Apr. 5th, 2015 | Series: Empty is the New Full

Sermon Content

Philippians 3:10 – the resurrection of Jesus isn’t just an event for us to look back to and believe in, it’s a present power for us to step into. The same power the blew the stone away from the tomb can blow the top off of our lives. Listen as the Apostle Paul explains the power of the resurrection.


I don’t know if you’ve ever felt like that in life—-where the batteries just sorta went out.  Where they just sorta dried up and it was hard to get a charge.  It was hard to find that joy.  It was hard to find that excitement.  You know what’s interesting is that we’ve been able to solve that problem for our bodies, in many ways.  You can go to the grocery store and get a 5-hour energy drink or a Rockstar soda or you can get some Christian “crack” down at our coffee shop, right?!  We’ve solved that problem for our bodies, in many ways, but we haven’t been able to solve it for our soul.  You can go down your Amazon list and look at all sorts of “self-help” books and all sorts of “positive thinking” and yet it seems at times, doesn’t it, that the batteries of life just run out.  But it seems like that can be a fleeting endeavor….to step into, as we perceive, the joy that we were created for and long to walk in.

It’s interesting that followers of Jesus for the last 2000 years have claimed we’ve got a secret source of power. They’ve claimed we’ve stepped into….we know there’s a secret source of power, not just for the body and not just for the mind, but for the human soul.  Something that charges us up. Listen to the way that the Apostle Paul writes it to the church at Philippi.  This is one of the letters he writes from jail.  ..that I might know him {He’s talking about Jesus.  This whole section of this letter is about the absolute wonder and awe of knowing Christ.}  …and the power of his resurrection.   Now, this was written about 30 years after Christ went to the cross, died on the cross, was buried in a tomb, and walked out three days later.  I know you’re thinking a lot can happen in 30 years, Ryan.  While I’m well aware of that, what I would propose to you about the resurrection is from the very day Christ rose, the early Christians’ drum that they beat was our Savior has conquered sin and conquered death. So yes, Paul writes it 30 years later and yes, we’re talking about it 2000 years later, but I want to propose to that for every time in between, THIS has been the message of the church to the point where those who saw this happen….they saw Jesus die on the cross and they met Him after He’d risen from the dead….10 out of 11 of His disciples died for that claim!  A lot of people die for a false belief.  True, I won’t argue with you.  But what I will propose to you is they weren’t dying for a BELIEF, they died for something they SAW HAPPEN!  Big difference!!  Paul’s claim here is the same claim that the church made for the first 2000 years of it’s existence….and for the next 2000….it will claim the same thing! There’s POWER in the fact that Jesus walks out of the grave! Listen to the way one of the early preachers of the church, the Apostle Peter, says it like this: You killed {speaking of Jesus} the Author of life,  {Not going to make you a lot of friends, is it?!} whom God raised from the dead.  To this we are witnesses. (Acts 3:15)   We saw it with our own eyes.

Here’s how I want to say it this morning, because Paul’s going to say there’s power in the resurrection.  Here’s the way I’d like us to look at it this morning:  The empty tomb has the power to create a full life!  In fact, that word “power” that Paul uses there is the word, in Greek–the original language, dynamin.  It’s where we get our English word dynamite.  So picture driving up I-70 and them finally widening the roads up there, right?  And they drill holes and they sink dynamite down in them and they blast the side of the mountain away.  Paul goes okay…okay…okay….that’s the same type of power, if you’re a follower of Jesus, that lives in you.  Same type of power that lives in you!  It literally means “ability or strength,” or you could translate it “energy.”  There’s an energy source that followers of Jesus know, it’s called the resurrection. And resurrection power blows the stone away from the tomb and it has the potential to blow the top off of your life!   It absolutely does!

A few months ago, we played the game that many of us play, where we switch cable every few years.  Because they don’t want to offer us the best deal, so it’s like well, I’m going to go to a different provider then.  So I did that and, of course, I was having trouble with my new provider, so I waited on the phone for about a half hour.  When I finally got to somebody (who was living), they said to me, “Hi, Mr. Paulson.  Thanks for waiting.” {I didn’t know I had options.} “We’re just going to ask you a few questions before we get going here.  Is your cable box plugged in?”  I’m like excuse me while I scream into a pillow!!  I didn’t wait here for a half hour not knowing if I’m plugged in or not!!  That was step one, thank you very much…..I know how to turn on a cable box!  I don’t want to insult your intelligence, today, but I do want to ask you….Are you plugged into this power?  This resurrection power that Paul talks about in the book of Philippians.  That early Christians died for…..they were so convinced of it that they said you can take our life, that’s fine….but we will not recant what we believe to be true about Jesus!

And in Philippians 3, Paul lays out for us some of the things that provide the power that he talks about in the resurrection. Paul’s going to tell us why the resurrection has such beautiful power, starting in verse 4….he’s sorta sharing with us his testimony about the way he used to think about God; and now in light of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done (he shares) the way he now thinks about God.  I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also.  If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more.  {He’s going to beat his chest here a bit and say listen you guys, I’ve nailed it!} circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.   Here’s what Paul says:  I played the religious game faultlessly.  I nailed it!  I didn’t just nail it, but look at my report card—I got all A’s and I graduated Summa Cum Laude!  I did it!  I nailed it!  But it’s relating to God on a basis that God isn’t really interested in being related to on.  I don’t know about you, but I think in a room this size there’s maybe a lot of folks in here that THAT’S the way we relate to God.  We think God has this checklist and if we can tick enough of the boxes and do enough of the right things he’s going to say, “Man, Paulson! I’m really impressed with you today! You stuck the dismount! Beautiful!”  And what Paul says is no, no, no, no, no!  You may have thought this in your head…..I’m “good” enough or I’m a “good” person.  That’s where Paul’s living, man.  He’s living in I’m good enough, I’m a good person, look at me in relationship to other people! Can you relate to that?  Can you relate to that feeling of trying to play the religious game and thinking you’re doing it wonderfully and yet getting to the point in your life where you go it’s just not living up to what it billed as it would deliver.  It won’t deliver!  It doesn’t fill me with joy.  There’s got to be more!

Here’s what Paul says the more is: But whatever gain I had, {however I nailed it in this religious game I was playing} I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.   If I could summarize it in a nutshell, Paul says there’s something better than playing the religious game, and that something better is simply knowing Jesus.  And that is the power of resurrection.  Part of the power of the resurrection is that RELATIONSHIP is greater than RELIGION.  Throughout the history of the world people have wrestled with how do we relate to God or the gods.  There have been a few threads that have woven themselves throughout all of history as far as what people think God wants from them or what God is like.  People have often viewed God or the gods as temperamental, volatile and angry.  Second thing is that you must appease these gods.  You’ve got to make them happy.  The different gods have different hoops and you’ve got to jump through them.  And if you do this right, if you jump through them right, then they will reward you.  They’ll reward you with rain, they’ll reward with sun, they’ll reward you with babies. There’s a ton of different systems, but at their core that’s what people were saying.   Notice how Paul throws an absolute wrench in the cogs of that religious machine.  He says no, no, no, no, no!!  It’s not about religion.  It’s not about performance.  It’s not about the way we can check all the boxes and do all the things God wants us to.  It’s about what God has done in order to make us right with him…..that’s what it’s about!!  That relationship is better than religion and Paul’s claim is this:  That at the center of the universe there is a Being who does not want you to climb a ladder to get up to Him and to perform a to-do list, but there’s a Being at the center of the universe who’s inviting you to join His dance of love and joy!!  So the performance for Paul is done.

Do you feel like you have to perform for God?  This message is for you!  The power of the resurrection says God doesn’t want your performance, He wants relationship!  And you know this is true!  You can either perform for somebody or you can walk with them.  But if you feel that you have to be on stage, for God or for anybody else, you can’t be real, can you?  And what Paul says is God doesn’t want you with the mask on performing and doing the little ditty you think He wants you to do.  He wants…..YOU!  That’s what He wants.  He wants you.  Plain and simple.  And at the core of the resurrection is an invitation to relationship, and if we miss that we miss it ALL!

He goes on to say:  For his (Jesus’) sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish (garbage), in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.    Here’s what Paul says:  It’s simply by faith that I’ve been made right with God.  That word “righteous” literally means “to be made right,” “to be face-to-face with.”  The route I take to and from work had some construction/roadwork being done on it lately.  They wouldn’t put the signs up though!  How hard is it to put a sign up “road closed,” don’t go this way, Paulson?!  But they didn’t!  So I would get to the end of this road, have to do a u-turn, go back…..I did this for about three days in a row and finally, you’re not getting me today!! I’m nobody’s fool!  A lot of us feel that way with God.  Righteousness means there’s no road closures.  There’s no construction left to be done.  The bridge to God has been completed and the way you walk into it, the way you get on THAT road Paul says is simply by faith.  You’ve gotta understand, here.  Paul’s a shady character.  He’s commissioned the killing of people, he’s commissioned the beating of people, he would say “I am the worst of all sinners!”  But he says it’s simply by faith that I was made right with God.  And this, friends, is the power, the dynamite, of the resurrection!  Not only is relationship greater than religion, but GRACE is greater than your GUILT.

And after Jesus has conquered death and risen from the grave, one of the first things he does is go and meets his friend, Peter.  And Peter has been a disciple of Jesus, he’s been a follower of Jesus for years, but in Jesus’ moment of need, his most significant need, Peter said,  “I don’t even know that guy!”  Because of that he took all of his business cards that said “Disciple of Jesus Christ” and he burned them all and he cashed them in and said I’m going back to being a fisherman.  And Jesus meets him on the shore of that sea.  And He calls him to Himself and, in essence, here’s what He says, Peter, your failure does not define you because I conquered death.  Your past does not define you, Peter, because I took that to the cross and I conquered death and I rose from the grave.  Peter, the cross and the resurrection are proof positive that you are not guilty!!  Listen to the way Paul says it in the book of Romans.  (Jesus) who was delivered up for our trespasses (was also) raised to life for our justification. (Rom. 4:25)    Now that’s a great word, friends.  Because what it means is that because Jesus paid the penalty for your sin on the cross and walked out of the grave, you’ve been made right with God and His grace is greater than your guilt.  I know what your thinking……your going, hey, listen….you don’t know me, Paulson, you don’t know what I’ve done and you don’t know where I’ve been.  I don’t!  And I don’t know how bad it is and I don’t know how shady it is and I don’t know how dark it is, I only know how much Jesus paid for you!  And the Scriptures say he paid it ALL!  You bring all that baggage to the cross and He says as much as it is, my grace is still sufficient for you!  Friends, {look up at me for a moment} if the grave is still empty, His grace is still sufficient!  If the grave is still empty, and it is, His grace still sufficient!  You can’t out sin it, you can’t out run it, you can’t out do it!  It’s STILL enough for you.  So I don’t know what you’ve been through and I don’t know what your past life looks like, I only know that He’s enough!  That His grace is greater than your guilt.

Paul goes on….still talking about how good it is to know Christ:  (v 10) …that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.   Now, this verse 11 is a little bit confusing because at the onset it sorta looks like Paul is going well, it’s sorta 50-50.  Like I might be resurrected from the dead and I might not. This is sort of a technique that some of the writers of Scripture would use, but what he does is he invites us into the absolute shock and awe of the fact that you and I, by faith, will be resurrected with Jesus.  So he approaches it in humility and essentially throws his hands up into the air and goes I have no idea why or how that’s going to happen, I only believe that it’s true.  I can picture Paul saying I simply can’t believe, God, that you’re that good…Jesus, you purchased my life, you’ve purchased my redemption and I will walk with you, as the psalmist says, “in the land of the living.” (Ps. 116:9)   That’s what resurrection was….IS.  Resurrection is not the belief that you will go to heaven one day, you know that, right?  That’s not what the conviction, the belief, that the early church had about the resurrection.  Resurrection is just what it sounds like…..that your body will be resurrected….that Jesus will breathe life into your dry bones one day.  That you’ll be resurrected…..physical body—material earth.  That was the hope of the early followers of Jesus.  Not ethereal heaven, but physical resurrection.  As the great New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright, says, sort of tongue and cheek: “Heaven is important, but it’s not the end of the world!”   Paul understands that the life of the future, the life Jesus has purchased by His work on the cross, his atoning death and the life that he raised for the justification that you and I now stand in, is presently at work.  But he’s still in jail, right?  Paul’s still in jail.  Paul will eventually die for his faith.

So how do we reconcile this?  This power of the resurrection and yet, he says I know I’m going to walk through suffering and I know it’s not going to be fun all the time and I know it’s going to be difficult.  Here’s what Paul is saying, the power of the resurrection is not only a relationship that’s greater than religion and a grace that’s greater than your guilt, but a PROMISE that’s greater than your PRESENT.  That’s the power of the resurrection.  The power of the resurrection is not that Jesus always improves our circumstances and our situation, but that he seals our destiny.  That’s the power of the resurrection.

I read a while back about this woman who paid $164,000 to live an entire year on a cruise boat.  I mean, just parties constantly, food constantly, entertainment constantly.  And I think sometimes that’s the way we sell “Jesus.”  Hey, come to Jesus!  Put your faith in him.  Hop on the cruise boat…..let’s go.  Paul says no, no, no, please don’t mistake being a follower of Jesus for jumping on a cruise boat. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to live the best life now.  It doesn’t mean that it’s going to all be skipping through a field and strawberries all the time.  It doesn’t mean that.  It does mean this……it does mean that the promise is true and God will be good on it and the promise is greater than your present, that’s what it means.  The suffering that we walk in will meet its redeemer.  That’s what it means.  That without the resurrection of Christ there’s no explanation for suffering and pain and trials in this world, but with the resurrection of Christ what He declares is I’m making all things new.  Yes, even that…..whatever that is in your life.  I’ve redeemed, I’ve stepped into and I’ve taken upon myself.  I love the way Eugene Peterson, the great pastor, puts it: “Resurrection takes place in the country of death.”  This is where God does his greatest work……in our deepest pain.  The suffering we walk in has met its redeemer, the fear that we walk in has meet its hope and the death that we will, one day, experience will be overwhelmed by the life that Jesus has promised.  That’s the power of the resurrection, folks.  That there’s a relationship that’s greater than religion.  God doesn’t want your song and dance…..he wants YOU.  That there’s a grace that’s greater than your guilt.  There’s nothing you could have done that would out sin his grace….NOTHING!  And that there is a promise—resurrection, life with God.  No more crying, no more tears, no more sorrow, no more pain.  The new thing God is doing will one day come and you and I, by faith, will walk with Him in the land of the living!  A promise that’s greater than our present.

I love the way Paul says this in the book of Romans 8:11: If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, {News flash—if you’re a follower of Christ today it does.}  ..he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit.    That will happen in the end in the resurrection.  But you know what’s also fascinating and beautiful, is not only that that will happen one day—and it will—but that it happens.  That it happens!  We see stories like that all the time around here.  Of people putting their faith in Jesus and them speaking life into dead things.  I’d love for you to hear one of those stories today.  This is my friend, Adam Coleman.  He became a follower of Jesus just a few months ago…within the year.  God has been working on his life, changing his life and moving in him.  We have his video, his story.

Hi! I’m Adam Coleman, husband of Jennifer Coleman, a wonderful woman to whom I’ve been married 11 years. I have two children, Lincoln and Sidney. Religion was more a formality for me when I was growing up.  It wasn’t something I personally evaluated.  I felt I was a good person in my own life without needing to repent and dig into Scripture and believe that I was born a sinner.  One of the things I was most proud of was stopping for people on the side of the road.  I had a perspective that I couldn’t change the world, but I could change one person’s world.  I kinda wanted to defy the notion that I was a sinner and that that was all I could be.  In fact, I kind of wanted to show God that I wasn’t a sinner, which is weird because, in my mind, at that time I didn’t believe there was a God.  But I wanted to prove that I could be good without God.  Around that same time period, I had a very bad, emotional fallout in my own life and I found myself walking along the side of Broadway in the middle of the night.  I was in a very, very bad mental place where I felt like I was done.  At that point I didn’t want to go on any longer.  And in my head, I threw down a gauntlet to God saying that now was the time and if He wanted to prove Himself to me then that was it, because I wasn’t intent on having a day after that.  I’d say about within a minute of me having that unspoken thought in the middle of the night next to a road that had virtually no traffic and certainly no other pedestrians, a car pulled over to the side of the road, rolled down the window and just asked if I needed anything.  The fact that that happened when it did based off of what I was asking for, the terms that were in my head…..at that point I went from an atheist to an agnostic.  I didn’t know what the higher power looked like for me, I didn’t know what I looked like to him, but, at that point in time, I couldn’t question it anymore.  

I started believing God more and more and understanding God, but I kept relying on myself, too.  I had this very, very persistent itch that I was in control.  If a situation was going to get resolved, it was going to be me that resolved it.  And that came to a culmination when I was working at a very toxic job.  It had cost me my peace, my sanity….it was costing me my family.  I didn’t know what else to do.  I ended up losing the job.  In fact, I lost my health to a point where I couldn’t leave the house anymore.  I couldn’t accomplish things and succeed and that was what I based my merit on.  It wasn’t until I was knocked all the way down past zero that I really got started seeing God more clearly.  My wife has been coming to South for a great many years and I would even drop her off at South.  I would drop my children off here for them to go to Sunday School.  I wanted to try to show support.  I would attend.  I got to listen to Ryan preach.  I would just deal with this part that didn’t really matter to me and that part and that part…….and the Scripture….I didn’t really want to hear about that.  Once Ryan started tying it into those greater life lessons, then I got to start to hear God’s voice through that.  It really captured me!  The actual moment where I started to question Christianity more and I started to believe more in the relevance of it was on a specific reading from Psalms.  Psalms 51:10–Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Something that I realized when I heard that verse and I almost immediately was in tears after hearing it and thinking about it, was that I’ve been plagued for my entire life with feeling like I wasn’t quite right.  Like I was alone.  Like I just didn’t fit in.  On hearing that Psalm get read in church and on believing that I could be made new, that I could be reborn, that I could be complete….it’s changed me ever since.  What I find in my day to day routine now is just trying to continue building out the clearest picture and understanding I can of who Jesus is and not only what He wants from me, what He wants from all of us.  Understanding that the closer I get to that, the more peace I should inherently have in my soul.  And He’s also been reminding me that whenever I’m full of shnuff, presume I’m the one controlling these things, that I’m the one that accomplishes these things, that’s when my lfe gets rockier again.  It also gets harder to see Him, too.  I’ve been learning over the past year of being a Christian what it means to surrender my own ego, which is the biggest thing that will always get between me and God.  It’s changed me ever since.

The power of the resurrection.  That’s what you just saw.  Did you hear that the relationship is greater than religion?  A grace that’s greater than your guilt, than Adam’s guilt, than my guilt, than anything you brought in here today.  And a promise that’s greater than what you’re currently walking in.  You know what, friends?  All of us will, at one day, find ourselves, if you haven’t already, at that crossroads.  The same crossroads that Paul found himself at.  Am I gonna continue to work at religion or am I gonna have faith?  Am I gonna be a person that trusts in the grace of God or am I gonna try to continue to do it on my own?  The beautiful thing that’s laced throughout this passage is not only relationship is possible with the God of the universe who created you and loved you, but it’s not only possible, but it’s easy.  It’s just by faith.  It simply means turning from your own way and your sin and your check marks of things you think you can do and running to Jesus.  And as we sang in “Grace So Glorious”….all are welcomed home!  This, friends, is the power of the resurrection.  He took my guilt, I get His grace.  He performed my religion, I get relationship.  He took my present, I get His promise. He took my weakness, I get His strength.  He took my despair, I get His joy.  He took my wrath, a wrath deserved for me, and I get His mercy.  He took the beating I deserved and I get His raising.  He took my pain, I get His victory.  He took my punishment, I get His perfection.  He took my helplessness, I get His rescue.  He took my sin, I get His righteousness.  He took my death and I get His life!  This, friends, is the Gospel and I invite you, if you don’t know Him, to step into that power this morning by faith!

As the worship team comes forward, I’m going to invite you to close your eyes and bow your head and just to do some business with God this morning.  I know there’s some in this room when you walked in these doors today, maybe for the first time since last year…..expecting to hear just sorta the same ole thing, singing the same ole songs and maybe, just maybe, God is in a very real way pricking your heart.  Can I say don’t resist it?  Respond to it!  Some of you walked in here thinking that the divorce you walked through has eliminated you from being able to walk with God……can I say His grace is greater than your guilt?!  The things that are in your past—-His grace is greater than your guilt.  Some of you walked in here this morning and you got bad news from the doctor or you have hard things going on in your family, can I speak resurrection over you?  His promise is greater than your present.  That you will, by faith, be raised with Him to walk with Him in the land of the living!  For those of you come in this morning not knowing Jesus, may I invite you to put your faith in Him right now.  To surrender to His love that’s present, that’s beckoning you, that’s wooing you and inviting you to surrender….just like Adam did in his wonderful story…just surrender to that invitation for a new heart.  So Jesus, we come before you this morning and we step into this stream that’s been flowing for the past 2000 years, where followers of yours looked at the empty tomb and thought that if that tomb is empty there’s no reason my life can’t be full.  Lord, for those of us that have played the religious game and we’ve just run out of energy, we turn back to you for relationship.  For those of us who believe our guilt is too much, we run back to you for grace. For those of us walking through the valley of the shadow of death…remember that your promise is greater than our present.  We turn to you and our declaration is that it’s all about you, Jesus.  You and you alone.  It’s in your name we pray.  Amen.