This Christian Life is not in Vain (1 Corinthians 15)

Imagine giving years and years of your life to something, and then to have it come down to the final pivotal moment when all of your work culminates in its reward, only to have it all go awry! That is what a group of scientists must have felt like just a few years ago. Here is the news story…

DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah (AP) – Scientists with tweezers picked through the twisted wreckage of a space capsule that crash-landed on Earth, hoping that microscopic clues to the evolution of the solar system weren’t completely lost in Utah’s salt flats.

NASA engineers were stunned Wednesday when neither parachute deployed aboard the Genesis capsule and the craft plummeted to the ground at 193 mph, breaking open like a clamshell and exposing its collection of solar atoms to contamination.

“There was a big pit in my stomach,” said physicist Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Laboratory. “This just wasn’t supposed to happen. We’re going to have a lot of work picking up the pieces.”

The capsule held billions of charged atoms — a total haul no bigger than a few grains of salt — that were harvested from solar wind on five collecting disks during the 884-day, $260-million mission.

Helicopters flown by Hollywood stunt pilots were supposed to grab Genesis almost a mile above the Utah desert and lower it gently to the ground by snatching its main parachute with a hook. But before the capture team learned of the parachute failure, the speeding capsule had plummeted into the Utah desert.

Imagine the frustration… to design something like that, send it out to distant space and have it return, only to crash at the very end of the project! But that is a picture of what the lives of many people are like. They spend all of their lives pursuing dreams and endeavors, only to have it all crash at the end because they are not rightly related to Jesus Christ. It is “climbing the ladder of success and upon getting to the top, discovering that it was leaning against the wrong building.”

Man, if this faith thing, this Jesus stuff is not true, we have worked and believed and lived in vain. We crash at the end. We run out of ladder rungs against a cold, stone edifice.  Paul said it this way…

1CO 15:12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

But Paul goes on to say that Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, and His resurrection makes all the difference. The story God is writing holds promise for the future… the guarantee for a glorious hereafter. Such knowledge changes the way we live. It affects our priorities on a daily basis. The stuff of this world is only of value for this world, passing away relatively soon after it begins. But our labor for God is not in vain.

1CO 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

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The Fruits of the Roots – (1 Cor. 15:12-26, 42-49)

Today’s devotional is the final in our series “The Roots of Redemption.”  I trust you have enjoyed it and been enriched by it. The genealogy of Christ and the theological significance it holds is very deep and at the core of the entire gospel message. Chris’ summary yesterday was one of the best writings I have ever read. Review that; understand it; know and be able to explain the exchange – the imputation of righteousness. If you “get” that, you’ve really “got it.”

In the coming months of the winter and spring we will be doing two new series beginning on 1/11/15 for six weeks, and then on 2/22/15 through the Easter season and into early May. The first will be on the subject of growing beyond being a disciple to becoming a discipler, with the latter series on the book of Hebrews – so rich in the theology of salvation and Christ’s atoning work.

Big Picture Perspective

As I write these words, I do so having recently come home from the visiting hours with a family who lost a loved one. The husband of the deceased said to me, “I’m not praying for her anymore, and I am looking forward to going where she is to be there with her. We know that in Adam we all die once, but in Christ we are made alive.”

He is of course referencing the great truth from the pen of the Apostle Paul in 1st Corinthians 15 – our passage for today. This dear man was comforted by this great overarching perspective, that though we’ve got a big problem through our relationship with Adam, we have a greater solution in Jesus Christ.

While at the same event, a man approached me whom I only casually recognized. In conversation it came out that he was the grandfather of a boy I had coached at Williamsport High School. He said, “So I can see that you haven’t gotten your knees fixed yet!”  To which I said, “Oh, you imagined that I was limping when I walked in?”

No, I can’t run away from my bad knee problem – literally or figuratively. I can’t even fake “not limping” anymore. I received this arthritic joint problem fair and square from the relatives – they have all had knee replacement surgeries.

And none of us can run away from our connection to Adam and Eve and the curse of sin and death that has passed down to us. But there is hope and a new connection to a new family relationship in Christ. The proof of it is the resurrection. That was just the beginning—the first fruits of a harvest of life to come—the fruits of the roots of redemption. We are more than just physical creatures; we are spiritual beings in connection with God through the work of Jesus Christ.

The Resurrection of the Dead

15:12 – But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the first fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 

. . . . . . .

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven.48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.