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Celebrate Jesus: The Resurrection

I Peter 1:3-5

Series Text: 1 Tim. 3:16 

And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Beheld by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.

This Tuesday, a couple of dozen government officials dressed in coveralls, surgical masks and industrial rubber gloves spent most of the day foraging through a cow pasture near Mina, South Dakota. Why? Payne Stewart, the 1999 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am champion, died when his Lear Jet crashed.

When the plane veered off course, two Air Force planes were dispatched to investigate. One of the pilots reported that the "windows were frozen" leading investigators to believe the cabin decompressed. The temperature at the 45,000 feet altitude would be 70 degrees below zero.

Death claimed someone else.

It gets us all eventually, last Monday, it took Payne.

It even took our Lord and Savior, but it did not keep Him. This morning, our text is I Peter 1:3-5: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

Please notice two key truths in this passage.

God's Mercy invites us to be born again

Today I declare to you that though death got its bony fingers on our Lord, it could not keep Him in its grasp. He arose on the third day, and when He did, Jesus defeated death, hell and the grave. Or as Paul put it, He "was vindicated in the Spirit." 

Jesus' death without His resurrection would have been the greatest miscarriage of justice in the world, instead it became the greatest show of mercy. "Oh the love that drew Salvation's plan," the poet wrote, "Oh the grace that brought it down to man. "Oh the mighty gulf that God did span, At Calvary."

The resurrection empowers God's mercy. 

Without the power of the resurrections, God's mercy would be demoted to sympathy. But because Jesus rose from the grave, He has the power to do something about man's sin and death's apparent victory.

Jesus rose from the grave, we know it to be a fact. We know it because,

We have the testimony of the apostles who saw Him and were willing to die for their convictions.

1 Corinthians 15:5 "and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve."

Ten of the 12 disciples died a martyrs death. The only two that did not was Judas, who killed himself after betraying our Lord, and John, who died in exile on the Island of Patmos. 

How many of you would be willing to die for something you knew was true?

How many of you are willing to die for a lie? Not me. I'd never die for a lie, and neither would all 10 of the disciples. At the last minute, they would renounce their faith to save their skin. But they didn't. 

How can you explain that? Because they knew Jesus rose from the grave.

We have the testimony of the 500. 

1 Corinthians 15:6 "After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;"

And we have the testimony of Josephus, a Jewish historian who wrote,

"Now, there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, - a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him: and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day." (c. 93 A.D. Antiquites of the Jews, chapter III, section 3)

We also have the testimony of modern day sceptics who came to Christ.

Who would you say is the most skilled lawyer of all times? According to the Guinness Book of Word Records, it is Sir Lionel Luckhoo, the winningness lawyer in the world with 245 straight murder acquittals. You would think that a lawyer with his track record would possess superior investigative skills. Applying those skills to researching the authenticity of the resurrections, he wrote, "I say unequivocally that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt." (Lee Strobel God's Outrageous Claims, p. 171)

Lee Strobel is a Teaching Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago. In his book, God's Outrageous Claims, he shares his own pilgrimage to Christ. He wrote, "I used to consider the Resurrection to be a laughable fairy tale. After all, Yale Law School had trained me to be coldly rational, and my years of sniffing for news at the Chicago Tribune had only toughened my naturally cynical personality. But intrigued by changes in my wife after she became a Christian, I spent nearly two years systematically using my journalistic and legal experience to study the evidence for the Resurrection and the credibility of Jesus' claims to being God. I emerged totally convinced and gave my life to Christ . . ." (Lee Strobel God's Outrageous Claims, p. 170)

How about you? Are you convinced? Payne Stewart was. After his victory at the U.S. Open this year, he sat down with LES UNGER for an interview. Within the first few minutes, here's what Payne said, "And I've got to give thanks to the Lord for giving me the ability to believe in myself. Without that peace that I have in my heart, I wouldn't be sitting here in front of you right now."

Toward the end of the interview, Les asked, "how much of a tougher player are you inside now than you were in the past?" To that question, Payne replied, "I'm a lot more mentally prepared to deal with these situations than I have been in the past. And I'm going back to the fact that my faith is strong. And the Lord's given me the ability that he wants me to use so I can stand up here and give Him the praise." (http://usopen.lycos.com/news/interviews/062099_payne_stewart.html)

"Sports Illustrated took note of Stewart's new found faith in its U.S. Open coverage last June, recounting that Stewart had "turned to religion, embracing Christianity with the fervor of a prison convert." He wore a "What Would Jesus Do?" WWJD bracelet during the tournament and began each day by reading a devotional book, the magazine reported.

"There used to be a void in my life," Stewart told Sports Illustrated, which noted that his mother, Bee, formerly had described her outspoken son as "rude;" his wife had used the word, "arrogant;" and his caddie, "impatient and not very self-confident."

'The peace I have now is so wonderful," Stewart told Sports Illustrated. "I don't understand how I lived so long without it.'"

Payne Stewart's pastor, Jim Henry of the First Baptist Church in Orlando FL. said Payne, "was a wonderful Christian who had Christ in his life and somehow in his death, that brought a great sense of peace to his family in a difficult and tragic time." (Pro golfer Payne Stewart, 42, was First Baptist member, new believer By Art Toalston BP 10-26-99)

Today, Payne knows the power of the resurrection and from the 19th hole in heaven can say with the Apostle Paul, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Cor. 15:55 KJV) 

Do you know that victory? If not, why not profess your faith in Christ today? 

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