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That’s why we have hope!

April 22, 2014

Easter Sunday of ResurrectionResurrection

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.  Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ.  When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all”.

1 Corinthians 15:19-28

Christ has risen, he is alive! All prophecies are fulfilled. He was and is the expected messiah, the anointed one, God’s chosen one. He is the redeemer, the savior. Only through him do we have direct access to God the Father, to God. Everyone who desires to be saved and to inherit eternal life is invited to believe in him. But to believe in what? To believe in all this. That’s the only option.

But, how is it possible to believe if I wasn’t there, if I didn’t live with Jesus, if I didn’t see his miracles, if I didn’t see his resurrection and I didn’t see the marks of the nails in his hands? Jesus speaks to the doubting Thomas that had even met Jesus and seen all that he did during his ministry: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (Jn 20:25 ss)

Christianity is not a philosophy of life, a doctrine that is learned or an intellectual concept that must be learned. When we teach youth in the church, whether it be in Sunday school or confirmation class, our intention, if it has not yet happened at home, is to approach them with the opportunity to accept and to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. It is an invitation and the person is free to accept it or not. And that takes place in the person’s spirit. We Christians don’t brainwash anyone, nor do we have the most convincing arguments in the world. In fact, if we should rely on reason, as most of the world does, Christianity would have few scientific arguments to support it. But science is not everything in this universe, just as a man is more than his achievements. There is one more dimension in this universe, and that is the wise and universal intelligence and person we call God our father, who goes beyond our rational understanding. Faith doesn’t deny science, or the achievements of human beings, but they are ultimately two different things. With God, we are invited to believe in Him, to accept Him and to not to judge, weigh or test according to the parameters of the human being.

Two men, both drunk, left the tavern and went to the boat that would take them across the bay. They sat down and began to row. They worked all night and couldn’t understand why they never came across. When morning came, they discovered that the boat was anchored. They had forgotten to weigh the anchor.

So it is with many who are struggling to believe in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. They can’t believe because they are anchored to this world. Sometimes it is necessary to cut the cable, confess our lack of faith and submit entirely to Christ. This frees us from the weight of earthly things so that we may have access to Christ!

When people have accepted Jesus Christ, they will feel from the depths of their mind the need to learn about the word of God. This is especially true for those who have accepted Jesus from an early age. For that, we in the church want to provide the opportunity for the person, the member, to learn about the word of God, whether it be in Sunday school or during the confirmation course, or especially, throughout life in Bible study time and other church activities that help learning about God’s Word. The word of God is shown to us, it is offered and we are not indoctrinated. Once we accept it, we are in a position to learn to read every day and to explain the Bible. There are many churches that only have a few people active in the faith. This unfortunately arises because there has not even been a time when the people are invited to consciously accept Christ. We won’t neglect this important task, which is called evangelization.

Today is the day where we remember that Jesus is risen. Many of us here today, hopefully all, have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; we consider ourselves Christians and, first of all, those saved by his word when he says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16) We know that those who have accepted Christ already have eternal life. Those who have accepted Christ are blessed with the Holy Spirit. It is as the Word says: “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-14) When we accept Christ, God’s Spirit comes to dwell in us and this gives us the certainty of His existence. But if we haven’t done it yet, we need to do it so that He may live in us (Romans 8:9 b).

Therefore, the best way to have faith in the resurrection is firstly through the invitation to believe in Jesus Christ. That’s the first step; there’s no other way. It is impossible to say that you believe in the resurrection if you haven’t accepted Christ first. The only evidence that gives us certainty is shown to us and given to our own spirit by the Holy Spirit. God does not fit into the scientific standards of humanity. God is also, and at the time another dimension, beyond the material dimension that seems to dominate our time.

Once, a famous English preacher called Charles H. Spurgeon was asked to preach and convince people that the Bible was indeed true and he replied with a vivid phrase, “What that I defend the Bible? It would be like defending a lion. Just leave it free and it will defend itself.”

The Spirit of God doesn’t need to be defended by anyone. God is God and doesn’t need to be defended by anyone. In any case, it is backwards. Every one of us has a unique opportunity to accept God and to thus change their eternal destiny.

What is the best thing to do, so as to make it possible that everyone can believe? What is the best way for people to believe? First of all, I must believe. I must have personally accepted Christ as Son of God, as risen God. Secondly, I must bear witness to my faith, to show the fruits of that faith. I must show my testimony of love for others. I must show that my lifestyle is different from those that generally take place in the world. This is one of the best advertisements that Christianity can have to spread the faith.

And thirdly, I must invite, I must speak of Jesus Christ, I must bring the word of God to the youngest children, to young adults and, of course, to anyone. The task of evangelism is not only for pastors, but falls upon every one of us Christians.

If we have accepted Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells in us. So we all have the capacity to believe. Let us accept by faith that Jesus rose. Let us ask the Holy Spirit of God to strengthen our faith and our trust in God so that we may have the faith and confidence necessary for Christ to work with his power in our lives, not only in the human way, with which we are accustomed, but divinely, godlike,  as it is proper for God .

The apostle Paul told the Corinthian congregation, many of whom, like many Christians today, may have been weak and doubtful in the faith:

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied”

No, of course not, we Christians know that this life on earth is not everything. There will be a resurrection of the dead in body and in spirit. Just as Christ was raised first, then He will resurrect all those who have accepted Christ and even non-Christians will also rise and everyone will stand before the trial of God. But we already know that, God let us know about the results of that verdict. We will be justified, that is, we will be found “not guilty” – every one of us who has accepted Christ will be granted salvation.

On this Easter Sunday of resurrection I can tell you: If you don’t believe in the resurrection like Thomas, accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and ask the Holy Spirit to take control of your life. God will give you the faith to believe. If you’re unhappy in this life, but believe in Christ, don’t lose hope, this life on earth is not everything, get ready to meet your God.

It’s good to study the Bible and read many books about the Bible, the history of the church and its traditions. But it is most important that God is alive in your heart, that you believe in Him and that you are ready to give witness to your faith before those who still do not believe. If you truly believe you will be saved, that is a fact, even though there are many around us in everyday life who do not believe. Christ lives and will come to judge the living and the dead because He is the Son of God. Amen.



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