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Apr 21, 2019

Resurrecting People

Preacher: John Repsold

Category: Easter

Keywords: flesh, holy living, human body, incarnation, new life, resurrection

Summary:

What does the resurrection have to do with how we treat our own bodies? Jesus' resurrection is meant to impact every use and avoid every abuse of our bodies. It also brings real meaning to any suffering we may have to go through. All of this is completely counter-cultural in virtually every arena of contemporary culture.

Detail:

Resurrecting People

Easter 2019

April 21, 2019

At our Good Friday service, Eric introduced us to a character named Spencer.  Spencer might be your typical Gen-Xer or Millennial of today.  He’s not a Christ-follower…but he’s open to spiritual things.  He’s wrestling with relationships and specifically his sexual identity.  And, as such, he’s wrestling with God. 

He’s honest enough to admit he’s angry with God and has plenty of doubts about a god who would let life play out like it so often seems to—with plenty of confusion, plenty of disappointment and plenty of downright evil. On Friday we left Spencer leaving Jesus on the cross. 

If we’re honest with ourselves, that’s actually where most of us have left Christ at one or more points in our lives: on the cross.  Who among us hasn’t been so frustrated, hurt, angry or confused about God that we didn’t, for all intents and purposes, want God to feel the pain of living in this sinful world, of suffering because of the actions of other sinners?  Many of us have had periods when we’ve been so mad at God we’ve turned our backs on Him and walked away.  We’ve hurled insults at Him, argued with Him and even cursed Him.  And, as we saw on Friday, it was actually OUR sin…and US…that condemned, tortured, whipped, beat and crucified Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago. 

That is where we left Jesus on Friday night.  But today is Easter morning!

[DRAMA Part 1]

So Spencer has pretty well articulated what millions of people across America and the world are probably thinking when they hear about the Christian claim that a historical personage named Jesus Christ, after he was brutally crucified then wrapped in grave clothes and sealed in a tomb, actually bodily rose from the dead 3 days later on Easter morning.  “So what!  It doesn’t seem to have solved or diminished much if any suffering in our world.”

            Friday we dealt with the theme of “Killing God.”  If you’re asking yourself, “How can God die?” then I recommend you go to our MosaicSpokane.com web site and either read or listen to that 3-part message. 

But for today, I’ve chosen to entitle this message “Resurrecting People.” The title betrays the Bible’s bias—that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was actually a historic event whose result is that people—you and me…and all humanity, now and in the future…are and are going to experience the effects of that singular resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Christ’s resurrection already has been impacting how millions of Christ-followers have lived and died (physically) for two-thousand years. His resurrection continues to impact how we Christians treat our bodies and how we are affected in soul and mind, in living and dying, in miracles and suffering, with people and with God.

            May I propose that God’s view of the importance, beauty and proper use of our human bodies is very different, actually radically higher, than almost everyone’s view in this world. From the beginning of human experience until the end of this world and even into life in the next, the fact of Jesus’ resurrection and the fact that every human being who has ever existed has been given a human body that will one day be resurrected just as Jesus’ body was is a truth that can and should be shaping every choice we make in this life about how we use our bodies.  The Scriptures contend that the resurrection of Jesus is the pinnacle of proof that the human body matters to God!

            Had Jesus NOT risen from the dead bodily, we would have a much harder time declaring to the world that every human being ever to inhabit a body, ever to draw a breath or ever to walk this planet is valuable to God.  In fact, if the human body were something that could be destroyed or mutilated without doing damage to the “person” or “personhood” of someone, we might actually argue that destroying someone’s imperfect or deformed or handicapped or disabled body was actually doing them a favor. 

If our bodies are simply incidental to our existence as people, then death is something every one of us should be seeking as early and as easily as possible in life.  If our bodies are merely an unfortunate but temporary necessity that somehow “births our being” and simply leads to a better non-body/ non-corporal existence after death, then shouldn’t we be killing everyone at as early an age as possible to free them from suffering? And shouldn’t humanity have known that intuitively and evolved to the place where we try to shed our body as quickly as possible? 

            Some of you are thinking, “Has John lost his marbles?  He’s talking non-sense…I mean, more than usual!”  J  That’s precisely my point:  the fact that we as humans fight to stay alive, to live as long as possible in these imperfect bodies, to save the physical, bodily lives of others and particularly of those we love… isn’t that proof positive that we really intuitively already know deep in our souls that our physical bodies matter and are deeply connected to our humanity and being?

            Of course that is what we are told in Genesis 1 & 2—that when God created man (male & female) out of the dust of the ground and out of Adam’s side and then breathed into those bodies “the breath of life,” He declared that both of them were made “in the image of God.”  God designed His “image” to require both a soul and body in humanity. 

            NOTE:  We know that God is fundamentally a spirit being, uncreated, existing before and outside of the physical universe we know as time and space.  But the very fact that Jesus Christ, God the Son, the 2nd member of the Trinity, is so aligned and connected himself to a human body tells us volumes.  The Incarnation of God the Son in the person and body of Jesus Christ gives great value to every human body and being.  God could have chosen to reveal himself in angelic or a completely new or even “alien” form.  But He chose a human body…from the earliest stage of humanness!  God chose a human “product of conception”, an embryo conceived miraculously by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb, to show the value of every human life…every human body… from the tiniest to the largest, youngest to oldest, weakest to strongest. 

Let me throw out a theological question here that I think is very relevant to the importance of our human bodies. 

Q:  If Adam & Eve would not have sinned, would they have lived forever in their originally-created bodies? [Yes.]

Q:  Since Jesus did not sin…and since he was born of a virgin (thus not inheriting Adam’s sin nature, c.f. Romans 5:12, 15-19), would Jesus have ever physically died had he not willingly laid down His life for us?  (John 10:17-18—“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.”)

Jesus chose death, not for himself but for US! The only human being besides Adam and Eve to ever to have the possibility of never dying chose death so that he might offer life…life with Him in this life and the next…resurrection life…to every one of us! 

            Here is where the mystery of God redeeming or “buying us out of slavery to sin” comes in. 

1.)  We know that, according to the word of God in Romans 6:23 that “the wage sin always pays is death.”  Death, whether separation of our physical bodies from our souls or separation of our souls and bodies from God, is a natural consequence of sin.  Always has been; always will be. 

ILLbreaking off a flower from the plant.

2.)  We also know that from the Garden of Eden right up to the cross of Christ, God graciously made a way for human beings to come back into a faith-based relationship with Him by agreeing with God that our sin requires a substitutionary sacrifice unless we are to be forever separated from God. 

EX:  --the clothing God made for Adam & Eve in the Garden out of animal skins.

EX:  --the sacrificial system set up from the Garden until the cross of Christ seen in Noah’s act of sacrifice, the Passover sacrifices, the Tabernacle and Temple sacrifices. 

3.)  We know that Jesus was actually the final and only completely sufficient sacrifice to take away our sins, not just cover them temporarily as the O.T. sacrifices did.  It wasn’t because God is somehow a blood-thirsty god who loves blood.  It is because blood represents the very life of every human being.  Without blood there is no life.  And when blood is shed, life is often lost. 

            Which brings us back to the reason why Jesus had to have a human body and nature in order to be the Savior of the world.

  • Human sin requires human death. “The wage sin pays is death….” (Rm. 6:23)
  • Human redemption requires a perfect, sinless Redeemer. Ephesians 1:7 tells us, In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace….”  As Hebrews 9:12 says, “He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.”

Before Adam sinned, perhaps he could have given his one, finite and yet sinless life for Eve’s one sin.  One perfect life for one sinner’s life.  But he didn’t! 

And had Jesus not been GOD-in-human-flesh/nature but just another human being, even his 33 years of sinless living could only have allowed him to die for just one other human being.  But because he was that mysterious combination of perfect human nature and perfect infinite Divine nature, He was able to die for an infinite number of sinful human beings…for ALL of us! 

But He had to be a sinless human being!  He had to live his entire life never giving into sin so that He could be that spotless, sinless substitute we all need. 

And He had to be THE infinite God!  This is one of the primary reasons our Redeemer had to be human, living in a human body.  As Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”

For there to be any hope of reconciling us back to God, God had to “find a way” to justly judge and punish our evil while at the same time lovingly and mercifully sparing us the inevitable consequences of our sinful rebellion.  And as we saw on Good Friday evening, God chose that “way” before he created our world and before He created the first human beings with even the potential to sin.  YOUR redemption by the blood and body of Jesus Christ was not an afterthought once sin entered human experience; it was a “before-thought”—chosen at great cost to God himself before the first of many sinners, Adam & Eve, ever were created. 

APP:  THE most important question in life is, “What have YOU done with Jesus?  What is YOUR response to all He has done to restore you to a right relationship with God? 

  • Rejection and indifference?
  • Faith in and submission to Christ?

RECAP:  So, now we know WHY Jesus needed a human body & soul:  to reconcile us to God…body, soul and spirit.  To purchase us/redeem us from our sin so that we might be reconnected to God and restored to an eternally-right relationship with our Creator. The physical body of Jesus Christ was absolutely essential for our redemption and reconciliation to God. 

But back to why the resurrection of Jesus Christ is SO important to our life in our bodies right now

            While Jesus’ life went from sinless perfection to bearing the sin of the world and thus having to embrace death for us, our lives once we have embraced Christ and put our faith in what He did for us goes in reverse; we go from lives filled with sin and void of God to lives that are hopefully shedding sin and being filled more and more with the life of Christ.  This is the Great Exchange Jesus offers to every disciple of his—trade our sinful life for His sinless life, trade the death due us for the resurrection offered us. 

            But back to a foundational question related directly to the resurrectionWHY do WE as humans need bodies? Isn’t it good enough for us to just spend eternity with God as spirit-beings like the angels? 

            Simple answer:  apparently not!  J  Apparently God has something of His nature that he wants shown off through humanity that can only be done in mortal human bodies.  So when God creates a new, living human body (in cooperation with the union of a man & woman/sperm and egg), He also creates a new human soul and unites it to that body.  By God’s choice and design, that soul will live forever and that body will one day die BUT also one day be transformed by His resurrection power into immortal human bodies that will also live forever.  (Scripture tells us that the resurrection will apply to both believers and unbelievers.  Jesus was simply the “first-fruit” or first in a long line of humans who will also experience the exchange of mortal bodies for immortal ones.)

            So God, at the beginning of the human race, designed that His “image” in humanity should require a human body (as well as soul/spirit).  And if the old Westminster Shorter catechism is correct, “The chief end/purpose of man(kind) is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  Glorifying God simply means “showing God off.”  And since God created humans from the beginning to do that IN a body, then our job is to discover to the full HOW our bodies can “show God off.” 

            Which would also explain why so much of what people DO with their bodies and the bodies of other people is contrary to God’s original design. Sin is never satisfied with taking just a little of God’s design and tweaking it.  Sin and Satan are at war with God and always want to deface and destroy the image of God in every human being as much as possible. 

It is ironic that our culture which pretends to worship the human body and seems to be addicted to and obsessed with it actually hates the human body as God has created it.  Let me give you a few examples.

1.)  Let’s start with the BEGINNING and END of life.

The BEGINNING of physical life has, of course, been devalued massively by worldwide abortion.  The concept of a “human being” as a unity of body and soul has been torn in two

While it is virtually impossible to claim that a fetus is anything but “human life” (since it always, left to its own devices, turns into a human baby, not any other kind of biological life), modern humanity has gone to dividing “human life” from “personhood.”  1973 Roe v. Wade ruled that even though the baby in the womb is human, it is not a person.  A new category of individual was created out of thin air:  “the human non-person.” 

Children, we are now told, at some undefined point in their growth, jump into the “protected class” of personhood.  That is usually defined by some murky level of cognitive function, consciousness or self-awareness.  Only then (whenever “then” is) do they attain moral and legal standing worthy of protection

So the biological or anatomical body becomes an expendable biological organism while “personhood” gets assigned to a child…or human being…based on arbitrary determinations like “will they be wanted or loved”, or “are they able to survive outside the womb” (though virtually every child is completely dependent upon adults or older siblings for years to “survive outside the womb”). 

Now let’s move to the END of bodily human life.  How is our culture (and much of the world) attacking the human body at the end of life?  We call it euthanasia—the premature terminating of the life of someone by non-natural causes. 

  • They may have terminal cancer that will eventually kill them but we allow someone else to help them hasten death by taking chemical poisons that kill them.
  • They may have a chronic and painful disease that robs them of the desire to live and replaces it with depression. So our culture is saying that it is actually “cruel” to require that person to continue living in their degenerating body and that real “compassion” looks like helping them end their life before God says it should end. 

We could go on and on, but the reality is that modern culture has NO room for unchosen and unwanted suffering in the body, be it physical, mental or emotional.  God, on the other hand, says suffering in this body has tremendous meaning and value.  But rejecting that truth has become simply another one of the ways that modern mankind has decided to reject God. 

NOTE: Know what the 2 most expensive/costly years of medical care are in our culture?  Your last year…and your first year of life. It seems a bit of a paradox that policy makers who want some agency or government entity to decide who gets what kind of medical care when are also the same people who are pushing for a.) abortion, and b.) euthanasia.  The human body is truly being devalued…but not by the God who made it!

Let’s move to SEX, i.e. male or femaleThe Scripture tells us in Genesis 1:27 that “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  God designed that the human body and soul come in 2 similar but somewhat different formsmale and femaleBiologically we now know that every one of the roughly 37 trillion cells in the average human body bears a chromosomal “stamp” of either XX (female) chromosomal makeup or XY (male) chromosomal makeup.  Sex is not merely something determined by the particular genitals you have or don’t have.  By God’s design it is stamped into every cell in your body. 

            Twenty years ago, this was not even debated in our culture.  But not so today.  This year, for example, our Federal Government is spending over $5.5 million studying the effects of giving cross-gender hormonal treatment to children as young as 8 years of age so that they can delay puberty and undergo body-altering sex-change surgeries.  We’re doing this on the public dime despite the FACT that we know 80-95% of children who evidence gender dysphoria, if left alone hormonally to pass through puberty normally, will align with their self-identity with their biological gender…8-9 out of 10 dysphoric children!  Prior to the very recent transgender movement-turned-craze in America, children were usually counseled through their gender confusion years.

Not today.  In our State of WA along with 14 other states and the District of Columbia, it is illegal for a mental health counselor to even suggest that the mismatch between a child’s mental construct of their gender and their physical sex might best be handled through counseling rather than surgery.  Instead, a kid who can’t decide what they want to have for dinner is given the right to choose to have life-altering hormone therapy and surgery without their parent’s permissionIs this really honoring and loving the body God assigned you? 

            [BTW, if you have the stomach for it, Google “Sex Reassignment Surgery” (SRS) and watch even an animated video of what such surgery involves.  Then come and explain to me how it is a good thing that young teens are making life-altering decisions to cut off their breasts or penises without the benefits of a.) being counseled or treated first for the dysphoria issues, or b.) not being protected and guided by adults who see life through very different lenses and experience?]

            FYI: we will be hosting a 4-hour seminar on Tuesday, May 14th, from 5-9 p.m. here about this issue of transgenderism by a former pastor, Steve Hetrick, who is doing his doctoral work on this issue.  You are welcome to come if you are interested in this new tsunami of social, mental health and medical change that is sweeping the country.

To round-out this very important issue of sex and gender, particularly as it relates to the use of the human body, think for just a moment about several other ways our culture devalues and degrades the human body God created to show of His nature and character.

  • The “hook-up culture” that encourages young people and adults to divorce sexual intimacy from emotional and relational intimacy. Young adults are encouraged every which way to use their bodies for casual sexual encounters but save their hearts and minds for someone they can find “real intimacy” with…as if there is some clear line running through every person that would allow us to do that.  You can’t!  That is precisely why God told us that sex is to be respected and saved for marriage. You can’t sexually unite/bond with multiple partners and emotionally/mentally bond with just one of them.

The irony is that science is constantly uncovering new evidence of the profound interconnection between body and person.  It’s called “neuroplasticity” and it means basically that “neurons that fire together, wire together.” 

Just read a little about what the role the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin play in sexual intercourse and emotional attachment.  They are even sometimes referred to as the “attachment hormones” (oxytocin primarily in women) or “monogamy molecules” (vasopressin in men).  One therapist says, “When we have intercourse, we create an involuntary chemical commitment.” [Nancy R. Pearcey, Love Thy Body, p. 127]    

Paul put it this way 2 thousand years ago under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in 1 Cor. 6:18-20-- 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

Temples are “sacred spaces” where people meet with God.  Amazingly, this passage says that our bodies are where other people are to meet with God.  But when we violate the sexual boundaries God created us to flourish in within the God-given bonds of marriage between one man and one woman, we violate and distort the presence of God in our bodies.  Our bodies are meant to speak of God—His commitment, His faithfulness, His self-sacrificing love, His divine nature of holiness, His boundaries between himself and other beings and his unmatched and unparalleled unity and intimacy between the members of the Trinity.  All that is violated when we engage in sex outside of God-ordained marriage. 

Lest you think I’m preaching to the choir, here is what a recent ChristianMingle survey has found.  61% of self-identified Christian singles said they were willing to have casual sex without being in love.  Only 23% said they would have to “be in love.”  And only 11% said they were waiting to have sex until they are married!  Friends, the church has allowed the culture to define both the use of and the purpose for our bodies.  But the resurrection of Jesus calls us back to something far better. 

We could go on and talk about other ways our culture downplays and disrespects God’s plan and purposes for our bodies:

  • Pornography: where 2/3rds of Christian men watch pornography at least monthly, the same rate as men who do not claim to be Christian.  The first longitudinal study on porn also found that men who start watching porn after they marry are twice as likely to divorce.  Other studies have found that watching porn actually shrinks the brain and reduces neural activity.  And there is firm data showing that porn is addictive, leads to violence, destroys relationships and feeds sex trafficking and prostitution.  What we do with our eyes in these bodies matters! 
  • Cohabitation: almost ½ (49%) of teens with religious backgrounds support living together before marriage.  And a YouGov poll found recently that half of millennials have given up the hope—or even desire—for a monogamous relationship. 
  • Divorce: where 38% of adults who attend church regularly and 60 percent of adults wo identify as Christians have been divorced. 
  • Homosexuality: a study by Pew Research Center 5 years ago found that 51% of evangelical millennials said same-sex behavior is morally acceptable.

Brothers and sisters, ALL of those activities and behaviors involve our bodies.  All of them affect not only our relationships with other people but deeply affect our relationship with God.  

            Romans 6 is one of those passages that makes the relationship between our bodies and our souls to the life of Christ crystal clear.  Having just talked about the amazing grace and eternal life of God that has come to us through Jesus Christ, Paul says this about the impact Christ, His grace and his resurrection must have on us:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

            The next chapter, Romans 7:4, says much the same thing:

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.

Do you see the connection here between the resurrection of Jesus and the life we are called to live in our bodies

  • The very resurrection of Christ is but a picture of the “new life” or “fruit” that God wants us to experience through our bodies for the rest of our lives as followers of Jesus. Resurrecting new life, new thoughts, new behaviors is all part of Jesus’ RESURRECTING PEOPLE.  If it were not for the resurrection of Jesus 2000 years ago, our life in these bodies would be vastly inferior and different. 
  • This is precisely what we have seen throughout the history of Christianity and especially in our world today. It is Christ-following Christians who have consistently been both the leaders and the most heavily involved in alleviating the suffering this sinful world dishes out.  I’d be happy to stack up the good deeds of Christians over the last 500 years against any other religion, philosophy or political system.  Christians have, over the centuries, been consistently responsible for…
    • The best advancements in education at every level (literacy, higher ed, etc.)
    • In hospitals, healthcare and medicine
    • In justice
    • In social reform (women’s rights, abolition of slavery)
    • In relief and development work
    • In constructive business and commerce

So where is this God that people like “Spencer” rail against?  Right here, in our world, living and dying, working and suffering through His people, the Church.  Mosaic is evidence of that in our own city as are hundreds of other groups of Christians gathered week by week in Christian non-profits and churches.  Take Christians and their work of restoration and resurrection out of our world and you would have a very different, much more brutal, suffering world. 

[Eric’s 2nd mini-monologue of “Spencer”]

CLOSE:

Rather than try to add more teaching through lecture this morning, I would like to open the remaining time up to questions.  What questions has our discussion of the human body and the resurrection of Jesus Christ prompted in you?  I’ll try to do my best to answer them biblically.  Feel free to fire away.