“Now, brethren, I want to remind you of the Gospel i preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” I Corinthians 15:1-4
Dear Faithful Seed-Sowers,
Today is the day before 9-11; the 20th anniversary. It is my prayer that you all are well and healthy today and are walking with the Lord. Let us continue in prayer for our nation, our world, and for one another.
I have been doing a lot of thinking about the church over the past year. Not just The Seed Christian Fellowship, I have been thinking about the church universal. I do not want to bore you with statistic and numbers but my first degree from college was in Business and Accounting. I love to work with numbers. The funny thing is that God called me out of counting financial reports and called me to counting sheep. A glorious by-product of this new style of counting is that I no longer count sins, forgiving and forgetting sins instead of logging all the hurts and betrayals of sins on my ledger sheet. I don’t know if God has called you to this new style of counting but, for sure, it is my new way of living.
The other day I was reading and article on numbers about the church and church membership in America. A recent Gallup poll shows that church membership in America has dropped to below 50% for the first time in eight decades — that is 80 years if you are counting. Today church membership in local congregations stands at 47% when in 1999 (22 years ago) church membership was around 70%. Gallup’s reports says that “The decline in church membership is primarily a function of the increasing number of Americans who express no religious preferences.” You know those forms at hospitals and other places where you fill them out and you can put your religious preference on them? The box for religious preference is now being marked “NONE.” The NONEs have it! (or do they?)
George Barna is a Christian researcher. His organization did some research on the meaning of Easter. Here are some of the things that they found. Within the religious definitions offered by Americans, there is a certain degree of confusion: 2% of Americans said that Easter is about the “birth of Christ”; another 2% indicated it was about the “rebirth of Jesus”; and 1% said it is a celebration of “the second coming of Jesus.” Not included in the theistic category was another 3% who described Easter as a celebration of spring or a pagan holiday. On the non-religious side, 13% of respondents said they were not sure how to describe Easter. Another 8% of Americans said the holiday means nothing to them or that they do not celebrate the occasion. Other non-religious descriptions of Easter included: getting friends and family together (4%), spring break (3%), a symbol of new beginnings, rebirth, and renewal (2%), a time to dye and hide eggs (2%), an event for children to have fun (2%), the Easter bunny (1%), an occasion that is too commercialized (1%), and an opportunity to enjoy food and candy (1%).
What I find most interesting is how unchurched people view Easter. In terms of the audience that most Christian churches attempt to attract every Easter weekend – non-churchgoing adults – the research shows that only 25% of the people connect the EASTER holiday to Jesus’ resurrection! Church, we need to do a better job of proclaiming EASTER! Like the verse above says, I tell you what is most important: Jesus died. Jesus was buried. Jesus rose from the dead.
It can’t be said much easier. The GOSPEL is this: Jesus died for our sins. Jesus was buried. Jesus rose from the dead.
“Now, brethren, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.” I Corinthians 15:1
Paul wants to encourage the church (we are the church now) to remember!
Remember the Gospel!
The Greek word for Gospel is “εὐαγγέλιον euaggelion” which means “Good News” and it is the word from which we get the word “evangelism.”
So What is the “Good News” to you? What is it that you will take a stand on?
What do you believe and what is it that you are willing to hold onto no matter what?
When Billy Graham was preaching in Germany one day, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer invited him to his office: Coffee was served, but before Billy’s first sip, Chancellor Konard started in: “Young man, do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ?” “I most certainly do,” Billy replied. “So do I, Chancellor Konard said. If Jesus Christ is not risen from the dead, there is not one glimmer of hope for the human race. When I leave office, I am going to spend the rest of my life studying and writing about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s the most important event in human history.” [i]
Paul wanted the early church to take a stand and remember the Good News! In Paul’s day being a Christian was more than intellectual assent to a group of doctrines. The social price that followers of Christ paid forced them to take a stand in a hostile world. I think we can learn a little from Paul as we go through this worldwide pandemic called COVID-19. With all the news we are bombarded with 24 hours a day: what is the Good News? What can you and I stand on?
Listen to Paul: We stand on the hope and power of the resurrection.
My favorite comes from Paul’s letter to Romans — …if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:8-13)
With all that the world is going through, we are living in a time when we need to stop and remember what our north star is, what is our center point of our faith.
Here’s your homework: What (or who) is my north star? What (or who) is the center point of my faith?
John Stott, a wonderful pastor and teacher, wrote these words about the resurrection of Christ: “The Resurrection somehow resonates with our human condition. It speaks to our needs as I reckon no other event of antiquity does, or even could.”
In other words, it is not up to us to make the resurrection relevant; it already is relevant without us. We just need to proclaim it and apply it with joy and confidence. Christ’s resurrection from the dead is not just an idea, a concept, or a doctrine—although it is truly a breathtaking and revolutionary doctrine! The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the power that will usher broken fragile humanity into Christ’s “newness of life”.
I love that Matthew ends his gospel with Christ ascending from the mountain, saying, “I’ll be with you til the very end of the age.”
Where are you in this story? Paul is writing a letter to his friends and family in the church in Corinth. Evil abounds everywhere they go. The world is calling out to them every day. Can you relate? I can.
Imagine receiving an email or a text from Paul right now: I Corinthians 15:1-11 — Put your name in the Bible. Put your name in all the blank lines below. Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 and put your name in the story.
Now, YOUR NAME _________, I want to remind you _____ of the gospel I preached to you _______ , which you ______ received and on which you ______ have taken your _____ stand. By this gospel you ______ are saved, if you ______ hold firmly to the word I preached to you ________. Otherwise, you _______ have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you _________ as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
Every day I get to go spend time with my father-in-law whom I call dad. He is 89 and slowly fading away. Every day he says to my wife and I, “I haven’t seen my wife in a long time. She must be dead. I just can’t believe that she’s gone.” His wife of 71 years is gone but every time we talk about Mom’s death, I get the blessed opportunity to talk to dad about heaven, about the hope and power of the resurrection and the forgiveness of our sins that comes with faith in Jesus. He has learned to love to hear about forgiveness. He has the hope of the resurrection within his heart and mind and he is not afraid of dying like he was. The resurrection has put the living face and name of Jesus Christ into his heart. Dad knows that some day he will die and that he will be able to live forever without any more pain, suffering or tears.
Here is you final “so what?” You are on a deserted island…the world is on one side…calling your name…offering you trinkets of fame, gold, fortune…on the other side stands the risen Jesus Christ…calling your name…offering you His legacy of grace, forgiveness, mercy, joy and love. Do you know what side you are standing on?
My wife and I talk every morning. We read our devotionals and discuss the high points. This morning I asked how she was doing. “I’m sad. They lost my Covid test and I can’t go see Dad until I redo another test, which means 3 more days and it’s already been 2.” Fortunately, they didn’t lose my test and I am able to go visit Dad. (The care home is now requiring two tests a week from non-vaccinated people. We cannot get the vaccine at this time due to health issues and we are happy to test–despite the great inconvenience. The end goal is our ability to see Dad.) Jac told me about an article she had read about a red cord and she said, “It reminded me of how Rahab hung a scarlet cord in her window after hiding the spies in enemy territory. They promised that if she hung the red cord in her window, they would find her and rescue her. That’s how I’m feeling. This is really hard–what I’m doing with Dad and with covid but I hear, ‘I see you. I see your red cord in the window. I will rescue you. Wait.'” I’ve thought about how her thoughts apply to us all. There’s no magic-8 ball with all of the answers–at least there’s no human, magic-8 ball. We have the Bible (basic instructions before leaving earth) and we have the hope of the risen Jesus Christ. He sees your red cord in the window of your heart. Wait. He’s coming back.
Long ago, I counted financial reports and profits and loss and numbers. It took a whole new call for this former accountant to learn how to count on Christ–who is actually counting on me. Together, Jesus and I are an overwhelming majority. This coming week, I will fly home to be a Spiritual Director on a men’s grace weekend. I leave you with one, last thought and prayer: the world or Jesus…what side are you standing on?
Paul says, “I give to you the 3 most important things I know: Christ died for your sins. Christ was buried. Christ rose from the dead.”
Sometimes the GOSPEL is that easy. You only have to know how to count to three.
See you Sunday!
God loves you and so do I,