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Evangel Tabernacle | March 24, 2019

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The Cross, The Grave, The Resurrection

The Cross, The Grave, The Resurrection

| On 25, Apr 2014

KEY TEXT
2 Corinthians 1:8-11 (RSV)

V8- For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself.

V9- Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead;

V10- he delivered us from so deadly a peril, and he will deliver us; on him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

V11- You must also help us by prayer so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us in answer to many prayers.

If I were to ask you to describe Easter without using any words, you could only use PUNCTUATION MARKS, which punctuation mark would you choose to describe this Easter for yourself? Maybe this Easter is a COMMA for you. It makes you STOP, PAUSE, THINK AND LISTEN, but that’s about it. Perhaps today is a downer – a big bold PERIOD. You thought you’d feel excited, but instead it seems to be more like an EMPTY RITUAL. You feel like you’re not on the inside, but on the outside…..an onlooker.

It was a day when life felt like a PERIOD for Jesus’ disciples. HE WAS DEAD. HE WAS BURIED. An end to expectations. But wait – news of an empty tomb…….the PERIOD is no longer a PERIOD; it’s a QUESTION MARK. That’s worse than a period. Now they’re beginning to doubt. Where is He? They’re perplexed. The guards are gone, the stone is rolled away. He is not there. And if not there, where????

An angel speaks, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and how He must be crucified, and on the third day He must rise again.” Of course they remembered! The PERIODS are gone. The QUESTION MARKS are removed. There is one massive EXCLAMATION MARK!

That’s what Easter is all about…..an exclamation of gratitude and of praise for the resurrection of Jesus Christ and for the salvation His victory over death brought to us.

There is a process leading to the exclamation mark. Before we can experience the exclamation of praise and gratitude for the resurrection of Christ, we have to go through the comma, the period and question mark and then finally the exclamation.

Let me call the COMMA (,) – the cross

Let me call the PERIOD (.) AND THE QUESTION MARK (?) – the grave

Let me call the EXCLAMATION (!) – the resurrection!

That’s my title – THE CROSS, THE GRAVE AND THE RESURRECTION.

(I) THE CROSS
V8- For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself.

Resurrection cannot stand on its own.

It has to be preceded by the cross and the grave.

I know there is a popular gospel message that is sweeping the 21st century churches now – Everything is already done by Christ for you at the cross and so we don’t have to feel anything, don’t have to go through anything bad or do anything for Christ. I think this is a very wrong doctrine.

As much as Christ has died for us and paid for us all at the cross, we as His disciples must still carry the cross.

That is why Paul told the Corinthians not to be IGNORANT of the affliction which he experienced in Asia. The affliction which Paul underwent was the cross he had to bear for Christ.

I call that the “fellowship of Christ’s suffering” (Philippians 3:10). Jesus Christ had to suffer the cross on Good Friday. Paul, the great apostle also had to suffer the cross. When we suffer in the will of God, we are sharing the sufferings of the Savior. This does not refer to His “vicarious suffering” on the cross, for only He could die as a sinless substitute for us. But there are some sufferings that we endure simply because we are human and subject to pain while there are other sufferings that come because we are God’s people and we want to serve Him. When you are in fellowship with Christ’s suffering, it means you are enduring the trials while at the same time doing the will of God. That is called suffering “for righteousness sake.”

Paul didn’t want the Corinthians believers to be IGNORANT of the affliction he suffered in Asia just as we must not be ignorant of the afflictions that Christians have to undergo. We must never think that trouble for Christians is an accident. For the believer, everything is a divine appointment.

I just found out that many great men of God suffered from major diseases. Paul, a great apostle, also had an ailment that he called it the thorn in his flesh. So what can you say about the afflictions that beset the men of God? I say that is the cross every genuine Christian has to carry. No matter how many times God heals you, you still have to die one day. Perhaps, that is the way God appointed those wonderful men and servants of God to meet him.

Face it, whether we like it or not – as Christians, we have to carry the cross.

In this case the cross is our AFFLICTIONS.

The Greek word for “affliction” is “thlipsis” and it means “narrow, confined, under pressure.”

Paul in our key text felt hemmed in by this difficult circumstance. Paul did not specify here what his affliction was. It could be he was afflicted with a serious illness; or he was imprisoned in Ephesus; or he was fearing for life during the riot instigated by the Ephesian silversmiths.

Whatever it might be, Paul described this pressure from the affliction as causing him to be:

1) Utterly and Unbearably Crushed.
“To be utterly and unbearably crushed” here means “to be burdened beyond measure.” It is liken unto a beast of burden like a donkey with a load too heavy to bear.

This was how Paul felt about the heavy burden and pressure that hemmed him in. He felt utterly and unbearably crushed by the pressure.

Is that the cross you are carrying now – the cross of unbearable pressure from your family, from your work, from your peer or from your school that you are now falling down beneath its heavy weight? Or is it the unbearable pressure of guilt and condemnation that stops you at your track? Or could it be the unbearable pressure of financial needs that suffocate you?

2) Despaired of Life
The pressure of the affliction could be so great that it can cause us to despair of life.

“To despair of life” is TO LOSE HOPE IN LIFE. It has an implication of DEPRESSION.

Being a follower of Christ does not exempt a person from pressure, stress and depression. Many believers believe Christians should never be depressed. But here – Paul- a champion of the early church – was dealing with that very problem. He candidly wrote that the pressure was so great that at times, he despaired of life itself. At time he felt depression.

Life in itself sucks. I know there is this popular slogan among the Y generation – YOLO – You only live once. Therefore enjoy life to the fullest. Is that all? Let me tell you – even if you want to enjoy life, life doesn’t want you to enjoy it. That is the fallenness of this life without Christ. It is only in Christ that life has a meaning and purpose, howbeit the many trials and tribulations that come with that discipleship. It is only in Christ that our affliction and suffering are transcended with eternal meaning, reward and purpose. Standing on itself, affliction and suffering in life serves no purpose. Like Ecclesiastes says – All is vanity – everything under the sun is vanity – a chasing after the wind.

(2) THE GRAVE
V9- Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead;

Paul did not stop at expressing his depression about life. He did not deny the way he felt about this unbearable and crushing affliction or pressures of troubles.

Now, he boldly stated that he felt he had received the sentence of death.

That’s the next stage of experience we have to go through. First the cross where our affliction will crush us and be unbearable to us, to the point of despair.

Then now, we will feel that we are sentenced to death – our grave experience.

For Paul, the phrase “sentence of death” could refer to an official verdict, perhaps an order for Paul’s arrest and execution. We all know that in the end he was executed by the Romans.

Have you come to a stage in your affliction where you feel like dying – where you feel like everything is doomed and there is no way out? That is the “sentence of death” stage like Jesus being doomed to the grave. They rolled the stone to close the tomb. Jesus was dead. Period!

Maybe today you are hitting rock bottom. No more way down. You are dead! There is no way out!

It is only in our gravest, lowliest rock bottom experience that we learn to DIE TO OURSELVES.

When we feel that we have received a sentence of death from life, it is actually God trying to show us how weak we are in ourselves.

Paul was a gifted and experienced servant of God, who had been through many different kinds of trials. Surely all this experience would be sufficient for him to face these new difficulties and overcome them.

But God wants us to trust Him –not our gifts or abilities, our experience or our “spiritual reserves”. Just about the time we feel “self-confident” and able to meet the enemy, we fail miserably.

When you and I die to SELF, then God’s resurrection power can go to work. It was when Abraham and Sarah were as good as dead physically that God’s resurrection power enabled them to have the promised son. However “dying to self” does not mean idle complacency, doing nothing and expecting God to do everything. You can be sure that Paul prayed, searched the Scriptures, consulted with his associates, and trusted God to work. The God who raises the dead is sufficient for any difficulty of life! He is able but we must be available.

As for Paul, the sentence of death he received, only drove him back to God and this demonstrated his UTTER DEPENDENCE ON GOD.

The Arabs have a proverb, “All sunshine makes a desert.” The danger of prosperity is that it encourages a false independence. It makes us think that we are well able to handle life alone. For every one prayer that rises to God in days of prosperity, ten thousand rise in days of adversity. Somebody said this, “I have often been driven to my knees in prayer because I had nowhere else to go.” It is often in misfortune that a man finds out who are his true friends and it often needs some time of adversity to show us how much we need God.

Are you having a Black Saturday now? Dead and buried in your hopeless situation? Don’t trust in yourself. Rely on God. Why? Because He is a God who raises the dead.

(3) THE RESURRECTION
V9- Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead;

V10- he delivered us from so deadly a peril, and he will deliver us; on him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

He raised his Son to life after three days and He can raise you up again.

That’s the hope of Christianity.

We don’t suffer hopelessly and endlessly.

We don’t die without any hope of being raised again.

We don’t tumble to our rock bottom without our God resurrecting us.

THERE IS A GOD WHO RAISES THE DEAD.

The word “raises the dead” means “to help out of distress; to save; to protect.”

God will not leave you there to die. He will raise you from the dead. He will help you out of the distress. He will save you and protect you from death.

He may or may not deliver immediately but after His divinely appointed time for your suffering, He will definitely come to resurrect you.

Our Good Friday does not punctuate with Black Saturday. It punctuates instead with the Resurrection Sunday. That is good news and that is our hope.

No matter what sentence of death you have received, there is a God who will raise you up from the dead.

He will raise you back not once but in every deadly peril you are in so that you can always set your hope on Him for this resurrection.

Because He lives, we can face tomorrow despite the unbearable and crushing pressure; despite the despair in life; despite the sentence of death life passes to us. Our God will raise us up again.

So this is the process of Resurrection which takes three days

1st Day (Good Friday) …[comma ,]
• THE CROSS
• Affliction
• Unbearable
• Utterly crushed
• Despair of Life

2nd Day (Black Saturday) …[period .][question mark ?]
• THE GRAVE
• Sentence of Death
• Death to self
• Reliance on God

3rd Day (Easter Sunday)….[exclamation mark!]
• THE RESURRECTION
• God raises the dead
• Deliverance from deadly peril
• More deliverance in the future

God’s deliverance or God’s raising Paul from a deadly situation was in response to Paul’s faith as well as to the faith of praying people in Corinth. “This poor man cried and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles” (Psalms 34:6).

Once God delivers us we can exclaim in exultation and gratitude.

It is one thing to know about Resurrection but it is quite another to experience the resurrection power of God upon the unbearable and crushing affliction of your life.

Our church today now is at the brink of the sunrise of resurrection.

When Christ lay at the tomb and descended to hell after he died, his dead body was still lying in the grave, shut closed.

But as Easter sunrise drew closer and closer, revival of life upon his dead body came. That is what this church is going through now. -a revival by the Holy Spirit, where He pumps in God’s kind of vitality and life to us. This revival is happening now in our Church. Glory be to God!

Our church went through the Good Friday where we were afflicted beyond what we could bear. We were all so utterly and unbearably crushed by our enemies that we despaired of life itself. It is as if our whole church, our ministries and reputation received the sentence of death. The devil wanted us dead. We were so hemmed in; we were so at the rock bottom. We had our share of Black Saturday. But then it was during that sentencing of death that we all learned to die to ourselves and learned to call upon God; learned to stand on the rhemas that God revealed to us during our devotion; learned to trust God even though we were walking in darkness; learned to embark upon high praises and then the Spirit’s life started flowing down from the throne of God to all of us and let me announce to you- Our Church is out of the Black Saturday. The sunrise of God’s resurrection is here for our church. Revival will still keep coming to us but be prepared all of you –church – to witness how God is going to RAISE each and every one of you out of your financial pit of disaster; out of your spiritual deadness; out of your painful diseases; out of your dead marriage; out of your hopeless life; out of your despair.

Not only he is going to raise you OUT of your affliction but He is going to raise you UP.

You are going to come out of your grave – alive and kicking and walk out in THE GLORY OF YOUR GOD. Revival is where the Holy Spirit revives our dead and waning soul from death. Resurrection on the other hand is different. Resurrection is higher than revival. Resurrection is the power of God to raise us out of our grave and up to a higher level of newness. Jesus walked out of the grave in a new body and a new glory. Similarly, God will raise us out of our grave and transcend our grave experience into a new level of life, character and dimension. Jesus came forth with a glorified body – new in character. Jesus’ glorified body could pass through the wall – new in dimension. When God resurrects us, we will be raised to a higher level of newness, life and dimension. No wall can stop us. We can “pass through” any wall or obstacle to extend the dimension of Christ’s ministry because of that resurrection power of God.

This is our God who can raise you up!

Thank God for resurrection but look behind at the God who raises the Dead.

He is here to perform that very resurrection for you now.

No matter how godly we are, we can’t avoid sharing in the fellowship of the suffering of Christ. As long as you are a Christian, you are bound to face affliction. This affliction, like a comma will cause you to pause and think about life. But as your affliction escalates to the intensity of being unbearable and crushing, you will despair of life. You will feel as if life has passed you a death sentence and that causes you to stop in your life and faith like a period. You feel you can’t go on anymore and there are so many question marks in your life concerning the power and the reality of God. But then just as you begin to lose hope in yourself and begin to look up to God, He comes to your life and raises you out of the pit and He raises you up in this life so that you can exclaim in adoration and gratitude – Thank God! Jesus Lives! Thank God there is God who raises the dead.

1 Peter 4:12-13- Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. BUT REJOICE IN SO FAR AS YOU SHARE CHRIST’S SUFFERINGS, THAT YOU MAY ALSO REJOICE AND BE GLAD WHEN HIS GLORY IS REVEALED.

The glory that Christ wants to reveal to you is His resurrection. BUT how much that glory will be revealed to you is proportionate to how much you have shared in Christ’s suffering. The greater your suffering, the greater the resurrection/glory. The more you have died, the more you will be raised up. “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him.” (2 Timothy 2:11)

END
PREACHED AT ETAB ON EASTER SUN 20 APRIL 2014

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