sermon I read an obituary on Jesus and I said he is not dead. He has been resurrected from the dead and that proves that his sacrifice on that cross was perfect and accepted. He paid the price for every sin that was ever committed. He paid the price for every sin that will be committed. When he was nailed to that cross he bore every sin that you and I have committed. He bore every sin that we will yet commit. While he hung up on that cross he uttered the words it is finished. He wasn’t talking about his life. He wasn’t talking about his hopes and aspirations. He was talking about the work which he was sent here to do. He was talking about paying the price for our sins and providing a way for us to get back into fellowship with God. For you see all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Our sin separates us from the love of God. Have you known that your sins were paid for on that cross. Jesus went through an agonizing, humiliating death to pay the price of your sins. It is like every time that we have sinned was one more hammer blow to the nails in his hands and feet. The Bible teaches us that the wages of sin are death. Because of sin we die. Jesus died on that cross for our sins, with our sins. But Jesus did not die because of the nails. Jesus did not die because of the Crown of thorns. Jesus did not die because of a Spear was thrust in his side. Jesus died because he gave his life up. In Luke 23 we read "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost." Luke 23:46. But that was not the end. Three days later he rose from the dead victorious in life and death. He took on a new glorified body which bore the marks of his crucifixion, but could no longer take any punishment. By Jesus conquering death we have an escape from our eternal death. We read that the wages of sin are death, therefore by him conquering death we can have the choice in escaping it. So friends, do you realize that without Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior that you are doomed to spend an eternity in death; that you are doomed to spend an eternity in hell. I am not going to stand up here and sugarcoat the truth for you. Either when you pass from this life you are going to heaven or to hell. There is no in between place where you can save up points to get into heaven. You cannot try to do a bunch of good deeds, and give to charity, and be an all round good person and expect to get into heaven. Because that is not what the Bible says, that is not what Jesus said. Jesus said I and the father are one, no one goes to the father except through me. That means that the only way you can get to heaven is by accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
Church, have we fallen away from the joy in knowing our Lord Jesus Christ? Have we gotten sidetracked by things of this world, such as finances, relationships, jobs, church business, family life? We all have a tendency to get sidetracked, to lose our focus. But I tell you that if our focus is truly on Jesus Christ than these distractions we have won’t be so distracting. Because if we are focused on Jesus Christ then we are praying to him. And not only are we praying to him, but we are praying for each other. When’s the last time you have sat down and had a conversation with God. Seek his will! Seek his love for you! It is written in Jeremiah 29 "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13. Church this is the beginning of revival. The next step when your hearts are so intimate with God is to see what he will do. In Matthew chapter 7 we read "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:" Matthew 7:7. God answers prayers. God answers more than just prayers for the sick. God answers more than just prayers for those emergency situations. God will answer prayers that can move mountains. He will answer prayers that change us. And in order to have a revival we can no longer sit at the status quo. We must use our relationship with Jesus Christ to grow us, to change us, to conform us into his image. Church, are you ready to pray like you’ve never prayed before! Are you ready to let God’s Holy Spirit work in you like it did in the disciples on that first Pentecost? Are you ready to grow not only in numbers but on the inside with your personal relationship with Jesus Christ? The next question is a question that pertains to your heart. You may be ready, but are you willing? Are you willing to take on the responsibility of praying, studying God’s word, and living the life which shows the light of Jesus shining in and through you? I’d like to close this with a song by the southern gospel Quartet the anchormen.