Feb. 11, 2001 A.M.
Miles City Wesleyan Church
Miles City, MT
Not Hurry Up and Die, But Hurry Up and Live
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
The federal government recently attempted to bust a crime wave in upstate New York. The suspected criminal ring wasn't gigantic ... it was geriatric. Most of the people under investigation were in their 80s and 90s. No SWAT Team maneuvers were needed. There wasn't even a raid by local police. In fact, the post office handled the bust just fine. Six ominous letters were delivered to people in the area around Plattsburgh, New York. Under the bold title "Medicare Fraud Investigations," the United Government Services warned recipients that they were under scrutiny for cheating the government. The upshot: Each of them might owe the U.S. government tens of thousands of dollars. So who were these suspects? Hospice patients who had beaten the odds. Their crime: living longer than anyone expected, and continuing to draw Medicare reimbursement of $88 a day. One suspect was Rosie DesParois, an 87-year-old who had entered hospice with advanced breast cancer, and was still alive four years later. Another was Beatrice Bates, admitted at age 89 with a whole host of problems, including the suffering of a heart attack during radiation therapy for cancer. Still, she survived for five more years. Were these women a threat to society? Hardly. And yet, the taxpayers' money has to be protected, so Medicare is cracking down. Their policy is that the terminally ill who don't die within six months risk losing coverage. It's die or get outta here! That's cold! Especially when we consider, as did the apostle Paul, that there's a sense in which life itself is nothing but hospice care. The body is terminally ill from the get go. Paul's message, in the passage we are going to read this morning is intended to be hopeful: When we die, we get to get outta here! Death is a good thing. We're moving to our eternal home. But while death is a good thing (if you assume that Christ was raised from the dead assuring our own future resurrection), Paul's point here is to offer hope. The government says, "Hurry up and die," but God says, "Hurry up and live."
READ 1 Corinthians 15:12-20
I have been around a good deal of people who are dying and I’ve noticed something. Those that have lost hope, die faster. Think about that, a person that loses hope dies faster. I’m here to tell you today that there are many healthy people in this world that are going to die faster, because they have lost hope. But guess what? We have been given great hope – and more than hope, it’s a promise – we will be resurrected to live eternally!
There are many people today, and many of them are so called Christians, who do not believe in the resurrection! How can a person call themselves a Christian and not believe in the resurrection is beyond me! But there are. This was the same type of thing that Paul was going through here with the Corinthians. There were some of them that attended services, had been baptized, and professed the name of Jesus Christ – but did not believe that there was to be a resurrection of the dead. So Paul goes on to question them about their belief.
In verse 13 he says, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.” They believed that Jesus rose from the dead, but that man was not going too. They must have forgotten that Jesus was fully man. That He died and was placed in the tomb like any other man and if a man can not be raised from the dead then Jesus Himself could not have risen to life again.
And he goes on to say, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” What he is saying is this – you accepted this truth when you were baptized and even proclaimed it when you accepted God’s gift of grace that Jesus has been raised from the dead. That was the message that Paul preached – and that message would be nothing more than a lie, if it were not true – it would be false and if the message is false so is your faith! Because it would be a faith in a crucified man, not in the risen Christ!
Now, I don’t know about you, but I see no good coming out of faith in a dead person! Buddha can not hear or help those that pray to him – Mohammad can not hear or help those that pray to him – let’s face it, Mary, Jesus’ mother, can not hear or help those that pray to her – why? Because they are dead and buried – but Jesus has defeated death and sits at the right hand of God as our advocate. He rose from the tomb which is something that these others have not done.
Paul makes it even stronger – “More than that (he says), we are then found to be false witnesses about God”. The New Revised Standard Bible says it this way, “We are even found to be misrepresenting God”. The wording here means, “we are proved to be,” convicted of being false witnesses. Its not a difference between truth and mistake – Paul does not say that he would have been making a mistake – he says that he would be found guilty of falsehood about God. And what was it that Paul use to do? He use to hunt down those that were guilty of bearing false witness about God! And then they were put in prison and some were even stoned.
Paul says that “we are then found to be false witnesses about God, (why?) for we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead. But He did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.” It makes perfect sense doesn’t it? He says, we would be lying to you when we say that Jesus was raised from the dead, if in fact the dead are not raised. If God is unable to raise the dead how could He have raised Jesus? You see, “if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.” Paul was reminding them about something they held to be true, something that was historical – that Jesus rose from the tomb. They believed that!
Then he really hits them below the belt – “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” And I would have to say the same thing – if you call yourself a Christian and don’t believe in the resurrection, you are still in your sins! You have nothing to live for! Your faith is not really faith! Because a dead redeemer is no redeemer! Christ’s resurrection is the pledge of His divine power. What does Romans 4:25 say? He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. He was raised for our justification. According to Acts 5:31, “God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel”, and not only for Israel, but each and every one of us! All of this is a waste of time, if Jesus has not been raised from the dead.
Not only for us, but for “those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.” This is impossible! We are told that all people will stand before the throne of God on judgment day – all people are going to rise again! But the Christian wants that day to come! For we will leave this old life behind and start a new one with our Lord and Savior! Our faith in God and our work for Him can not be dissolved into nothing!
“If only in this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” If this is the extent of our faith – if we only believe in the here and now – if that’s how shallow our belief is, that only while living we have hope in Christ – then we are to be pitied more than any other person on earth.
An elderly church goer heard one of our modern so called preachers – I’m not sure how they can be called a preacher if they fail to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, but that is what they call themselves – and after listening to this preacher on the radio, and hearing that Jesus never rose from the grave, that it was all untrue, that Jesus was just a really good teacher and someone we should learn the basics of life from – this dear old saint concluded that everything she had believed about Christianity was untrue and figured that there was nothing to live for and committed suicide. Let’s face it – there is nothing to live for outside of Jesus Christ!
For “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those of those who have fallen asleep.” What’s Paul talking about here? Well, we need to go back to the book of Leviticus 23:9-10; “The Lord spoke to Moses: 10 Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest.” In other words, the first part of the harvest – there is going to be more grain but bring the first fruits to the Lord. When it comes to us and death – Jesus was the first fruit of the harvest – and we are the harvest. He is not the only one to be raised from the dead, there is more to the harvest than one – we are going to be raised up to meet Him in the air – that’s the promise we’ve been given by God!
As Christians, we are not to focus on our death, but on our life! Our focus should be on eternal life! Since we have this hope, that physical death is nothing but a portal to another level of existence, the best level of existence, our earthly lives should be radically transformed. Barbara Brown Taylor said, “The power of God is now and has always been the power to raise us from the dead. Period. It is not about us. It is about God.”
Let’s start living for there is a resurrection to eternal life for those that call upon the name of Jesus!