The Cross And The Empty Tomb


Last Sunday we celebrated Easter Sunday at North Avenue. Mark started off his Easter sermon from the unlikely text of Genesis 5. The first 11 verses of Genesis 5 are below:

“This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years,and he died. When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh. Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died. When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan. 10 Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters.11 Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died.”

After each of these people are mentioned you find this same phrase: “and he died.” Death is not a respecter of persons. As Mark said the last time he checked 10 out of 10 people die. My Dad who has been a pastor for 34 years, preached an incredible sermon a few years ago, and he talked briefly about how he has seen a lot of people die. Meaning, he has seen a lot of people go through the dying process. I put a 10 minute clip together of this sermon from my Dad and would encourage you to give it a listen here. Tony Reinke writes: “Sinners run backward toward an open grave, said Martin Luther, unable to face death but inevitably moving straight at it, trying to put it out of sight and out of mind with any diversion, and yet shuffling in reverse until the inevitable meeting occurs. Then the sudden tumble down.” Reinke continues: “How many of us think of death in a given day? The reality is that very rarely do we think about death. We shuffle backwards to avoid the subject altogether.” Death is a somber reality. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said: “life is not a game; it is not a play; it is not just play-acting. Oh, life is serious and solemn; it is real and it is earnest.” Life is serious and solemn because death is coming. As Hebrews 9:27 tells us: “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,…” So, death, then face to face with King Jesus, then either everlasting joy or everlasting pain. As John Piper says that this: “brief little life that you and I live and that everybody in our churches lives, will issue very quickly into everlasting joy or everlasting pain. This has got to grip us!”

Next Mark read from Thomas Jefferson’s version of the Bible. The TJV 🙂 Thomas Jefferson was a Deist. So, he didn’t believe in the miraculous or supernatural. His Bible is basically just the words of Jesus from the four gospels without any mention of anything miraculous or supernatural. His Bible ends with the body of Jesus being put into the tomb, and the stone is rolled over to cover the entrance of the tomb. Praise God that our Bible’s don’t end this way. If our Bible’s did end the way that Thomas Jefferson’s does, we would have no hope whatsoever. Our lives would have no ultimate purpose or significance. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15: “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. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” How terrible it would be if Jesus had not been raised from the dead!

1 Corinthians 15

Next, Mark took us to 1 Corinthians 15 and we looked at the first couple of verses:

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

Paul is reminding the Corinthian church once again of the gospel. We so often think that the gospel is only for non Christians. We think that once we become Christians we move on from the gospel to deeper theological truths. Jerry Bridges reminds us that we never outgrow the gospel. Tim Keller says: “We never “get beyond the gospel” in our Christian life to something more “advanced.” The gospel is not the first “step” in a “stairway” of truths, rather, it is more like the “hub” in a “wheel” of truth. The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s but the A-Z of Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we make progress in the kingdom.”

Jerry Bridges says: “The Gospel is not only the most important message in all of history; it is the only essential message in all of history. Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without clearly understanding it and experiencing the joy of living by it.” As Mark said this past Sunday we want North Avenue Church to be a gospel saturated church. We should be constantly talking about the glories of the gospel. We should be texting each other Bible passages filled with the gospel. Why do we need to be reminded of the gospel so often? One of the reasons is that we have the tendency to assume the gospel and then we forget the gospel. C.J. Mahaney says: “I want to meditate each day on Christ and him crucified. Each day I need to remind myself of the gospel. I cannot live on yesterdays recollection of the gospel. I need to review and rehearse the gospel each day or I will assume the gospel, forget the gospel, and prove vulnerable to all manner of temptation and sin.”

Let me go back to Jerry Bridges again who has been so helpful in my own life. He says: “We need to continue to hear the gospel every day of our Christian lives. Only a continuous reminder of the gospel of God’s grace through Christ will keep us from falling into good-day-bad-day thinking, wherein we think our daily relationship with God is based on how good we’ve been. It is only the joy of hearing the gospel and being reminded that our sins are forgiven in Christ that will keep the demands of discipleship from becoming drudgery.” He goes on: “The gospel, applied to our hearts every day, frees us to be brutally honest with ourselves and with God. The assurance of His total forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Christ means we don’t have to play defensive games anymore. We don’t have to rationalize and excuse our sins. We can say we told a lie instead of saying we exaggerated a bit. We can admit an unforgiving spirit instead of continuing to blame our parents for our emotional distress. We can call sin exactly what it is, regardless of how ugly and shameful it may be, because we know that Jesus bore that sin in His body on the cross.”

I will give an example from this morning how I was reminded of the gospel and how my heart and affections were stirred up. I am not a morning person by any means. I typically read my Bible first thing out of bed then take a quick shower, give my wife a kiss and drive about 10 minutes to work. I have been listening to Mark’s sermons the last several weeks during my 10 minute drives to and from work. So, this morning I jumped into 2nd Peter for a bit, then took my shower, kissed my wife, then jumped in the car and turned Mark’s sermon on which had about 18 minutes left in it. My heart was somewhat cold, I was feeling tired and somewhat sluggish. As I drove the familiar roads to work, Mark began to unpack the sufferings of Jesus. I am sitting at a traffic light with the sun rising off in the distance. Simultaneously, the sun of the gospel was rising from Mark and I found my heart and affections being stirred. Tears filled my eyes and rolled down my cheek as I was once again stunned by the love of Jesus and the depth of my sin. We need the gospel every day. We need to continually rediscover the gospel each day as Tim Keller says. As John Stott says: “The Cross is the blazing fire at which the flame of our love is kindled, but we have to get near enough for its sparks to fall on us.” So, let’s run near to the Cross of Jesus each day and have our love freshly kindled.

Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 15:3&4:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,”

C.J. Mahaney starts out his fantastic little book like this:

“Each of our lives is centered on something. What’s at the center of yours? Think about it for a moment. What’s really the main thing in your life? Only one thing can truly be first in priority; so what’s at the top of your list, second to none? Or let me put it this way: What are you most passionate about? What do you love to talk about? What do you think about most when your mind is free? Or try this: What is it that defines you? Is it your career? A relationship? Maybe it’s your family, or your ministry. It could be some cause or movement, or some political affiliation. Or perhaps your main thing is a hobby or a talent you have, or even your house and possessions. It could be any number of good things—but when it comes to centering our life, what really qualifies as the one thing God says should be the most important?…”

“Here’s how Paul answers that question: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you….For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins.” First importance. Paul is pointing us to the one transcendent truth that should define our lives. In the midst of our various responsibilities and many possible areas of service in the kingdom of God, one overarching truth should motivate all our work and affect every part of who we are: Christ died for our sins.” May this be true in all of our lives, that the one overarching truth that would motivate all our work and affect every part of who we are would be that Christ died for our sins.

Paul ends 1 Corinthians 15 with these powerful verses (50-58):

“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, and we shall be changed. 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.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

So often we in the church tend to view verses like these as a fairy tale. We don’t actually believe deeply within our souls that this is going to happen. However, we are one day closer to the last trumpet sounding! Matthew Harmon says: “Jesus’s resurrection ensures us that we too will one day have resurrection bodies. Now, what those resurrection bodies are like is something of a mystery. In 1 Corinthians 15:35–49 it tells us that there will be some continuity and some discontinuity between our current bodies and those resurrection bodies. But Philippians 3:20–21 tells us that when Christ returns, he will transform our bodies to match his glorious resurrection body. And that is a remarkable promise as well — living in a fallen world where our bodies decay and are subject to sickness and to aging — that there is coming a day when, because of Jesus’s resurrection, our bodies will be transformed to match his perfect, glorious resurrection body.” Matt Chandler powerfully writes: “Is it a stretch to think that we should live for that day? When history as the world knows it no longer exists, and there are no longer any great kings or great wars or great political machinations; when there are no histories of countries left to cherish, no more dollars; when it’s no longer the strong versus the weak, and all that’s left is the story of the great God and King, and all has been righted, and the heroes are now the missionaries and the ministers of grace—of which every believer can be—and our eyes behold Him as He truly is…words fail. That is where our heart ought to be…Let us wait for that day, expectantly and eagerly. Let us fix our eyes on heaven, where our citizenship is held securely, where we are presently united to Christ in spirit.”

The Sufferings Of Jesus

Mark ended his sermon very powerfully last Sunday describing in detail the sufferings of our Savior. I can’t improve on what he said here. I would just encourage you to listen to the entire sermon again, but if you can’t do that I would strongly encourage you to listen to the last 15 minutes. You can listen to the sermon here.

Picture from here


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