Inter-Community Church of God
April 4, 2021 Service
      • Psalm 118:1–2GNB

      • Psalm 118:14–24GNB

  • The Gospel of Salvation

    On this day we once again celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    We celebrate this in a country that speaks of being of “Christian Nation” and “Founded on Christian Values,” yet today, on the day Christians should most celebrate their faith in the living Christ, not quite 4 out of 10 people in our country who claim that they are Christian will even attempt to attend a worship service, online or in person.
    The Easter Bunny has become more popular than the Son of God who died for our sins.
    The idea that we are a Christian Nation is a result of a cultural expression of American Patriotism that has been equated with Christianity. We have “Christened our Patriotism” but believe in false gods.
    The result is amplified in the events we saw on January 6th, when men and women brandishing firearms and waving bibles stormed the capital building, yelling profanities and calling for the death or execution of our elected officials.
    That is not Christ at work. It is a warped cultural idea of being favored by God because of everything we have stolen and plundered in this great land that was not empty of people when the settlers flooded in. The descendants of white Europeans, a group of which I must include myself, has stolen the true meaning of being a follower of Jesus.
    A Christian is someone who has faced the hard realities of sin in their own lives, and have heard the good news that God loves them so much that he sent His Son to die for the penalty of those sins, and humbly asked forgiveness because of the shed blood of Jesus. And even more, a Christian is one whose life has been surrendered to the savior of our souls.

    Our Encounter With the Resurrect Jesus Should Change Our Lives.

    And if it doesn’t, why not?
    In my lifetime, church attendance is now less than half, maybe only 1/3, of what it was in the decade when I was born. Our American Cultural Christianity is effectively on its deathbed, and in an American Cultural form, cannot survive.
    One would think that, if 75% of Americans will not even be in church in person or online today, the idea of the resurrection of Jesus Christ must be unbelievable to most. Surprisingly, that isn’t the way it is.
    Aaron Earls writes, in an article for LifeWay Research, (What Do Americans Actually Believe About the Resurrection?, Mar 26, 2021)
    “Two-thirds of American adults (66%) say they believe the biblical accounts of the physical resurrection of Jesus are completely accurate, according to the 2020 State of Theology from Lifeway Research. One in 5 (20%) disagree, and 14% are not sure.”
    That means that “the truthfulness of the resurrection is not as controversial today as many Christians may assume. The bigger issue, however, may be helping Americans recognize the relevance of Jesus rising from the dead.”
    RebeccMcLaughin said of this research, "The idea that someone would say they believe Jesus actually rose from the dead but that this belief would have so little impact on their life that they weren’t even part of a church is truly tragic."
    “But [people] need to hear what difference [the Resurrection] would make. And they need to see it in our lives.
    "If we’re not living as if Jesus is truly Lord, our unbelieving friends won’t have any motivation to wish the resurrection was true—which is often the first step to believe that it is.”
    Personally, I think people like to believe in the resurrection of Jesus because they don’t understand death, because they have superstitions about the spirits of the dead, and at the moment, anyone younger than me is pretty steeped in the modern fictions about vampires and zombies.
    But that is not Jesus. His story is so much different than popular superstition.
    Mark’s Gospel closes with the discovery, by some of the women who supported the mission of Jesus Christ, that the tomb was empty. But this was not just a visit to the graveyard. This was . . .

    A Day Like No Other

    Mark tells the story of what happened after the crucifixion of Jesus like this:
    Mark 15:46–47 ESV
    46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
    So Joseph of Arimathea gets the body of Jesus from the cross and laid him in a tomb and covered it with a stone, and Mary and Mary saw where the tomb was. Remember, it was before sunset, since this was preparation day for the Passover. No questions about where this was.
    But now is the waiting. One night, then a day, then a night and a day, then a third night, and now, finally, the women could go and care for the body of Jesus at the close of the Feast of Unleavened bread, the Passover and the Sabbath. They could hardly rest, through their broken hearts and damaged hopes.
    >>>And so Mark goes on with the record, in Chapter 16,
    Mark 16:1–2 ESV
    1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.
    Here were three women, faithful and devoted to Jesus, two of them mothers of their own adult sons, facing the death of Jesus by going to wash and anoint his body with olive oil, and cover it with myrrh and other spices. So they came early, there was much to do and they were anxious to get it done. The sun was up, but it was early twilight when they started out. Just enough light to see.
    >>>But then they discovered that maybe there were problems with their plan. They knew exactly where they were going, they knew exactly how they would care for the body of Jesus, yet here loomed a big issue. A huge issue. In fact, it was a heavy issue.
    Mark 16:3–4 ESV
    3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.
    Well, that’s both good news and bad news. The good news is that they didn’t have the problem of dealing with the heavy stone. The bad news is that this was not necessarily a good thing. The tomb was unprotected; what if someone cane and stole the body? Then what would they do?
    >>>So as they came closer, they had to decide what to do. It didn’t take long for their thumping chests to make a choice. They went in to where the body had been laid, on a shelf-like niche in the stone.
    Mark 16:5–6 ESV
    5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.
    It didn’t matter that Jesus had told his disciples over and over what would happen in Jerusalem. It didn’t matter that he said he would be killed and on the third day rise again. They didn’t have any way to think about that. It was beyond their experience. Who believes in the impossible? They were adults. This wasn’t the first dead body they had cared for.
    Death is the end of the living, and they were at peace with that idea. But they were totally unprepared for this. And what’s with the guy in white? What’s he doing sitting in a tomb?
    Then his words: “Don’t be alarmed.” Too late! Already alarmed! Adrenaline already pumping. Can barely stand still. Want to run.
    “You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified.” Yes, we came for Jesus. Yes, we know he was crucified. Why isn’t his body here? Wait a minute. Did you just say he got up? Risen? huh?
    >>>“He is not here.” Yeah, I think we get that…maybe. “See the place where they laid him.” You’re right. He’s gone. Doesn’t mean it makes sense. I mean really, this doesn’t make sense. Does it?
    Mark 16:7 ESV
    7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”
    OK…Sure. We’ll go alright. You’re going to see us go. Just hang on a minute.
    “Tell his disciples, and Peter”? Just what are we supposed to tell them. That we got to the tomb and a dead body isn’t here? Why would they believe that? We’re here, we see it, and we don’t believe it.
    “He’s going on ahead to Galilee”, huh. So we’re going to just pick up and leave, take a few days to get there, and then…
    >>>”There you will see him, just as he told you.” Well, it’s not like we have anything else to do. Sure. But right now, we know what to do: We’re taking off.
    Mark 16:8 ESV
    8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
    They left. They were shaken. In fact, they couldn’t quit shaking! Their minds were reeling, their hearts were thumping, their hands were shaking, and except for running away, they felt like they were going to collapse. And they didn’t go to the disciples right away. They didn’t tell anyone. They were as scared as if one of us, walking through a cemetery at night, had someone walk out a a crypt in tattered clothes. They were afraid.
    Most Bible scholars are in agreement that the original Gospel of Mark ended right here. The rest of the verses in the last chapter don’t quite match the style and theme of Mark’s writings. It seems the early Christians who had Mark’s Gospel were not comfortable with the last words. “They were afraid.”
    It really fits Mark’s style to just give the events and not try to explain them or theologize about them. That was for others. John’s Gospel would do plenty of that later. The rest of the verses in Mark 16 were added by the early Christian community to try to soften those words of being afraid on the most glorious day that ever happened. This was a day like none other.
    >>>But what will that mean for us? What difference does the Resurrection make? That’s where Paul comes in. He lets us know that the events experienced at the tomb by the women on that first Resurrection Day are more important than anything else Jesus said or did. Its all about...

    Believing in Jesus Means Believing the Resurrection

    and in what the Resurrection really means to us. For all his theology, all his explanations of the Christian life-style, and all the religious issues he chases down in his letters, Paul comes to one straight-forward final conclusion in 1 Corinthians 15. He says,...
    1 Corinthians 15:3–4 ESV
    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,
    Now, Paul knows this is a little bit difficult for our modern minds to understand. In fact, before he got to Corinth the first time, he tried to explain it at the Aereopagus in Athens, and got laughed off the stage. But now, after choosing to “Preach Christ and him crucified,” he says these basic facts are of the utmost importance.
    Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised on the third day. All of this, for Paul, is according to the Scriptures, according to certain passages in Psalms and Isaiah that truly were speaking of the coming Christ. And Jesus Christ, His Lord and Savior and ours, is the one who suffered, bled, died, rose, and saves us.
    Our salvation is not in believing simply that Jesus was born of a virgin by the power of God, or that God accepted him and approved of his ministry at he baptism in the Jordan, or all the things he taught about God that makes us understand the Father, nor even that he was transfigured in the presence of Peter, James and John to show his glory.
    Our salvation is about Jesus dying for our sins, carrying them to hell for us, and leaving them there as he rose victoriously from the dead to prove it is all according to God’s plan of salvation.
    >>>It’s important for us so many years later to...

    Believing the Testimony

    of so many who saw Jesus after he was risen. These are men and women that were willing to die before they would deny that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to them. We read in . . .
    1 Corinthians 15:5–6 ESV
    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.
    Many, many saw Jesus in person after he died on the cross. A public execution, a borrowed tomb, a glorious resurrection, and making sure that there were faithful witnesses means that we have a testimony we can surely believe. And the good news for each of us is that...

    The Risen Christ Meets Us Where We Are

    1 Corinthians 15:7–8 ESV
    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.
      • Mark 15:46–47GNB

      • Mark 16:1–2GNB

      • Mark 16:3–4GNB

      • Mark 16:5–6GNB

      • Mark 16:7GNB

      • Mark 16:8GNB

      • 1 Corinthians 15:3–4GNB

      • 1 Corinthians 15:5–6GNB

      • 1 Corinthians 15:7–8GNB

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