Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Joy in the Risen Christ

Preached at Northwest Christian Church

David P. Kautt

Resurrection Morning Sun-rise Service, April 4, 2010

Today we celebrate not just an event, but a person – our rise Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Before we go any further in our time of worship together this morning, allow me to sort of lay the ground work for what we're here to do today. As I said a moment ago, ultimately, we have come together at this unusual time to celebrate a PERSON, like no other person who has walked the face of the earth – the only begotten Son of God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity - God, the Son, Jesus Christ, who became a man, lived a sinless life, died physically, literally a death to atone for our sins; was buried in a borrowed tomb, and then was raised by the power of God, never to die again, that we might be justified before God. As the song says, we serve a Risen Savior who is in the world TODAY. A Savior who is right here, at work right now by way of His Holy Spirit.

Beloved, we're not here to participate in an anniversary funeral service of a dead man! No! We're here to rejoice in the Living One – the One who is our Life (Co. 3:4).

As I was considering the significance of this Day for us as Christians, I settled on 3 words – 3 what I call Resurrection Day words – that I'd like for us to highlight throughout our morning together.

The first of those words – the one that perhaps come to mind the quickest is the word – the Resurrection Day word, JOY. I found it interesting – and little bit convicting – to rediscover the fact that, in Matthew's record of the events of that first Resurrection Day, the very first word out of Jesus' mouth as He appeared to the women who had come to the tomb to anoint His body – the very first thing Jesus said was, “REJOICE!” I know it's early, I know you're sleepy – so am I, hey! It was at least this early that first day of the week when those women went to that garden tomb, wondering who would roll the stone away for them. Listen! Jesus says, “It's time to wake up!” He is Risen! Rejoice! Rejoice!

Joy – Resurrection Joy – joy in a Person, our Risen Savior – that's our theme for our service this morning. You know, I'm not sure what was on the minds of those women that dark Sunday morning when they slowly made their way to the tomb of their Friend. And I'm not sure what Peter and John thought as they ran together to check out the story of an Empty Tomb delivered to them by Mary Magdalene. But, Luke does give us a glimpse into the mental anguish of at least two of Jesus' friends following His death, and prior to verification that He really was alive. Listen to how Luke records it for us in Luke 24, beginning at verse 17.

Luke 24:17-24 - “And He said to them, "What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?" Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, "Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?" And He said to them, "What things?" So they said to Him, "The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see."

Even though Cleopas and his friend were walking and talking with their Risen Savior, for that brief period of time, their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And in that state of blindness, were they joyful? It doesn't seem so, does it? They were distressed, they were confused! They were sad! As Isaiah the prophet put it, they were wearing the ashes of mourning and were clothed with a spirit of heaviness! Now, my friends, we don't put ashes on our heads when we're sad. But we do wear black! And though we may not use the term “spirit of heaviness” to describe ourselves when we are forced to take part in a funeral because someone we know and loved has died. Nevertheless, that's how we feel! That phrase, “a spirit of heaviness” describes us! But listen! What happens when your eyes are opened?! What does God do in your life when you realize that the One you are walking with, talking with, about to eat with, is the One you thought was still DEAD?! Isaiah 61 – would you find that marvelous Old Testament passage with me, please? Isaiah 61 – a passage that Jesus read at the beginning of His ministry. A passage He said was fulfilled – in Him! Cleopas and his friend heard Jesus' blessing for the food, they watched Him as He broke the bread, then they saw Him – it's Jesus! And, then He disappeared! Isaiah 61 – I have an inkling that maybe, just maybe this passage came to their minds, as Jesus left them so suddenly. Read it with me, would you, please?

Isaiah 61:1-3 - “"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified."

Joy – the oil of joy in the place of mourning – that's a Resurrection idea, isn't it? Joy – not the ashes of sadness, but the beauty, the beauty of Joy – Resurrection Joy. Do you have that joy?

At the beginning, I pointed out the fact that the first word from Jesus' mouth on Resurrection morning was the word, “Rejoice!: Now lets ask you to consider this – what's so important about being joyful?

The Old Testament book of Nehemiah reminds us that the joy of the Lord is our STRENGTH! The Apostle Paul urged the Christians at Philippi to rejoice in the Lord always! Furthermore, next to love and peace, joy is one of the crowning virtues of a Christian – one of the evidences of the Holy Spirit's activity in a person's life. In fact, the psalmist says that God actually sows it, He plants it into His people – pours it upon His people like rain. (Psalm 97:10-12) So let me ask you... Brother, sister – how's your joy meter this morning? Is the needle on your joy gauge point more toward the 'E' than the 'F'? The Risen One says, “Rejoice!” I want you to listen as I sing some of number 177.

“When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,

when I was sinking down, sinking down, when I was sinking down

beneath God's righteous frown, Christ laid aside His crown

for my soul, for my soul, Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.”

When I was sinking down, sinking down...” Are those the words, the melody, the theme of your life lately? I wonder what word Jesus, the Loving One, would say to you? “Rejoice!” “Rejoice...” In His presence there is fullness – not over by the 'E' on the joy meter – but fullness of joy. Yes, at His right hand there are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).

Rejoice!” One of the most important, and most powerful of Resurrection words. And a word that you and I need to hear! But listen – Job chapter 19, verses 25-27. Speaking of sinking down, have you ever hit rock bottom? Job had. His children, his possessions, even his health – all swept away from him so dramatically and so rapidly – thud! His life went, as he hit the bottom. Where's the joy? Is there such a thing, or am I only mistaken?

Job 19 – this man whose knees surely buckled at the tragedies that piled in on him – what did he say? What was his momentous declaration? “I know that my Redeemer lives and He shall stand at last on the earth!” “Rejoice!” Indeed, it is a Resurrection word, wouldn't you say? And, why is that? Well, for one thing, the Resurrected One said it, right? But, listen to me, there's something more, something that perhaps you and I need to hear and know, when we're sinking down, sinking down – when we hit rock bottom. And what is that?

Just this: if our Redeemer lives, if our Redeemer is ALIVE – then everything else, I mean everything else, is going to be okay, in the long run! Amen? Amen!

Rejoice!” If you want joy, real joy, wonderful joy, what? Then let Jesus – the Living Redeemer – come into your heart!

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