Calvary Road Baptist Church

“TRANSFORMED BY CHRIST’S RESURRECTION”

 

 

Over the last few months I have brought several messages from God’s Word that were most directly applied to what is commonly referred to as worldviews. A worldview is that set of glasses through which you look at the world around you, and by which your perceptions of everything are colored. To illustrate what I mean, consider the various colors of lenses that exist for sunshades. There are gray shades, green shades, blue shades, yellow shades, and even pink shades. Just as such shades filter the light your eyes gather for sight, so a person’s worldview filters his perceptions of the world he lives in and colors everything.

Do you have a racist’s worldview? If you do, you will perceive everything around you in terms of racial prejudice. A successful Jewish banker will not be a successful Jewish banker, but a conspirator who is engaged in subversive and conspiratorial activities to control the world’s supply of money.

During World War 2, it was commonly held that Japanese soldiers were small, bespectacled sneaks with protruding teeth. They were so portrayed in much of the wartime propaganda produced by our country’s media and military. Imagine the surprise then of Rex Bray, a man I worked for when I was a teen, when his first encounter with Japanese soldiers, when they attacked the Philippine Islands where he was stationed at the outbreak of the war, was with emperor’s guards, each man standing about six feet tall and weighing in at about 180 pounds or more? When he engaged one such soldier in hand-to-hand combat, he lost and suffered a grievous bayonet wound that led to his capture and confinement in a prison camp for the duration of the war. His worldview had not prepared him for the reality of warfare.

The point that I seek to make is that a person’s worldview predetermines largely how he will use the information he gathers about the world around him and the universe in which he lives. In the case of my old boss, Rex Bray, an erroneous worldview can leave a person woefully unprepared to deal with reality.

More important than one’s worldview in connection with the stature and danger to you of an enemy soldier, however, is your worldview as it relates to spiritual reality and how one is to prepare for eternity. To quickly review for you, there are four major worldviews that dominate contemporary thought: all materialists, those folks who are determined to explain everything by means of chemistry, and who believe that evolution is a sufficient explanation of mankind, embrace the secular humanist worldview.

The pantheistic worldview is held by New Age people, by Scientologists, and most prominently by Hindus and Buddhists. These folks embrace the notion of an impersonal god who is indistinguishable from nature. God is the tree and the tree is God, and the dirt is Mother Earth, Gaia, or as the weather man on television terms it, Mother Nature. Then, of course, there are the Muslims who embrace the religion of Islam.

One of the major worldview differences between Christianity and these other worldviews that we will spend a great deal of time addressing this year is this matter of the resurrection. What is resurrection? Resurrection is not life after death. Pantheists believe in life after death in the form of reincarnation. Muslims believe in life after death with many perpetual virgins for every man’s pleasure in paradise. What resurrection really is is life after life after death.[1] It is the raising to life again of someone who has physically died, but who did not cease to exist when he died.

Christians believe in resurrection. Jews believe in resurrection, but they believe in resurrection as something that will someday happen, while Christians believe in resurrection as something that has already happened to our Savior, Jesus Christ. Materialists, atheists, evolutionists, along with pantheists such as Buddhists and Hindus, as well as Muslims and their denial that Jesus died on the cross, do not believe in resurrection as when someone who has physically died returns from the realm of the dead to live again.

Only professing Christians believe that Christ rose from the dead, though it will surprise you how resistant to the Lord’s resurrection some of the first Christians actually were. However, the gospel, the good news, is “that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures,” First Corinthians 15.3-4. You can see from that passage that the resurrection is so integrally a part of the gospel that if there is no resurrection of Christ from the dead there is no salvation from sins. No resurrection, no gospel. The resurrection of Jesus is that important.

This morning, on the first Sunday of this new year, we will focus our attention on four men who were transformed by Christ’s resurrection:

 

First, THERE IS PETER, THE DENIER

 

Probably the best known of our Lord’s original apostles, Peter was the man most likely to speak up for the others. He was brash. He was impetuous. He was outspoken. When Jesus questioned the twelve in Caesaria Philippi concerning who people thought He was, it was Peter who answered for the others when Jesus asked, “But whom say ye that I am?” Matthew 16.16 shows us that “Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Remember, also, shortly after they arrived in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before the Savior was crucified, Simon Peter very boldly proclaimed, “If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise,” Mark 14.31.

Yet, you remember what actually happened when the Lord Jesus was arrested and taken away. Peter followed at a distance, and then drew close to a fire burning near the palace on that cold night to warm himself, where he denied the Lord he had sworn allegiance to only hours before. I read from Mark 14.66:

 

66     And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest:

67     And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.

68     But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.

69     And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them.

70     And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.

71     But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.

 

Luke 22.61-62 tells us, “And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.” This big, blustery man who displayed such cowardice that night was the same man who days later stood before multiplied thousands on the steps of the Temple on the Day of Pentecost to say, “Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words.”[2] Listen, as well, to Peter’s final remarks that Luke records for us: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”[3]

What a difference. How do you explain this transformation? How do you account for his radical alteration, so that this fellow who was cowardly in the face of a questioning maiden would stand up to the powers that be so admirably that they marveled at his courage?[4] So great was the change in Simon Peter that when he was beaten for Christ’s sake he joined other suffering Christians in rejoicing that he was counted worthy to suffer for His name’s sake.

To what is this alteration to be credited? It can only be the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

 

Next, THERE IS THOMAS, THE DOUBTER

 

There is a reason for the term “Doubting Thomas.” It derives from that apostle of Jesus Christ who simply did not believe the testimony of those who had seen the empty tomb and had beheld the risen Savior with their own eyes. “The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe,” John 20.25. So it went for eight days. Thomas stubbornly and steadfastly refused to believe the combined testimony of those who had seen the Lord Jesus Christ raised from the dead with their own eyes.

However, something happened to doubting Thomas. Something radically altered his perception of reality and his outlook on life. The Apostle Thomas left a trail of evangelistic activity that runs from the Jewish community of first century Babylon, through Persia, and all the way to southern India, to be discovered by the Portuguese centuries later when their explorers colonized the region.[5]

What explains the lifelong ministry and eventual martyrdom of the Apostle Thomas, after the gospel record of him having been for the most part a man of doubts and pessimism? John 20.26-29 provides the answer:

 

26     And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

27     Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

28     And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

29     Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

 

It has been commonly noted by commentators, “Thomas doubted that we might have no doubts.”

 

Third, THERE IS THE CASE OF JAMES, THE SKEPTIC

 

Surprisingly for his prominence, we know relatively little of James, the half brother of our Lord Jesus Christ, considering his prominent role as the senior pastor of the church in Jerusalem. Very little is said of him in the gospels, though he is named as one of Jesus’ brothers and is listed as a son of Mary.[6]

It is clear that James was an unbeliever during his brother’s earthly ministry, that he did not believe the truth of Jesus’ message, and even taunted Him.[7] However, by the time the church in Jerusalem is established and consulted for wisdom and insight into doctrinal matters of great importance, James shows his place as the church’s most senior pastor. Listen as I read Acts 15.12-13, leading up to James’ final decision, and displaying his place in that important meeting of apostles and church leaders:

 

12     Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.

13     And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:

 

How do you explain the difference between a half-brother who was skeptical of his brother’s identity and mission before the crucifixion, but who not only embraced Christianity but became a prominent Christian leader, pastor of the first Christian church, and author of the first New Testament epistle to be written, the epistle of James? Such a change is quite perplexing, is it not?

First Corinthians 15.7 provides the necessary enlightenment into James’ transformation: “After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.” There could have been no doubt in James’ mind that Jesus had been dead. After all, even if he had not attended the Savior’s crucifixion, their mother did, and she knew that her Son who was crucified, and the Son she had prepared for burial, was undeniably dead.

As her son, James had to have been one of those who consoled her. However, it had to be a kick in the belly to learn that while hanging on the cross his brother Jesus had commended the care of their mother to the young Apostle John, rather than to him or one of his brothers. Little did he know that his half-brother had designs on his life that would make the care of their mother impossible for James, but very practical for the very young Apostle John, until he was old enough to assume spiritual leadership after Mary had passed away in her old age.

The precise details are not provided for us, but we can imagine the emotions that were involved when his brother appeared to him, having been raised from the dead, this brother who had loved him so, who had looked after him and his brothers when he was little, who had been so tender and generous with him, but who he had later rejected and turned away from when His public ministry began.

Seeing Jesus in a resurrection body convinced him that he had been so very wrong to follow the majority opinion about Jesus, and that his brother’s disciples were right about Him all along. Emotion? Certainly. Repentance? Without question. Transformation? His life from that time on shows it beyond any doubt. James, the skeptic, had become “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”[8]

 

Finally, THERE IS PAUL, THE ENEMY

 

His given name was Saul, and he was a Jewish man from the Gentile city of Tarsus, who had come to Jerusalem to study under the renowned Gamaliel. Perhaps ten years younger than the Lord Jesus Christ, Saul was a religious strict Pharisee who held the typical Jewish beliefs of his day, that there would be a resurrection from the dead, but that no such resurrection could occur until Judgment Day. Therefore, when he encountered Stephen in the synagogue of the Libertines, the prominent Greek-speaking synagogue in Jerusalem, and contended with him concerning the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, he was enraged that such a blasphemous and destabilizing doctrine would be taught to the Jewish people. So opposed was Saul of Tarsus to Stephen that he consented to his death and stood by and watched him while they stoned him to death in a fit of rage.[9]

It did not end there. Young Saul was on a mission to crush the way Stephen espoused and to stamp out all belief in this dead Jesus of Nazareth. Obtaining letters of authority from the high priest to travel to Damascus to arrest and bring to Jerusalem for trial any who embraced this heresy, Saul set out on his journey.[10] Turn to Acts 9.3, so we can read Luke’s account of the event together:

 

3      And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:

4      And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

5      And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

6      And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

7      And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.

8      And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.

9      And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

10     And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.

11     And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,

12     And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

13     Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:

14     And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.

15     But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

16     For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.

17     And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

18     And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

19     And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.

20     And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.

 

Does anything need to be said about Saul of Tarsus, known to us as the Apostle Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, author of two-thirds of the New Testament, and the foremost theologian of Christianity? From his miraculous encounter with the resurrected Jesus to his martyrdom in Rome, he was troubled on every side, yet not distressed; he was perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in his body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in his body. He was always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in his mortal flesh.[11]

How did Paul sum up his life? He said, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; Knowing that He which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.[12] It was because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and his own experience with the risen and glorified Lord Jesus Christ, that Paul was transformed from Christianity’s most feared enemy into Christianity’s most effective ambassador, from the opponent of Jesus to His most devoted and humble servant, thrilled to be His bond slave.

 

As a direct result of the Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection and exaltation, the Christian faith was launched, featuring Sunday as our chief day of worship. However, we can learn some more specific things from our glimpses into the lives of these four men. First, we learn that God can work in the lives of even the most difficult of men to transform doubters, skeptics, deniers, and even enemies. Such transformations occur even in our own day. As well, from each case history we see that God is willing to forgive even major cases of sin. God forgave all Peter’s forthright denials, James’ blatant unbelief, Thomas’ doubts, and Paul’s zealous imprisoning and killing of Christians.

However, let us also make sure we do not overlook a third thing to take home today. We need to recapture the essence of what inspired those early Christians. Be careful to remember, “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed,” John 20.29. That understood, let us recognize what has powerfully motivated Christians, not only at the beginning of the Christian era, but also down through the centuries. Christ the Lord is risen today. However, that is not all that energizes real Christians. It is the certain hope that we, too, shall be raised someday, as well.

The resurrection is transforming. It transformed Peter, Thomas, James, and Paul. Down through the centuries, the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the anticipation of their own resurrection has also transformed countless believers in countless places. Have you been so transformed by Christ’s resurrection, and the hope of your own resurrection someday?



[1] N. T. Wright, The Resurrection Of The Son Of God, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), page 31.

[2] Acts 2.14

[3] Acts 2.36

[4] Acts 4.13

[5] William Steuart McBirnie, The Search For The Twelve Apostles, (Wheaton, IL: Living Books, 1973), pages 142-173.

[6] Mark 6.3; 15.40; 16.1; Luke 24.10

[7] John 7.3-5

[8] James 1.1

[9] Acts 6.9; 8.1

[10] Acts 9.1-3

[11] Second Corinthians 5.8-11

[12] Second Corinthians 5.13-14



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org