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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Word For The Week

Now 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? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 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. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

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

1 Corinthians 15:12-26
One thing that I find amusing is the popular clumping of "People of Faith" into one group. It's similar to the clumping of "People of Color" - the only thing that Blacks and Nigerians and Mexicans and Puerto Ricans and Vietnamese have in common is the fact that we're not White. Now to some (many?) that's all that matters - that key difference makes us "those people," the undesirables - and likewise to a secular culture the difference between a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim or a Jim Jones cult member is essentially moot: we're all "those people," religious kooks. Kanye West said that George W. Bush doesn't care about Black people and this is true, but Black people comprise a small subset of the people that George W. Bush doesn't care about - Bush doesn't care about anyone who isn't a part of the Haves and the Have Mores, and that includes the overwhelming majority of Black people. Likewise, secular opposition to all things religious tends to clump all religions into one group - people of faith - and some religious people have taken that label on themselves, but it is a misleading label: "faith" is about all that we have in common.

It is not faith that redeems us, it is not faith that restores us, it is not faith that gives us eternal life - it is the object of our faith that provides us with redemption, restoration, and eternal life. It is Jesus Christ who saves us, not some nebulous notion of faith. Faith has no power in and of itself, it is merely a means of connecting with the One who does have the power to save, seal, and deliver. I can have faith in my ability to fly, but if I jump off of a building then I am going to discover the objectively real ground in a hurry. I can have faith in the Detroit Lions' ability to beat the Chicago Bears, but when the Monsters of the Midway come to Ford Field it will be proven whether or not that faith is well placed. I can have faith in the human potential to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly, but the presidency of George W. Bush is proof-positive that if such a potential actually exists then it often goes unrealized. It's not about faith itself, it's about the object of our faith.

In whom - or what - do you place your faith?

The Christians in Corinth were speculating that there was no resurrection from the dead, that once you die that's it - you're nothing but worm food in the dirt nap. Paul had to take the Corinthians down the logical progression that their little speculation necessitated - if there is no resurrection then Jesus Christ was not resurrected from the dead, and if Jesus Christ was not resurrected from the dead then you are wasting your time placing your faith in Him and you are quintessentially pitiful. But, in fact, Jesus has been raised from the dead - as Paul immediately reiterated - and we who place our faith in Him will be raised to walk with Him when He returns. We who place our faith in Jesus Christ will all be changed — in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead in Christ will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord Jesus Christ forever.

Jews, Muslims, or Jim Jones cult members won't affirm that, and therein lies the difference - it is not about our faith, it is about the object of our faith and whether or not our faith is properly-placed. Those who place their faith in the Detroit Lions will frequently find that the Lions are incapable of achieving their objectives - they are winless so far this season, and those who place their faith in the Lions will find themselves utterly disappointed this year. The Lions lack the skill, the will, and the ability to win championships, but Jesus Christ will achieve all that He set out to achieve. Jesus said, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."

Are you in good hands?

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who wants you to place your faith in Him,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 11:00 AM

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