Sermon Title: If, Then
Sermon Text: 1 Corinthians 15:12-20
by Andrew Ogea
04/23/17

 

Community Group Discussion Questions:

1. The Apostle Paul used If/Then statements to argue for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What are some common or humorous if/then statements that you use, or that you have heard growing up? (e.g. If you give them an inch, they'll take a mile. If you are not good, you won't get anything this year from Santa. If you eat watermelon seeds, then watermelons will grow out of your ears.). Make it fun!

2. The resurrection of Christ amplifies our joy in this life (it turns up the power of Christ in our lives to give us joy in the midst of any circumstance). In what ways have you witnessed another believer having joy, or experienced joy yourself, when it seemed that circumstances should cause misery.

3. The resurrection of Jesus Christ assures our trust in Him (our trust is not useless). People may fail us, but Jesus never will. Describe some ways that your trust has been lost in something or someone? In what ways has your trust in Jesus grown throughout your journey as a Christian?

4. Because Jesus rose from the grave, he has proven that He has all the power necessary to provide us with everything that need or that you lack. What is the biggest "if" in your life right now? In what ways will you trust in Jesus to be your "then"?

 

Sermon Notes:

Good morning. It is so good to see you all today. I want to thank Pastor Larry for giving me the opportunity to preach again. For months, he has been faithful to prepare a message every week, which is a tedious task. And, accomplishes that on top of everything else he does. So, this gives him a chance to do everything else that he does and also plan ahead for his future messages and direction for our church.

So, last week, on Easter, we discussed the significance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, what it says about him, and what it means for us. We learned that the proof of the resurrection is in the power of the Good News to change lives. The promise of the Good News is that it will save us if we firmly believe and our faith can be built upon it. What an incredible promise to be given.

But, what is the Good News? It was summed up in one verse: Jesus Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried, and on the third day he rose again. Many people died on a cross in those days, but only Jesus died for the sins of the world! And his resurrection proved that the forgiveness of our sins was accomplished through him. 

And we have two incredible proofs that it actually happened, First, the Old Testament prophets proclaimed it in their writings 800 year before,1000 years before, and even further back than that. That alone is powerful testimony that should be taken seriously! 

We also have the testimony from eyewitnesses. Last week we saw that each one of them had lost hope that the ministry of Christ was actually going to be fulfilled, and that he would do what he said he would do: rise from the dead. But, we know hope was soon regained and a passion for ministry grew to be unshakable because they saw the risen savior.

Peter, the denier of Christ became a declarer of the gospel and thousands were saved. The disciples, who deserted Jesus after his arrest were later sent out in his name and suffered persecution even unto death because of their testimony that had seen the risen Lord.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, who doubted whether his brother was actually the Son of God later became the leader of the church in Jerusalem and was martyred for his faith in Jesus that was solidified when he saw him alive after he had died. 

Five hundred witnesses, were able to defend the testimony of the disciples because they too had seen the resurrected messiah. And, then there was Paul, who persecuted Christians harshly. The persecutor became a sold out, all for Jesus preacher, who is greatest missionary this world has ever known because he saw the risen Lord.

And, it was this Good News the Corinthians had originally heard, believed, and received in their hearts. They believed that Jesus Christ had died on the cross to forgive their sins, that he was buried, and that he rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures. And it is at this point in the letter that we return today. Look at what is said next in verses 12 and 13 of 1 Corinthians chapter 15,

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? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either.

So, they believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead, but another false belief had been spreading among them that no one else will rise from the dead. They weren’t denying the resurrection of Jesus, only the future resurrection of believers.  

And Paul used in his Greek language, a common literary tool to present truth to them that they are wrong. He used conditional sentences: if, then statements. And, this is something that we use all of the time in our English language as well. This week, I asked Bronie, Pastor Jay’s wife, for some help in brainstorming the different ways that we use if, then statements. So she did, and these are some of them: 

Uses of If, Then Statements

1. Promise - “If you accept my proposal, then I will marry you.”

2. Expectation/Hope - “If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, then we can go to the park.”

3. Warning - “If you disobey, then you will suffer the consequences.”

4. Result/Effect - “If it rains, then the parade will be cancelled.”

5. Mathematics - “If 2x + 4 = 20, Then x = 8.”

6. Logical Deduction - “If Emily closed the door, then the cat is locked outside.”

7. Logical Fallacy (Error) - “Penguins are black and white. If some TV shows are black and white, then some penguins are old TV shows.

So, thank you Bronie. You are really smart. So these are some of the uses of the if/then statement. So, then I called Luis, our resident comedian on staff and asked him to help me think of some funny ways that if/then statements are used. And he proceeded to send me numerous examples:

If I had a pet dinosaur, then I would dead because it would eat me! (Because it’s a dinosaur Andrew, not a dog!) If at first you don’t succeed, then destroy all the evidence that you ever tried to succeed. If I can eat with my mouth closed, then you can most certainly stop smacking by eating with your mouth closed too!

Then of course there are the common ones like: If you give them an inch, then they’ll………. move forward very slowly. He wanted me to tell you that the fact that you would say “take a mile” is absolutely ridiculous.

Then he sent me this picture. And said, If you shoot a video with no shoes on, then people might think that you’re crazy or something is wrong with you. So, thank you Luis for your brilliant help on such important matters. 

So, there are so many uses for the if, then statements. But, Paul uses conditional if/then statements for the sake of argument for the resurrection of the dead. And his argument is founded on the fact the Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Why is this so important…the truth that there is a resurrection of the dead? Why does this matter for us? 

Well, in regard to our future, it matters in every way. And, next week, Jay Victory, my friend and fellow pastor here at Northshore, he is going to share a message about that, and you don’t want to miss it because resurrection most certainly matters for our future. It is most certainly promised to us, but as we learned last week, it is the power of God that raised Jesus from the dead that makes the promise possible. 

But in this passage of Scripture, we are given some amazing truths that are made possible only because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Resurrection of the dead is one and we’ll look at that next week, but our scripture for today answers this question very well: “Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ essential for our faith today?” Let’s look in verses 14-15 to discover the first truth:

For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 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.

Why is the Resurrection of Jesus Essential for our Faith?

1. Accredits our Testimony

So, why is the resurrection of Jesus essential for our faith today? The first reason is that it accredits our testimony. Accredit means to give credit to something. In an official capacity though, it also means to give authority to something or someone when certain standards have been met. 

Many of you have heard of accrediting agencies which evaluate schools on their overall mission, objectives and goals, the quality of education, the specifics of curriculum, and the reputation of faculty. Those schools that meet meet certain standards of evaluation in these areas receive accreditation. So, universities that are accredited are usually more reputable than those that are not. 

In this sense, because Jesus Christ rose from the dead, he gives authority to our testimony because God’s standards for the Good News were met when he rose from the dead. It had to happen or else all of the story would be fabricated. If he had not risen, then as it states here, our preaching is useless, and we would all be lying about God. Listen to what 1 John 5 says about this:

Since we believe human testimony, surely we can believe the greater testimony that comes from God. And God has testified about his Son. All who believe in the Son of God know in their hearts that this testimony is true.  Those who don’t believe this are actually calling God a liar because they don’t believe what God has testified about his Son. And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life. 

If Christ was not raised, then all our preaching is useless. But Christ has been raised, and it is essential for our faith today because he has accredited our testimony.  So, with confidence, you too can share the testimony of your faith which has been given authority by Jesus because he set the rules when he rose from the dead. He accredits our testimony. He gives it authority! Why else is the resurrection essential for our faith today?

Packed in there in verse 14, between our preaching being useless and us being liars if the resurrection is not true, is a statement that you don’t want pass over. Look at it again,

And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your trust is useless.

Why is the Resurrection of Jesus Essential for our Faith?

2. Assures Our Trust

Why is the resurrection essential, because it assures our trust in God. Without it, our trust in God is useless. Now, I remind you that Paul is writing this letter from Ephesus to the church in Corinth that started three years previously. So, Paul is now planting this church in Ephesus. Yet three to four years later, he a writes a letter to the Ephesian church from prison.

He is in prison because he had preaching the Good News, and he was being persecuted for it. However, in his letter, that we know as the book of Ephesians, we get a glimpse of his incredible trust in God that is overwhelming despite the circumstances of life. In prison he writes,

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 

Because Christ rose from the dead, we have assurance that our trust in God is not useless. It doesn’t matter our circumstances. Our trust is firm because Christ has made his home in our hearts and our roots have grown deep in God’s love and keep us strong. That letter can be written from our hearts no matter where we are in life.

Just a few weeks ago, a dear sister in Christ named Fran, who is a part of Northshore Church, found out that she has cancer. It is a word that has brought new circumstances and life changes for many of us here today.  The same is true for Fran. She will have to have surgery at the beginning of May to remove the cancer, and will have to have reconstructive surgery to repair her body afterward.

Fran and her husband have become friends of mine over the past few month so I was shocked and saddened by the news as well. But, I wanted to lift her spirits, and so, I sent a text message encouraging her to read 2 Corinthians chapter 1 and 4 because those verses have been especially helpful to me in times of trouble and when I need some perspective.

So, she said she would read them immediately the same day and responded, “I read. I highlighted. I spoke out these words of faithfulness. And I will continue to do so! Thanks so much.

Three days later, I sent her another message. I said, “I have been praying for you all weekend.” And then, I quoted the chorus of one of my father’s favorite songs that he has quoted over me. “when you don’t understand, can’t see his plan, can’t trace his hand, we can trust the heart of the Lord.”

She responded to me with these words. “Thank you so much. But sometimes when we are patient and look at the trail as it unfolds, his plan can often be seen. Just a few months ago, there was an urgency inside of me to lose weight and I followed through with that. He was preparing me for what lies ahead. He’s a good, good Father. Thank you so much for your prayers. They mean the world to me. 

There are those humbling moments as pastors, when we walk through the worst with people, and their faith and their trust ends up being more encouraging to us then our words are to them. This with was the case with Fran! 

Right now she is encountering some of the biggest “ifs” in her life. She told me that she battles with them on rough days. “If I don’t have the surgery, then what?” “If I can’t take care of my family, then what?” “If the pain is unbearable, then what?” “If this surgery is unsuccessful, then what?” She has to battle it all.

Yet, in the midst of all, her trust is assured in Jesus, and the scripture tells us that this is all possible because Jesus Christ rose from grave. Our trust is not useless. It is secure in Him. So, it accredits our testimony, it assures our trust. What else?

And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost!

Why is the Resurrection of Jesus Essential for our Faith?

3. Affirms Our Salvation

Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ essential for faith today? Because it affirms our salvation.  It says here that our faith is useless if Christ has not raised from the dead. His resurrection is affirmation of our salvation

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

What is salvation? It is being made right with God. Sin caused everything to be out of balance in our relationship God. It is separates us from him. However, it is our faith in Jesus Christ that makes everything become right. And it is true for everyone, no matter who you are. The resurrection proves that Jesus has the authority through his death to make us alive with God. 

The alternative to this is that we would still be under condemnation, still guilty of our sins. And, not only us, but everyone else who has died believing in Christ. They would still be condemned for their sins also if Christ had not risen. Romans 8 speaks to this very thing:

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.  (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is essential to our faith today because it affirms our salvation. Without it our faith would be useless, and we would stand before God condemned for our sins. So, the resurrection accredits our testimony, assures our trust, affirms our salvation, and finally let’s look at our last If, then statement:

And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.

Why is the Resurrection of Jesus Essential for our Faith?

4. Amplifies Our Joy

The resurrection of Christ is essential to our faith today because it amplifies our joy.  Christ was the first of the great harvest of others who will be raised. If we only believe that Jesus rose from the dead and there is nothing else for any of us, then we are the most miserable people in the world. But, its not true. The resurrection of Jesus Christ provides the power to turn misery into joy. 

“In a little while you won’t see me anymore. But a little while after that, you will see me again.” Some of the disciples asked each other, “What does he mean when he says, ‘In a little while you won’t see me, but then you will see me,’ and ‘I am going to the Father’? And what does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand.” Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.

Pastor Larry came in to my office the other day and picked up an electric guitar that one of our church members donated to be used by the church. He started picking away on the guitar, and while you could hear it, you can’t hear the fullness of it unless it is plugged in to an amplifier.

So, imagine having the best electric guitar in the world and having no amplifier to plug it in to and hear the sound that it makes. Well, in the same way, we have the best news in the world that Jesus Christ provided forgiveness for our sins through his death on the cross, and we believe that we too will one day rise from grave because he rose from the grave.

It is the resurrection that amplifies the power for this truth. Without it we only have hope for this life and are miserable just like the best electric guitar in the world is miserable without an amplifier.

On Friday, my neighbor was brought home from the hospital. He is a 92 year old WWII veteran. who is battling cancer and pneumonia. He and his wife have married for 62 years. The reason they brought him home is because Hospice has been called in and they want him comfortable for his last days here on earth. 

They both are believers, and they have incredible strength. I have never heard either of them complain. In fact, ive months ago he snapped his femur bone after a fall. And, I went over there as the first responders arrived. And, as they were wheeling him out, with a big smile his face, “oh hey pastor, I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.” 

I’ve never heard his wife complain. Strong faith in Christ. On Friday we prayed together after we got Mr. Jim settled in his bed. And after we got done praying she looked up and smiled at me, and tapped her side. She said, “We are going to be just fine, because guess what I have right here? I’ve Jesus on my side! We’ve got Jesus on our side.” 

If we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world. There is no misery in that house. There is only belief that Christ rose from dead, and the knowledge that we too will rise with him amplifies our joy. 

So, we have heard some powerful if, then statements. And I want to end by asking you a question.  What is the biggest “if” in your life right now? 

Maybe your “if” is job related. If I lose my job, then what? How long can we survive? If I get transferred, then what? Will we have to pack up and move away? This is home, we love it here. If we lose our house, then what? Many of you have faced that over the past year. Oil prices, Cut back. Stores closing. All sorts of reasons that you are facing a big “if.”

Maybe your “if” is related to a relationship. If I’m called that name again at school. If I to deal with this again in my marriage. If he does that again, then I don’t know. If she leaves, then what? 

Maybe your “if” is health related. If the test is positive. If I hear the doctor say those words. If I have to have that surgery. If this is how I am going to feel for the rest of my life. If hospice is called in?

Maybe your “if” is spiritual in nature. If I make this decision, what would God think? If I die without believing, then what? If I continue to live in sin, then what? If I believe in Jesus, then what?

The struggle is real. We all face “ifs” in our life. But the great news is that Jesus Christ has done everything necessary to be our “then.” Jesus it the then to our if. If we die, then we will rise with Jesus who was the first. If we share our testimony with others, then it is Jesus that gives it authority and the power to change lives.

As we struggle through the trials of this life, if we trust in Jesus, then he will be our strength. Then he will be our comfort. Then, he will be our answer. Then, he will be our wisdom. Then he will be our hope. Our trust will not be useless.

If we don’t know whether we are saved. Then Jesus is the answer. He affirms our salvation. If we have faith, it will not be useless, because he is faithful and just to forgive and we will no longer stand guilty in our sins. What is your “if” today? The challenge for us all is do you choose Jesus. Do you trust in Jesus to be your then. 

He has all the power necessary to provide you with everything that need or that you lack because he was raised to life. Let’s pray.