“Of First Importance: Consider Jesus”
A Resurrection Sunday Message
inspired by Craig Groeshel
READ 1 COR. 15:3-4
There are events in life when we can say they are of “first importance”:
• The day of your wedding, it’s of first importance to be there on time and dressed!
• The day of your child’s birth, men, it is of first importance to be by your wife’s side
• When you get a call that tragedy has struck in your family, it is of first importance to rush to their aid
But as important as these things are, I want to suggest to you this morning that, like the apostle Paul, there is something of FIRST IMPORTANCE that is above any other event in the history of the world and in the life of every human being on the planet: “That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that He was raised from the dead in accordance with the Scriptures.”
So this morning I want to talk about the most important question you will ever ask and answer. No matter who you are, each of us must face the implications of this two-part question: If there is a God, then who is He and will I surrender my life and worship this God.
A lot of people don’t think about God or eternal life until someone near to them dies. And then, almost everyone starts to have a sort of “feel-good theology.” It doesn’t matter how they were raised, it doesn’t matter what they believe, they start to say something like, “Thankfully, she’s not suffering anymore. He’s gone on to a better place. Now, there’s another angel in heaven,” or something like that.
But here’s a hard fact. Not everybody is in a better place. Not everyone has stopped suffering. And the distinction is not so much what we know before we die, but WHO we know! In his famous prayer before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus said this , “Now this is eternal life: that they my know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Do we know the one true living God?
And when we’re asking this question of first importance, we come to another key question: What does it take to be made right with God?
If you ask that question to people around America, you’re going to get all sorts of different answers. We live today in a very spirituality pluralistic society. In other words, we place a high value on religious tolerance don’t we? It’s common to hear things like this: “All roads really lead to God.” “It doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere.” “All world religions are essentially the same anyway.” All different beliefs about God. What’s interesting is that you can talk about spiritual things all day long without opposition. You can say you have a higher power, a higher being, God, spirituality, and it’s not controversial. But if you bring up the name of Jesus, it can get controversial.
Funny thing is, nobody debates the existence of Jesus. People generally accept someone named Jesus lived. Also, people don’t really oppose His teaching. Who’s going to argue against His helping the poor, loving and forgive people, showing mercy and grace. And while they might be skeptical of the miracle Jesus performed, most folks wouldn’t be put off by healing hurting people, or feeding 5,000 with a filet-o-fish sandwich, or even walking on water!
No, folks don’t debate the existence of Jesus, but many have a problem with the exclusive claim of Jesus. We live in a very inclusive world; all beliefs should be treated equally, nobody should be left out; all roads should lead God, all world religions are basically the same, and Jesus diametrically opposes that mindset when He says that He is the only way. It’s the exclusive claim of Jesus.
In fact, in John 14:6, this is exactly what Jesus says. “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” In this very inclusive world of religious pluralism, Jesus makes an exclusive claim that He is the only way. A lot of people still want to say, “All roads lead to God. All religions are the same.”
There may be some good things in a lot of different world religions but we have to acknowledge they’re not anywhere close to being the same. Consider a few world religions and ask yourself if they are the same.
• Buddhism believes there is no god, no type of final existence. A Buddhist is going to believe in countless rebirths and eventually, you hope to end the cycle.
• Hinduism believes in a god that is impersonal and is approached through deities, or statues, or idols.
o Buddhism and Hinduism offer no forgiveness of sins, no supernatural help, only karma. In other words, if you cut someone of the road, someone else is going to cut you off because you deserve it!
• Islam worships a personal God named Allah. A Muslim has no secondary gods. There’s a total ban on idles. But your standing with God is based on your religious good works and effort.
• New Age Religions have no type of God. The goal is to be one with the cosmos or one with the universe.
Now contrast these religions with Christianity, which claims belief in a personal God who loves the world so much that He became like them in the person of Jesus, lived without sin, died for the sins of the world on a cross, rose again, and returned to the right of the Father—interceding with the Father for His faithful followers until He returns to receive His people, the Church, and ushers in a New Heaven and New Earth. And people are made right with God not by going through deities, or idols, or religious performers but by faith in God’s Son, Jesus, alone.
Can we not acknowledge that although there may be good and positive things in many different religions, they’re absolutely and completely not the same?
So today, for those who may be on the fence about putting your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, I want you to consider Jesus with me. what He claims, what other people said that He did, what He actually did. It is for FIRST IMPORTANCE. By the inspiration of pastor Craig Groeschel, I want us to consider three aspects of the life of Jesus.
First, consider the ministry of Jesus. Consider who He came for and how He treated them, the ministry of Jesus. There’s a statement in Mark’s Gospel (2:16-17) that sums up why Jesus came and who he came for. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw Jesus eating with the sinners and tax collectors—He was hanging out with those that religion rejected—they asked His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners.” On hearing this, Jesus said to them , “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus did not come for those who think they have it all together. Jesus came for people like me who needed help, and needed grace, and needed mercy. Jesus actually came for those that religion rejected. “They’re not clean enough, not righteous enough, not holy enough.” That’s exactly who Jesus came for. Jesus loved those that everyone else despised. He welcomed those that “good” folks turned away. Jesus came for people who recognize their need for salvation.
Not only did he come for sinners but when you look at the ministry of Jesus, you see all the miracles he performed. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus opened blind eyes and deaf ears. He caused the mute to speak. Jesus cast demons out of people. Jesus raised a dead man back to life!
It’s interesting that even his detractors did not debate the validity of His miracles. They just wanted Him to stop. “By what power is He doing this?” No one said he didn’t really raise the dead. They saw it. Consider the ministry of Jesus.
The truth is that most of us are a miracle because of the ministry of Jesus. About 6 weeks ago we witnessed two young ladies share their faith and were baptized. They basically said, “This is who I was and who I am now. This is the way I was and I’m not that way anymore. I was a mess and I’ve been transformed. I was full of anger and now, my heart is full of love and grace.” You are different because of the perfect work of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Consider the ministry of Jesus.
Secondly, consider the resurrection of Jesus. Why does the resurrection matter? You see, Jesus was miraculously conceived. He was born of a virgin. He did not inherit the sin nature of an earthly father. He was completely without sin. Jesus lived the perfect life for us. But without the death and resurrection, Jesus would have simply been a good man martyred for being a good man.
But on the cross, Jesus became sin for us. He suffered horribly. While the creation was mocking the Creator, spitting on Him, hurling insults at Him, beating Him beyond recognition,
and hanging in on the cross to experience an excruciating death, Jesus looked up to heaven and cried out, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.” What kind of grace is that? What kind is love is that from the cross? Then, Jesus cries out the victorious cry, “It is finished. Into your hands, I commit my spirit,” and He breathed His last and gave His life. The moment He did, the earth went dark. The ground trembled.
The Roman centurion—who was NOT a follower of Jesus, but saw His love, saw His heart, saw His mercy, saw who He REALLY was—looked on and said, “Surely, he was the Son of God.” “I didn’t believe before, but I believe now.
And just as Jesus had predicted, “I will give my life and three days later, I’ll rise from the dead,” three days later, the women went to the tomb where he was buried. The stone was rolled away and He was not there. Peter, who had just denied Jesus three times and then hid in shame and guilt, was completely transformed because the tomb was empty!
Then, filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter began preaching powerfully on the resurrection. In Act 3:15, Peter said this to a crowd of Jews at Pentecost , “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.” You killed the author of life, but He is not dead anymore. Then he said this key thing, “We are witnesses of this.” We are witnesses. We saw Him.
That’s why these men were willing to give their lives for this Jesus that they were denying days earlier—they saw the power of the resurrection. It all hinges on the resurrection. There are many skeptics today who would argue that Jesus really didn’t rise from the grave. Some of the possible explanations include:
• “The enemies of Jesus stole the body.” If that were true, (and they never claimed they did), they surely would have produced the body to prove Jesus was NOT who he said he was and it would have put an end to Christianity.
• “The disciples stole the body of Jesus.” Could these unarmed fishermen and a tax collector overpowered the trained armed Roman soldiers? Not only that, if they had stolen the body why would have begun to preach with such authority that Jesus was raised, knowing that he was not? Why would they have risked their lives for a lie? No. We’re witnesses of this. We’re witnesses of this.
• Jesus never died, but was unconscious. Then he somehow rolled the stone away, slipped past the guards and into obscurity after visiting up to 500 people and convincing them he had risen from the dead. Not even Jesus’s enemies tried to pull this line on anyone!
No, the absolute truth is that God raised Jesus from the dead. It was what the disciples said happened. They were there. They were witnesses. The early church was born, 3000 people were saved because of the testimony of the witnesses. And 2000 years later there are millions of people and hundreds of thousands of churches that placed their faith in the empty tomb. He is not there. He is risen from the dead. Consider Jesus. Consider His ministry. Consider His resurrection.
Finally this morning, consider the eternal message of Jesus. How are we made right with God? How are we made right with God? Here’s what Paul said in Romans 3:22 according to the NLT, “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.” Notice what it doesn’t say? It doesn’t say we’re made right with God by being good enough, or by not being bad. By not cussing, yelling at our kids, or getting into a fight with your wife on our way to church.
We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter how bad your life is messed up right now. It doesn’t matter how many people that you’ve hurt. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve sinned. You’re not made right with God by you being good enough. You made right with God because Jesus was perfect, and He took the penalty, and paid the price for your sins. That’s the Good News!
And that’s the difference between religion and relationship. Jesus did not come to start a religion (and definitely NOT a denomination). Jesus came to offer us eternal life. He came to show us the love of God.
• Religion is all about how you perform. Relationship is about how Jesus performed.
• Religion says if you work hard enough, maybe God will love you. Relationships says because God loves me, I want to serve and obey him.
• Religion is all about what you do. Relationship says Jesus already did it all for you.
Consider the eternal message that you’re not made right with God by your own good works, but by the grace and the Love of Jesus.
Let me tell you my story very quickly. I was the religious zealot, attending church every time the doors were open. I went to Bible study…even led a few. I tithed, served on committees, did my duty. I had a head knowledge of Jesus. Then one hot August day in 2000, in my misery over my sin and unworthiness, I knelt down on the floor of my bedroom and cried out to God for mercy and forgiveness, asking Jesus to heal me and change me. And He did. I’ve never been the same. Within a year, God called me to full-time service for Jesus.
Here’s my bottom line. If there is a Man who claims to be the Son of God, and says He is the only way to the Father, and He predicts his death, and His resurrection; and then He dies and rises again, I’m going with that Man. That Man is Jesus Christ and I’m going with that God. I’m going with that God because that Jesus came for someone like me, a sinner who was lost and troubled. Jesus showed me what the heart of God the Father is like—who sends His son not for the healthy but for the sick, not for the righteous but for the sinners. Because of what He did for me, my only reasonable response is, “Jesus, take my whole life.”
For what I received I now pass on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. Do you receive this Good News? Will you consider Jesus? His ministry, His resurrection, and His eternal message that He came for you that, whosoever believes in Him should not perish but everlasting life?
This is your invitation. Many in this room have considered Jesus, but it’s still head knowledge. What you know in your mind needs to travel 18 inches to your heart. You’ve still be living for yourself. You haven’t taken seriously Jesus’s call to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus daily. In short, you’re a “fan” of Jesus, but not really a “follower” of Jesus. Is the resurrected Christ calling you into a true, deeper relationship with him?
Others in the room may be considering Jesus for the first time in your life. Maybe you’ve been to church most of your life…or maybe you visit only on special occasions like today. But today, because the Gospel is the power of God and wisdom of God for those who believe, you’re thinking it’s time to do what your mother and grandmother have been praying for oh so many years…it’s time to give your life to the One who loves you and gave himself up for you so that you might have everlasting life.
If that’s you today, I want to pray for you. Today God is inviting ALL who would consider his Son Jesus as their Savior and Lord by admitting your need of forgiveness and salvation. Pray with me. “Father, today we pray for those who need to know your love and grace. We ask that—by your Spirit—you would work in their lives, bringing them to a place of surrender and repentance, that they would find true life in Jesus.
“Thank you for sending your Son to save that which was lost. Thank you that He came for people like me, a sinner in need of healing and forgiveness. Thank you that Jesus came, NOT to make us “religious,” but to offer us an eternal relationship…to give us His life, His goodness, His grace so that we can bear witness of His love, mercy and grace to a lost and hurting world.
“Eternal and everlasting God, I also pray for those in the room who think they have You all figured out. They have a head knowledge of you, O Lord, but not a heart knowledge. Press in on them Holy Spirit, that they might really consider Jesus and truly be born again. And again, thank you for what you have done and are doing in the lives of these your people. I offer my prayer in the name of the risen Christ, Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords.
With every head bowed and eyes closed, I want to ask that—it you prayed that prayer with me and were earnest in your desire to repent of your sins and confess Jesus as Lord, would you raise your hands? Raise them up? Let me be the first to congratulate you on the new life you have in Christ Jesus! Everyone can look at me. After the service, I encourage you to come down and see me. I want to embrace you as a new brother or sister in Christ and share some next steps with you. Let’s stand to worship Jesus together as we sing a great closing song, “Forever.”