My Sunday sermons given at Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR, for those who missed church or just want to see what we're up to. You can also listen to these sermons if you prefer. Just go to our church website and click the "Online Church" tab. Here's the link:

Monday, April 5, 2010

"What's In YOUR Easter Basket?" - (04/04/10)

Almost every year on Easter my wife, Ramel, prepares Easter Baskets for all of our grandchildren. She has great fun going out and buying candy treats and little gifts for the kids. She finds little toys that she carefully wraps up in brightly colored paper. Or sometimes she puts things in those colorful plastic eggs. Then she gathers it all up and puts the stuff in little baskets, one for each child. Later, usually after our Easter lunch, the kids get to open their Easter Baskets. The fun is to watch their faces as they unwrap each candy or gift because each one is special little treat.

Today on this Easter Sunday God has given to each of us an Easter Basket filled with wonderful things. And He has made enough Easter Baskets for every person to receive one. All that is required is that we reach out by faith to receive the gift basket that He offers us.

So what’s in your Easter Basket today? Easter is the celebration and remembrance of our Lord’s Resurrection. It is the centerpiece of the Christian faith. It is the event that forever sets Christianity apart from every other religion on the planet. We don’t worship a dead leader—some dead guru buried in a cave. No, Jesus is alive! He rose on the third day just as He foretold that He would. The Bible says that He is now in Heaven seated at the Father’s right hand making intercession for us. Moreover, He will come again to gather His Church to be with Him forever. This is the blessed hope of every Christian.

Many passages in the NT speak about the significance of Christ’s resurrection but none as clearly or as powerfully as Paul’s analysis in I Cor. 15. Turn in your Bibles to that passage. Here the apostle Paul goes into the ramifications of Christ’s resurrection—what it means to each one of us. Let’s unpack this Easter Basket item by item. There are seven that I want to highlight this morning.

1. The Good News is proclaimed (vs. 1-5) – 1 “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this Gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 “…and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.”

2. Christ’s Resurrection attested by many witnesses (vs. 5-8) - 5 “…and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born [i.e. out of due time].”

3. Our Christ is alive (vs. 13-14 w/ v. 20) - 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… 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

4. Our faith is verified (v. 14 w/ v. 20) – 14 “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith… 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!”

5. Our witness is vindicated (v. 15 w/ v. 20) - 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… 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!”

6. Our sins are forgiven (v. 17 w/ v. 20) - 17 “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins… 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!”

7. Our future is secured (v. 18 w/ v. 20) - 18 “Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost… 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep!”

I said a few moments ago that the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the centerpiece of Christianity. It is the fulcrum point on which everything balances. Take away the Resurrection and the rest will fold up like a cheap lawn chair. In other words, if you can prove that the Resurrection did not happen and that Jesus merely died and stayed dead like every other martyred religious leader in history, then you can, and should, discount everything that Christianity teaches, because it is all based on a lie, a historical inaccuracy. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then you can forget anything He ever said because He didn’t know what He was talking about. He was just spouting a bunch of religious hogwash.

However, if Jesus indeed accomplished what He said He would do, if He rose from the dead on the third day just as He said He would, then you cannot afford to ignore Him or anything He said. He declared that the proof that He was indeed God in the flesh, come to be our Savior was that He would rise from the dead. Listen to His words recorded in Mark 10:33-34. He said this to His disciples just a few weeks before His crucifixion: “We are going up to Jerusalem,” He said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles, who will mock Him and spit on Him, flog Him and kill Him. Three days later He will rise!” How much clearer could He have made it for them, or for us?

I’ve explained to you what is in your Easter Basket, item by item. These are the wonderful gifts from God that are all bundled together with the most wonderful gift of all, the living, resurrected Savior, Jesus. Today, each of us is faced with a decision to make: What will you do with Jesus? There are three possible responses:
     1. You can ignore Him and go on about your business. However, the Bible says that you will die in your sins and be separated from God for all eternity.
     2. You can shake your fist at Him in anger and tell Him that you hate Him and all He stands for. However, again, the Bible says that you will die in your sins and be separated from God in hell for all eternity.
     3. You can open your heart to Him and receive the gift of life He came to give you. If you do, the Bible says that you will be with Him forever.

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About Me

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Since 1994 I have been the pastor of Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR. Before that I was a missionary in South Brazil for many years. Until just recently I have also served as a police chaplain with the Portland Police Bureau. Now, however, God has a new assignment for us. My wife and I have been appointed with WorldVenture and are preparing to move to Ireland to help plant a new church in Sligo, a small city in NW Ireland. I'm married to Ramel, a crazy, beautiful redhead that I love more than life itself. We have three great kids, Jonathan, Chris, and Simoni who have given us ten wonderful grandchildren. We are truly blessed.

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