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Because He Lives (Easter 2017)

April 16, 2017 Speaker: Afshin Ziafat Series: Stand-Alone Sermons

Passage: 1 Corinthians 15:1–15:10



Happy Easter! Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed.

We are so glad you're here to worship with us. Welcome to Providence Church on Easter Sunday. Obviously, this is a very important Sunday for us. It's when we celebrate the greatest news that the world has ever heard, which is what we sang. And that is the fact that Jesus is alive!

If you're a guest, we're really glad you're here to worship with us. We want you to know that at Providence, our greatest desire is to proclaim the gospel, to the end that people would be introduced to Christ, to a saving knowledge of Christ, and to know Him intimately and follow Him.

So when I say "proclaim the gospel," what I mean by the gospel is, the Good News of Jesus Christ -- the Good News of His perfect life, His substitutionary death, in other words, a death He died for our sins, and then His burial and resurrection. That's what "the gospel" refers to. That's the Good News. So that's what we want to proclaim so that people will come to know Christ.

Now, that leads me to mention the first misperception about church: That church is where I go, and they tell me what I should and shouldn't do. But I want you to know that if you're with us here at Providence, and you track with us through scripture, you're gonna find that God is actually much more interested in you knowing what has already been done for you in Christ, than He is in telling you, "Go do this and go do that."

So, what I'm trying to say is that Christianity is ultimately about a relationship. It's not just a religion of works. So the gospel is what Christ has done for us. And the apex of that is what we celebrate this morning - the resurrection of Christ.

If you have a Bible, turn with me to 1 Corinthians 15. This is a passage where Paul is summing up the gospel -- summarizing it for this church in Corinth. I think it's going to be very helpful for us.

1 Corinthians 15, starting at verse 1:

"1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas (that's Peter, one of the disciples), then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am . . .

So what I want you to see in those verses is that Paul ultimately is summing up the gospel with two major events: The death and the resurrection of Jesus. And please note that for both of them, he uses a phrase, that they happened "In accordance with scripture." Both the death and the resurrection of Christ were actually, Paul is saying, pre-ordained by God in the scriptures.

So it's not that Jesus was crucified, and then God said, "Oh no, what am I going to do? I'm going go to Plan B and resurrect him." No! The death, the suffering and the resurrection of Christ were ALL part of God's plan. Isaiah, 700 years prior, Isaiah 53 prophesied of a suffering servant who would come, and that God would lay our iniquity upon Him -- that He would receive the punishment and the chastisement that we deserved. Psalm 16 speaks of that suffering servant, that He would not see corruption -- in other words, that He would be resurrected.

And listen, friends, not only was the death and resurrection of Christ preordained, I also want you to understand that God's hand was in every part of those events. He was orchestrating them out for His purposes. And in fact, Christ was not passive in those events; He was actually very active in them. In fact, Jesus says that "I am laying My life down of My own accord. No one takes it from me; I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it up again." (John 10:18)

So, friends, this was, all along, part of God's plan, and He was orchestrating the death and resurrection of Christ. And I want us to see why that is such good news for us. And, I want us to see specifically why the resurrection is foundational to that good news.

I'm going to lay out four benefits of Christ's resurrection. Because He lives, these four things are opened up to us. And I hope, as we walk through these, if you are alive and awake, these ought to make you sing for joy.

Number 1: Because He lives, we can have forgiveness. Forgiveness of sin. Let me explain what I mean by that. Look at verse 3; it's very explicit there, that Christ "died for our sins according to the scriptures." Now jump down to verse 17. We didn't read this part, but this is where Paul is coming against people who didn't believe in the resurrection. And he's trying to carry out that logically and say, If you don't believe in the resurrection, then Christ hasn't been risen, and if He hasn't been risen, look what he writes, starting in verse 17:

17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

So don't miss it. The key phrase there is the phrase "still in your sins." Because in case you're sitting here, going, "What is sin? I always hear the church talk about sin. What is it?"

Listen: Sin primarily is not the bad things we do; that's the fruit of it. Sin primarily isn't what we do; it's primarily who we ARE. In other words, we inherently are in sin. And so, hear me. The Bible doesn't have two categories of people: Good people and bad people. And, by the way, there's no such thing as a neutral person. The Bible teaches that ALL are in the same camp before Christ: Still in sin.

Now the Bible roots that all the way to the very beginning in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve, who had perfect relationship with God, were tempted to turn from God. And this is how we're gonna show you what sin is. They were tempted to not trust God's word. God told them that they had free rein of every part of the garden except for one tree, and that if they ate from that tree, they would die. And essentially, Adam and Eve were tempted by the enemy of God, and disobeyed God, and ate from the tree. Basically, they said, We don't believe God has our best in mind. And we can be God for ourselves.

The scripture in Romans tells us that from that moment, sin entered our human existence. What I mean is this bent away from God -- bent to live life for ourselves as God. Inherently, that's the nature that we have at birth. And Romans says that that sin nature spread to all mankind. So every one of us are born in this sin. And by the way, the consequences of sin -- remember, He said, If you eat from that tree, you will die. And therefore we suffer the consequences. All of us are gonna physically die. And on top of that, all of us are born spiritually dead, meaning separated from God.

This is what we inherit from birth. You have to understand why that's important. Because for God to be a God worthy to follow, He must keep His word, and He must be a just God. And His word was, If you eat from the tree, you will die. And so God must punish sin. If He doesn't punish sin, rebellion against Him, then He's not a just God.

For instance, imagine if someone were to murder a child in our community. And let's say it was caught on tape, and there was clear evidence of this crime. And imagine if a judge stands up and basically brushes it under the carpet and lets him go scot-free. We would be outraged, right? We would say there was a great injustice.

In the same way, I'm saying God is not worthy to follow if He is a God who's just gonna brush sin under the carpet; He's not gonna be just.

So the Bible says, that God has made a way for us when there was no way possible. And the gospel, in other words, the perfect life, death and resurrection of Christ, is how God makes a way for us. Listen to Romans chapter 3:22-25:

For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

So here's what that means: That there was no way for us to be saved from our sins. We are in sin; we are guilty as charged, and we deserve punishment. But God has made a way for us. He has given His Son and offered Him as a sacrifice on the cross. And the blood that He shed on the cross, His life that He gave on the cross, was payment for sin.

And here's the mind-boggling thing: God, the God of this universe, who we have rebelled against, is offering that to you as a gift, to be received by faith, so that your sins would be forgiven. And it goes on to say, because of that cross, God has made a way for Him to be both just and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus (Romans 3:26). In other words, when you put your faith in Jesus, your sins, every one of them, are accounted for and paid for by Christ. They're not brushed under the carpet. So God maintains His justice.

And, friend, God also becomes the Justifier for you. He makes you righteous before God. Before a holy God, you are declared innocent because of Christ's payment. Now THAT, friends, is incredibly good news for us.

Now, you might say, Afshin, that sounds incredible. Does that mean, literally, everybody? And I want to stress this; please hear me: EVERYBODY in this room, you are in one of these two camps. You are either in Christ, or you are still in sin.

That doesn't mean you do sin; we all do sin. I'm saying that you are still under the condemnation of sin. In other words, you have the wrath of God coming down upon you. One day you're going to pay for all eternity. OR, you are in Christ and the wrath of God is completely spent and extinguished because of Christ. There's no more wrath for you.

There's just one of two camps. You've gotta hear that. It says in John 3:35-36, that the Father has given all authority to the Son. Whoever believes in the Son has everlasting life. Whoever does not believe does not have everlasting life, but the wrath of God remains on him. There it is again. You're still in sin, you remain with the wrath on you, OR you are in Christ through faith, and the wrath is removed.

And so you say, Well wait, what does the resurrection have to do with that? You just talked about the cross, and then you said that because He lives, we can be forgiven.

Well, here's what the resurrection has to do with it. In Romans 4:25, Paul says "Jesus was delivered up for our sins and raised for our justification." Let me explain what that means: When Christ was raised on the third day, that was God declaring to the world that His payment on the cross was sufficient to pay for all sins. That's what that means. When it says we were justified by His being raised, it doesn't mean that that was part of His payment. No. The resurrection was God saying to every one of us, I am satisfied with the work of Christ on the cross to pay for sins. I am completely satisfied, justice is maintained, and a way is made for us to be, again, forgiven.

So that's why He says, If Christ has not been raised, that means that the payment was not sufficient, and you're still in sin. Friend, the resurrection says, it WAS sufficient. It's like when you purchase an item at a store, and you walk out with that item, and you've got the receipt in hand. So if anyone stops you, you can show them the receipt that shows that you've paid in full for that item.

That's what the resurrection does. It says "It has been Paid in Full. No more payment is necessary." And that is great news.

Now one more thing before we go on from forgiveness. I want you to see that there is no other way that Paul lists to be forgiven. Don't miss it. There's no other way. Look what he says: If Christ hasn't been raised, you are still in your sins. Your faith is futile. You're still in your sins. And then he says, Those who have fallen asleep have already perished then. In other words, he doesn't say, If Christ hasn't been raised, you're still in your sins, so you'd better go be good and earn your way to Heaven. No, he doesn't give that option. He says, If this is not true, we're doomed! We're all gonna perish. Later he's gonna say, we might as well eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die.

In other words, you have no hope. Friend, he doesn't give another alternative. He says, you either have been saved through faith in Christ, or you are doomed. And you might as well just eat, drink, and be merry, because that day is coming, and you're gonna die and face eternity apart from God.

So, friends, hear this: You're either in Christ or in sin. And I pray that you see that a way has been opened for our sins to be forgiven.

But secondly, not only can our sins be forgiven, but we can have Redemption because He is alive. Let me explain what I mean by that. Look at verses 8-10 with me: Paul says, He appeared also to me, then, "For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.

So let me explain what I mean. When I say because He's alive we can have redemption, what I mean is this: Just like Paul, who says "I was the least; I persecuted the church." He's our example. Listen: All of your past failures, all of your sin, all of the junk in your life that you're ashamed of; every part of your broken life can be redeemed and used for God's glory. That's what that means. You say, Why? Here's why: Because He is alive. What I mean is, we're not commending to you a good prophet who died, and then He just taught some good ways to live life. No, what we're commending to you is a risen Savior. And when He was risen, He took His place on the throne, and He sits sovereign over all the universe.

And I'm telling you, He orchestrates events in your life, just like he did for Paul. He orchestrated the events for Paul to go on the road to Damascus. He was going to persecute the church -- to hunt down Christians. And friend, he met the risen Lord. And Jesus spoke to him, and said, "Paul, why do you persecute me?" And he says, "Who are you?" And He says, "Jesus, whom you are persecuting."

And this one, who was going about hunting down Christians, had his life radically changed by a risen, active, alive Lord, and he actually became the one by whom God spread the gospel throughout all the known world.

So listen, friend, I'm here to tell you: "Jesus is alive" is great news. Because when you trust in Him, not only are your sins forgiven, but then He moves to redeem, as He said through the prophet Joel, all the years the locusts have eaten away of your life, He can restore back to you.

So let me share one story that I recently heard. Many of you have heard me often speak of Farshid, my good friend who suffered in Iran in prison for five years. Farshid spread the gospel, 20 house churches planted, about seven years ago or so he was arrested, thrown in prison for five years. The first year of his imprisonment, pretty much, he was in solitary confinement. Horrible. Only Sunday and Wednesday could he bathe, and only ever 4 hours could he use the restroom.

He said when he was released from solitary confinement to the regular prison area, it was like going to Heaven for him. Listen to what he said: I was released, and shortly thereafter I got to know about a very devout Muslim man. And this guy was praying five times a day. Anyways, this Muslim guy comes into the bathroom, sees Farshid, and corners him, and says these words to him: "I heard yours is alive; ours is dead." Now Farshid's going, "What are you talking about?" And he said, "I heard that the one you worship is alive. Will you pray for me?"

Now Farshid's thinking, What if this is a trap, and they want to see if I'm gonna start praying or preaching in the name of Jesus, and they're gonna throw me back into solitary confinement? So at first he's filled with fear, but he asks, "Why do you want me to pray for you?" And he says, "I've been praying to my God, and he hasn't done a thing, and I've gotta get out of here. And I've heard your God is alive. Will you pray for me?"

So Farshid prays for this brother. The next day, Farshid says that he almost tackled him with joy. He came to hug him, with tears streaming down his face. He said to him, "They reviewed my case, and I'm being released in two weeks. Brother, your God is ALIVE!"

This is the God we worship. He is alive. You may be saying, "You don't know what I've been involved in, in my life." I'm telling you, look at Paul! He was kicking against the goads, Jesus said. He was fighting against Jesus, and God still redeemed and used him.

Think of Lazarus, who was dead for four days inside a tomb when Jesus shows up. Lazarus's sister said, "Look, if you move away the stone, there's gonna be such an odor coming out." He says, Roll away the stone, and He cries out, "Lazarus, come out." And Lazarus comes out, and Jesus says, "Unbind his graveclothes."

And you know what's amazing? John goes on to write in his gospel that because of Lazarus, on account of him, many of the Jews believed in Jesus. So much so, that the religious authorities actually now sought to kill Lazarus -- again! That's kind of funny, right? "Oh, you're gonna kill me? Bring it on, I've got Jesus right here with me."

That might describe you. You might say, Afshin, my life is just a trail of messes. It is like that stench, that odor that Lazarus's sister wastalking about. And I'm telling you, no matter where you are in life, God is able to pull you out of that death, bring you to life, wipe away that odor, those graveclothes, wipe away your sin; and I'm telling you, USE you for His glory.

And so, that leads me to my third point. Not only do we have forgiveness and redemption, but we can have Purpose because He lives.

Look at verse 19. Man, this is good. I'm fired up about this one, if I wasn't already. Look at verse 19. Paul writes, "If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied."

Now don't miss what he's saying here. He's saying, Okay, if there is no resurrection, that means Christ hasn't risen, and that means we're still in our sins because the payment wasn't satisfactory for God. On top of that, he says, What are we doing in this Christian life? Everything we're doing, following Christ, is a colossal waste of time, and we ought to be pitied.

Let me show you how he fleshes that out. Look at what he writes in verses 30-32:

Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

Then look at verse 34:

Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

So don't miss what he's saying: If you give your life to Christ, and there is a resurrection and a hope of eternal life, that means, Christian, you have a new mission in life. He says, there are people who have no knowledge of God. There's a part of me that says, maybe I shouldn't tell you this, but I gotta tell you the whole truth. So listen: If you don't know Christ, and you commit your life to Him and His ways, and to live out this mission, you have to know that the world is gonna come against you. That's why he says "I fought with beasts at Ephesus; I die every day."

Here's a man who was beaten, who was imprisoned because he believed in this resurrection. He believes there's people who need to know this. So if you follow Christ, that's gonna come. So here's what he's trying to say. If there is no resurrection, what a waste of my life! I should have just been eating and drinking and being merry. Tomorrow I'm gonna die!

Let me put some personal skin on this. When I became a Christian, I quickly found out that there was a cost to following Jesus. Some of you know that I was raised in a Muslim home. When my dad found out I was a Christian, he disowned me. For the better part of 26 years, most of my adult life, I've had a hot and cold, but much of it cold, an estranged relationship with my father. And today he has Alzheimer’s. Friends, now I know, there's some things I've always wanted to do with my dad, that I will never, ever do in this life with him. And I'm telling you, I've staked my life on the fact of this resurrection. If there is no resurrection, you ought to pity me! You ought to look at me and say, You wasted 26 years of a great relationship you could have had with your father.

But, listen to me, in these 26 years, all the times I've been able to share my faith with my dad, all the times I've followed Christ and he's watched me from a distance, if any of these seeds take root in his heart, even on his deathbed, at the very end of his life, if one of them take root, and he accepts Christ, I am gonna spend ETERNITY with him. Listen to me, who would dare tell me in that day that I wasted 26 years? It wasn't a waste. It was all worth it.

And so I say to you, since there is a resurrection, the reverse is also true. That's why at the end of this chapter, in verse 58, he says, "Therefore you know that your labor is NOT in vain."

Listen, friend: Because there's a resurrection, you can actually have a purpose that lasts beyond this life. And if there is a resurrection, and the hope of eternal life, that means that this life is just a speck in the scope of eternity. If you invest all your time and energy and money, and all of your life in something that's going to go away, I tell you, THAT is a colossal waste of time.

But if you know there's a resurrection and you live your life to serve Christ's purposes and make Him known, you can actually have purpose. This is why the disciples were so transformed when they saw the risen Christ. They were dejected! When they arrested Jesus, His disciples all fled. Only John was at the cross with Jesus' mother. They all fled.

Remember the two on the road to Emmaeus? They were depressed. The risen Savior comes before them. They don't recognize that it's Jesus. But He comes before them and He looks at them and says, "Why are you two so sad?" And they look at him (this is hilarious) and say, "Are you a stranger in town? Do you not know what's been going on? The one they call Jesus is the one we thought was the Messiah, they killed Him and buried Him. It's over."

And Jesus went into a home with them, dined and broke bread with them, and opened their minds to see that all the scriptures pointed to One who was going to suffer, die, and rise again.

And then later, He told the rest of the disciples that you have a mission: "Go and proclaim forgiveness of sin in My name to all the nations."

And these who were dejected and were fleeing for their lives, all of a sudden, had PURPOSE - real purpose. They were emboldened, impassioned, and they laid their lives down to see this gospel spread. So I'm telling you, the world doesn't pity us if they know this truth; the world ought to actually ENVY us. Because there IS a resurrection, because Jesus IS alive, friend, if you follow Him, you actually have purpose that will last beyond this life. And THAT is good news.

And listen, if you haven't been jumping for joy yet, again I say, there's something wrong with you or you're asleep.

Then this fourth one ought to seal it. Because He lives, not only do we have forgiveness, not only do we have redemption, not only do we have purpose. Finally, because He lives, we can have life.

Look at verse 20-22 here:

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

Let me tell you what this means. Just like through Adam, death spread to all, through Christ, life is offered to all who put their faith in Christ. And what I mean is not just life when you die. I mean, first of all, life in the present. In other words, when you give your life to Jesus, when you trust him, the scripture says you pass from death to life -- in the present.

Listen to how Paul says it in Romans 8:11 If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies.

In other words, friend, when you become a Christian, the Holy Spirit comes into your life, and He awakens your heart. He opens your eyes to see God. He gives you the mind of Christ to be able to look at scripture and understand it and know Jesus. And I'm telling you, that IS life.

Now, I daresay this, and it may sound offensive, but I'm saying this in love: What the Bible says is, until your eyes have been opened, until you have a relationship with Jesus, you actually think you're living, but you're really not. You haven't experienced life the way it was meant to be experienced.

Now don't get offended; I'm just telling you that this is what the Bible says. Why? Colossians 1 says all things were created by Jesus, through Jesus, and for Jesus. In other words, you were created first and foremost for Him - to know Him, to relate to Him, to worship Him. And so I'm telling you that God has made a way through Jesus for you to be born again -- to be brought to spiritual life and to be able to have a relationship with Christ.

Jesus in John 17 prays, Father, this is eternal life, that the know the Father, and they know the Son whom You sent. THAT''s eternal life. This is why in chapter 1 of John's Gospel, it says, in HIM is life, and the life is the light of men. Friend, you can go after everything this world has to offer, thinking it will fill your life. And I'm telling you, you will always be found wanting; you will never be satisfied in life, because this is what you were made for. He is who you were made for. And then you can have life now.

Before we come to a close, you have the promise of eternal life when you die. What I mean is, there is a future bodily resurrection for all who put their faith in Jesus. One last part, look at verses 50-52:

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable (in other words, our fallen, sinful bodies can't go into heaven, but God changes us through faith in Christ. And look at 53-57)

53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

And the phrase I want you to hone in on, as we come to a close -- don't miss it -- is this: "The sting of death is sin."

What does that mean? What Paul is trying to say is this: What makes death truly have sting is if you die in sin. Sin gives death its sting. If you're sinless, death has no sting. But we are ALL sinful. Therefore death has a horrible sting attached to it. You say, what is that sting? Here it is: That those who die IN sin, not in Christ, they enter into a WORSE death, which is ETERNAL death, eternal separation from God.

Now here's the hope of the gospel – listen, don'm miss it: Jesus lived a sinless life. He died as a substitute in my place, for my sin. You know what that means? It means that when I put my faith in Him, all my sin is put on Him at the cross, and His perfect life -- don't miss it -- is accounted to me. Now why is that important here? When His perfect life is accounted to me, that means that I am no longer in sin, and that means that death has lost its sting for me.

Why? Because there is a greater death to be feared. The physical death is not to be feared. Why? Because for me, it's not an entry into eternal separation from God. It's an entry into eternal life WITH God. And that's why death loses its sting. Friends, this is why Jesus, in John 11, tells Martha when He went to raise Lazarus, He says, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though He die, yet shall he live." And then he turns around and says, "and whoever believes in me will never die."

Now, what gives there, Jesus? On the one hand, He said, whoever believes in me, THOUGH he die, he will live, but then he turns and around he says, Whoever believes in me will NEVER die. Well, it's because He's talking about two deaths there. Friends, this first death is guaranteed for all of us, right? Death and taxes. It's coming. Every one of us will face this death.

And Jesus is saying, look, that's not the death you ought to be concerned with. Whoever believes in Me, though you die, you're gonna live. Then He says, THIS death is what you ought to be worried about. Then He says, whoever believes in me will never die, will never taste that eternal separation from God.

This is why Jesus says to His disciples in Matthew 10, Don't fear the person who can kill your body -- don't fear that death. But fear the One who can destroy both your body and soul in hell, for eternity (Matthew 10:28). THAT's the death you ought to be most concerned with. And I'm telling you, listen, because He lives, sin has been removed for me, through faith in Christ, and man, death is no longer something to be feared for the rest of my life. But it's actually something I look forward to, because it's my entry into Heaven.

So look, this is why you get a peculiar verse like Ecclesiastes 7:1 -- Better is the day of death for the saints than the day of birth. Now, how do you become a saint? Again, when you put your faith in Christ. And this is what it's saying. Listen, Christian: Your death day is better than your birth day. And listen. How in the world can anyone say that the day of death is better than the day of birth? No way would you say that, if Christ has not been risen.

But since He is risen, your death day is actually better than your birth day. Why? Because your birthday is just an entry into a temporal life -- that one day you know you will die, and a judgment is coming. But your day of death is an entry into an eternal life. And the punishment has been paid for in full; there's no judgment; and you have eternal life.

So I close with this. I hope I've laid out a pretty good case that this is good news. Forgiveness, redemption, all your past restored, real purpose in your life, and life forever. And you say, well, that's good news, Afshin. How do I get that?

Go back to the very beginning, in 1 Corinthians 15, here's what He said:

This is the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, unless you believed in vain. And here's my prayer, that there are people here -- maybe you're here and you've believed in vain. What that means is, you kind of have a mental assent to some of these truths, but you haven't really believed and given your life to this Jesus. And my prayer is this, that you would believe.

So hear me very clearly: We don't preach everything Jesus did, and then the end is, "So now, go and be a better person. Come to church more; do good things." No. The message has one response. It is a gift to be received, God says, by faith.

So this is what you are to do: You're not to try to be better. You're to surrender your life to Him. Quit trying to be better. Confess that you're a sinner. Say, God, I'm a sinner, I'm separated from You. And then turn to Him and BELIEVE. Say, Jesus, I believe that You died. The scripture says that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, and you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you WILL be saved.

So would you bow your head with me, and close your eyes, and let's take a moment and respond to the resurrection of Christ.

Again, if you're here today, and you have heard this gospel -- not a gospel that's telling you to go and be better. The gospel is telling you, This is what has been done for you in Jesus. How will you respond to it? You either say, Yes, I receive it, or you push it away. And I believe there may be some here today, and God has orchestrated events to bring you here to this moment. Not for you to commit to try to be better, but for you to come to the end of yourself and say, "I'm hopeless apart from Christ. That's the gospel. And I need You, Jesus, and I believe in You."

So would you just pray that, silently where you are, if that's you. Say, "Jesus, I'm a sinner, separated from You. I receive Your work, Your death, Your resurrection, to pay for my sins. Come into my life. Forgive me of my sins. Give me life. Redeem my past, and give me real purpose that lasts beyond this life."

Jesus, we love You. We thank You for the truth of the resurrection. We thank You that death has been swallowed up in victory; that death has lost its sting. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, and we worship you.

In Christ's name we pray, Amen.

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