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    616
    Resurrection Sets Us Free

    Sermon Delivered in Oxford, England
    14 April 1985

    This sermon was delivered in Oxford, England, to the local Saints' Church on 14 April 1985 2½ years before the work of NCCG/MLT began, and is one of the first public sermons preached by the founder of this ministry. It has been slightly updated with Messianic terminology and new footnotes have been added, appearing as it was re-preached locally in Sweden.


    PART 1

    I wonder how many of you are familiar with the Turin Shroud? Many Christians have hailed this as evidence for the resurrection of Messiah. And maybe it is. Forty researchers have taken a highly sophisticated look at this ancient linen relic. Their conclusions have given credence to those who believe the shroud is the resurrection-imprinted burial cloth of Messiah.

    The Shroud has long been in possession of the Roman Catholic Church and appears to be the burial cloth of someone who was crucified. It carries the imprint of a man with bloodstains in the area of his wrists and feet, slash marks on his back, and wounds on his forehead. Not only does the evidence suggest a crucifixion, but it also points so something that has defied natural explanation. The fact that the image remains in the cloth in the form of a photographic negative has led some to attribute it to a sudden burst of resurrection energy. [1][2]

    Personally, I would like to believe it was Yah'shua's burial garment. I have been impressed by the evidence, which includes computer-enhanced images of a person under the cloth. I have also wondered at times whether the Master may have given our sceptical generation this kind of physical evidence just to show us that peeople who don't believe the New Testament won't believe anything - even the kind of physical evidence they say they need.

    If the evidence continued to stand up, and if it continues to be ignored by most unbelievers, the Shroud of Turin might well be an illustration of what Yah'shua taught about persistent unbelief. He told a story which suggested that if the Jews of His day didn't believe Moses and the prophets (whom there was good reason to believe), they wouldn't even believe if someone were to return from the dead (Lk.16:31). In other words, those who don't want to believe adequate evidence will find a way to reject any evidence.

    In any case, whether or not the shroud is legitimate is not that critical to the Christian faith. Even if it were authentic, it would only give additional support for evidence is that is already adequate. It is much more improtant that we understand the evidence that the Bible itself offers. For that reason, I would like to spend a little time considering the evidence for Yah'shua's resurrection listed by the apostle Paul in the 15th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians:

      "I passed on to you what I received, which is of the greatest importance; that Messiah died for our sins, as written in the Scriptures; that He was buried and that He was raised to life three days later, as written in the Scriptures; that He appeared to Peter and then to all twelve apostles. Then He appeared to more than 500 of His followers at once, most of whom are still alive, although some have died. Then He appeared to James, and afterwards to all the apostles. Last of all He apeared also to me - even though I am like someone whose birth was at the wrong time" (1 Cor.15:3-8, TEV).

    I would like you to note that Paul twice emphasises that the death and resurrection of Messiah were "according to the Scriptures".

    Here paul was referring to the Old Testament (OT) prophetic scripture rather than to the New Testament (NT), which was still being compiled. He was saying that the life, death, and resurrection of Yah'shua fulfilled what the OT prophecies predicted about the coming Messiah.

    It is an illustration of the Cinderella Principle: a good fit is evidence of the match. In Cinderella's case, it was a pretty princess and a glass slipper. In this case, it is the NT fulfilment that fits OT prophecies.

    That is not to say that everything happened just the way the Ot Jews thought it would. It didn't. I doubt they ever dreamed that their own sins would cause them to reject the Messiah that had for so long been waiting for.

    Yet, blended into the promise of a coming Messiah was a mysterious vein of prophecy that pictures a suffering servant who would die in their behalf of His people's sins. One example of such a prediction is found in Isaiah 53. There the inspired prophet wrote about a servant who, although innocent of any wrongdoing, would bear the sins of His people in death. This passage is a strikingly accurate prediction of what happened to Yah'shua. In specific language it details a suffering servant who would die for sin and then in some way survive death to see the benefits of His suffering.

    Paul wasn't the only writer to point NT readers back to the OT. Peter did too while preaching to the Jews in Jerusalem. He sought to convince them that the OT intimated the coming Messiah would die and would not be left in the grace (Ac.2:22-47). His argument was subtle - characteristic of the way OT Jews found allusions to the coming Messiah in their Scriptures. Yet, in combination with peter's other comments about how Yah'shua fulfilled the OT predictions of a suffering Messiah, it must have impressed his Jewish listeners. The second chapter of Acts tells us that more than 3,000 converts responded to his message and converted to Yah'shua. They accepted the same argument Paul used in 1 Corinthians 15, that Messiah lived, died, and rose from the grave in a manner that fit what the OT prophets said would happen.

    That brings us to a second line of evidence suggested in Paul's summary, namely evidence that Messiah died.

    Paul said: "Messiah died for our sins...(and) was buried" (1 Cor.15:3-4). That is important! Messiah was not buried alive. The Gospel accounts make that clear. His death was not an accident that left Him lying for a while along some deserted roadway. He did not endure His agony away from the crowds; rather, His death was the centre of the city's attention.

    Furthermore, at the centre of the city's attention, the scene was one of deliberate execution. This was a public execution by soldiers whose lives depended upon their ability to carry out the sentence of death. There were no heroic efforts to save His life. No ambulance was called to rush His body to a trauma centre where it could be placed on life-support systems until vital signs returned.

    The evidence says that Messiah actually died and spent three days in a tomb. His death was confirmed by His executioners, who didn't take any chances but plunged a spear into His side. Then He was carried away, wrapped according to the embalming custom of the day, and placed in a tomb sealed by a heavy rock. The emperor's seal was placed on the tomb to warn grave robbers, and a guard was posted to make sure that no none brash enough to risk his life to steal a dead body would be able to do it.

    All of this is a reminder to us that what happened three days later was not just a physical resuscitation. Yah'shua didn't rally from a non-fatal injury. he was not buried alive. He had died.

    This brings us to a third line of evidence - the evidence of after-death appearances.

    In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul have his greatest emphasis to the evidence that Messiah was seen alive after His death. Here the apostle's arguments remind us that after Messiah's grace was found to be empty, and after His disciples rushed to confirm that the body was missing, he began appearing to both individuals and grouos over a period of forty days. It wasn't just a case of a high-strung person here and there who heard voices in the night, or who woke out of sleep to sense a mysterious presence in the room. It wasn't a rumour or a glimpse of a look-alike in a crowd, or a ghostlike appearance in the trees. The reports were not based on warm feelings, or even cold-blooded feelings, but upon actual pjysical appearances designed to eliminate the possibility of hysteria or hallucinations.

    To Thomas, he showed His scarred hands and feet. Thomas responded with worship as he exclaimed: "My Master and My Elohim (God)!" (Jn.20:24-29).

    It is also important to note Paul's claim that a group of 500 people saw Yah'shua at the same time, and that most were still living at the time he wrote the letter. The implication is that the witnesses were available for questioning. An investigation was possible. Hundreds of eyewitnesses could have been interviewed.

    First-person evidence is what Paul emphasises most in his letter to Corinth. He reviewed for his readers the fact that Yah'shua had appeared to Peter, and then to the twelve apostles, that he was seen by more than 500 people at once, that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles (including an initially sceptical Thomas), and finally by Paul Himself.

    Can you imagine what that would have sounded like to the Corinthians? These were familiar names - names similar to the ones that regularly appear in our own newspapers today. They were well-known persons who were able to give first-hand witness that Israel had mroe than a missing body and an empty grave to deal with. They were able to confirm that the Messiah had risen physically from the dead. His own scarred body was physical proof of His resurrection.

    Finally, there is one more evidence of the resurrection, and this is what I most want to talk about oday - it is the evidence of a changed life.

    Paul's life was changed. After coming face-to-face with the resurrected Messiah, he had become an entirely different person. What we have to realise is that Paul's changed life was evidence that he really believed his own story, and that his story didn't rest on mere philosophy or spiritual insight. His changed life was in response to the realisation that Yah'shua the messiah really was the Son of Elohim, who died voluntarily for our sins and then rose from the dead to prove He was the promised Messiah. Yah'shua's resurrection had truly set Paul free.

    We have looked at the kinds of evidence the faith of Yah'shua rests upon. They are not exhaustive by any means, but they are adequate. They are evidence that can lead the honest enquirer to an intelligent faith. They are much more than the triking phenomenon of the Shroud of Turin.

    Remember: (1) The evidence of the Old Testament Scriptures; (2) the evidence that Yah'shua died; (3) the evidence of the empty tomb and the many appearances of Messiah; and (4) the changed lives of men like the apostle Paul, who did a complete turn-around after he was confronted by the resurrected Messiah.

    PART 2

    Lost causes are real. Look at the record. the sports commentator said the game was unwinnable. The insurance salesman said the car was unrepairable. The doctor said the patient was incurable. The marriage councellor said the relationship was irreconcilable. The educator said the student was unteachable (and I've personally come across a lot of these in my profession!). In each case the outcome seemed predictable. Each is an example of a dead issue. Each case seemed closed.

    A similar situation existed in the early days of the first century. A 33 year-old leader was dead. After a public execution with plenty of witnesses, the body of a young Judahite hope had been disposed of by the authorities according to the burial customs of the day. All that remained was to make sure that grave robbers didn't disturb the final resting place of this 'political nightmare'. By posting a guard at the burial site, officials seemed to have sealed the fate of the Christian cause. Dead messiah's don't leave much of an inheritance.

    But then the unexpected happened! Three days later, enexplainable events began to occur. Rumours began to fly that the grace was empty. A growing number of persons claimed to have seen the Man who had been executed between two thieves. This 'dead issue' was not only alive, but he had become an irrepressible source of everlasting life. And He became the leader of what turned out to be an irrepressible cause.

    Let us now see how the power of this resurrection represents hope for other lost causes and dead issues. Our subject will be the apostle Paul, who in writing about the resurrected Messiah also wrote a lot about his own resurrection from spiritual death. I hope to be able to share with you my testimony that the power that raised Yah'shua from the dead is life-changing, energising, and available to anyone who is willing to accept it on the terms it is given and are willing to be changed by it.

    Paul wrote:

      "The He apeared to James, and afterwards to all the apostles. last of all He appeared also to me - even though i am like someone whose birth was at the wrong time. For I am the least of the apostles - I do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted Elohim's Messianic Community (church). But by Elohim's grace I am what I am, and the grace that He gave me was not without effect. On the contrary, I have worked harder than any of the other apostles, although it was not really my own doing, but Elohim's grace working with me" (1 Cor.15:7-10, TEV).

    The first thing that is apparent from this passage is that resurrection power is life-changing.

    The power of the resurrection to change lives is seen in its ability to change the most unlikely persons. I don't know whether it would be appropriate to liken Paul to someone on the level of a present-day pornographer or mass-murderer. He was, after all, a very religious person. But we still have the realise that as far as Christians of his day were concerned, he must have seemed like the last person in the world you would expect to become a believer.

    Look at his record. While thr first apostles like Peter, James and John were doing everything they could to tell the world that the Messiah Yah'shua had risen from the dead, Paul was doing everything he could to shut them up. He apparently could never forget that he had made little children and women cry, and that he had made grown men groan as a result of being torn from the families they loved and felt responsible for.

    With that background in mind, look around you. Paul's experience should be a reminder that no one is too bad to be changed by Yahweh. No one is too arrogant, too lustful, too alcoholic, too proud, or too spiritually antagonistic to be raised from spiritual death and set free.

    Look at the people you are familiar with. Are they worse than Paul? Are they less likely than he was to accept the Messiah? To be changed from a chief persecutor to chief promoter of the Master Yah'shua the Messiah?

    And this brings us to something else that our text tells us about the power of the resurrection of the Messiah. According to what Paul wrote, the power of the resurrection is not only life-changing, it is also energising.

    Listen carefully to what Paul wrote in verse 10:

      "But by Elohim's grace I am what I am, and the grace that he gave me was not without effect. On the contrary, i have worked harder than any of the other apostles, although it was not really my own doing, but Elohim's grace working with me" (1 Cor.15:10, TEV).

    It is clear that the apostle Paul was talking about more than just a big idea that was motivating him to be a new person. It is also clear that as far as he was concerned, he had not changed himself from being chief persector to becoming chief promoter of the faith of the first believers. Neither had he merely put out more effort than the other apostles before him. On the contrary, he declared that it was Yahweh at work in him that made the difference.

    Does that mean that Paul was completely taken iver by this power? No. No more than you are completely taken over by the petrol/gas in your car's fuel tank. Just because the explosive energy of petrol powers car and driver down the road doesn't mean that the petrol has made the driver any less responsible as a person.

    Something Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14 helps me see the balance that is needed. While the apostle was talking about a right approach to being under the influence of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), he pointed out that "the spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets" (1 Cor.14:32). He said, in effect, a person walking with Yahweh's Ruach does not forfeit self-control. On the contrary, our voluntary submission to the Ruach is what gives Yahweh His real control over our bodies. And it is the Ruach who works in us to make it possible for us to work hard in doing what He wants done.

    This last point - about the work that is energised by the resurrected Messiah - is important. In fact, it is a necessary factor in understanding Paul's experience of Yahweh's strength. He wasn't experiencing the power of Yah'shua's resurrection merely to make a name for himself. The power was not intended to enable him to male a lot of money. On the contrary, he experienced this spiritual enabling in the course of doing what Yahweh wanted him to do.

    YThat brings me to a final point about this source of spiritual strength that changed Paul. resurrection is available to all who are willing to be humbled by the terms on which it is offered. Thus resurrection power becomes available to us too.

    Note that this power was called "grace" in 1 Cor.15:10, the verse we have been discussihng. In aul's mind "grace" was a word that could be used to describe the work and power of the Ruach haQodesh in a person's life.

    But why "grace"? Who not refer to the power of the Ruach haQodesh, or Person of Elohim directly? I think the meaning of the word will help us see why. In a general sense, the word "grace" means 'an undeserved expression of kindness'. Grace, therefore, is any expression of the kindness of Yahweh-Elohim that is given to those who do not deserve it. That involves not only the initial grace of salvation but every other expression of the undeserved help we receive from the Master.

    This is what makes the kind of life-changing, energising power that Paul experienced available to us as well. The fact that we don't deserve it is what qualifies us for it. It is on this unmerited basis that all of us can come to the Master to refceive the help He loves to give - the forgiving, energising help no one has any inherent right to claim.

    Paul had this all-encompassing, undeserved kindness in mind when he wrote verse 10 of 1 Corinthians 15.

    So, do we want to become active, obedient children of Elohim and faithful servants? Do we also want to live and work and love in behalf of the Master? Then what are we waiting for? If we are truly waiting, saying that we don't qualify for forgiveness, or that we can't afford the life-changing power that is necessary, is no excuse. Saying that we haven't earned it and don't deserve it is no excuse. In fact, that's the whole point! These are exactly the terms of undeserved kindness that the Master wants us to take advantage of. On this basis we are invited to come to the resurrected Messiah and find the strength and favour He loves to give.

    But we need to see that we have to receive this grace in the same way and from the same source as Paul. He didn't find it by going through a physical ritual. His father and mother didn't get it for him. His pastor or bishop didn't get it for him. He didnęt even get it by reading his Scriptures daily or taking the Lord's Supper every week or month. A study of his experience, as described by his own letters, shows that he found it through personal faith in Yah'shua. Yes, it was faith - actively trusting - in Yah'shua that enabled him to say that it was by the grace of Elohim that he was what he was, that it was the grace of Elohim that was working so actively in him.

    Having said this do not think that I am saying that we have no need of physical rituals, Scripture study, and so on. All of these are necessary for our spiritual growth and for passage into Messiah's Kingdom. Ultimate salvation is the product of an intimate interrelationship of grace and works [3]. what I am saying is the resurrection power of the sort Paul is describing cannot be purchased by some human works but is the gift of El Elyon, the Most High, to unworthy man.

    Let me encourage you to let the Master make this same grace real to you today. We all need it. As you do, you will find that the power which raised Yah'shua from the dead really is (1) life-changing, (2) an energising power, and (3) an available power. You will find that doing the will of Yahweh (including obeying the commandments, Scripture study, and observing the moedim of Yahweh [4], loving as He wants you to love, amd becoming a spiritually strong person in neither a dead issue nor a hopeless cause. It is possible to the degree that you are open to the power of Yahweh that raised Yah'shua from the dead.

    Perhaps you still don't believe it is enough to change you? Your past is too immoral? Your rpesent too lost in alcohol, or lust, or dishonesty, or laziness? You're too proud, you take too many pills, or you're afraid to take a stand for Yah'shua? I don't know what each of your personal problems are but my own experience tells me that there is one block or another to people receiving an outpouring of Grace from Yahweh. Our problems may even seem innocuous to us, but they may be just big enough to prevent us from experiencing the full power and freedom that Yah'shua so desperately wants us to have.

    We must each, individually, receive Yah'shua into our lives as our personal Saviour and so begin to receive the power of resurrection. We must all be prepared to acknowledge that we are sinners. The Scriptures tell us: "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of Elohim". If we are honest, we willa dmit our sin and guilt - and our helplessness to do anything to improve our situation with Yahweh.

    What can we do? We can begin by admitting that we are sinners. Then we must face squarely that a mortal man cannot please a holy Elohim. Our best will never be good enough to remove the debt of our sin. We need a righteousness that comes outside ourselves - that comes from Elohim Himself.

    We must then acknowledge that Yah'shua's life, death, and resurrection was on our behalf. He left heaven's glory and became man for us. He paid the penalty of sin for you. He died on the cross for you. And He arose from the grave to demonstrate that He had broken sin and death's power for you.

    Finally, you must be obedient to His commandments. Once you have acknowledged your eternal endebtedness to Yah'shua and turned away from your sins, claiming Him as your personal Saviour and claiming the promises He makes to you through the power of His resurrection, you must be baptised by immersion as a token of the remission of your sins and the baptism of the Ruach haQodesh. But even if you have already complied with the divine requirement for baptisms and are baptised into Messiah you still need His ongoing grace.

    If you have not made peace with Elohim then I invite you to do so without delay. It will change your life.

    Endnotes

    [1] To believers it is the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, miraculously marked with his image.

    But the Turin shroud was widely dismissed as a hoax in 1988 when scientific tests found it could not be more than 1,000 years old.

    Now one of the scientists who first studied 12 foot-long sheet has spoken - from beyond the grave - of how he came to believe that it could be genuine.

    A video made shortly before Raymond Rogers died in 2005 has been discovered, in which the U.S. chemist reveals his own tests show the relic to be much older - dating back to between 1,300 and 3,000 years ago.

    Dr Rogers said: 'I don't believe in miracles that defy the laws of nature. After the 1988 investigation I'd given up on the shroud.

    'But now I am coming to the conclusion that it has a very good chance of being the piece of cloth that was used to bury the historic Jesus.'

    He was on the 1978 team that carried out the first in-depth scientific study of the shroud, which examined its underside for the first time in 400 years. After the 1988 carbon dating Dr Rogers was adamant that the robe was nothing more than a medieval hoax.

    But speaking shortly before his death from cancer in 2005, Dr Rogers described how he compared the scrap tested in 1988 with other bits of the cloth.

    He found the 1988 sample was a patch of material woven in to repair the shroud after it was damaged by fire.

    Chemical tests showed that the postage stamp-sized sample contained cotton and had been dyed to match the main shroud, which is made of linen.

    The shroud has been damaged in several fires since it was first discovered in France in 1357 and it is thought to have been repaired by nuns.

    Dr Rogers said: 'The cotton fibres were fairly heavily coated with dye, suggesting they were changed to match the linen during a repair.

    'I concluded that area of the shroud was manipulated by someone with great skill.

    'It consisted of different materials than were used in the shroud itself, so the age we produced was inaccurate. We're darned sure that part of the cloth was not the original shroud of Turin cloth.

    'The radiocarbon sample has completely different chemical properties from the main part of the shroud relic.'

    The 1988 study was coordinated by the British Museum and involved scientists from Oxford University, the U.S. and Switzerland.

    The three institutions worked independently but each concluded the sheet dated to between 1260 and 1390.

    Even the then cardinal of Turin conceded the relic was a hoax, as did Dr Rogers.

    On video he admitted it was 'embarrassing' to have come to agree with those who had vigorously defended its authenticity.

    Last week, evidence was published that the shroud had been secretly guarded by the Knights Templar following the sacking of Byzantium, now Istanbul, in 1204, until it resurfaced in Lirey, France, 150 years later.

    The cloth is kept in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin and will be next publicly displayed in 2010. (Fiona MacRae, Is the Turin Shroud genuine after all? From beyond the grave, a startling new claim)

    [2] New Mysteries of the Shroud Unveiled - Body inside ancient linen 'levitated' while leaving image

    [3] See the series of sermons, Amazing Graces and Free Gifts

    [4] See Moedim of Yahweh

    This page was created on 14 November 2009
    Last updated on 14 November 2009

    Copyright © 1985-2009 NCCG

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