By the Grace of God I am what I am. – 1 Corinthians 15:1-10
The introductory message in the series on the Corinthians.
(Find the other messages from this series here)
The passage of scripture that I want us to look at this Easter morning doesn’t contain A good story,
it contains several- all of which were shaped by the greatest story of all, Jesus raising from the dead. But it’s more than a story, it must have been because if it were only a story it wouldn’t have changed the lives of the people that Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 15.
Peter was a failure.
Now it’s powerful that Paul includes Peter’s name here. When Jesus was arrested and on trial, people asked Peter, hey weren’t you one of the guys that hung around Jesus, and Peter said he didn’t even know Jesus. Peter felt so ashamed that when he realized what he had done, he went away alone and wept bitterly. He felt like a failure. After that he returned to the profession he had worked before he became a disciple of Jesus, he returned to fishing. But Jesus showed up on the shore after a night of Peter’s fishing and commanded him to go and serve in ministry. Peter went from despondent and feeling like a failure to serving the Lord in an incredible way.
It was because Jesus had risen from the dead.
Seeing Jesus resurrected pulled Peter out of that despair and sent him into a life of great meaning and purpose.
James was a doubter.
in John 7 it says,
“His brothers didn’t believe in Him.”
In fact, according to Mark 3:21 they thought He was crazy, wanted to go get Him out of the public because He was so crazy. It must have been rough to be Jesus’ brother. How many of you have siblings?
For those of you that didn’t raise your hand, come back next week were gonna do a whole sermon just on what’s wrong with you spoiled only child people… Just kidding. I have a brother and a sister and by comparison, they were angels. I was constantly in trouble.
On top of that, everyone in my family is musically talented but me. My mother taught piano, my dad could sing, my brother played brass in the band, my sister could sing and played the piano. My junior year of high school I joined the school choir, and no joke, I turned the pages for the school choir.
James thought his half brother Jesus was crazy, and he probably had quite a bit of resentment towards him
but then Jesus physically appeared to him after his death, and James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem and he wrote a book that we have in our Bible…In it he says, draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. When Jesus appeared to his half brother, James set aside all of the resentment and doubt and he drew near to God through belief in Jesus..
Here in verse 10 Paul refers to himself.
Paul was a hater.
Paul was an enemy who didn’t believe and thought that Jesus’ followers were evil, that they were dangerous…He literally persecuted and prosecuted the church.
He watched as an angry mob threw stones at Stephen until he died.
He chased Christians out of Jerusalem, but then Jesus appeared to him, and he went from persecuting the church to serving the church. Paul says that the GRACE of God has made him what he is today-
Grace is what happens when don’t get the bad we do deserve
and we do get the good we don’t deserve.
Think of these 3 men from Jesus’ perspective.
Peter is supposed to be me my friend and follower and he deserts me in the worst possible moment.
James is my own brother and he doesn’t believe what I say, he thinks I’m crazy.
Paul is supposed to be a priest- a religious leader who cares for people and all he has done is hurt my people…
But Jesus comes to each of these men after he has risen from the dead, not for revenge, not to to give them what they deserve, but to offer them grace.
Paul mentions these 3 examples of himself, Peter, and James, because he wants to communicate that the Resurrection did happen and He, James, and Peter are proof-
But they’re more than proof of the resurrection, they are demonstrations of God’s grace.
Peter, James, and Paul are more than witnesses to the resurrection, they are demonstrations of God’s grace.
This grace saved them, forgave them, and redeemed them.
Whether you grew up in the church and walked away or you wanted no part of church your whole life or even if you’ve been an adamant critic of God and opposed Him, you can believe in the risen Christ…
1. By the grace of God I am SAVED
In verse 2 Paul says that this gospel he passed on to them is the one “By which you are being saved”
When we hear the word saved, we think of someone snatched from the jaws of death. We think of a heroic rescue from capture, pain, or death. We think of someone stepping in to save someone in trouble.
That’s appropriate here because the scriptures make it clear that God’s grace save us from the punishment that we deserve for our sin. We can’t over emphasize the importance of this- that God’s grace saves us from eternal punishment for our sins against an eternal God.
However, we are shortsighted if we think that the salvation of God only comes to play in the afterlife-
It begins now. Notice Pauls says you are being saved.
Not that you will be saved from eternal punishment after death, you are being saved today!
The Word that Paul uses here does communicate rescue, but it also conveys the idea of making something whole. You see, the gospel not only snatches us from the clutches of hell, it makes us whole. It restores us.
Sin most definitely brings punishment in the next life, but it also brings brokenness, pain, and suffering in this life. The gospel of grace brings restoration and rescue today and forever.
The resurrection of Jesus saved Peter from a life of regret, it saved James from a life of resenting his brother, and it saved Paul from a life of violence against innocent people.
Before the realization of Jesus’ resurrection they were living the only way they thought they could, so before seeing Jesus was risen from the dead the way they were living made sense, but after that they saw that what made the most sense in one instant was something to be saved from the next.
This reminds me of Ashley’s story.
Recently after a Bible Study Ashley talked with Nicole about how her parents trusted her when she was a teenager, in fact they trust her too much and she started heading down a dark and dangerous path with the wrong people making wrong choices but thankfully God saved her from that.
He led her to Nathan and his daughter Arianna.
A year ago Nathan and Ashley were out of church, but last Easter God prompted them to visit Faith so they did. Then this past fall they became members. Now God has not only saved Ashley from the punishment of her sins, but he’s also saved her from he life that she was headed toward and given her a family and friends in her church that encourage her in her relationship with Christ.
And she and Nathan are excited to welcome a baby boy in just a couple of months.
Maybe you’re thinking, well that’s nice Pastor D but my life is pretty cool so I don’t think I need saving. Thanks though. If that’s you, stick with me through this next point.
2. By the grace of God I am FORGIVEN
In verse 3 Paul is recounting the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and states clearly, he “died for our sins.” Sin is anything I think say or do that breaks God’s law. Sadly I’m afraid that we often think that God has just arbitrarily set a list of rules or that they are self serving.
My daughter is convinced that is just unfair that we make her go to bed at night.
She’ll say things like, “Ugh! I never get to stay up!” Now I know that if she stays up she’s going to be miserable in the morning, or at least more miserable than she already is…
I’m trying to make it easier on her the next day, but she doesn’t see it that way…
God didn’t merely establish a list of rules that suited Him- He established a law that would be best for us- that would be for our benefit. God doesn’t want me to break his commands because He knows breaking His commands breaks me. Sin is anything I think say or do that breaks my heart.
Paul says that Jesus died for our sins because Christ has gave himself to save us from the sins we have committed breaking His law and breaking our hearts…
It’s important that you see that Paul says “died for OUR sins.”
Now I read a pretty shocking article a couple of weeks ago. It was about the 25th anniversary of the Jerry Springer show. I say it was shocking because I didn’t realize this show was still on the air, much less that it had been on the air for that long.
In the article they interviewed the 72 year old Jerry Springer who said that they did a couple of crazy shows years back and the network executives came to them and said, those ratings were insane. That’s all you do from now on- you’ll be doing only crazy, risqué shows.
Now the Jerry Springer definitely became that, in fact many of the show titles listed in the article I would be embarrassed to repeat to you this morning…
Several writers and Pastors have referred to the city of Corinth and even the church in Corinth as the Jerry Springer Show of the New Testament Letters.
The Corinthians were a messy group. But when Paul writes to them about the forgiveness of sins, he says Christ died for OUR sins.
You see while Paul had been serving the church, living for Christ, studying the scriptures, living a holy life, and been an all around devout person, even against the contrast of the wild Corinthians he still saw his own sin and need of Christ’s forgiveness.
Paul had drawn close to God and experienced God in an incredible way and he knew that it was the forgiveness of his sins that had made that possible.
Perhaps you are here today hoping to experience God, to feel close to Him on Easter: There are many things that people do in attempt to draw closer to God-
Some people go to large churches with smoke, lazers, and big music because they feel more connected to God through the experience,
Some people attend small churches with just a handful of people because they feel more connected to God through the stillness snd the quiet.
There are people who travel to the top of far off mountains, people who meditate in dense forests, people who retreat to quiet canyons hoping to feel connected to God…
I love what I recently heard Matt Brown say,
God gave us eyes to see- to experience the wonderful sights around us…
God gave us a tongue to taste- to experience the amazing foods, like cinnamon rolls and coffee…
God gave us ears to hear- to enjoy moving music…
God gave us a soul to sense God, to experience his glory and grace- His majesty and His wonder…
Our senses can be separated from those things we want experience, we’ve all know the frustration of when you want to see something, but a tall guy sit’s in front of you,
or your mouth is watering looking forward to tasting that pie, but someone has eaten it all,
or you want to listen to something, but something else is being so loud you can’t hear…
These things separate our senses from the wonderful experience…
Sin separates our soul from the experience of God.
Your soul was not only created with the ability to experience God it was created with a thirst for God.
John MacArthur’s father used to tell a story of the little blind boy who was flying his kite, and his neighbor called to him, “How do you know your kite’s up there? You can’t see it.” He replied, “I know because I can feel the tug of the string in my hand.”
All of us needs forgiveness and deep within, deep in our souls,
even when we don’t really know why,
We long for it. We long to be connected with God.
There is no mountaintop, no canyon, no forest, no music, no fog machine, no sermon that can bring you to connection with God in spite of your sin.
Nothing will bring you closer to God, nothing will give you communion with Him unless you admit your sin.
In Luke 18 Jesus told the story of 2 men who went to pray at the Temple. Now the temple was the place where God’s presence literally dwelt in the Old Testament, so you went to the Temple to connect with God.
They would have synagogues in their cities and towns, but they would make a trip to the Temple to connect with the presence of God…
One man stood and prayed a impressive prayer with lots of big words and recounted all of the things that he had done for God, all of the acts of service he had done, all the generosity he had shown…
The other man simply said, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
Jesus said that man met with God, the other did not.
Colossians 2:14 says that he took the sins that separates us from God and nailed them to the cross….
Nothing will connect you to God more than the experience of admitting your sin… and letting Jesus nail them to the cross.
Nicole and I exercise at the Y, Nicole recently ran into one of the trainers at sam’s club and she said the trainer had a cart full of grapes and other fruit and Nicole was buying a huge cheesecake for a party.
She said to me, I really felt I needed to explain, this cheesecake isn’t for me…
This morning you might feel like you just ran into a trainer with a cart full of cheesecake and candy, or you might feel superior, like you’ve got it all together and that you don’t need saving…
The only way to leave this morning having met with God is if you admit your sin and experience his forgiveness.
This reminds me of Benny.
Benny grew up here in Chandler with a loving family. He served in the Navy and married Phyllis. He love his family, had a good job and a good life, but he always knew there was a judgement that he would face one day, and he just hoped that he was living good enough to make the grade.
One night our founding pastor Bob Helms ran into Benny when he was looking for Benny’s brother Terry, but God knew what he was doing. Bob and Benny got to talking and Benny said, so you think you’re going to Heaven? Bob said, I don’t think I am, I know I am!
Benny’s response was, well that’s pretty presumptuous.
Bob then started to share with Him the scriptures that tell us that we can know that our sins have been forgiven and that there is nothing separating us from God.
Today, 3 decades later Benny serves a deacon here in our church…
By the grace of God Benny was forgiven of the sin that separated him from God. Paul was too. You could be forgiven too.
If you want to experience God,
you must first experience His forgiveness.
3. By the grace of God I am REDEEMED.
9For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10But by the grace of God I am what I am
Paul said, I’m an apostle but I don’t deserve to be called one because of the things I have done.
However because of the grace of God, I am one. I don’t deserve to be, but I am.
God not only saved Paul from the life he was living and saved him from his Sins, but God also gave him a new life of meaning and purpose and he did this through his resurrection.
You see James, Peter, and Paul all knew of the death of Jesus but didn’t have hope- but the resurrection demonstrated that the death was for sin and redemption.
Peter knew about the crucifixion- it sent him back to his fishing boat.
James knew about the crucifuxion- he probably just shook his head and muttered “I saw this coming years ago…” Paul knew about the crucifixion, he thought it was great, he wanted to see more crucifixions…
The resurrection solidified that Jesus’ death was more than a death. It was a death for sin.
Without the resurrection its just the death of a man who was a good teacher or even a lunatic, but through the resurrection it’s clear that this death meant something, and that He overcame it.
When each of these men saw that Jesus had risen from the dead, they could see that Jesus death had meaning, that it was powerful, that it was for them, that it could save them, forgive them, redeem them.
Redeem means to buy back…
That it could bring them back from what they had become, that it could bring back Peter from being a traitor
bring back James from being a resentful brother
that it could bring back Paul from being a violent enemy.
that it could bring back Dee from being an addict,
that it could bring you back…
I’m reminded of Amy. Amy attended our church when she was young, but she drifted away from God and then started living a life that was far from God.
When the attacks happened on September 11th she was afraid, and wanted to make a change in her life, but she was terrified she couldn’t. After getting into some trouble and graduating from Warrick Drug Court, she realized that God’s power would do for her what she couldn’t do for herself.
Now Amy walks with people who are taking the same journey of turning their life over to God and experiencing his help to live a new life.
She sent me this text message last week,
Epic Night at new life.
God is working and I am so blessed to be able to see it!!!
Paul said by the grace of God, I am what I am…
He was saved, forgiven, and redeemed.
My question to you today is what could you write in this blank.
By the grace of God I am…. What?
Saved? Forgiven? Redeemed?
The resurrection made that possible for Paul, James, Peter, Dee, Ashley, Benny, Amy, and you.