And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Therefore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.
– The Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15.17-19, CSB)
These words changed the trajectory of my life. It was in 2001 when I listened to John Piper, at Shepherds’ Conference, preach on Colossians 1.24, introducing the sermon with this text from 1 Corinthians. The logic of 1 Corinthians 15.17-19 was pressed on my soul. If Jesus has not been raised then we won’t be raised. If we won’t be raised then we should be pitied for our lifestyle and life choices more than anyone in this world. The Spirit, through the preacher, took this divinely inspired logic and cut open my soul. What choices am I making that would be considered pitiful if we weren’t raised from the dead (and if Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead)? What risks am I taking? Is the world confused by my choices because they don’t hope in the future resurrection that I’m hoping in? Have I gotten too comfortable? Have I forgotten that this world, cursed as it currently stands, is not my home?
Up until this point my plan was to be an associate pastor at my home church that I was saved in. I would stay there for the rest of my life as an associate pastor or maybe eventually the senior pastor. I was living a comfortable middle-class life. I knew what to expect. Life was convenient for the most part. That was the plan.
Godliness is so being ravished by God, so satisfied by God, so filled with God, so driven by Jesus that you live in a way that the only explanation for your life is the promise of God raising you from the dead. That’s why I’m always praying, Lord, get my wife and I ready for the our next decision.”
We will never be Christ’s church until we choose to take risks that can only be explained by the resurrection from the dead. That’s the only way that we’ll be the church that we ought to be and finish the Great Commission.
As the questions rattled around in my mind the Spirit was peeling away self-centered sentiments I didn’t know existed until that moment. I found myself praying as Piper was preaching: “Lord, make clear to me whatever you want me to do and give me the strength to do it. No fine print. Wherever you call me to go, send me. Show me what you want me to do that makes no sense if Jesus did not rise from the dead.” I prayed that with great fear and yet at the same time, a deep sense of peace.
God has answered this prayer with sending me to a pastoral internship, considering a call to pastor a church in need of revitalization in Queens, New York, planting a church in central Los Angeles, and now pastoring in a church revitalization situation here at First Southern Baptist Church. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead and if we will not be rising from the dead, then I want my decisions to be considered nonsense. But Jesus did rise. And we will rise. So let’s make decisions that make perfect sense in light of this reality.
Easter is about celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (and so is every Lord’s Day). Let’s celebrate the past. Let’s pour out our lives with great risk now because in celebrating the past we also ought to celebrate the future. He’s coming back. We will rise. Because he rose.