.... with the Winner
My son Josh, and he gave me permission to tell this story.
When he was a little fellow, on Saturday night we'd be watching Hockey Night in Canada, and he'd come upstairs, he seemed to always have to go to the bathroom often on Saturday night. I don't know why that is, but he'd come upstairs and try and sneak a peak at the TV to see what was going on, as far as the hockey was going. And he'd come up and he'd go, I'd say to him, "Josh", who you voting for". He'd say, "Who's playing?" "The Leafs and the Canadiens".
There's a a bit of tension in our house on that one.
He'd say, "Who's winning".
I'd say, "That doesn't matter, who do you cheer for?"
He'd say, "Well, who's winning?"
He wanted to be on side with the winner. We see how winner react. The Jays win the series back to back. The big parades running down the street. The Mayor handing over the key to the City. The crowds so excited. Don't we just love it to see our Mayor or Premier giving a jersey to the Governor of whatever State we beat, and he have to put it on and raise our flag on his pole. Don't we just love to see that, as winners.
We like to see all of that, ah that victory, the smell of victory. Ah, there is a real smell of victory in I Corinthians 15, beginning at verse 50, that I'd like to read with you. And Paul says, "I declare to you brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable."
I can still hear the pages flipping, so I'll slow down.
"Listen, I'll tell you a mystery; we will all not sleep, but we will all be changed. In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, for the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal with the immortality. And when the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true, `Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death is your victory, where O death is your sting'. The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God who gave us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, stand firm, let nothing move you, always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord. Because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.
This section is all about the resurrection, this is all about hope. This is all about the we win part, that there is an end.
The context? Where is Paul talking about this, in Corinth, sin City. He's talking about a city that's just rampant with theology. Everybody's believing whatever they want to believe, weaving it all together. He's talking to a city where even the Christians are challenged with sin, because it's so rampant around them. Does this sound like anywhere we know? It sounds alot like our context. Where people are worshipping money, and people are worshipping all kinds of other things other than God, and Paul's speaking into this context to say. "Wait a minute, we have hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have victory, in Jesus.
This is a kind of rhetorical question? Who wants to be a Winner? We know what it's like to be on a losing time. The last two years I played softball I was on a losing team. I didn't like it. At the end of the year when we weren't was up to snuff, I didn't like it. I wanted to be a winner. I wanted to be there on championship day. I wanted to be a winner, whether I played chess or checkers or board games. It's fun to pay. It's not whether you win or lose or how you play the game ... sure. That's by people who always lose, that's their saying.
Or video games. I watch my kids, "Aaahh, I made it to level 12 and almost made it to level 13, but aaahh".
Don't we anticipate greater things when we have a winning record. When you're out there and you're doing really well, don't you expect to continue to do well. When your hockey team is at the top of the standings, the next game you go with the anticipation that they're going to ... win - be the victor.
Does the winner behave like a loser? Can you imagine, Joe Carter pop out that ball, it goes out, home run, we win, and everybody stays in their seat ummm.
Christians sometimes behave like the loser. We walk around with our heads a little lower. We're afraid to speak up sometimes. We're not behaving like the winners. We win. We're on the winning side. We're part of the winning team. The victory is won. We've got some battles to go through. But we already know the score at the end of the game. We're on the winning team.
So how do we claim this victory. Let's look back at these passages to see what it means to claim the victory. Let's first look at the great transformation that takes place.
Beginning at verse 50 again, it says, "Now, I say this again brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Nor does corruption inherit corruption".
Flesh and blood is not the victor. These bodies aren't where the victory is housed, is anchored. The victory is in the incorruptible and it's not on our own. This flesh and blood can do so many things, but man's effort is goodness. But God's effort in us is holiness. Where God makes us incorruptible, where God lifts us up, where God builds us imperishable. Corruption does not inherit perfection or holiness, corruption inherits the grave.
It's the holiness of God, it's that knaughing not yet in our soul It's that reborn Christian, it's that new being that's inside of us that inherits the kingdom.
Verse 51, "Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep but we shall be changed".
Now everybody, that's gotta drop to mind that little phrase you all see in the nursery right, we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.
But this is talking about God's timing. It's God saying, "Hey, Christian, not all of you are gonna pass away. This generation may, and the next generation may. Paul didn't know when it was written what was gonna happen. But not all Christians are gonna pass away before the time comes, before the Lord comes again, like a thief in the night. So anybody who can give you the date and set it down and hammer it in for you, some cultish religion or such, they can tell you the date. By mere fact that they tell you the date they're wrong. Because it's in God's time. Not by man's time. And at that date, we will be changed.
"In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed."
The last trumpet. The culmination of history. The coming of the Lord. The dead will be raised. And we will all be changed. Believers will be changed and they will be changed to an imperishable body, then goes and celebrate the presence of the Lord for ever.
The bad will also be raised, but there fate is not quite so good. They're going to wind up having a body imperishable for eternal suffering.
But for us it's victory. For the Christian it's hope. It's victory for the believer. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. Change is not an option. For believers there is no place for imperfection in heaven. There is two worlds here, there's the fleshly world, the world that we live in and then there's the perfectly heavenly and spiritually realm.
We're going from the temporal, from disease and illness, yes, tragedy, to eternal bliss with God. This great transformation set us up for the great triumph.
"So when the corruptible has put on the incorruptible, and the mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass that which is written, `Death, is swallowed up in victory, Death, where is thy sting, oh hades, where is thy victory'.
The sting is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. What is this victory? It is the rebirth. It's down with the old man. It's that celebrating conversion. It's that now, and not yet, it's that ... I am now an eternal being and I will be perfect and able to claim the victory for eternity.
Second Corinthians 5:17 - "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old is gone, the new is come. A spiritual being, set up for eternity. Listen to Paul's words, he puts out such a strong taunt, you can see his finger waving at Death, and at sin and at evil. "O Death, where is your sting, oh Death, where is your victory", as he quotes the Psalmist. His is the strongest language. This is Paul, pointing and waggling the finger saying, "We win, we win in Christ, we win". It's sin that separates us from God. It's victory that brings us close. The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. We don't rely on the old man for obedience. We can't do it. We can't make it on our own. It's not about legalism. It's not about a check list of how do I make it to imperishable. It's about falling on the grace of God. It's about obedience, relying on Christ alone for victory. And it's in Christ that we have victory. Legalism has a price that we can't pay, but grace is free.
"Therefore since the children share in the flesh and blood, he, himself likewise also partook of the same. That through death he might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is the Devil, and might free those who through fear of death
were subject to slavery all of their lives". That's Hebrews 2, beginning at verse 14.
Death is the tool of Satan. Jesus conquered that. It's fear of death that makes us do silly things. It's the obedience to our own flesh, instead of our obedience to Christ, relying on God, which makes us do foolish things.
I'm waiting for my wife's reaction when I do this. I've used this quote before, it's just fabulous. It's by James McGuinley, and he's an old Scotsman who preached up in Orangeville and Alton, think it was in the 30's or 50's, somewhere in that stretch. I was listening to one of his sermons and he talks about the difference between good and bad. What it is to be a Christian. I'll give you a bit of Scottish brogue, cause it's perfect, "The difference between being a Christian and a non-Christian isn't the difference being good and bad, it's a difference being dead or being alive." I love that quote. And it's what it is. The differences between being dead or being alive. Freedom from death in Christ, victory in Jesus.
Revelation 21, verse 3 and following: - "And I heard a voice from the throne saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is among men, and he will dwell among them. And they shall be his people, and God himself will be among them. And he will wipe away every tear from their eyes. And there will no longer be any death. There will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain."
The first things are past away, death has no hold on the Christian. Death has no hold on our lives. We grieve in these times. We grieve for the losses. We grieve for tragedy, but this soul, the core of our being, is secure and safe, and anchored. And because of that we give great thanksgiving to God. We look at the great transformation. What is it? What are we going to do? We're going to inherit the imperishable, and that it's a great triumph over death and our response should be, "O Thank You God" and give him great thanksgiving.
"But thanks be to God, who gives us the great victory, through the Lord Jesus Christ." It's all because of God. It's all because this awesome creator of the universe came down to serve people, to love and draw people to himself. Victory in Jesus Christ. He manifested himself here. This is his body. This is the light of the world. This is the place that has to radiate the triumph. This is the place that has to show thanksgiving so powerfully in everyday life that people are drawn to the light. This is his redemption centres. We can hang a sign "Redemption Centre" on the door, because God works here amongst his people, because he wants us to bring people in and he wants us to fill people up, and that he wants us to allow them to claim the victory, and then he wants them to give him thanks.
Jesus Christ paid the greatest price. I was at a conference where we were talking about community and it really hit home when they started talking about the Trinity. The Trinity is the perfect example about community, completely bound together for eternity. Loving, filling, nurturing, growing ... growing, yea OK ... growing an immutable God, but we'll work that out sometime. But the idea that this is the perfect relationship, so bound, so close together, so filling one another, so perfectly meeting each other's needs, and then the Father tears from that the Son, to pay a price for us. Perfect unity.
Any lives that are touched by divorce, in this temporal sense, you can go, `that's agonizing'. You can see people who that's happened to. That's, that just ... aaahh ... then God tore his Son out of the Trinity, for you and for me. He paid the greatest price, and now what do we owe, eternal thanks. This is like a ... Yaaa Oooo ... this is that part when they hand out the trophies, we all stand and go ... Yaaaaa. Every day of our lives we need to wake up and remember, Lord, you did this for me. I have victory because of you.
"But thanks be to God who leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifest through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of him in every place, knowing the victory in Christ."
Oswald Chambers says, "Your Christian faith, as a matter of thanksgiving, need to be at the very power centre of your being." We need to radiate it in every aspect of life. How else can you say Thank-you for something with eternal ramifications. Every morning we should get up and drop to our knees and say, "Lord, today I commit absolutely everything to you." Absolutely everything. There should be nothing that we withhold from God. It would help change our mindset too during the day. It's a good too. But we need to remember also that we owe God everything. We owe him our resources, we owe him our time, we owe him that we brush our teeth well. We do all things well as a response, as a thanksgiving to God.
Paul set us up in this. He walks us through and he says, Isn't that a great transformation. Isn't that a great triumph. Now don't you really wanna give a great thanksgiving. And then he goes, "Bang", and this is what you're gonna do with it. He gives us a great exhortation to end.
The passage begins, "Therefore", because all of this really great stuff happens in the verses before, now we're gonna talk about action. "My beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. Be true to your faith."
The words steadfast and immovable in the Greek, would have triggered the Jewish believers as well. One of those things you've probably heard before, but in Hebrew when they want to emphasize, they don't have superlatives in Hebrews, what they do is go, "Bang, Bang", successive thoughts. Same words, or same type of words, steadfast, immovable, he's moving up the scale. He's saying drive those roots deep. He's saying, then we will no longer will be infants tossed back and forth on the waves, and blowing here and there, by every wind of teaching, and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. That's Ephesians 4:14. We need to learn, we need to grow. When we talk about being steadfast and immovable, Paul doesn't mean to be steadfast in error. He doesn't mean be steadfast and don't reach people.
What Paul is saying is `drive your roots down'. There's core values in your faith. There are doctrines that we absolutely do not move on. We never move on. And we're like a tree where we grow up and we continue to grow and nourish from those roots that we've driven into the ground, that we're steadfast and immovable. Now the branches are gonna sway. We're gonna be afraid to look up there. There's gonna be a little different presentation, aah, sometimes the leaves fall off. We're gonna be flexible in the top. We're gonna learn what it is, OK, I need to reach these people for God, but I am not giving up on my faith. My roots are deep and I am not moving. We need to nourish those.
We need to remember, in this world that thinks there's alot of ways to get to heaven, that they are wrong. There's one name under heaven. And we have to stand there, firmly rooted. Paul's saying, be steadfast. You want to show victory in Christ, then you show you believe in something. My favourite words are, "We need input to stay input". You wanna grow in your faith, get your roots down there, get them solid. Keep filling and pouring into your life. Keep your studies up. Keep growing in the word of God. Keep sharing with your friends. Keep praying together. Keep bringing it in. We have lots of opportunities to serve and all other kinds of aspects of our lives as well, and I'm gonna get there. But we need to make sure that we take care of the input side. If you stop feeding the tree it dies, and it becomes much more susceptible to a strong wind. We need to stay put, we need input. We need to be driving those roots down. Always abounding in the work of the Lord. Eeeps ... the idea of work.
Another good quote I got this weekend was, "It's not about time, it's all about priority. Do you believe that Jesus Christ died for you? Do you believe that you will be transformed? Do you believe that you have this hope, this triumphant victory? Do you believe that anyone else in this community needs to know about it? Do you believe that we need to edify and build up one another? There is a place to serve that says, I believe.
Sometimes those calls from the front says, "Oh please, we need helpers, or teachers", or ... sometime we miss the point. God calls us to serve because he gave us everything and everything belongs to him. And so we will always abounding in the work of the Lord, we need to serve. We need input to stay put, but you need output to grow. You do need output to grow. You need to grow congregations. You need to grow in your faith. You need to continue to reach the world for Christ. God honours our work, even missionaries. I had a missionary come to our church and he said, "for 15 years I preached in this tribe, and I can't do it anymore". The first e-mail he got when he got home was that there were two conversions. There had been none. So it doesn't always feel that work has been reaching our own standards, but God says, do it, and I will honour it.
So Paul says, because you have had this great victory, practice, practice, practice. Stanley Cup champions, the day before the day, they are on the ice, they were skating before they won. We win, the results are guaranteed, but that make you more excited about continuing to go out there and do it. Doesn't it make you say, "Oh, I can't fail. I can fail on my terms, but God's not gonna let my work fail. Somewhere, somewhere down the pipe, somebody gonna be touched by this. We don't know how God's gonna work this wonderful miracle. It's all in his strength and power and in his spirit, but we know he can do it. Spirals that happen years later, that we don't know how we touched, but the results are guaranteed. We will not labour in vain in the Lord. So what does this look like. First of all, we shouldn't have any fear. We should never be afraid to go out and witness. I'll tell you that was a core thing for me. It was like, `yuh ...' I'm gonna have a hard time going out there and making that initial contact sometimes. Then all of a sudden I said, what can I possibly lose. God has guaranteed the results. He died for me, the least I can do is say his name. So we shouldn't have any fear. We should continue to be equipped, studying, learning, being committed to the body of Christ, continuing to grow and reach out. We need to be abounding in the work of the Lord. This is no sideline. There comes a point in our church life, in our Christian walk when we have to stop and say, this is my life. Might be a little radical for some of you, but this is it. Our faith. My job's gonna disappear. My family will one day pass away, (sorry guys). Everything is temporal, except the body of Christ is eternal. This isn't a sideline effort, and should never be a sideline effort for any of us. This is it. The only thing you're ever gonna make an impact on is gonna last forever, is you and the body of Christ.
I just wanna read from Ephesians 4:16 -- "From him every supporting ligament grows and builds itself up in love and as each part does it work."
I have never got up in the morning and left my arm in bed. Never done it. That just doesn't make any sense. This body that gathers together, whenever we have less than a 100% participation, we're leaving fingers and arms and legs behind, and we're hobbling. How can we justify hobbling the body of Christ.
When you go back to the World Series and that ball that went over the fence, everything went crazy. There were grown men hugging each other on the field. Jumping into each other's arms. From the stands, the people were crazy. Hats were flying, everything was crazy. And they won one year a trophy. You have eternal victory, you have Jesus Christ in here. Doesn't it just wanna make you explode. Doesn't it make you wanna say, "Aaah". New Christians, I love watching new Christians, because they haven't learnt how to temper it yet. They are excited, and they let you know they are excited. Wow ... Jesus saves, Jesus saves and I wanna tell you about it.
We will have a great transformation. We can claim the great triumph, victory in Jesus. We will give him great thanksgiving and now the great exhortation. This is the part where when we leave and go back out into the world we have to tell them we win. It might mean that we'll just carry our chin a little higher when we share our faith, or, "Oh, did you watch the game on TV on Sunday morning" ... "No, I didn't, I was in church, I was celebrating my faith, I was talking to Jesus". We need to live like winners. Everytime you get in your church on Sunday mornings, you live like a winner. Your neighbours are looking out saying , "There they go again", but you're showing a commitment. We just need to make that commitment rounded in every aspect of life, and say, "Hey, I'm going to Prayer Meeting, you wanna come". "Why would I wanna go to Prayer Meeting?" "You get to talk to God".
How do we claim the victory? This week it's about living like you have the victory. Living like winners. Ball caps say "I'm a Champion". We win. It makes life so much easier when you don't have to look through the eyes of uphill battles. Oh, we have struggles. They don't go away. God likes to temper us that way, makes us really strong. But we know in the end we win. This day will pass like the twinkling of an eye. Then we will be with him imperishable. And we need to link arms with as many people as we can get on the way. Say, come on, I wanna show you something, I wanna show you victory. Come join the winning team. That's an easy one to sell. You're on the losing team now. We'll make you a trade. Come on over.
So this week I just want you to think in your head, when you meet a co-worker, when you meet a friend, when you see someone passing in the street, when you get asked that question, "what a beautiful day". How do I live all those as a winner. "It's a beautiful day because God made it that way. My Lord set that sun to shine up there today in an awesome way. My heart rejoices when I see the work of the Creator in every sunshine." You don't have to say, "Yea, kinda nice, check it out on the Weather Channel." There is another way to sound like a winner in everything we do.
"Heavenly Father, we thank you for who you are. An awesome God, who, in his infinite wisdom, and infinite will and love, claimed a people in the perfect way. In a way that caused you to suffer Lord, but drew people to you in an incredible way. Lord, we thank you for your Son, we thank you that he died, we thank you that he was buried and, hallelujah Lord, that he arose. And we thank you Lord for the resurrection. Lord, I pray that we can lay claim to that resurrection hope, that resurrection victory and that we can live like winners. We're on your team Lord, charge us, excite us, for this week ahead of us. May we radiate the love of Christ everywhere we go. May we serve as your hands in this world, may we love as your heart in this world, and Lord, may we swing our doors open wide and call the world in that they may know you as light and hope of this world. Lord, we thank you for the victory. In Jesus Name, Amen.