Tag: Easter

E njoyment to the Fullest

John 16:20-24 

Hours before worst moments of Jesus’ life, focused on joy and his part in making it happen for his followers. Almost certainly not where our heads would be at time like that! Too much living in the moment to look through something like the cross and see what lay beyond. Gives indication of area where too many people miss the mark – devote too much to pursuing happiness / pleasure; should be pursuing joy.

Surely God expects his people to live this life for all it’s worth. Compared to this life, next life has far greater worth for believer. But… people we encounter every day, maybe several times a day, question whether this life can offer enough good to justify living it. Some have no hope good in this life can ever outweigh the pain, when cannot cope any more they try to end it. Others simply trying to endure until it’s over. Many have no expectation of good now or later, try their hardest to make everyone else as miserable as they.

Not the kind of existence Lord Jesus intended for his followers. Jesus not in denial, knew not only what he would experience in next few days, he knew what followers would go through. Jesus also knew what his willing self-sacrifice would purchase for his followers after Sunday morning. Beginning with encounter on road to Emmaus Jesus helped those who love him begin on that path through sorrow to joy and eventually Enjoyment to the Fullest.

A. sorrow will be turned into joy  v.20

sorrow is real

sorrow part of human existence from first breath on – often babies first response to new environment after birth, and continues

sorrow often connected with loss, always comes with pain of some kind – disciples’ sorrow would nearly overwhelm, drive to despair

mockery, dismissiveness of world adds to sting of sorrow – now we sorrow not only for our own loss, for what they risk losing

sorrow is temporary

Jesus knew their sorrow would end – was in part based on lack of understanding, limited sight – they didn’t know what was next

only one kind of circumstance where joy will never be possible: those who have ended this life without being reconciled to God

sorrow establishes framework for joy

“The Day Boy and the Night Girl”, George MacDonald – Phosgen had no comprehension of darkness/night, Nycteris none of light/day – had never been part of their experience, frame of reference

certain things necessary to give understanding / appreciation even for God’s character – as we grasp depth of our sinfulness, we better grasp greatness of God’s mercy and grace

from depths of sorrow that we grasp need for joy, its value and significance – gives greater appreciation when joy is experienced

B. no longer remember the anguish for joy  v.21

joy also is real

Jesus didn’t talk about imaginary things – not only promised his followers good, he actually delivered – Bible makes clear they did indeed rejoice following his resurrection

joy is not “pie in the sky”, it is the expectation of actually possessing something truly good… that inheritance reserved for us

joy is greater

Jesus gives good example, typical mother does not look forward to distress of labor, she looks forward to joy of holding newborn

is rare mother who refuses to take her baby, who says “let me process what I just went through first” – joy of a new life far outweighs distress

and… not only joy of the moment, is anticipation of what future holds for that life, what they will share together

joy replaces sorrow

may not happen all at once, often is a process as joy builds and sorrow recedes – One who knows end from beginning knows all about what comes next, whether tomorrow or next year or next life

if not in this life, certainly in the next will be no further place for sorrow – other things far more glorious will fill all our thoughts

far different from experience in this life – sorrow follows after sorrow, brief or no breaks between, easy to wonder how can endure w/o God

C. no one will take your joy from you  v.22

joy like faith has an object

joy is in part the anticipation of possessing something good – if anticipate possessing what God gives, no one can take that away

for unbeliever, only joy they have or anticipate limited to this life – not true for Christ-follower, ultimately looks to next life

seeing Jesus meant joy was secure

Jesus’ early followers hopes dashed the day he died, profound sorrow took place of hope – little reason for them to think joy of any real kind even remotely possible

seeing Jesus assured them their belief he was one God sent was justified… and somehow Jesus would surely keep his promises

if Jesus could have victory over death as he said he would, then everything else he promised suddenly seems not just possible but certain

our joy also secure – has same object

if we like them hope in Christ, his promises are just as secure and certain to us – if we have faith in same Savior, same future awaits

Jesus in Garden prayer expresses same desires for his contemporaries as for all who would come after… including future with him

truth is, if Jesus really who he said he was, did what the Bible said he did, just being present with him is enough to give joy

D. you will receive that your joy may be full  v.24

joy now is connected with prayer

believe it or not, there is more – Father and Son are committed to giving good gifts… starting now, in this life, to add to our joy

abundant blessing has condition attached to it: not an automatically deposited benefit – we must actually ask for it to receive it

the way Jesus talks here, don’t get idea he will be stingy – God will answer our requests with abundance, sufficient to give real and lasting joy

sorrow will end but not joy

Jesus’ intention is that our cup of joy will be continually overflowing with no risk whatsoever of supply ever failing

sorrows have limited lifetime, joy will not – God keeps replenishing the supply so joy which we experience now carries over into next life

joy can be complete in this life and the next

far too much of the time, God’s people act like they are simply enduring whatever life throws at them in hopes they can somehow make it through, next life will be better

Jesus was talking about joy full to the brim and running over now, before heaven, and after we get there, too

Sorrow and despair entered the world pretty early on, within days of Creation. What was God’s first move after that? To promise that sorrow would be part of human existence. At same time, gave promise of hope – the Seed of the woman would defeat the serpent. Since first man and woman, God has been delivering message of HOPE to the Hopeless – Lord Jesus himself preparing a home for his brothers and sisters; by his death he has opened the door to enduring loving relationship with God and one another; because of his resurrection, our hope extends to a promised future; and because of his victory over sin and death we can have enjoyment to the fullest.

And we can be participants in the process of bringing others out of hopelessness and into saving relationship with Jesus:

2 Cor. 5:17-6:2 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

 

P romise of a Future

1 Corinthians 15:19-23 

 So we are here, Easter morning, Resurrection Day, all about life and hope and glorious future, right? Then why do 3 out of 4 points in outline start with death? Can’t we be done talking about death? dealing with death? Yes… but… not yet. And don’t forget this – resurrection is impossible if death does not come first. History and experience tell us it will – death is truly inescapable, unless of course are still alive when Jesus comes back. Second thing that is true, why majority of people have hard time with death… it is not the end… something comes after physical death. If only someone could have victory over death, might be some hope for future. God’s word tells about that, when that promise will become reality.

A. death is inescapable

result of the Fall/curse – “by man came death”

was by God’s direct and distinct action that man was first given life: Gen. 2:7 “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

God warned them against disobedience, they sinned anyway, God kept his word – if knew no other way, have inspired record Gen. 5:5 “So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.”

applies to everyone – “as in Adam all die”

have strong indication death would not stop with Adam and Eve, and wasn’t only murder of Abel by his brother that explains

God in beginning made man in his own image, according to his likeness – Gen. 5:3 declares that Adam “begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth”

all Adam’s natural descendants share his likeness… under the curse, corrupted by sin, subject to death – what we all have to anticipate

choice is how to deal with it

so far in all of human existence, no one has figured out how to prevent it – have come up with numerous ways to try and cope

pretend it won’t happen to me; pretend it didn’t happen to them – pretense not good long-term solution for anything so serious

claim only temporary, come back as someone else; hope only temporary, cryo preserved; try to believe nothing more than this

B. death is not the end

separation of soul from body – Luke 23:46 

“Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.” – soul, an essential but immaterial thing that is indestructible except by God

pathologist: “Without life, facial expression or movement, robbed of our essential selves, our bodies can look very different.” Unnatural Causes by Richard Shepherd

if law of mass conservation is correct, matter cannot be created/destroyed only rearranged, then even matter that makes up bodies doesn’t cease to exist at death

is soul that provides life, essential self, and continues to exist and function after death – is what many people fear

Jesus had power apart from his body – John 2:19-21; 10:18

on two different occasions Jesus declared that he had power to raise himself from the dead… and at right time he would exercise that power

if Jesus’ claim turned out to be true, would be clear evidence that death does not have ultimate power – if so, a glimmer of hope

is the declaration of Scripture – 1 Cor. 15:4

Bible declares both that suffering / death / resurrection was necessary and would occur, goes on to plainly state it did happen

he died, was buried, rose again – same person in view throughout, and in Jesus’ case he rose again to further life and work

told Mary would ascend to the Father – would remain actively busy interceding for his people, ruling his kingdom until his return

and evidence many credible witnesses – 1 Cor 15:5-8 

seen by individuals, small groups, one group of over 500 – all could give witness that they had seen no ghost but real live person

Thomas, greatest skeptic of the bunch was convinced was really Jesus… alive… in the flesh, and risked his church membership to show his belief – worshiped Jesus, “My Lord and my God”

C. death’s victor gives life

death is inescapable but not unconquerable – “in Christ all shall be made alive”

shows that death can be conquered – not by fountain of youth, super healthy lifestyle, genetic engineering, but power of God

if the Man Christ Jesus who is our Mediator could rise from the dead, is hope for the rest of us – if he could be made alive, so can we

is God alone who raises the dead – Rom. 4:17

it is “God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” – is creation power that is resurrection power

the only one who can restore life is the one who gave it in first place and by whose decree it was forfeited, God himself

made possible because of Christ’s victory 1 Cor. 15:45 

God doesn’t raise people from the dead just because he can – God doesn’t need to prove anything, but he does have a purpose

his purpose in raising men/women/boys/girls from dead also includes raising his son the Lord Jesus from dead – demonstrated he had broken power of sin and death, not for himself but for his people

D. promise becomes reality at the end

not instant gratification – “all shall be made alive… afterward… at His coming”

this promise of life, especially life that never ends one that we’d all like to start now – just skip the getting old part, all that goes with it

not how God has designed – won’t pass out that death benefit piecemeal to be experienced by few people at a time – must wait

shared experience – “we will all be changed”  1 Cor. 15:51 

God’s plan is that whether experience of this life ends with death or Second Coming, all his people will be transformed together

delay does not put outcome in doubt – Jesus’ resurrection enough of guarantee to make promise certain to us – results of “big reveal” glorious enough to be worth waiting for… with anticipation, desire

no more death hanging over our heads  1 Cor. 15:54; Rev. 21:4 

for threat and reality of death to be completely taken away, its cause must be cured also – if death is symptom of sin that caused it, all this must mean sin will be history too

is beauty of the Gospel: when, by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us, we receive forgiveness of sin and gift of eternal life, we are assured of a future promised and waiting for us

future when both body and soul has been fully redeemed / raised to eternal life will never be tainted by sin or its consequences

This glorious future not what awaits everyone. Paul, 1 Cor. 15:22 states two possible outcomes: “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive”.

in Adam – under sentence of death because of sin, required to pay penalty on own behalf; in Christ – freed from sentence of death because Christ paid penalty on your behalf. One or other is what every man/woman/boy/girl faces – the difference comes about through faith in Christ, believing he was who he said he was, he accomplished what he said he did, he is only one who can save from sin, he stands ready to receive all who come to him in faith trusting him to save them. 

I Am the Life from God

John 14:6

Try wrapping your mind around this – are surrounded by a culture of death, yet when someone dies we have a celebration of life, not a funeral. Death is glamorized, many fascinated with zombies, several million worshipers of Santa Muerte (sacred death), lobbying for assisted suicide and euthanasia, abortions worldwide at more than 1 every second. True, there are many who labor diligently to save and nurture life. Yet much of what we see / hear on daily basis centers on death and dying. Many we encounter daily have completely upside down view of life and death.

Understandable for first followers of Lord Jesus in hours immediately following real Black Friday – blackest day they had ever known. One they were counting on to save them could not even save himself… instead succumbing to unspeakable agonies of crucifixion. No surprise if they were more preoccupied with death than life – after all, how attractive would life be if all your hopes had died?

There is shock… too much happening too quickly, all just so wrong. Mob violence, repeated injustices from those charged to uphold justice, and everything turning out exactly opposite of expectations. Then so little time for burial, no time for proper one. Gloomy days, sleepless nights, devoted followers now anxious for their own future. Certainly no mental or emotional resources to more than deal with present reality.

Easy for us, from this distance, to say gently “don’t you remember what he said?” But we know rest of the story and… we were not there in the moment, experiencing it first-hand. On first morning, women returned to garden sepulchre intending to do right what men had done hurriedly days earlier. Found that nothing was like they expected – tomb not sealed by massive stone, not guarded by contingent of Roman soldiers, body not there needing further care. Was an open tomb, overseen by angels, empty but for now superfluous and empty grave clothes.

Those angels asking questions that make little sense – Why do you look for the living among the dead? Well, he was dead the last we knew. He is not here! We know that, we see that, who took his body away? He is risen! Risen? What is that supposed to mean? Where did you put his body? Remember what he told you… Remember? All we remember is how this is all so wrong. He said what? …the third day rise again? What? This is too much, we need to process this.

Slowly, very slowly at first, over next hours reality of what happened, what Jesus had said begain to register. Jesus spoke often about significant upcoming events. Immediate followers heard, lacked places in framework for viewing life to hang pieces of information. Spoke on 3 separate occasions about his upcoming death and resurrection (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33) – hearers didn’t really begin to get it until after had taken place.

A. the source of life (John 1:4; 8:12)

life does not come from non-life

to believe, first, that anyone knows exact recipe for mass of highly condensed matter that exploded in Big Bang 13 billion years ago takes massive amount of faith

then to believe anyone can accurately describe what followed requires just as much faith, as does believing life spontaneously arose from soup of nonliving substances

far more believable that a living God created all things by his powerful word, out of nothing, in space of 6 days, all very good

is true for life in all forms

every last bit of tangible evidence clearly demonstrates requirement for living to produce more living things after their kind

the one at beginning, already present, in whom was life – the Word… who was with God, who was God, gave life to every living creature from single-celled organisms right up through most complex being

one who is source of life also the authority – John 10:18

one who has power to give life has not only power over own life, has authority over everything to which he gave life

no other being has power to take life away from source, yet he has necessary power to lay it down, to take it up again

need to think carefully and precisely – was not God who died on Calvary’s cross; was the God-Man who gave his human life and then raised himself: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)

B. the first living sacrifice (John 6:51; 1 Cor. 5:7)

gave his life so he might give life

was the Lord Jesus – the true passover lamb that every other lamb dimly pictured – who was sacrificed for us

Jesus gave his life so he could give eternal life to all who trust in him – nothing less would satisfy holy and righteous God

that way from nearly the beginning – Adam and Eve forfeited life… not only for them, but for all their posterity

justice required a life in return for theirs, if not from them, then from a suitable substitute… who had no debt of his own to pay

could only give life from own treasury – had to take it back to give

Jesus laid down his life, gave up his human life by his own authority and power; would take it up again so could give it to others

way God designed it – had to be someone to do perfectly what first Adam failed to do, then he could be substitute for his people, grant them life he purchased on their behalf

C. his life the ground of our life (John 14:19b)

see John 5:21; 10:10, 17

was Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth – to give life to his people: “even so the Son gives life to whom He will.”

unlike what some think… that Jesus leveled playing field to put us on par with Adam, Jesus gives life more abundant – life that can never be lost or taken away

both death and life absolutely necessary

Jesus – “because I live, you will live also” – could not skip they dying part first, otherwise is not a resurrection!

besides, since had forfeited life, someone had to recover it for those who needed it – had to be life for life, not works for life, money, bargaining

must be in that order

had to be real death followed by real resurrection – only way to satisfy God’s demands, only way to know they were satisfied

if Jesus could not overcome death, would mean he failed to pay penalty for sin – why Paul could declare confidently: if Jesus did not rise from dead, our situation is hopeless, we still in our sins

D. his resurrection guarantees ours (John 5:25-29)

if no resurrection – preaching futile, faith is empty

would make no sense to try and proclaim good news of salvation if Savior was accused truly: “He saved others; Himself He cannot save.”

hope promised in Gospel some for this life, mostly for next life – if Jesus still buried somewhere, his fate is our fate… hopeless and empty of any true value

Jesus’ resurrection to better life

true, Jesus walked and talked here on earth for nearly 6 weeks after resurrection – for last 1900+ years, been experiencing all joys of heaven at Father’s right hand

Heb. 6:19-20This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

Heb. 12:2 “…Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

same true for us – John 11:25-26

Jesus is both resurrection and life to those who live and believe in him – may experience physical death, at same time possessing life

Jesus himself promised resurrection of those who are his will be to “resurrection of life”; those who die in their sins will hear Father’s summons to “resurrection of condemnation”

E. a singular package (John 17:2-3)

“The distinctive gift of the Gospel is the gift of life. ‘I am the Life,’ says Christ. And the apostle’s confession is in harmony with his Master’s claim–‘For me to live is Christ.’ Salvation is nothing else than the restoration, preservation, and exaltation of life.” Archibald Alexander

salvation not ticket to good life

can all probably come up with description of “the good life” – easy, enjoyable, no drama, everything you need close at hand

keep dreaming! that is only place where that kind of life exists around here… and is nothing at all like what God has in mind

not even ticket to heaven

God loves you, has wonderful plan for your life, even better in heaven… not that either; Jesus didn’t die and rise again to save people from hell – would only be treating symptoms

he gave his life and rose third day to save us from our sins – not getting old, not our neighbor, not even cancer is greatest problem… is our sin that stands between us and God, between us and life

salvation as offered in Gospel is only way to life, the real thing

Bible describes those yet unconverted as dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1) – unresponsive to spiritual things, not fully alive

different situation for those whom God has changed: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4-5)

requires belief in some basic things: Rom. 10:9-13

if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”

Listen to words of Jesus –

John 3:36“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

1 John 5:10He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.”

There is human existence beyond death – not reincarnation, not something we pick off buffet after arriving. Destiny is obvious from choices made before death, character of life now. Make sure you have reason to be confident in a good future found in eternal life through our savior Jesus Christ.

I Am the Truth of God

John 14:6

In just a few hours from when Jesus spoke these words to disciples, would be engaged in dialog with someone from significantly different worldview. We know him as Pontius Pilate, Roman governor of province of Judea. In fascinating dialog between Pilate and Jesus,

Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38)

Gospel writer does not indicate Pilate’s facial expression, tone of voice – was he sarcastic… or seeking? Pilate by no means first to ask question. One that has been debated for centuries, number of different answers given. Defies logic but many today don’t seem to care whether question has answer, even less what answer might signify.

Subject of “what is truth” puts us into realm of philosophy. Before your eyes glaze over, keep listening… won’t be that complicated! Greek philosopher Aristotle, lived between Malachi and Matthew, gave an answer… later called “correspondence theory of truth”. Here’s what he said: “to say that that which is is and that which is not is not, is true”. In other words, “truth agrees with reality”. As you might expect, not everyone agrees with Aristotle. As time passes, fewer and fewer agree that Aristotle was right.

Some make truth in any form relative – “that may be true for you but it isn’t true for me”. Your truth and my truth can both be valid even if they contradict one another. Some make it pragmatic – “if that’s what works for you, great; it doesn’t work for me”. The convinced skeptic refuses to accept that truth can even be known since no one has fully accurate and unbiased knowledge of reality. Vast majority of world citizens vigorously deny that any worldview has corner on truth, possesses absolute truth – truth that is always true in all places, times, circumstances and applies to all people.

Before we even get to definition of truth, try to figure out which might be right, need to know if truth even exists. If it does exist, can we discover it and know it? If we can know it, what good is it… what will truth do for us? And how do we go about finding it?

Does God have anything to say about truth, if so, what?

A. truth exists (John 1:14; 17:17b)

do not need NT in order to know this: God himself abounds in truth` Ex. 34:6; repeated Ps. 86:15

He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. …And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth

not simply that God is truthful, recognizes and appreciates the truth – is abundantly filled with truth – permeates who he is, what he does and says

God’s word, like his character, is truth in its entirety Ps 119.160

“The entirety of your word is truth” – no part of God’s word lacking in truth, no part of his word communicates untruth… means truth and not-truth can be distinguished

also in keeping with his character, God’s truth is always true, universally – not every true statement is universally true, time/date e.g. not true at given moment in all the world

not only an idea or principle, has substance: Ps. 91:4

His truth shall be your shield and buckler” – has power to be our protection, our defense against all that would cause harm

shop saying – “mind over matter; if you don’t mind, it don’t matter”; God’s truth not simply state of mind – are statements, concepts, propositions that correspond to reality from God’s point of view and have ability to do something

Jesus embodied truth and reiterated that God’s word is truth and has ability to make one holy

final prayer before arrest that Father would make his people holy, make them pure by his truth… found in God’s word

if you have been follower of Jesus any time at all, know the reality of that prayer – was hearing God’s truth warned of sinfulness, brought message of hope, informs what displeases God, strengthens to resist sin

B. truth is essential (John 4:23-24)

for Lord to be near, must call on him in truth Ps. 145:18

The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.” – cannot call on him any way we please, expect God to answer

” the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” Heb 11:6 must be confident of certain truth to receive response

to please God, must walk in truth… his truth Ps. 86:11

Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth;” – don’t get to make up own truth about God, what is acceptable

God’s truth applied to thoughts, words, actions vitally necessary for us to live acceptably before God, to be able to depend on him as our help and guide

to worship God, must do so in spirit and truth

has never been acceptable to worship true God according to own invention – made obvious by Adam & Eve’s oldest son

Jesus made sure we know rules haven’t changed: God seeking true worshipers who will worship Father in spirit and truth – with a true understanding of Jesus as our access to the Father, the fulfillment of OT shadows

C. truth is knowable (John 8:32a)

God desires us to possess truth – Ps. 51:6

You desire truth in the inward parts”: not just know it, recognize it, even appreciate it – but… possess it… in our inward parts – iow, saturated to the core w/truth

for God to desire that we possess truth that way, we must be able to know it and work to absorb it and retain it

God expects parents to communicate his truth to children – Isa. 38:19

The father shall make known Your truth to the children.” – carries on theme from Deut. 6:6-9 “these words [God’s truth] which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children…”

God’s truth not hidden, no secret decoder ring necessary to read and comprehend his truth from his word – Holy Spirit’s ministry sufficient to lead us into truth

Jesus said we can know the truth

“you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” – truth as embodied in Christ and declared in Gospel sets free from bondage to sin and Satan

God’s truth can only do that if it is knowable and absolute – applicable to all people in all places at all times

God our Savior desires all men to know the truth – 1 Tim. 2:3-4

“God our Savior …desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” – and God gets his way… never frustrated in his desires

D. truth sets people free (John 8:32b)

sin enslaves through deception

sin promises what it cannot deliver, promises to bring pleasure / satisfaction… when comes up empty, says try again… harder, it’ll work for sure this time

cannot know every form of deception well enough to recognize

Satan a master of cloaking his agenda and sin in different ways to keep sinner guessing and permanently trapped in sin

many deceptions are close enough to truth that must have knowledge of truth coupled with Holy Spirit’s help to discern

can know truth, recognize what is not-truth

it is truth that unmasks deception, shows sin for what it is; we can know truth, God expects us to use knowledge of truth to discern not-truth

truth leads to true solution for our need

Satan tries to convince we have no need or we only need what he promises – leads in opposite direction away from truth

God’s truth not only exposes our true need of Savior, same truth leads to true solution for our need… Lord Jesus

E. truth makes people holy (John 17:17a)

to see things as they are makes people holy

far more than just negative – yes, need to know our sinful condition; also need to know reality about God

truth enables us to see God as “infinitely lovely and pure; his commands to be reasonable and just;

equips us to believe heaven to be holy and desirable; Christ’s service to be easy, and religion pleasant, and sin odious

enables to see that life is short, death is near; pride, pomp, pleasures, wealth, and honors of this world are of little value

and that it is of infinite importance to be prepared to enter on the eternal state of being.” Barnes

is God’s truth that convinces us of importance of our immortal soul – need to make sure is in good health according to God’s standard… and keep it that way

that kind of truth can be found in fullness in God’s word the Bible

Bible is only source of truth that is fully reliable in its entirety; are other helpful assistants – teachers of past and present

God’s word is fully sufficient as it is reliable – don’t need to go looking for God’s truth elsewhere to know what to believe and how to behave pleasing to God

F. we have a guide into the truth (John 16:13)

not expected to stumble around in dark

Holy Spirit, poured out in abundance on first Pentecost after Ascension is absolutely reliable guide to God’s truth and word

significant ongoing work of Holy Spirit – illuminating God’s truth, our areas of need

has brilliant and focused beam he turns on particular places in God’s word, leading us from truth to truth, helping us grow

turns that same beam on places in our lives that need to be changed by God’s word, God’s truth – guides both understanding and application of truth

Truth is this: Eph. 2:1-4, 11-12 and it required this: Eph. 2:13-19

I Am the Way to God

John 14:6

GPS a wonderful invention. When equipped with accurate maps can take lot of guesswork out of travel. Usually a reliable guide that can be trusted in unfamiliar places. Can be a fun exercise – use GPS in area where you are familiar, then take shortcuts and back roads you know about. “In 300 feet turn left.” No, it’s the next left. “Recalculating… turn around as soon as possible.” And so it goes, not taking turn suggested, taking turns not suggested. Even if you do become disoriented, just follow directions given and will most likely arrive at destination.

Lots of folks treat eternal destination in similar way. Believe they have some sort of internal GPS makes it possible for them to take any road, make any turns they choose, still arrive at good destination at end of life. God may be at end of road, could be heaven or nirvana or nothing at all. Whichever it happens to be, are confident can live life how they choose and still arrive where they intend.

Many of same folks at least profess to live by principle that truth is relative. What is true for you does not need to be true for them and vice versa. What is true in one situation not necessarily true in other places or at other times. According to them, definitely is not any body of truth that applies to all people in all places in all time. One absolute truth exists… that there is no absolute truth.

Would also be of opinion that mankind has prerogative to decide when human life begins, when it should end. If they believe certain procedures are not unjust taking of life, then abortion is ok. If they believe a particular life is not worth sustaining, well then, end it by assisted suicide or euthanasia. Anyone who dares to challenge those views is obviously wrong, should not have a voice in the discussion. Is especially true when challenger has temerity to say their way is the only way of rightly responding to all these issues.

Christian should not be satisfied with these answers to questions foundational to all of life. We must ask “has God said something about these topics? If so, what did he say?” He said: “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Same truth expressed elsewhere in God’s word the Bible – cannot blame exclusive nature of Jesus’ statement on bad translation.

Much of what you will hear now through Sunday… have heard before. Is good to review, be reminded of truth, have it reinforced in thinking so are better equipped to declare truth to others. Is helpful to begin at beginning – think about what Jesus said… unnecessary unless Jesus speaking to genuine area of need.

— if Jesus is the way, must be that we need a way, know where to find it, how to access it

— if Jesus is the truth, not simply a truth but the truth… must be that it exists, we need to know it and it can be known

— if Jesus is the life, then apart from Jesus mankind is cut off from life, the kind found only in Jesus

A. we need a way (Gen. 3:21-24)

perfect fellowship broken / ended by sin

God said “let there be… and there was, God saw, God rested – all creation very good in God’s estimation… satisfied with what came into being in response to command

God said all this… but not this; serpent said, woman saw, no longer good – all that was very good now scarred and cracked and darkened… distorted and defaced from original condition

true of every human relationship – now contorted by sin, deception, accusation, frustration and opposition

original way guarded / off-limits

way to fellowship with God now blocked; where only truth existed, now falsehood and twisting of truth; those once alive now beginning to die, the inevitable outcome of sin

way to perfect eternal fellowship with God guarded by flaming sword, off-limits to man and woman fallen and corrupted by sin

impossible to make own way – Job 9:33

God showed great mercy guarding his presence from sinners – holiness and purity would have destroyed them, tree of life would have condemned to hopeless future

God made original way to his presence, only God can make another way – beyond ability of mankind to restore what was lost

are estranged from God, from our side with irreconcilable differences

fallen sinners have no desire for any contact with God – first parents with pretty small collection of sin hid from God’s presence, resisted his efforts at reconciliation

B. there is a way (Isaiah 35:4-10)

a highway and a road

many places nearby, some we have checked out over past summers – nature trails – some well-made, clearly marked, others not so much… hard to find trail markers, impassible certain times of year

way God makes is clearly defined – is highway for safe travel, well defined and marked, constantly accessible and in good repair

limited access

only certain types permitted to use this highway, has only one way of access; provided with effective guard rails keeping travelers in right way, safe from harm

no unclean on it, reserved for redeemed, ransomed of the Lord; whoever uses it never get lost; unerring leads to final destination

way of holiness, gladness, joy

way that leads in holiness to perfect holiness – purity in all things and suitable for God’s presence; not burdensome, pleasant surroundings that supply joy and gladness… disperse sorrow and sighing

C. we know the way (John 14:4)

…but not everyone does John 8:14

Jesus spoke plainly to Pharisees: “I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going.”

also spoke plainly to his intimate followers: “You know the way where I am going” – both destination and route to get there

had to help the Eleven adjust focus from immediate to eternal – not going to “Father’s house” in Jerusalem but real one

his followers must make other followers

is task Lord Jesus has left his followers – go make more… show and tell, at every opportunity, help others find only way that leads to eternal life

need not be overwhelmed by task – not our job to reach all the lost (all several billion) with the Gospel – one at a time… pray, meet people, tell them about Jesus

D. he is not a new way (John 1:51) (Rom. 4:5, 9)

Gen. 3:15 – promised

important note: Adam and Eve sinned, under God’s condemnation; before righteous Judge issued sentence, declared message of hope for fallen sinners

God would supply someone who would overcome evil Serpent had brought into the world, in process would deal with Serpent

Gen. 28:10-17 – confirmed

way to tree of life perhaps only dim memory passed down through generations; not hard to believe mankind wondering if anything would ever change, if God’s presence to be forever off-limits

Jacob leaving town and murderous brother, stops for night, has dream: “a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; … the LORD stood above it”, renewed covenant, now with Jacob

Jacob’s response: “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” – God confirmed he would make way

Lord Jesus added more detail – told Nathanael “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (John 1:51)

John 19:30 – completed

that new and living way into house of God completed when He cried “It is finished”, then on third day rose from the dead

E. he is the only way (John 14:6b; Acts 4:12)

no access to God apart from Jesus

Lord Jesus is Jacob’s Ladder that stretches from Father in heaven to touch earth – God himself the only one without exception who can establish ladder, a way that reaches from fallen sinful mankind to his presence

Jesus told Eleven “I am the way... No one comes to the Father except through Me.” – unpopular maybe, but consider this:

he did not keep this essential truth hidden from mankind – declared it openly, wrote it down, preserved so all may know

no salvation in any other

another exclusive statement, and so incredibly helpful: don’t waste your life trying other ways, there is no other way to acquire salvation – “there is salvation in no one else”

no other name

no other person, being, method, plan that can provide salvation acceptable to God; and… no other means ever devised by God himself for the salvation of a lost world

God’s entire plan of salvation wrapped up in Jesus – every ritual sanctioned by God in OT worship looked forward to him, in NT looks backward to Calvary and forward to his return

Heb. 10:19-22Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

Encourage One Another

Hebrews 4:14-16

Eccl. 1:14-15 “I reflected on everything that is accomplished by man on earth, and I concluded: Everything he has accomplished is futile – like chasing the wind! What is bent cannot be straightened, and what is missing cannot be supplied.”

Jean-Paul Sarte (20th century French philosopher) wrote: “Man can count on no one but himself; he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.”

If those two variations on same basic perspective are comprehensive and correct, why bother? Must we then do as Bertrand Russell declared: “it remains only [for man] to cherish the lofty thoughts that ennoble his little day.”

Perhaps you noticed – all of that, even quote from the Preacher in Ecclesiastes, gives no place to God in scheme of things. If all you consider, for this life, is man – his desires, predicaments, solutions, ambitions – everything is futile and empty, only for the little moments of his little day.

Our text makes it plain – Bertrand Russell was wrong: more to all that exists than “omnipotent matter roll[ing] on its relentless way”. There is whole other dimension to life and existence, one that is absolutely real although unseen with physical eyes. It is there, with the God who inhabits eternity, that we discover truth, real truth that can be known and understood. That truth assures us of two things: there is meaning to this life and hope for the next life. Also assures us: genuine lasting meaning and hope come to us only on God’s terms.

The inspired author’s point in these 3 verses: Encourage one another. Don’t give up hope!! Our cause for hope inescapably founded in what we commemorate every “first day of the week”, more intentionally on this first day, Easter. It is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus that guarantees our hope, that gives substance to our encouragement of one another. Encouraging one another not an after-thought; was front and center for angelic messenger at empty tomb. Two Mary’s not allowed luxury of keeping good news to themselves: “But go, tell his disciples, especially Peter”. (Mark 16:7)

Let us hold fast, let us take heart, let us come boldly, let us encourage one another!

A. Let us Hold Fast v.14

our belief in Christ – “​Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession” (Heb. 3:1)

do you have a true confession? – “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:9)

details of confession of utmost significance: Jesus is Lord (not Savior), Jesus is King, Jesus is in charge and calling all shots in your life

is doing so presently, 2000 years down the road, because he is alive, raised from the dead, ruling his kingdom and his subjects

if that is your confession and your belief, you can be assured that Jesus will save you from your sins

ok, so that is true, now what? Hang on! Hold fast to Jesus. When life is dark, hold fast to Jesus. Confusing. Discouraging. Impossibly hard. Painful. Lonely.

remember this: it doesn’t depend on you and strength of your grip! “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29)

notice also: you are not in Jesus’ hand, we are in his hand – “neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”

one of our tasks while there in Jesus’ hand – encourage our brothers and sisters to keep hanging on…to Jesus

if he has the words of life, if he is our life, we must cling to him and do our best to help others to cling to Jesus

B. Let us take heart v.15

“One day in October 2012, a New Yorker named Jeff Ragsdale, recently dumped and down on his luck, taped a flyer around Manhattan. It read, “If anyone wants to talk about anything, call me.” He included his cell-phone number. Within a day, he had received about a hundred calls and text messages. When people started posting pictures of the flyer on Reddit.com, the social-news Web site, that number jumped to seven hundred calls and a thousand text messages daily.” no training, but he understands

Jeff probably a nice enough guy, maybe even useful to talk with; but, in ultimate sense, Jeff is powerless to help with our greatest need

we have an understanding Christ

is important to know: we are not clinging to a rope, a rock, a statue, a dream or an ideal; are clinging to a real live flesh and bone Lord Jesus who has gone before us, now present with his Father in his office as High Priest

let’s put beginning of verse 15 in positive – “we have a High Priest who can sympathize” (don’t stop there) “with our weaknesses”

super-important qualifier there – point not that Jesus can sympathize with our circumstances, he sympathizes with our weaknesses, our infirmity, our lack of strength and ability

to live pleasing to God in fallen, sin-corrupted world required all strength of the God-Man; and then even beyond, in Garden Jesus needed strengthening to carry through – perfect humanity not sufficient by itself for that trial

no matter what happens, can’t honestly say to Jesus “you just don’t understand” – he came from highest heaven, glory of God’s immediate presence, descended all the way to death and the grave, experiencing all trials of humanity along the way, from human perspective; now, that very God-Man, “Jesus the Son of God” has returned, ascended to the presence of His Father and our Father once again

if you come from another religious tradition, might wonder why we in our Baptist church don’t have priests – ah, but we do, we have a Priest who is not in place that represents presence of God, he is in very presence of God

has gone there to make it ready for us, he made promise about that, too! – John 14:3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

what does that mean in practical terms? “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.” Jerry Bridges

C. Let us Come Boldly v.16

totally opposite response to Adam and Eve – “the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God moving about in the orchard at the breezy time of the day, and they hid from the Lord God” (Gen. 3:8)

desperately needed God’s help, in absolutely hopeless condition without God’s intervention; tried to fix in their own way

when God showed up, against their wishes, still didn’t seek his help, blamed others for what went wrong

was the same in Moses’ day – people told Moses they wanted God to keep his distance (Ex. 20:19); were afraid to get too close to Moses after he had been in God’s presence (Ex. 34:30)

is to be something different for the Christian – therefore, let us come boldly, with confidence, into God’s very presence

On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’ (Matt. 7:22-23)

we did this, we did that, yes was in your name, we didn’t do that, we’re not like them; coming boldly, perhaps arrogantly on their own merits, even though they acted in Jesus’ name, still trusting in their own performance to make the grade

the “therefore” makes the point: on basis of what just came before approach the throne of grace confidently

on the merits of Christ

“since we have a great High Priest” – he is the privileged one who provides access to God – no priest, no admittance, and you don’t get to bring your own priest

must avail ourselves of the High Priest who is already in God’s presence, the Lord Jesus, and make our requests in his name

repeatedly in John 14-16 Jesus exhorts his disciples – “ask in my name”; God is our Father but only because redemption purchased by Jesus has been applied to us, righteousness of Jesus has been credited to us

have you “received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.”? Does “the Spirit himself bears witness to [y]our spirit that [you] are God’s child.”?

then approach the throne of grace with confidence expecting your sympathetic High Priest to supply precise and abundant resources to meet your need

come confident that you will find mercy – doesn’t matter what you bring for need: no sin too great or shameful for God to show mercy; no need too great but what God’s grace is greater

do not think “I can handle this ok”; do not think “I ought to be able to handle this ok” – come to the throne of grace

talk to yourself, encourage one another with words of Wesley’s hymn, “Arise, my soul, arise”

D. Let us encourage one another

at very beginning, even before sin, God looked at Adam and stated his conclusion: “​Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”” (Gen. 2:18)

by God’s design, we need one another; because of difficulties associated with living in fallen sinful world, we need encouragement from one another – that also is by God’s design

God thought it important to become one of us; Christ thought it important to give himself for the church; we must think it important to care for one another

God didn’t leave it up to us to figure out solution to our problem, we can’t leave it up to the other guy (our brother) either

these three verses full of plural references – we / us – we are in this together, even when looks like you might be alone

Elijah, a prophet of God no less, fresh from God’s amazing victory over false prophets, declared to God: “I alone am left and now they want to take my life.”

God’s response to him: “I still have left in Israel seven thousand followers who have not bowed their knees to Baal”

can’t say that for those with different confession, with different High Priest, only those who recognize Jesus as their High Priest

can assure you of this: we live in throw-away society, that includes relationships too! BUT, listen to words of Jesus:

John 6:37, 40“whoever comes to me I will never cast out. …For this is the will of my Father – that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life.”

you have to come empty-handed, depending solely on his grace and mercy; same is true of those who come to throne of grace – God doesn’t make deals

For all of this to make sense, to have meaning, to be an encouragement and provide hope, one thing must be true: must be a risen Savior who has conquered sin, Satan and death who now stands by his Father in heaven. There he has one hand on his Father, stretches out his other hand toward those who come to him by faith. Come to him now, while it is still Today – there you will find saving grace; you will find sanctifying grace, the perfect and all-sufficient grace to help in time of need.

Comfort One Another

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

John 2:12-22; Mark 16:1-8; 1 Cor. 15:12-22; 1 Thess. 4:13-18

Have a great luxury (something inessential but conducive to pleasure and comfort) – vast majority of the time, are insulated from death. Even from a lot of the dying process. Not in our faces, integral part of everyday life like for much of world’s population. See it on the news, movies, but rarely if ever for real in our personal space. Is rare indeed that we would take active role that “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” did, intending hands-on preparations of Jesus’ corpse for permanent burial.

Has, I believe, contributed to unhealthy attitude toward death: get to deny it, pretend like it didn’t happen. I know that doesn’t apply to everyone; but is true for increasing numbers of people every day. So how is this text still relevant? If more people are refusing to grieve, how does this text speak to them? If they are denying sorrow, what meaning is there in Paul’s words?

Truth is, this text doesn’t speak to them. In fact, it isn’t written for them – the ones who refuse to acknowledge death and loss. Not written to those who are determined to hold on to bones of the past, refusing to give up their grief / grudge. Is written to those who grieve, whom Paul could rightly consider brothers and sisters. His words are intended to inject hope into sorrow and prevent despair regarding those who “sleep in Jesus”.

A. remember and believe (John 2:22)

Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.”

remember the Scripture

genuine hope for the future that provides comfort (gives moral, emotional, spiritual strength) must be sourced in Scripture

all kinds of people with all kinds of opinions (written, expressed verbally) that are just that, opinions, no basis in God’s reality

Bible makes it explicit: there’s this life, the next life; your standing before God in this life determines your destination in next

Bible also makes it plain what we can expect – not as comprehensive as we’d like :-), but everything God figures we need

remember his words

side note: promise of resurrection not an after-thought; came right up front in Jesus’ ministry, even before he identified all the 12

dot-to-dot, a fun little activity for children – for developing motor skills, counting ability, etc; problem with life is all dots aren’t necessarily numbered… often takes passage of time, successive events to supply numbers

we don’t get to see whole picture all at once, usually don’t recognize all details at time things happen – often more focused on finding the next number than figuring out what we’re drawing

after he had risen they remembered – probably John implying “oh, duh, this is what Jesus meant; now we get it”

Dad, in hospital, struggled with communication, “want to go home”… not across bridge to SoPo – didn’t get it then, needed more maturity, life experience, just like disciples

those who fail to remember, refuse to face truth cheat themselves of God-given opportunity to learn and grow and be comforted

have confidence in God’s word

confidence should not come from historical accuracy, beauty of language, cohesiveness of story told, number of translations or copies printed, practical benefits of book we call the Bible

should have confidence in Bible because we have confidence in its author – his knowledge, power and goodness

didn’t leave anything out, has the power to make it happen, has our best interests at heart

all those other things help to confirm our confidence in Bible is not misplaced – MAPS, for example

must translate into more than intellectual confidence – have confidence in your doctor, writes out a scrip, thank him, stick on the fridge? no, follow directions; same should be true for God and his Word

B. you will see (Mark 16:7)

“But go, tell His disciples; and Peter; that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”

required putting faith into action: go

seeing empty tomb, folded graveclothes a start, but could only provide limited comfort; hearing declaration of angel stationed in the tomb reinforced their hope, but…

wasn’t the angel they were looking for – “you seek Jesus of Nazareth”; at that point, nothing short of real living Jesus would satisfy

apparent from Mary Magdalene’s exchange with one she thought was the gardener – he was only important as source of information and help, she wanted Jesus

fully grasping the reality meant they had to go from the place of death to place of the living – “why do you seek the living among the dead, he is not here, for he is risen as he said”

required verbal witness to faith: tell his disciples

angel had said “don’t be alarmed” but his words had little effect – they kept a grip on it as long as angel could see them, then took off at top speed: trembling, amazed, afraid

totally different response from shepherds at beginning of Jesus’ earthly life – they told everyone they could what had happened

two Mary’s didn’t let off the throttle until they were back with Jesus’ disciples – friendly faces, shared perspective

Matthew adds important detail: left “the tomb with fear… and great joy” – same emotions present for us today, tug of war between

joy won out – they did indeed tell his disciples, all the others present with them – the telling helps to reinforce the reality

only then will you see

had the ladies and disciples set up vigil inside the tomb, candles and all the rest, would not have experienced the risen Lord

Jesus was done with death, had reached lowest depths of his humiliation, already begun his triumphal march back to his Father

if we expect to see him, must believe the words Jesus said, put that belief/faith into action, confess it to others, and follow Jesus among the living

C. in fact, Christ has been raised (1 Cor. 15:20)

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

hope is for more than this life

previous verse (19) “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”

Paul’s argument goes on – our hope not only in this life, it extends into the next life because our trailblazer is already there

don’t lose sight of first point – dependence on Scripture: only way we know about any of this is the Bible, only way we can understand significance of any of it is Bible illuminated by Holy Spirit

emphasis this morning: Jesus’ resurrection; in the big picture, that event nearer the end than the beginning

because we know the beginning of the story from the Bible, we understand why we need hope

also understand that really important things not what is limited to this life, earthly existence

talking with woman: father just died (6 wks from cancer diagnosis); he was Christian, so is she; her confession – “I’ve learned that most of what I’ve pursued in life is stupid; it is relationships that are important.”

her point: the stuff of this life stays in this life; relationships, people are part of next life as well as this one

guaranteed by Christ’s resurrection

what keeps us who hope in Christ from being miserable deluded idiots is the resurrection of Lord Jesus

think of it this way: if Son of God could not break bonds of death, what hope can we possibly have? what better hero is there?

since “Jesus died and rose again”, verified by numerous witnesses over several weeks who were still alive when Paul wrote, we can have hope that death not the end of existence

good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is this: there is a life after this one, unspeakably and incomparably better than this one… for those who trust in Christ alone for their salvation

he is the prototype / firstfruits

“That which is apart and portion of the whole which is to follow, and which is the earnest or pledge of that; as the “first” sheaf of ripe grain was not only the first in order of time, but was the earnest or pledge of the entire harvest which was soon to succeed.” Barnes

Jesus the pledge of the entire harvest of redeemed believers – all those who will be raised to new life on that great day

Paul makes clear who this applies to: “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” (22)

begs the question: are you in Adam or in Christ? no middle ground here, is either one or the other, is matter of eternal life and death

trusting in your own merits to satisfy God’s scales of justice? or… trusting in Christ’s merits, one with him by faith, believing God will accept Jesus’ payment for your sin in your place

if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:9)

D. we will always be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:17)

family and friends are great, but…to be with Christ is far better

what formed basis for Paul comfort of Thessalonian believers: confidence that “thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

who is “we”? – those who “believe that Jesus died and rose again”, “those who sleep in Jesus”, those who when they died believed in the death / resurrection of Jesus

we will be with one another; but more important, we with one another will be with the Lord, the one whom God raised from the dead

timing doesn’t matter – his ascension guarantees his return guarantees our future with him, no matter when he comes

declaration of God’s messengers (Acts 1:11) connected ascension and return – “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way”

not an event we will miss or miss out on: we will either come with him or meet him, whichever way timing works out

Even Jesus could not endure agony in the Garden without help – “Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.” (Luke 22:43) Father did not remove Son from suffering, did not allow him to bypass or take shortcuts through it. At one point, even felt to Jesus like God had abandoned him to his suffering, but we know rest of the story!

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32) God not only delivered him up to suffer for us all, God raised him up to be the firstfruits of us all. And he told us about it in his word to comfort us, and as we find comfort and strength in those truths, to comfort one another.

“thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”