Monday, 2 July 2018

Therefore in light of the Resurrection we….? (1 Cor 15:58)

On Friday I got to wrap up our Youth Group teaching term on 1 Corinthians 15. The goal was to help summarise the chapter and then from looking at the last verse to think about how we can do the "work of the Lord". After our discussion groups, we cleaned the church building, help prepare craft for our playgroup and wrote some encouraging cards to missionaries and to people at our church.

I am starting to get a bit more confident and go "off script" at points, so below are my notes and generally what I said. My examples may not have been exactly what was written down.

Pretend you are an alien from the planet Neptune[1]. You are doing a PhD in agriculture. You are researching if Earth is suitable for farming. You are sent to Earth to do some firsthand research but due to the planet alignments and your research funding, you can only stay from April to August. You end up landing in Australian near Canberra. You spend your time looking around, examining plants, looking for fruit, going to orchards and then the mothership comes and takes you home.

What do you think your conclusion will be from your observation on Earth? You write your PhD and you say that Earth is not suitable for growing fruit, in fact, the place is dying. Everything you saw on Earth was dying, fruit was not growing, leaves were falling, everything was getting colder and darker. And from your observations, this would be completely true. Everything you saw tells you this. It is just going to death.

And this is our world. Everything we see with our eyes tells us that death always wins and conquers everyone and everything thing. And we live like this every day. We look both ways before crossing the road, we put a seatbelt on in the car, we mourn when yet another species is going extinct, we see doctors when we are sick, we hear news stories of people dying all the time[2]. But the resurrection says death doesn’t win, God wins. But you and I know that the alien should have stayed just a little bit longer. They should have waited for Spring, as that is when the first fruits come and a massive harvest follows. As Christians we need to have this mindset.

As we saw earlier, death actually gives way to life. What’s the worst thing you can do to a seed if you want to destroy it? The worst thing you can do is bury it in fertile ground. And that is what death does. Death does the planting of our bodies. He is just doing Jesus’ job for Him. If death was a person, we would say “it sucks to be you.” Death, the great swallower is swallowed. His sting has been removed. He may hurt when he strikes, but the venom is gone[3].

In light of Jesus resurrection, it means we will get a resurrection. Jesus is the first and the best and we will be made fit for a new creation where death will be defeated. The new creation will be never-ending and so will our bodies.

So now what? What should we do now? If we are a Christian, and we are going to rise again in new bodies, should we just kill ourselves now to help bring about our new resurrection bodies? What are we to do today, here in this world that looks like it is dying? Tonight our passage is just one verse, verse 58. It says:
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
This verse tells us because of Jesus' and our resurrection we are to stand firm and to give ourselves to the work of the Lord knowing that it is not in vain.

Earlier, in verse 34 we were told to stop sinning in light of Jesus resurrection. There was a call for us to live right lives under God, and here in verse 58 in light our resurrection we are now told to use our present bodies to work for the Lord. Personal holiness in verse 34 and God’s work in verse 58.

What we do in this present world really matters. If there is going to be a continuation of who we are now and who we will be in the future then this present life is important and this world is not irrelevant[4]. Our life in this world sets out the opening chapters for a story that will not end[5].

As a Christian, we are called to not sit around and wait for Jesus to return. God’s plan to save the world didn’t stop at you. If you are a Christian, you are saved from sin and God’s wrath, but you are also called to something, that is to God’s mission for the Church to do. Jesus wants the Church to go and make disciples of all nations (Mat 28:19-20).

Here in this verse, we are called to do the “work of the Lord”. There are lots of things this could mean. But I don’t think the work of the Lord includes your school work, while that is important and you should do your school work well, as if you are serving God (Col 3:23-24, Eph 6:7-8, 1 Cor 10:31), I think in this verse the “work of the Lord” is more specific. It isn’t necessarily saying you should all becoming paid ministers and do paid work for God. I think it is saying we are to do “whatever contributes to building up the church”[6]. This can mean either supporting your fellow Christian friends by building and strengthening them in their faith or inviting outsiders to become part of God’s family which would grow the size of God's family.

This could be encouraging your Christian friends in following Jesus, in praying for those who are not believers and telling others about Jesus. It could mean working the sound system at Church so others can hear the service correctly, it could mean SMSing someone a Bible verse to help encourage them. It may mean you be a FISH leader and tell primary school kids about Jesus, or you enthusiastically participate in all the activities at Youth to help those around you to also focus and participate. You could be inviting and encourage belonging and unity at Youth or Church. The list could go on. Maybe in your small groups, you could think of one or two specific ways you could do the work of the Lord.

In short, doing the work of the Lord probably includes anything that would be done because you are committed to Christ, especially something that takes effort which a non-Christian wouldn’t do[7].

Now some of the examples I have said seem pretty trivial. Some of the things you may do already but you don’t feel like you get any positive feedback and you are not sure it is worth it. I don’t know if you are a FISH leader and sometimes at the end you go “what was that all about? I don’t know if we accomplished anything”. I of cause don’t sometimes feel like that at the end of Youth.

But Paul gives us a word of encouragement. We are to stand firm in doing this work because it is not in vain. Like we are to stand on the Gospel at the start of this chapter (1 Cor 15:1-2) we are to trust that in working for the Gospel it is not in vain, or useless.

The Gospel is true. Jesus died for our sin, was buried and rose again and He was seen by others after His resurrection. The Gospel is the message on how we are saved and it is true. We should now have confidence that we have the message of how people can be saved from sin and death. We should be encouraged and assured that what we do to promote the Gospel is not worthless but worthwhile. Jesus is the only way people can get to God so telling them about Him can’t hurt. If fact it probably would be worse if you didn’t tell them about Jesus. It would be vain and futile if you didn’t encourage those around you towards Jesus.

So now, today, we need to help people see how history will end based on what Jesus had done in the past. There will be a judgment day where we will all stand before God and give an account for what we have done in our bodies (2 Cor 5:10). But, those who are in Christ, those who trust in Jesus will be saved from judgment and they will live forever with Jesus, in new resurrected bodies that never end, in a new Kingdom which will also never end.

So now, in light of this future hope, all those who follow Jesus are to help others hear about Jesus, in whatever means they can, knowing that their efforts to promote Jesus is not worthless. What is it that you can do for those around you to help promote Jesus?

[1] I took this analogy from Rory Shiner in one of his talks at Engage 2011 at Katoomba Christian Convention

[2] My wife deserves attribution to these examples as I took them from her

[3] The points in this paragraph have been taken from Rory Shiner from his talks at Engage 2011 at Katoomba Christian Convention

[4] N. T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians, p228

[5] R. E. Ciampa and B. S. Rosner cited in Mark Taylor, 1 Corinthians (New American Commentary)

[6] Garland, David E, 1 Corinthians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)

[7] Ciampa, Roy E. and Rosner, Brian S, The First Letter to the Corinthians (Pillar New Testament Commentary)


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