The Tomb Is Empty: Now What?
Have you ever asked yourself the question: “What kind of a person am I?” Lots of different ways to answer that question:..one way of answering it is: what am I devoted to?
What’s surprising here, is that by the numbers, it’s becoming apparent that many people in our culture are most committed, most devoted to themselves. That’s the kind of culture we live in. Now, some of you may suggest that our culture, by and large, is devoted to other things besides themselves. Maybe their jobs, or significant other. But surely we aren’t that, as a culture, that selfish.
->To Jobs? Price Waterhouse Cooper says that 18% of Millennials planned on staying with their employer for more than 3 years. People are really less and less devoted to their company.
->To Relationships? The percentage of 18 to 29-year-olds who say they are single and not living with a partner (shacking up) rose from 52 percent in 2004 to 64 percent in 2014. People are less and less devoted to relationships.
->Marriage? Marriage among 30-somethings also dropped 10 percentage points during 04-14, while the percentage living together with no intention to marry rose from 7 to 13 percent. Our culture is less and less devoted to marriage.
What we’re seeing here is not really a new problem. Bellah titled this in 1969 “ontological individualism.” Means “I” have to do “me” because “I” am the most important thing to “me.” (C. Lasch – Titled a “prophet” in the 1970s regarding his ability to predict sociological trends) referred to our culture as a “Culture of Narcissism,” or unfiltered selfishness. We exist in world where our highest devotion is to ourselves.
Let’s just be honest here: Who wants to be known as someone who is utterly devoted to himself? And as a Christian…as a church, living in this kind of Culture, where we are told, “You are the most important person to Yourself and You should be devoted to You,” what should we really be devoted to? What does God’s word teach us to be devoted to?
What Must We Be Devoted To?
41 So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers. 43 Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. 44 Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. 45 They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need.[a] 46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them[b] those who were being saved.
- The Truth of the Lord Jesus Christ (42)
The word in your translation may be “teaching / doctrine / truth.” The Greek word, didaskalia (“didactic”) – Latin “doctrina”, just refers to the body of truth the apostles taught and believed about the Lord. Where and when the Lord was taught, they made it a point to be there. Friends, likewise, we have loads of opportunities for you to hear God’s truth, loads of materials, Bibles in our own language, affordable study tools, etc.
Why Don’t We Do This?
With all of these opportunities surrounding us, why do we have such a challenging time taking advantage of all this access to good doctrine?
Occasionally, I will hear people say that “all this teaching and doctrine stuff just gets in the way. All we need to do is “love God and love people.” Well, that’s just silly. (D. Akin) “What we do always flows from what we believe about God.” You can’t just live life with God and not know anything about God because the way you live with God is a reflection of what you know about God. Anyway, how would your spouse like it if you looked at them and said, “I really don’t want to know anything about you, I just want to live with you.” Ridiculous.
What does God want from us? What is He like? What does He consider good? What does he think of us? Where is He taking us? How can we be rescued? How am I supposed to handle my money, family, time, hobbies? What am I doing wrong and what about me is wrong? (Ditka / mustache) All these are theological questions, and the early church didn’t look to their imaginations to figure out the answers. They looked to the God’s truth.
And then occasionally I’ll hear people say that all this theology stuff and Bible reading and Bible study stuff is just Boring. Listen (Piper): God Almighty has spoken. It can’t be boring. If you see it as boring, then the problem is you. Look at the church in Acts 2 holding onto it like a dog on a country ham, because that’s where God can be known; how we learn how to live and die.
- The Community of Believers (42)
(Macarthur) Bonhoeffer in prisons: “The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer. A physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God. How inexhaustible are the riches that open up for those who, by God’s will, are privileged to live in the daily fellowship of life with other Christians.”
As Christ’s church, we are one wife, with one husband. We are one set of branches connected to one vine. We are one flock with one shepherd, one king with one kingdom, one family with one father, one building with one foundation. One body with one life source and one head. One purpose, one mind, one goal, one power. This fellowship is an enmeshing, interlocking, interdependent union of lives that is inseparable and untangle-able.
(Macarthur) And so the church, in its beginning, was intensely relational. Not a Sunday spectator event. It was a common participation, sharing (koinania), self-lessness. Laying aside our own interests for those of others. Doesn’t that sound like something you want to be a part of?
Why We Have a Hard Time Doing This?
What makes it so challenging for the church in our current time? Couple of theories, but the best one is what we talked about at the beginning of this message. We live in a “me-culture.” I-phone/pad/picture/life. You choose. You choose everything. Choose your entertainment, you choose your music. You choose your relationships (facebook). You choose your gender, ethnicity. Me is King.
Here’s how this infiltrates church-life: if you don’t get what you want from the church, it’s the church’s fault. Hear people say: “It’s just so hard to find a church.” No, not really. You just have a difficult time in any kind of environment where what you want isn’t at the center.
To be a member of the Lord’s family, you’ll have to commit to the welfare of a whole other group of people. You might walk into someone in the hallway who you’ve offended during the week. You might have to sit in a room with someone who you normally might not enjoy. You might hear something from the preacher you don’t like. Might have to sing hymns (gasp). Might have to sing a praise song from the radio (the horror). Committing to church family is a commitment to die to yourself. And that’s challenging.
The Gospel Teaches Us How We Should Live Now
The only way we can achieve the Lord’s standard here is by the gospel. Jesus Christ who we love lived every day for the glory of someone else and the good of the people around him. We honor a Lord Christ who died for us and our sins. If you’re not a Christian here today, you need to know about this love that transforms us. God made us. We Broke His law. We deserve his righteous Judgment. But Jesus rescues us from that judgment if we will repent and commit our lives to Him. And all the glory of his future kingdom, his inheritance, his eternal life and joy, all that we are, we are by His grace. “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling. Not the labor of my hands. Can fulfill Thy law’s demands.” That gospel, of self-sacrificial, infinite love sits at the center of who we are. That’s what we are as the church. A people who deserved nothing but severe judgment, but have because of God’s great love for us, received everything by his grace. Friends, that doesn’t produce people who are careless about God’s truth. Or a people who are selfish. That makes us passionate for him and drives us to love others as He has loved us.
Can you imagine a community of people who love each other passionately, beg God in prayer for each other’s welfare, who share spiritual burdens together, confess sins together, love each other, sacrifice financially for each other, sing songs that are in the style that their younger or older brothers/sisters enjoy, tell the truth to each other, accept each other, sing with and to each other, being patient with each other, forgiving each other, eating with each other, listening to and instruct in God’s truth together? The Jesus into whose image you have been reborn does not give you new life so that you can do life on your own, uncommitted to relationships of fellow believers. You are made alive in him to follow him in a life-time of laying down all of your interests to pursue the interests of your brothers and sisters.
So what kind of people are we? What are we devoted to?
We are not devoted to ourselves. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we are devoted to doctrine of God and the people of God. Listen to what we, at FBCJ, have committed ourselves to since our beginning.
1854 FBCJackson Church Covenant:
“We do now, in the presence of God, Angels and this Assembly, most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with God and one another, that (under the authority of God’s truth) we will walk together in newness of life, with brotherly love, to His Glory, as our common Lord.” Amen.