March 31: His Death Certificate is Our Birth Certificate

March 31: His Death Certificate is Our Birth Certificate

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Audio is Scripture reading and sermon only

March 31 – Easter Sunday

Scripture: Mark 16:1-8

It’s often been said that the Kingdom of God has a way of turning this world on its head; or turning it upside-down. What seems right and appropriate by normal standards is, in the eyes of God, found to be lacking if not outright wrong. What the world deems forward-facing is considered backward by Kingdom standards.

The word used in the Bible most often used to depict this paradox is “foolishness.” Here are two examples, both from 1 Corinthians: For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being destroyed, but it is the power of God for those of us who are being saved. This is because the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength (1 Corinthians 1:18, 25).

Don’t fool yourself. If some of you think they are worldly-wise, then they should become foolish [in the world’s eyes] so that they can become wise. This world’s wisdom is foolishness to God (1 Corinthians 3:18-19).

An example of this comes from the arena of financial practices. A Christian faith-based view of money is polar opposite of the way the world sees it. By and large, the world sees money as a finite resource. We’re led to believe that there’s only so much to go around. Compare this to a Kingdom view which declares that there’s more than enough for everyone. When it comes to money, the world is driven by a scarcity model whereas the Kingdom of God operates by an abundance model. Considering this, the world teaches that any giving of our financial resources reduces what’s available whereas the kingdom principle of giving is that it does the opposite—it has the effect of increasing what we have. In Jesus’ own words: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap.  The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return” (Luke 6:38). Give, and it will be given to you. Foolishness to the world. Utter wisdom in the economy of God.

Which brings us back to the opening point, which is that the truths of the Kingdom turn the ways and thinking of the world on its head. In the world, life is defined by quantifiable activities of the human body. A person is considered alive if their heart’s beating or there’s brain activity of some sort. As such, death is marked by the absence of a heartbeat or brain activity. The point being that when we think about the existential reality called life and the experience of living, we tend to view it through the lens of our natural world.

But the Christian perspective is different. Obviously, an important aspect of being alive is physical in nature. But there’s another aspect of life which is spiritual in nature.  We speak of human life as consisting of these two natures, the physical and the spiritual.

One of the main tenets of Christian belief is that we can simultaneously be physically alive and spiritually dead. In fact, coming into the world physically alive but spiritually dead is a major theological belief of ours. According to the Apostle Paul, this is the consequence of the rebellion our Original Parents. Their rebellion against God ushered sin into the world. Sin always leads to death. Death in its truest sense is separation from God, the Source of Life. Their rebellion resulted in every human being coming into this world spiritually separated from God. This is not to say we come into the world unloved by God, or outside of God’s grace. But rather, that we come into this world fully wearing a sin nature, and the default for that sin nature is separation from our Creator. And separation from our Creator is spiritual death. Just as a light not plugged into its source of power is “dead,” so a human being not plugged into their source of life is also dead.

This terrible reality is the reason God sent his Son Jesus into our world in the first place. Christmas is the celebration of the fulfillment of God’s promise to reconnect humanity with our source of life. The fulfilment of that promise took roughly 33 years to unfold. That’s the length of Jesus’ life. His birth marked the beginning of the fulfillment of that promise, and 33 years later his death and resurrection marked the decisive fulfilment of that promise.

This is the Gospel message, dear friends. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we’ve been given life! True life. Remember, it’s possible to be physically alive but spiritually dead. That’s our calamitous human default. But out of God’s amazing love for humanity, he made a way for us to come alive again. We can’t do it. And not because we haven’t tried! But simply because we can’t. A lightbulb can’t plug itself in. We have no way of plugging ourselves into our source of life. That’s something only God could do. And he did so through the workings of his Son, Jesus.

This is where things get turned on their head. In the economy of the Kingdom, life comes through death. We come to life through the death of Jesus. His death certificate is our birth certificate! And the good news is that death is not the end. It may be the end of life in this world. But the witness of the Resurrection is that death gives way to life. Jesus’ death was means of us becoming spiritually alive, connected with God. And that’s actually the truest definition of life: union with God. This union was made possible by Jesus’ death.

Likewise, our Lord’s death gave way to his own resurrection. Resurrection means being raised to life never to die again. Resurrection differs from resuscitation in this regard. To be resurrected is to be raised to a life that never ends. His resurrection enabled our own resurrection. And if you can believe it, our resurrection is partially realized in this life, within this earthly plane of existence. In whomever the risen Christ resides (through personal invitation), that person is both physically and spiritually alive. Nothing’s changed on the outside; but everything’s changed on the inside! And the good news is that when we take our final breath in this world, our lives continue in the world to come, where we see Jesus face to face. In that case, a person is physically dead but still spiritually alive

Your eternal birth certificate is a real thing. None of us have ever seen it with our eyes, but we know its real because it’s mentioned in the Bible, multiple times. It’s called the Book of Life, and it’s full of names. It’s mentioned twice in the Old Testament and eight times in the New Testament, seven in the book of Revelation.  The first reference in Revelation is actually something Jesus said. He told John, “The one who conquers will be dressed in white clothes, and I will never erase their name from the book of life but will acknowledge their name before my Father and before his angels” (Revelation 3:5). “The one who conquers” is a reference to those who’ve ‘conquered’ death through the blood of Jesus Christ and remained faithful to him while living in this world.

When you say Yes to following Jesus, at least five important things happen simultaneously.

  1. The guilt of the sin with which you were born (which was handed down to all of us through our Original Parent’s rebellion) is washed away.
  2. You’re made alive—truly alive—for the very first time. This is what Jesus was talking about when he told Nicodemus that a person must be “born again” or “born anew” through water and the Spirit.
  3. Your name is written (chiseled?) into God’s Book of Life.
  4. All the sins you’ll commit for the remainder of your life, no matter how short or long that may be, are atoned for by the blood of Christ, making you immediately forgivable and forgiven.
  5. The Holy Spirit moves into you and becomes your source of power to live a God-honoring life.

If you know you have a spiritual birth certificate on file and that your name’s been written in the Book of Life, praise God! No doubt you can attest to the difference that’s made in your own life. But if you’re not sure about it, or you know for a fact that there’s no spiritual birth certificate on file for you in heaven, then know this: there’s nothing you have to do to make that happen. It’s already been done for you…by Jesus. The only thing you have to “do” is accept that reality and appropriate Jesus’ work on the cross and his resurrection to your own life. That’s it. It’s really that simple!

If that describes you, then I invite you to pray with me. Make what I say your own prayer. Let’s pray…

Lord Jesus, we thank for your willingness to go to the cross to bear the guilt of my sins, of our sins, and that by being raised to life you destroyed the power of death. We confess our sin, our need for you, and receive unto ourselves the the work that you accomplished through your death and resurrection. Come Holy Spirit into us. Make us new. Thank you for moving us from death to life. God, in the joy and hope of this Easter morning, we sing ‘Alleluia’ with the fullness of hearts, for Christ IS risen, and love IS stronger than death. To that we shout ‘Alleluia! Through Jesus Christ, risen and glorified forever, we pray. Amen.

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