How the Empty Tomb Should Impact You

Steve Viars April 15, 2006

- This is Sam...He’s a 4 year old golden retriever...and lives in Stratham, NH...
- at least he’s supposed to live in Stratham...over the last two years he’s earned the nickname “golden ghost...”here’s why...
- his owners, Dennis and Peg Sklarski adopted him from a shelter in Nashville, TN that rescues abused animals...
- they only had him for 3 weeks when one day Dennis was walking Sam and slipped and fell...
- he accidentally dropped Sam’s leash and the dog took off...

- they put the word out to the community and people started seeing Sam in the surrounding communities of Fremont, Raymond, Candia, Danville, Hampstead, but no one could ever catch him...
- he survived that way for 2 years...through 2 harsh New England winters...and was never apprehended...

- what was especially unusual was the amount of effort the owners put into finding him...
- at first when the neighbors would spot Sam, they would call Dennis and he would go out and look for him in his truck...that’s not surprising...
- but then this year a group of experts came in from Boston with infrared cameras...and they occasionally spotted the dog, but they couldn’t get close...
- so an animal control expert was brought in with a tranquillizer gun and tracked Sam down...he shot at him on numerous occasions and missed every time...which is why they started calling Sam a ghost...
- then a neighbor offered the use of his helicopter...so they went up looking for Sam by helicopter...still nothing...
- finally the community raised enough money to by a remote control net and a video camera system...
- they heated a dog dish with ham in it and then watched the camera...
- the problem was, Sam was smart enough not to leave the dish there...
- so he would just grab the dish with his mouth, run away with the whole thing---by the time the net hit the ground---he was gone...
- finally after doing that for five weeks...Sam stopped first to eat a few bites from the bowl before running with it...
- they let down the net and the edge of it just caught him...

- he’s being watched for rabies for about 0 days and then he’ll be returned to his owners’ home...
- and of course, everybody’s question is...after all of that effort, will Sam stay home this time...
- ABC news said this week...”They are counting on the dog’s obvious intelligence to help him recognize that it’s not a bad deal to be a beloved pet.”
 
- what an incredible rescue operation...it will be interesting to see whether it has the desired effect...

- now, you probably know where this story is going...the Bible describes a much more significant rescue operation...
- and the story goes like this...God is holy, and perfect, and completely without sin...
- and He created human beings to have a personal relationship with Him that would be intimate, and genuine, and growing...
- and that human beings would live in a way that would honor and glorify God...and in turn be a great source of joy and satisfaction to them...
- but God also decided that human beings would be given a will...an opportunity to choose the direction of their love, and the object of their worship...
- and as soon as that decision was made, the obvious issue had to be faced, what if human beings would run?...what if they would bolt?...
- and just like it was later learned that Sam had been eating out of the neighbors garbage cans and food scraps left outside---human beings “take to sin” like “ducks take to water...”
- the Scripture says that...Jeremiah 17:9 - The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
- and that tendency is passed down from generation to generation...
- Romans 5:12 - Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.
- and I realize somebody might say...sin, sin, sin, PV, when are you going to stop talking about sin...
- and the answer is...I’ll stop talking about it...when we stop doing it...
- it is the universal problem...we’re more like Sam than we might care to admit...
- and here’s what else the Scripture says about that... Isaiah 59:2 - But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you...

- but the good news is...God is on a rescue mission...not with tranquilizer darts, or infrared cameras, helicopters, or heated supper dishes...
- He sent His Son...this mission was too important...and the necessary price was too high...
- it had to be the sinless Son of God...the perfect Lamb...
- who would prove his perfection by being tempted in all points without sin...
- and prove His deity by his miraculous teaching and works...
- and then He voluntarily walked up the hill of Calvary and died for us...
- 2 Corinthians 5:21 - For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
- and the placed Him in a borrowed tomb...
- and then the religious leaders insisted that the political rulers assign guards at the tomb...which is a rather strange request...
- but Jesus had prophesied repeatedly that after he died, he would rise again...and they wanted to be sure the disciples did not come and steal the body...
- of course if they knew how frightened the disciples were at that point they probably wouldn’t have bothered...
- but then on Easter Sunday morning, some women went to the tomb and found that Jesus had been raised from the dead...
- the price that He paid was accepted by the Father and the basis of the rescue mission was complete...
- that is why the most important event in human history is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ...
- but here’s this morning’s question...how was that intended to impact us?...
- if the issue for Sam the dog is...will his subsequent choices show that he appreciates all that was done to rescue him...
- the issue for us is...will we?
- with that in mind, I’d like to ask you to open your Bible to I Corinthians chapter 15...page 139 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you, page 1430 of our Chinese English Bibles...
- we’re talking this morning about The Desired Results of the Empty Tomb.
- of course I Corinthians 15 is probably the greatest chapter in the Scripture to discuss this particular topic...it is known as the resurrection chapter of the Bible...
- we’re going to be looking at the very end of the chapter...but Paul has already spoken about the evidence of the resurrection in the first few verses...
- in addition to all the Old Testament prophesies...and Jesus own clear teaching that this was what would happen...
- Paul, speaking as somebody trained in law and logic says...there’s all the eyewitnesses...not just one, not just two...but hundreds of people who witnessed the empty tomb, or witnessed the resurrected Christ...
- and I don’t know that we can comprehend the price that the disciples paid for that belief...
- many of them eventually died as martyrs for their proclamation of this particular point...
- why in the world would they endure that kind of pain for something they knew to be a lie...what could they possibly gain?...[could develop – how much pain would you endure for a lie?]...
- if you would like to study that issue in greater detail, I would strongly encourage you to read the book by Lee Stroebel “The Case for Christ”, or “The Case for Easter.”
- now, in the middle of the chapter, Paul moves from the evidence of the resurrection, to the implications of the resurrection...
- while we’re in the neighborhood, please look at verse 17 [read 17-19]...
- now, obviously Paul is proclaiming that Christ has been raised, so just turn all of these points around...
- because of the resurrection...your faith is precious...
- you have been forgiven of your sins [if you have trusted Christ...]
- those who have already died in Christ are in heaven...
- and we of all men, are most to be amazed and enthusiastic about what Christ has done for us...
- now, with that in mind...the evidence, and the implications...please look down at verse 55 and let’s look for the desired results...read I Cor. 15:55-58

- now, with the time we have remaining...let’s concentrate on verse 58 and look for Three results of believing the tomb is empty.
- and before we get into these, maybe we need to say this...our purpose here this morning isn’t to have some sort of lecture...we want to allow the Word of God to help us examine how we are doing, and point out where we should be heading...and Easter is one of those great milestones...where we can look back over the previous year and ask...has there been 12 months worth of progress in that particular area since we last celebrated the resurrection?
- [three results of believing the tomb is empty...]


I. Consistency.


- Paul said – be ye steadfast and immoveable...now, what does that mean?
A. Meaning of steadfast and immoveable.
- the word “steadfast” literally means being seated...the idea is to be settled and firmly situated...
- immoveable is the same concept but with greater intensity...
- we’re talking about consistency and faithfulness...
- this is the kind of person who has decided what he/she believes...
- has decided who they’re going to love and serve...
- Its like the hymnwriter said...I sought a flag to follow...a cause for which to stand...I sought a valiant leader who could my will command...
- I found them all in Jesus, the life, the truth, the way...beneath His flag I’ll take my stand and follow him today...
- people who believe the tomb is empty aren’t flighty...they’re not unpredictable...they don’t change with the weather...they’re steadfast and immoveable...
- now, of course we’re not talking about being stubborn or immobile...
- I can imagine some wives saying...PV, please don’t tell my husband to be immoveable...its hard enough to get him off the couch now...
- “honey, I could use some help in the kitchen...sorry babe, but I’m applying today’s sermon...we have to be doers of the Word, you know...”

- now, you might say, PV...is it really possible for a person to develop this kind of character...that’s a fair question...here’s one answer...
B. God accomplished that in the lives of his followers then.
- do you remember that when Jesus met Peter, He changed His name?...
- he said...from now on, we’re going to call you Peter...which means “a rock...”
- a source of strength and stability...
- you have to believe the disciples got a kick out of that one...
- Peter was so unpredictable...tempestuous...so unstable...
- I wonder if there were times when Peter launched off on something where the disciples just rolled their eyes and said...there’s goes the rock again...
- “If all these other men deny you...I will not!”...
- ho boy, there’s goes the rock again!...
- but what happened after the resurrection?...complete transformation on this point...
- he was constantly threatened and abused for telling others about Christ...but you couldn’t shut him up...he was on message and he knew eternal issues were at stake...
- do you remember what happened to him in Acts 5?...
- Acts 5:27-33 - And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them.
- Then a man named Gamaliel stood up and said, if this isn’t real, leave them alone because it will fizzle out, but if it is real, you can’t overthrow it because you’ll be fighting against God...
- Acts 5:40-42 - And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

- I’m saying...his belief in the resurrection made him steadfast...and immoveable...
- [if time, could also develop what it is like to read I and II Peter...]
- [if time, could also develop the life of John – Boanerges to apostle of Love...]

- now, where does that take us?...
C. God wants to accomplish that in the lives of His followers today.
- one key question that each of us should ask this morning is...as you think back over the last 12 months...have you become more faithful and consistent?...
- would those around you view as a person who is steadfast and immoveable?...
1.  Is that happening in your personal life?
- where maybe in the past, you would have given in to a particular temptation...and so your life and testimony was up and down and up and down...
- but in this past year you did some concentrated study...
- or you received some counseling...
- or you jumped into an accountability group...
- but somehow you allowed the Lord to help you connect the dots from the power of the empty tomb to the specific area in which you struggle...

- now of course that assumes that there has been a definite time in your life where you admitted your need and you placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior...
- consistency starts, not by “trying harder”...or by “greater determination” or “pulling yourself up by your own spiritual bootstraps”...
- it starts with repentance...it starts by turning around...it starts by acknowledging to the Lord...I can’t be faithful on my own...I can’t be consistent on my own [at least not in any way that would please you...]
- the Christian life begins at a point in time...and as a pastor, one of the greatest disservices I could do would be to simply assume that everyone in our services knows Christ...
- and if you’re not absolutely sure about that, I would encourage you, even in the quietness of this moment...to pray to the Lord and ask Christ to be your Savior and Lord...
- one of the marks of whether a person has truly done that is increased faithfulness and consistency...be ye steadfast and immoveable...

2.  Is it happening in your family?
- the lack of this characteristic can kill a marriage....
- I’m sure I’ll be talking to some folks today who, if they were honest, would say...
- I don’t really know where I stand with my husband...with my wife...
- one day she says she loves me and wants to work on the marriage...the next day she’s talking divorce...
- one day he says he’s going to do something, or be somewhere...and the next day I have no idea if he’ll keep his word...
- you cannot build a marriage without faithfulness and consistency...

- the lack of it will harm a family...
- how many supposedly Christian families have one or more members who are absolutely unpredictable?...
- you never know what it’s going to be like when you walk in the door...
- some days it’s warm and friendly...others days its coldness, and sarcasm, and other behavior that displeases God...
- where is the resurrected Christ in all of that?

- on the other hand...when men and women choose to develop this characteristic, it can be a beautiful thing...when you know where you stand with another person...you know that relationship is secure and that person is the real thing...there’s a sense of freedom and trust and relief that is truly delightful and honoring to God...
- perhaps it would be wise for many of us to pick out a particular area and say...Lord, because you died for me...please help me, in this particular way, to be more steadfast and immoveable...to be more consistent and faithful...

- now, what else do we see in this text?...consistency and...


II. Productivity


- be ye steadfast and immoveable...always abounding in the work of the Lord.
- one of the things we ought to love about the privilege of being followers of Christ is that He has a job for us to do...a will for us to accomplish...a place in His plan and program...
- John 15:16 - You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.
- If Jesus really is alive...and He really is in the process of drawing men and women to Himself...then we ought to want to be as much a part of that action as He would possibly allow...
- always abounding in the work of the Lord...
- now, let’s break this down a bit...let’s talk about the where, and the what, and the when...
A.  Where? [are we to be productive]
- in the work of the Lord...
- now, there are some things we need to be very clear about here...
1) We’re certainly not talking about working your way to heaven...
- Ephesians 2:8-9 - For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
2) We’re also not talking about work without relaxation or rest...like some kind of robot...
3) Nor are we talking about personal effort apart from the enablement of God...
- it’s not that God rescues us and the rest is up to us...
- Zechariah 4:6 - ...Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the LORD of hosts.
- when we talk about the work of the Lord, we’re talking about cooperating with the work God desires to do in and through us...
- Philippians 1:6 - being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
- Philippians 2:12-13 - Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

- see, please think about the work God wants to do in your personal life...
- in your friendships....in your family...in your neighborhood...in your ministry...
- and as you consider this past year...would the word “productive” describe this year for you?...

- now, how about the...
B. What?
- Paul says, you are to be abounding in the work of the Lord?...what does that mean?...
- it’s the Greek word Perisseuo – exceeding the requirements, overflowing, much more than expected
- in fact, here’s a great parallel use of this word...
- Ephesians 1:7-8 – In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us...

- which word in this verse do you think is translated “abound” in the passage we are studying this morning?...”lavished...”
- we want the way that we serve God to communicate a message about our view of His abundant grace...
- abounding in the work of the Lord...

- I mentioned last week that we had the memorial service for one of our dear members, Ralph Blacketer this past Saturday...
- on Tuesday, we had our senior citizens fellowship, and so Ralph’s wife Betty was here along with many of our senior saints...
- and one of the teachers at our school, Cathy Vaughters went up and warmly greeted Betty...
- now, Cathy is the wife of Mike Vaughters, the pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church...
- you might say...how would a pastor’s wife from another church who teaches at our school know Betty Blacketer...
- and I never knew this, but Kathy sent me an e-mail later that day that read like this:
I just saw Betty Blacketer at the xyzers. She mentioned she was home for Ralph’s’ memorial service.  Years ago, Ralph was witnessing door to door and came to my house.  He led my dad to the Lord and they began to disciple my parents.  We would go to their house and he would teach the bible to my family.  (That was way before there was a discipling curriculum).  It amazes me to think that a God as mighty as He, cared for a little girl in Linden, IN. As Betty and I talked it was great to see
Thankful,
Cathy Vaughters 
- I’ve known Cathy for years...she has been a tremendous blessing to some of our children...
- I had no idea that her family was led to Christ by Ralph Blacketer...
- he and Betty were abounding in the work of the Lord...as if the tomb was really empty...

- and friend, at your memorial service...can I just suggest to you...there are a lot of things that aren’t going to matter a lick...
- what a wise thing it is to allow the message of the empty tomb to cause to live in a way that is productive...

- now you might say...PV, I used to live that way...or, there was a time when that used to be the case...friend, can I love you enough to tell you, that’s not good enough...because this verse also gives us the...
C. When?
- how often are we to be abounding in the work of the Lord?...
- always abounding in the work of the Lord

- [could talk about the upcoming Intro to Faith class...]

- so, because the tomb is empty, God wants us to be...consistent, and productive...and lastly, He wants us to be...


III. Hopeful.


- Knowing that you labor is not vain in the Lord.

- the message of the resurrection should fill us with hope with God desires to do in and through us...

- [address those who would say...but I’ve got some questions about this God and His ways...I don’t understand all these world events...hurricanes, wars, wildfires...we actually have a series beginning next week that addresses that – Is God mad at us]

- what about the person who would say...but PV...the problem with all of this is...you don’t understand my past...I’m too far gone...I can’t have hope, now...
- friend, who was this book written to?...the Corinthians...
- do you know that just a few chapters earlier Paul had reminded them of all kinds of people who would not inherit the kingdom of God...
- thieves, covetous, those who abuse alcohol, those who are immoral...its quite a list...and then what does Paul say to them in I Cor. 6:11...such were some of you...
- they grew up in all sorts of wicked environments...and they developed all sorts of sinful lifestyles...
- but then the rescue mission started...and they were washed, and they were sanctified, and they were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and in the Spirit of our God...
- and life wasn’t about where they had been...it was where they were going...
- if the tomb is empty, there is plenty of reason for hope...

[if time, could develop – doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been married...ask God to help you be faithful to the spouse you have now...]

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video