Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Transformed Life: Christ's Resurrection Power at Work

Preached at Northwest Christian Church

David P. Kautt

Sunday Morning, April 11, 2010

1 John 1:1- 4 – “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.”

What is the biggest – we might even say – what is the best evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Last Lord’s Day – what a special day we enjoyed, didn’t we, my friends, as we celebrated not only the empty tomb, the stone rolled away from the door, and the grave clothes that had been wrapped around the lifeless body of Jesus lying there in that empty tomb – but, more significantly, as we celebrated the Risen Savior, our Risen Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, Resurrection Day – last Lord’s day – our focus was on a Person, the risen One, Who is our joy, our hope and our peace…

Today, however, is not Sunday, April 4th – Resurrection Day. But today is Sunday, April 11th, one week AFTER Resurrection Day – and the question of the hour, the important matter to be examined and explored is: what difference does it make that the tomb is empty? What difference does it make that the tomb is empty? What difference does it make that the stone has been rolled away from that tomb’s door? What difference does it make – in you and me – that Jesus Christ is alive?

I asked a question a moment ago that I want us to find an answer for, as we study the Scriptures today. The question is: What is the biggest, or best, evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? You know, Beloved, there is a lot of evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus – for example, there is an otherwise immovable stone – moved, and there is an empty tomb, a tomb, by the way, that not only had once housed the lifeless form of our Lord, but also a tomb that had been marked and identified both by Jesus’ friends – those who assisted in burying Him, but also marked and identified by His enemies – the Jews, and the Romans. And, there is the testimony – the eye, ear and even hand witness testimony of man, many people who saw, heard, ate with, and even touched Jesus, alive after His crucifixion. Good evidence, wouldn’t you say, that He really did conquer death? But listen, we are not there yet… we’ve still got a ways to go on this trek toward finding out what the biggest and best evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ really is. But let’s not give up on our quest – let’s press on till we find out, shall we?

This morning, I’d like to initiate a new study with you – one that I believe will prove to be not only fascinating, but extremely helpful in our walk with Christ. I’m talking about a look at the words, the Holy Spirit inspired teaching, of the one who was known as the Beloved Disciple – the disciple whom Jesus loved – the Apostle John, as recorded here in his first letter.

The Apostle John – and his divinely-supplied insight and instruction for us through this letter – how much do you know about him, and about what the Holy Spirit has to say to us through him?

First, some basic facts that you can verify at places like Matthew 4:18-22 – the Apostle John, he wasn’t always Jesus apostolic representative. In fact, he grew up in and around a Galilean village by the name of Caperneum, in the home of a man named Zebedee (his father), and had at least one brother, who also became a disciple and apostle of Jesus – a fellow named James. He knew a lot about fishing, for fish, that is – until one day, our Savior called him and his brother AWAY from the fish and the fishing, away from their father and family business – in order to set out to catch men, to fish for men, you remember the account, don’t you?

But is that all there is to see and know about his man? Zebedee’s son, James’ brother, a fisherman from Caperneum? Actually, there’s more – quite a bit more – to learn about him, as we sort of lay the ground work for our study of his letter, the one we call, ‘First John’. For example, did you know that he is called – he is referred to – in Scripture at least 5 times as Jesus’ ‘beloved disciple’, or ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’, the one who leaned on Jesus’ breast in the Upper Room?

All that to say, as our text, 1 John 1:1 – 4, makes clear – that John was a witness, an eye, ear, yes, even a hand witness to the life, the death, and, most of all, a witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. As he indicates in our study text, “…the Word of Life” – that’s one of his characteristic titles for the Lord Jesus. Verses one and two, he says, “the Word of life was manifested [He appeared] and we have seen and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us…”

John, the apostle – what do you know about him? What is there to find out about this man? He was a fisherman from Caperneum and he came to be – was called by Jesus to learn HOW to be a fisher-for-men. He was an eye-witness, and, I believe, therefore a credible source of information about the life of Jesus Christ. And, yes, as we stated, he is identified as Jesus’ beloved disciple. All of that paints all-in-all a favorable, if not rather rosy picture, of this man. But, did you know that there’s more? That there is more to learn about this son of Zebedee than what we have seen so far?

One of the things that makes me believe that what I hold in my hand, right here [the Bible] is not simply the product of the minds of men, a merely human document. But, rather a word – a revelation from God – an unveiling of His mind and His will, and yes, even of His viewpoint and insight into things as they really are. One of the things that I believe confirms that this is God’s Book, not man’s book, is that it is always so honest, so gut-level, so painfully, honest in it’s presentation of people as they really are!

Guess what? The same is true of the Apostle John – the same is true of the disciple whom Jesus loved… Mark 3:13 – 19. It is the record of Jesus calling to Himself 12 men, whom He “appointed… that they might be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach and to minister in His name…” Take a look at the list there, next to Simon, the one we usually refer to as Peter, and James, his brother – notice who is listed third: John, James’ brother and Zebedee’s son. But then, take a little longer look. What else does the 17th verse tell us about John and his brother James? Jesus calls them, He nicknames them “Boanerges” – the “Sons of Thunder”.

The “Sons of Thunder”. What could that title possibly mean? What does it tell us about John and his brother?

Well, hold your place there, and go with me to Luke 9:51 – 56:

Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.

Why would Jesus nick-name a man named John – whose name, by the way, means “the Lord is gracious” – why would Jesus call him a “Son of Thunder’? “The Son of Man came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them…” But John, and his brother James – it seems that, at least at that moment - they were intent on calling down fire from heaven to wipe the unbelievers off the map!

A vindictive – we might even say, a hateful spirit – is that the John you know anything about?

Then, there’s Mark 9:38 – 41. Talk about painfully-honest camera angles – take a look at this side of the beloved disciple.

Mark 9:38-41 – “Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.

Do you see what’s going on here? It stings a little to think about it – John’s viewpoint was, “This fellow’s not following us, so therefore he’s in competition with us. So let’s set him straight, let’s tell him to join us or to keep his mouth shut.” But, what was Jesus’ viewpoint? “If he is not against us, he is on our side…!”

Vindictiveness, sectarianism – What was underneath these aspects of John’s life that we’d rather not know about? Mark 10:35 – 45 – Read it with me, if you would:

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but
it is for those for whom it is prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Mark 10 – this passage, set off – book-ended – by Jesus’ third prediction of His death and resurrection and by His compassionate, servant-like ministry to a blind man named Bartimaeus – this passage marked off by these two other passages – what does it do? It tells us – it shows us in living color – what Jesus was all about: His passion, His mission and – and what John and his brother, and really, what all the rest of Jesus’ disciples were all about! He had come to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many, but they wanted only to be first in line!

Now fast forward the tape only about a week to John chapters 19 and 20, and keep in mind – don’t forget about our leading question: what is the biggest and best evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? John chapter 19 – the record of the crucifixion, suffering, and death of Jesus. We know where Jesus is – right where He said He would be – “lifted up” on a cross that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life – serving and giving His life as a ransom for many! We know where Jesus was, but where was John?

John 19:25-27 – “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.

The beloved disciple – the one through whom we find out about Jesus’ tender regard for His mother, the one through whom we learn about the piercing of Jesus’ side and the blood and water that poured forth from the wound, the one through whom we heard Jesus’ triumphant shout, “It is finished”, where is he? Where is John at this crucial hour? He is at the cross, he is there next to his dying Master and Friends – end of the story? This one who had previously been driven by self-seeking ambition, watches his Friend lay down His life for others! This one who had been so filled with hate that he asked to call down fire from heaven – where is he? He is there, at the foot of One whose overwhelming love drove Him to die for His enemies! Is this the end of John’s story?

You know it – or, you should know it, my Loved Ones. Just as we marked last Lord’s day, the fact that Good Friday is not the end of Jesus’ ‘story’ – so this scene of death and grief is not the end of John’s story either! John chapters 20 and 21 – we don’t have time to read the entirety of both of these important chapters, but allow me to read these few verses:

John 20:1 – 10 – “Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”
Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying
there; yet he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.

Where was John on Good Friday? He was at the foot of the cross. And, where was he on the first day of the week – Sunday morning? He and Peter were having a foot race to see who could get to Jesus’ tomb first. He was at the empty tomb - once again, I ask: “end of story?” No, listen, my friends – what we have at these two crucial events is the turning point, the life-changing moment in the man Jesus called “the disciple I love…”

We’re nearly out of time, so let me wrap it up this way, and come around once more to our leading question: what is the biggest and best evidence for Jesus’ resurrection? A stone rolled away? An empty tomb? Grave clothes left, but no body, no corpse found? No! The biggest, and I dare say, best evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus is a life – a life driven by vindictive zeal, a sectarian spirit, and even hatred – a self-centered life, changed 180 degrees, to a life passionately propelled by the fact that “I say Him – the Living One! My Lord, and my God!”

I’ve got a question for you to consider as we close. If you were arrested, for being a follower of Jesus, what would the evidence, the evidence of your life, determine as to whether you are guilty, or not guilty?

How do you know, how do I know that Jesus lives?

We know it, or should know it, and other ought to be able to see it – we know it because He lives, His life-altering, eternity changing, resurrection power LIVES within our hearts!

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