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Celebrating Life Change
04/08/2007
Scripture: Luke 22: 47; 24: 12
Track 3 of 3 in the A Transforming Church . . . Celebrates the Life of Jesus series
Running time: 43 minutes, 35 seconds.


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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.


"Absolutely Everything"

Everything of significance to the resurrection of Jesus. It's mentioned in nearly every book of the New Testament. It is proclaimed in preaching, commemorated in the Lord's Supper and demonstrated in the lives of Christ's followers.

The resurrection establishes Christ as God's son (Romans 1:4). The resurrection is connected to our new birth (1 Peter 1:3). It serves as the foundation of our hope (1 Peter 1:21; 1 Corinthians 6:14). It's the model of our own resurrection (Romans 6:4). Christ's resurrection provides us with justification (legally frees us from the burden of sin's penalty) (Romans 4:25).

The list continues throughout the New Testament. Everything of importance is connected to His resurrection. The fact that God raised Jesus from the dead assures us of every promise God makes being fulfilled in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:19-22).

The only thing that stands between one who believes in Jesus and one who has all the promises of God, is sharing in the resurrection of Christ. God has chosen, in His wisdom, to call each of us to identify with Christ's death and resurrection. In repentance we die to ourselves. In baptism (immersion) we connect with His death (Romans 6:4). In baptism we also connect with His burial and resurrection (Romans 6:1ff.; 1 Peter 3:21).

Just as Jesus died, was buried (immersed in a tomb) and was raised to walk in newness of life, so shall we be. We die, we're buried and we are raised to live "a new life." The power of that resurrection to a new life then empowers us to live faithfully before God.

Even there . . . in our "living a new life" . . . we see the power of the resurrection (Romans 7:4; 8:11). Everything that matters . . . the identity of Jesus, the hope of our future, the power to live today . . . stands upon the foundation of Christ's resurrection. Is there anything so important in your life . . . that you think is more important than this?

4-8-07

I received a delightful email yesterday from Andy Eggness. Some of you will remember him. He has since moved to California. He just wrote to simply wish me a Happy Easter and to pass greetings along to all of you who are part of his church family. I had forgotten some things that he had mentioned. I just want to read a brief piece of this email. He says "I first walked through the doors at Madison Park Easter Sunday 2006, with the thought, I'll see what's there and if it's for me. The worst thing that could happen is that I would lose an hour in my day. As I look back one year later, undoubtedly my life has improved as a result of giving Madison Park a chance. Both from a spiritual and a mental standpoint, clearly it was one of the wisest things I've ever done."

I don't know how much that has to do with Madison Park so much as it has to do with why we are here. Or the One for whom we are here. But Andy represents what seems to me to be true about so many people. They are looking to see if there's anything out there that's different than what they are currently experiencing. I'm not sure that I have ever met anybody who was perfectly satisfied with the way life as it is right now. Just exactly as it is. Always seeming to think that there is something just a little bit different at least that could make an improvement.

None of you, I'm sure, have ever been on a diet. Well ok, none of you I'm sure have ever NOT been on a diet, except 2 or 3 of you that who seem to have that high metabolism that the rest of us envy. I just decided I'd be curious, I ran a Goggle search at Amazon for Diet Books and I came up with 50 and I thought, that doesn't seem so bad, I thought there has to be 100's of diet books out there. 50? And then I looked at the bottom of the page and it said 50 out of 198,000! Oh well, ok, well how about self help books well just slightly over 25,000. For those of you that are interested in your fitness you can find if you go to Amazon you can find 106,000 titles to help you become more fit.

In 2004 11.9 million experiences of plastic surgery. That means 1 out of every 25 Americans had a plastic surgery procedure. Now we know that many of those were necessary. They were the kinds of things that we need to have done. But the vast majority of those are elective. Because we want to look better, younger, fitter, whatever. I suspect that we are all looking for some kind of change. We want things to be just a little different than they are.

The Dayton Ohio Daily News ran this article this morning. What does Easter mean to you? It was a man on the street kind of thing. Mindy Compton says, "It's pretty much a holiday celebrating birth, every birth, every renewal. Even if it does have something to do with religion, it's one of those holidays that everybody can relate to because it's the celebration of change." She goes on to say "I was raised in a Christian home and my mom celebrates Easter as a religious holiday. I don't, but that's alright with her, she's pretty open minded as to what with I do with my own life and my own beliefs."

Change. We're all looking for it. And in some sense when you come to Easter you're struck by the fact that very few people seem to know where to find real change. Not temporary change, not external change but real change. In fact when we read the Easter story and we look at the story of the characters that occur in that particular story in Luke 23 & 24 you're going to discover that there are people looking for change. And not knowing where to find it.

Judas thinks he's going to bring about change simply by giving the Jewish leadership Jesus. I don't know what his motive was. I have real mixed feelings about what drew him to that particular situation but I suspect it had something to do with the fact that he wanted things to be different.

You'll notice that Peter sought change, at least initially he sought change with a sword thinking he would just defend Jesus. The Jews thought they could produce change if they would just get rid of Jesus. That would take care of that. We'll just kill him. That should solve the problem.

We invite you this morning to think about change. The kinds of changes that you might want to have made in your own life. And more importantly we invite you to think about the source of change. Where you might actually find genuine change.

Change CHANGE Yes Change. This man they call Jesus. He needed to radically change! Wasn't so much the way He acted or what He did. It's what He said. The Son of God!! Can you believe such arrogance! Even his own people called it blasphemy. And the people that followed him. They followed and listened to everything he had to say. But not me! No, not me! I've heard all I needed to hear. As far I was concerned, this man would have to pay the price like any other criminal. Change.

Change. I guess it's just a part of the life of the Centurion. Things around here are always changing. People are always coming and going in & out of the city. You know as a soldier we get shuffled around all the time. We get sent all over the place. You know we have so many criminal cases around here that we can't even keep up with them all. I mean they all just run together and they get mushed, we can't tell them apart one after another after another. Then there's this one case that's been bugging me. It's been bugging me a lot. See we had these two these two guys. We'd been after them for a long time and they had a list of charges as long as my arm. Anytime one of them was in trouble the other one was right there with him. They'd do anything they could to get ahead. They'd lie, they'd steal, cheat. They'd beat people up. These guys were both just filthy, backstabbing little Anyway. We finally catch up with these guys, even after they found out they were going to be crucified and you know they were just still together to the end. Till this day we took them out to be crucified. We put them up there on the crosses with this other guy, this Jewish guy. What happened was really weird. I mean even the Jewish people in the area they'd come out to watch this guy die. They were laughing and spitting and they were throwing things and mocking him. And one of these thieves true to himself just joined right in and even hanging on the cross he joins them making fun of this other guy. But this other thief, I don't know what they were talking about up there but all of a sudden he speaks up and starts defending this man. I mean he starts yelling at the crowd to leave him alone but not just the crowd even at his friend hanging on the cross next to him. This is the last thing I ever expected to hear come out of this man's mouth. I don't know what they're talking about but all of a sudden that man changed. Even more amazing than to see that kind of a change take place in somebody else right in front of your eyes it has been absolutely terrifying to see that kind of change take place in myself since that day. You see this man, this Jewish man, Jesus, he'd actually claimed that he was the Son of God, the Son of God, can you believe that? I mean, I thought he was as crazy as everybody else did. But things that happened that day when he died, I can't explain them. I can't ignore them. I can't deny them. I mean in the middle of the day the sun actually burned out and turned black. The earth shook with this earthquake like you cannot imagine. And they said that the curtain in that Jewish Temple there's ripped in half from top to bottom. But even more amazing than any of that is that I saw the way that this man died. He didn't fight, he didn't , didn't kick and spit and swear like all the others. This man just, he was silent. He let us kill him. It was like he had some passion about dying. It was like he had a reason to die. You know in all my time as a soldier, I have never seen anyone more mistreated than he was. Not just not just by the soldiers that crucified him but by his own people. And all the while looking into his eyes there was no anger. There was not, there was not contempt. There was no hatred. It was actually exactly the opposite of any of that. You know I thought I had everything figured out. I thought that I had a good grip on life. What do you do when someone comes into your life and hits you in the face with something like that. Tell you what I did, I started to change. As soon as I realized that this man really was everything he claimed to be.

Change. Perhaps you've been searching, too. This change this, this something and yet everyone around me they look at my life and they tell me why are you searching you have the perfect career. You see if you don't recognize me I'm Joseph of Arimathea. I'm part of the Jewish ruling council. I'm one of those men that has power. Well, political control. And yet something inside of me is lacking. Perhaps you've heard over the past couple of weeks about this Jesus of Nazareth who came before us and he asked us questions. And this change started to happen within me. I can't explain it but I saw His miracles and I saw the truly He was the Messiah, truly He was the Son of God. And something deep in the core of my being when those other Jewish ruling official on the council decided to have Him crucified I could not stand for it. And yet they carried out their plan. I used my influence, I used my power and I went before Pilot. And I begged him "please at least let me take this Jesus whom I've begun to discover and understand as the Messiah. Please allow me to give Him at least a proper burial." And so we took Him and we placed Him in my very own tomb. But I have good news because He is not there. I have seen it with my own eyes, He is not there. He is alive, He is the Messiah, He is the Son of God, and does not it make sense to you that the God who has the power to create life itself is the God who has the power to overcome death? You see, the something that I'm in search of sometimes you discover it when you least expect it. Change. He is the Messiah. He is the Son of God. And I will not be content with the things of this world. But I will press on toward the life that has be resurrected. Change. I guarantee you when you least expect it you will discover it.

There you have it. Source of real change. Not fads, not books but a person. A someone not a something who has the power to turn life and death into real life. The interesting thing is that as you look at those people who were observing the life of Jesus and in fact I think that as you look at us, you discover that people often get exactly what they are searching for.

In that Daily News column there's a fellow by the name of David who says about the resurrection, about Easter "It doesn't really intrigue me. I agree with the basic preachings of Jesus. I have respect for religion but I don't have much respect for the church and what it's become. It's an institution instead of a movement. It's more about power rather than about empowering people. I don't see it fulfilling the needs of people. "

Well, if you look to the church to find life, you'll probably discover it's full of people just like us. The criminals came and they looked and they got exactly what they looked for. They looked for criminal and they found one. And he didn't impact them in the least. The thieves came. If you listen to the words of the thieves on the cross you discover that they were like most people. One came seeking his own self-protection. Take me down from the cross with you. Self-serving as it was, he received nothing. But the second thief, who found himself entranced by the character of that Man on the middle cross looked not for self-preservation but for redemption. And in that he heard the words "Today you will be with Me in Paradise".

The Centurion came, I suspect as much out of curiosity as anything. He had to be there. It was his job. He was a soldier. He was on duty. But there was something about the character of Christ and the way that He died that attracted his attention. And in the midst of that curiosity, he found himself believing that He was in fact the Son of God.

And as you heard, Joseph of Arimathea came looking for a Messiah. And he found one.

It's the irony of the whole thing. The people come for a variety of reasons. And they look for a variety of reasons. And you never know exactly what you're going to find. Jennifer Martin said in this little newspaper poll "Easter is a special time of year. It's a time to reflect on the story of Jesus and His resurrection." A bit further in her interview she said "I think Easter is the time for reflection but it's also a time for celebration and with any good celebration you have to have new clothes."

Sound at all familiar? Jesus feeds 5000 men plus women & children. He does it with a handful of food. When it's all over they collect 12 baskets full of leftovers and people are absolutely enamored, they come back the next day. They want the buffet again. And Jesus begins to talk about the fact that His life is not the life of food but the life of real food. It's not from eating fish & bread, it's from taking in his body & they're confused. He places the demand of real discipleship in front of them and they turn around and walk away. John 6 is clear, They were offended. And so He turned to His most near disciples and He said, are you too going to leave? And Peter's response was "Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of life. " You really get what you're looking for don't you? If you come open to the possibility that God may be who He is that God might in Christ have done something of value? That Christ may be in fact whom He claimed to be. Your life might change too.
I don't know how you responded to the news this week. I never cease to be amazed by what we're willing to do as Americans. Did you hear about the chocolate Jesus? If everything had gone according to plan, a New York art gallery would have spent Holy Week displaying My Sweet Lord. A life size chocolate sculpture of the crucified Christ. The presentation was to culminate in gallery goers eating the sculpture on Easter morning. Public outcry brought the exhibit to a halt before it was ever launched. The writer of this particular article says "Though I was as disgusted as the next Christian by the pleasure of our cultural betters, the pleasure our cultural betters take in stunts like this on reflection struck me that this kind of thought might be appropriate for the Easter season. The world hated Jesus. And mocked Him unto His death on a cross. It shouldn't surprise us that 2000 years later it still does. Furthermore, if the worst that contemporary followers of the despised Christ have to endure in this country is the snotty disdain of the art crowd parenthetic remark, which wouldn't have the nerve to create a chocolate Mohammad, we've got it made." And the rest of the article simply says "consider the Christians in Zimbabwe or consider the Christians in Nigeria. Or consider the believers in Egypt or the Christians in Iraq or in India or in China or in Viet Nam or in North Korea." One Christian who has escaped from North Korea said " In the Spring of 1990 I was carrying a work order to the cast-iron factory in the Mao Prison. 5 or 6 elderly Christians were lined up and forced to deny their faith and accept the Juki ideology of the state. The selected all remained silent at the repeated command for conversion. The security officers became furious and killed them by pouring molten iron on them one by one." The article closes "because of the first amendment the worst thing Christians have to worry about here on Easter weekend is our feelings hurt by a New York wise-acre. For Jesus' followers in much of the world for whom humiliation, pain and even death is always at everywhere close at hand every day is Good Friday."

So what made the difference for a half-dozen North Korean believers that they would stand and allow molten iron to be poured over their bodies rather than deny their faith. You know the answer to that question as well as I do. Was it the life of Jesus? Well certainly it had something to do with that. His life impacted people all over the world and has for 2000 years. Was it His death? Well certainly, that had something to do with it. His death unlike any other death changed the world. You know and I know that without the resurrection, neither His life nor His death counts for anything.

Luke, Chapter 24 is Luke's version of the resurrection story. The first 12 Verses recount that early Easter morning. It's almost necessary that you come to this story realizing that these early Disciples were not looking for an empty tomb. If you really want to catch the feel for Luke's story, you have to understand that they didn't go looking for a resurrected Christ. They hadn't figured that out yet. So far as they knew the events of the 72 hours previously had ended up with Jesus in a tomb. Luke, Chapter 24 says "On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered they didn't find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright, the women bowed down with their faces to the ground but the men said to them, Why do you look for the living among the dead? He's not here! He has risen! Remember how He told you while He was still with you in Galilee, the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the 3rd day be raised again? Then they remembered His words. When they came back from the tomb they told all these things to the 11 and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves and he went away wondering to himself what had happened."

I look back over the last several Easters and most of the sermons that I have preached have in some way or another been an attempt to try to convince you of the resurrection. And I think there is lots of evidence that there is validity to this story. But you know & I know when it comes right down to it, all of the proof in the world is never going to convince you if you choose not to believe the story. The resurrection story is an act of faith. You have to choose whether or not you think the testimony of the women and then later the writers of the Gospels and later the preachers of the Gospel have credibility. If you choose not to believe that there's not a thing anybody's going to say to convince you otherwise. 80% of Americans claim they believe in the resurrection. I wonder based on the way we choose to live whether or not that is equally true.

But what fascinates me is 26% of those who believe in the resurrection are not Christians. They believe that Jesus raised from the dead but somehow in their life choices have said, So? Doesn't mean anything to me. Doesn't matter. Hmm.

I'm fascinated by the things in this story. I'm fascinated by the fact that we look at this story and forget that they didn't come to Sunday morning the way that we come to Sunday morning. It must have been a long day on Saturday. And when they showed up at a tomb and found the stone rolled away, it is little wonder that they were in shock. Sometimes I think it would do us all well to wake one Sunday morning and realize the tomb was empty. And to try to recapture what that means to us. When we celebrate resurrection Sunday 52 weeks out of the year. We'll wait for Easter to celebrate resurrection that's why we come. Because we believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. And yet I confess to you that even as a preacher I wake up on many Sunday mornings and it's one more Sunday, what else would I do, it's church day. This is what I get paid for. And there's no "ahhhhhh" at the thought of an empty tomb.

We pass over this, we pass over it so lightly because, well, because so many of you are women. We don't make any bones about the fact that you stand up here and proclaim. We don't say anything about the fact women are up here leading us in our worship, saying our prayers, reminding us of the truth of the gospel. Yet, it was, well let me share with from M.T. Wright. He says "In the context of the command to go and tell, you may say all that telling business, that's for the professionals. Not true. Notice who are the first, the very first to be told to go and tell. Not the big strong leaders, not Peter & the 12. They're away, hiding, afraid. It's the unlikely people. The women. In that culture the insignificant and untrustworthy ones who are given the ultimate trust. Who are the first to see and hear and touch the risen Jesus. He repeats the angels command, Don't be afraid, go and tell. This is quite deliberate. Two or three frightened women won't convince anyone by their own persuasiveness. The message will do it's work through them. Go and tell. If they can, you can."

Go and tell. And yet almost every thing about Easter in American culture is come and see. Isn't it. Come and watch the choir. Come and worship together. Come and we'll have a Sunrise service. Come and we'll be together for lunch. Come and let's celebrate togetherness. Nothing wrong with the coming and the celebrating but somewhere along the way we forgot that the primary command is not come, it's GO. Go and tell.

I was reminded of that this morning. I was reminded of that by two contrasting emails that I received. The first asked this question: How many do you think will come? The second email came from friends of ours that our own Kim Hageman will eventually be working with, Chad & Alicia Edwards in Taiwan: Today there's a big celebration event planned in the park across from our apartment. Today will mark the first all area church resurrection Sunday worship & parade. In a few more hours, Christians from any different denominations will be coming together to sing, serve & be light & salt to our community. At the moment it's raining. It has been for the past couple of days. I'm not one to usually pray for the weather as I'm sure some farmer down the street needs the rain just as bad as I need a suntan. It is, however, our hope and our desire to see today's event a success. We want Christians to come together. We want to celebrate in a public place. We want our neighbors to see love in us. We want the opportunity to plant seeds, share God's hope & bless this community. Would you just take 5 minutes right now to pray that God would be glorified through all the planning that has gone into this event. God's will be done, rain or shine."

I don't know that the time frame allows us to pray at this point. God's already done what he's going to do and they've either done it or haven't. But I couldn't help but be reminded that this isn't about coming. It's about going. It's about telling. And then I looked at verse 11 and I'm so struck. The women come back to the disciples and the text is so clear. Their words seemed like nonsense. I suspect that there are some people sitting in church buildings this morning for whom that's true. Maybe even in this building. It's Easter. That's what you do on Easter Sunday. You go to church. I mean the whole community does. If you drove past any church parking lots this morning on your way here, they were all full. You could get caught in a crowd on Maine St. trying to just get past some of the church buildings. But for how many does Easter Sunday morning become one day when they sit & they listen to a stranger talk about a stranger and they walk out thinking, It doesn't make any sense. People don't rise from the dead. Sorry. Lives don't change. My experience tells me life is life and that's the way it is. How many of us here this morning can frankly come away believing there is not much that can be done to make my life any different than it is right now. How many of you will go home today and you'll look back on your experience you will simply say, It's nonsense? But you made your Mother or your husband or your wife or your children happy by coming.

You know the correct response to nonsense. Verse 12. You don't have to believe it. Just have to be willing to go and look. You don't have to take my word for it. Just go and look. As harsh as we are sometimes to Peter because he sticks his foot in his mouth at least he got up out of his seat and he went and looked! He ran to the tomb and he investigated what was going on. He wanted to see if it was really true. Frankly that's all any of us could ever ask of anybody. Don't take our word for it. Go and look. Check it out. Spend some time with Jesus. Get in His company like Centurion did and see if the manner of His life and more appropriately the manner of His death and the fact of the resurrection doesn't begin to change how you think and feel.

The most we would ever ask of you is never to take our word for it. We would simply ask you to go and look. If you can resolve an empty tomb, if you can somehow get your mind around the fact that Jesus is raised from the death, and can still do nothing about it, we'll not try to talk you out of it. It's your choice. But I'm here to tell ya I don't think you can look in an empty tomb. I don't think you can look in there with an open mind and an open heart and not be challenged by what are you going to do with this man. What are you going to do with Jesus?

Some of you came here today just like Andy came a year ago. I mean what's the most it could cost you to show up on Sunday morning at church. Well an hour of your time. I hope for your, I pray for you, that you have the same experience that Andy had. That it becomes the best decision you ever made in your life. Because you gave Christ a chance. We're here to help you with that. Our whole reason for existing is to let you hear the story of Jesus. To bring you face to face with the risen Christ. To give you an opportunity to do something about your life. You want change? You don't like the way things are? The source of real change left the tomb 2100 years ago. Don't go looking among the dead for the living. Peter was right. Why would you go look anywhere else? Lord, you have the Words of life.

You know, it's hard to get your hands around, your mind around the thought that God Himself came to Earth and died.

One of my favorite scholars/writers/preachers is an Englishman by the name of John Stodd. I deeply appreciate this comment that he made. "I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it. I turn to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty plunged in God forsaken darkness. That is the God for me. He set aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh & blood , tears and death."

When you come to this table you're invited here by a God who came to live among you, to live life just like you live it. About whom the scriptures say He was tempted in every way like we are yet without sin. About whom the scripture says He understands fully what it means to be human so that He can be our brother. You come to this table to be reminded that God loves you so much that He became just like you. So that you would never have to experience life alone.

So we come and remember every week. We come and we remember a God that took on human flesh so that He could die a human death so that I don't have to face death myself. I am reminded when I hold the emblems in my hand that the tomb is empty. That this is a memorial meal. This is a memory. We celebrate today because the One who came and lived and died, lives again. We don't come searching for the living among the dead. We come searching for the living. Remembering Him. So we invite you to the table. We invite you to hold in your hands the body and the blood of Jesus. To participate in His death & resurrection. To celebrate real life.

Father, we're so grateful for Who you are and what You've done. While there are times in our lives we look at life and think it is so hard and so harsh we recognize You're there with us and in it with us. That You've gone before us and prepared the way. That You've promised to walk life along side us and to carry us where we need to be carried. So we come, we come worshiping and celebrating and now remembering Jesus. In who's name we eat and who's name we pray and who's name we celebrate. Amen

[Transcribed by VD8]