August 23, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (1 Corinthians 15)

Submitted by Daniel K. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

1 Corinthians 15:20-23

·     Why is the resurrection of Jesus not simply an isolated miracle pertaining to him alone? 

The resurrection of Jesus has a universal effect on mankind, because Jesus is the firstfruit of those who have fallen asleep.  Jesus is the second Adam, who reverses the downward spiral that has been started by Adam.  Through Adam, death and sin entered the world.  And through Jesus, resurrection and new life entered.  As I think about the moment of Adam’s sin, I can’t help but think about the profound impact of that moment, where creation itself started to groan as a mere creature dared to rebel against the God of the universe.  It’s hard to fathom the meaning of that moment of sin.  So the moment of Jesus dying on the cross, when he said, “It is done,” is a moment that is likewise and so much more profound.  But not only that, Jesus rose from the dead, proving that the downward spiral of Adam has finally been reversed.  The meaning of that moment of resurrection is truly unfathomable.  Like his description in Romans 5, Apostle Paul here shows how amazing the death and resurrection of Jesus is–not simply in its supernatural quality, but in what that means.

 ·     Contrast the fate of mankind expressed as “in Adam all die” versus “in Christ shall all be made alive.”  In what ways is the immensity of the movement from one fate to the other felt or shown in my life?

The fate of mankind in Adam can be summarized as: death has the final victory.  All things are destroyed by death.

But the fate of mankind in Christ is that God has the final victory, and Jesus has destroyed death.

I think even as I was growing up, I felt the heavy presence of death in my life.  I knew that I was going to die, and I thought at that moment, all things will be destroyed.  All supposed meaning in my life would be just an illusion, because death ends everything, and it has the final victory.  Even at a young age, although I might not have thought explicitly about death, my life was characterized by sudden episodes of panic, realizing that time was carrying me helplessly along toward the end which I didn’t want to think about.  I didn’t see the point in life except to just enjoy the ride.  But when I became a Christian, my destination changed, and therefore my life changed.  Life was no longer an anxiety-filled, futile attempt to grasp at temporary meaning.  I am now headed toward life – not only in terms of my final destination, but I did indeed become “made alive”, in that I now have a reason to live.

1 Corinthians 15:29-32

·     What life philosophy makes the most sense if there is no resurrection, i.e., our lives simply end at death?

Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.  If my life is really nothing more than just a temporary existence, then there really is no purpose to my life except to exist–until, of course, it’s no longer worth it to exist.  If there is nothing after death, then life is just absurd, a cruel joke of this universe that gives me a longing for a transcendent purpose that’s not really there. My purpose just becomes to eat and drink, to enjoy it (or not, it really doesn’t matter anymore).

·     How does Apostle Paul’s life of braving danger and dying “every day” flow from his conviction about the resurrection?

His courage to endure and suffer in this life really does flow from his conviction about heaven and the resurrection, because without it, Apostle Paul himself is clear that his life philosophy would have been hedonism.  What else is there?  But because there is the resurrection, which Jesus, the firstfruit that shows us the destiny of all those who belong to his vine, has shown us, Apostle Paul can endure the difficulties of this life.  I can also see from the resurrection of Jesus (as well as just thinking about my own soul) that life is more than just biological existence.  So I can also join Apostle Paul in suffering for the gospel and die every day.  As I face situations and difficulties that cause me to die to my own agendas, my own desires and my own preferences, my sinful nature can balk and say, “Why am I enduring through this?”  And the answer is the resurrection.  If indeed I am just a chunk of flesh and nothing more, then I don’t have to endure through anything.  I don’t have to be bound by any responsibilities.  I would just do whatever pleases me and appeases me, because there is no reason not to.  But because there is the resurrection, I can endure and die to myself, because this earthly life is not it.  And this is not just regarding my life.  There is the resurrection for everyone, then judgment; so I have to die to myself so that I can steer others away from destruction into a path that leads to life.

So given this link between the reality of resurrection and my ability to endure, that means whenever I feel like “why am I enduring all this?”, I am forgetting Jesus’ resurrection and subscribing to the life philosophy of eating and drinking.  I am acting like a practical atheist, who says this life is nothing more than just animated flesh. I must come back to the reality of the resurrection again and again, so that I will not listen to the voice of comfort.

1 Corinthians 15:58

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

·     Meditate on this verse–the final conclusion of resurrection faith.

·     When do I feel that my labors are in vain?

I can feel that my labors are in vain when I give all that I can to minister to / counsel / disciple someone, and that person turns around and acts as if I never said or did anything.  All that labor that I put into thinking about this person and guiding this person–if that person doesn’t respond, I can feel like all of my labors are in vain.  I can feel like a fool who got all fervent for nothing.

 ·     Reflect on how the resurrection of Jesus, and the resurrection of all who are in Christ, allows me to be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.”

It’s true that the resurrection of Jesus (and therefore my future resurrection) allows me to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, because the resurrection of Jesus shows me what “counts” to God.  When I struggle with feeling like my labors are in vain, I’m mostly responding to the lack of reception or response from the people that I’m ministering to.  When my labor is not received or just ignored, that’s when I can feel like my labor didn’t “count”.  However, I look at Jesus.  Was Jesus received?  Was Jesus’ message received?  He came to his own, but his own did not receive him.  He came with labor of love, but what he got in return was worse than nothing; it was the cross, utter rejection.  Indeed, if the criteria of measuring the worth of labor was its warm reception / recognition, Jesus’ labor was the most useless thing.  No one responded to it, the cross was in fact just foolishness.  But God the Father raised Jesus, demonstrating His pleasure and approval over what Jesus did.  That’s what counts to God.  It shows what criteria God uses to measure something.  Even if I have nothing to show for, even if all my labor only gets me rejection and pain and dismissal, I can be steadfast and abound in the work of the Lord, because Jesus’ resurrection shows me that God counts that as something that is glorious.  It means that my criteria of judging if someone’s labor counts is totally off, because by the same criteria, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross would have been foolish.  But because God raised Jesus, because of the resurrection, I can abound in the work of the Lord and endure, for I know what really counts to God.

Submitted by Ellen K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

1 Corinthians 15:20-23

·     Why is the resurrection of Jesus not simply an isolated miracle pertaining to him alone? 

The resurrection of Jesus is not simply an isolated miracle pertaining to him alone because the express purpose of his coming was to die and be resurrected in order that everyone else could enjoy the peace and the reconciliation with God that it made possible. It does not pertain to him alone because it was Jesus himself who died, not a mere man, whose death would have been powerless to help anyone else.  Similar to the way in which Adam’s sins had a ripple effect upon all of humanity, Jesus, the Son of God himself, is able to have this kind of ripple effect in his redemption power through his death and resurrection.  Only Jesus’ death and resurrection could have the power to do that.

What is amazing to me is that God intended it for all of humanity and that it was planned from the very beginning when sin first entered the world.  That fact testifies to God’s expansive and generous heart–that he is not stingy, or selective or exclusive and does not place preconditions upon us.

 ·     Contrast the fate of mankind expressed as “in Adam all die” versus “in Christ shall all be made alive.”  In what ways is the immensity of the movement from one fate to the other felt or shown in my life?

The fate expressed as “in Adam all die”:

–        There is no hope in that reality because the end result is death.  This leads to a deep sense of futility, no hope in trying anything, an awareness of utter helplessness.

–        There is ultimate condemnation in that fate, where the consequences of sin are still weighing heavily upon us.

–        There is a lot of fear because of the sadness and the hopelessness that comes with death and being separated from those we love as well as a fear of the unknown and having to face the consequences of the life we have lived.

The fate expressed in “in Christ shall all be made alive:”

–        There is hope expressed here because there is an answer to the sense of futility and condemnation and guilt that we feel because of our repeated sins and mistakes and that answer is outside of ourselves, made possible through someone who is much greater and who actually has the power to save us and redeem our sins, failures, and mistakes.

–        We do not need to fear death anymore and the impending judgment that we know we deserve that will come with death.

–        It gives us hope because in these words we realize that we have an advocate, a savior, someone that can rescue us from our dilemma.

–        It gives us hope because it expresses the chance at a new life, being made alive rather than dying in our guilt and shame and burdens.

–        It gives us hope because it is not only for the select few but for ALL and through it we experience the reality of God’s generosity.

The ways in which the immensity of the movement from one fate to the other has been felt and shown in my life is in the way that I can see how the trajectory of my life has changed very starkly, particularly when I stop to think about what kind of person I would have become.  I would have been living for very different things then I do now, throwing myself headlong into my ambitions and devoid of any meaningful relationships, isolated and aloof, cold and fixated on making a career, name and money for myself.  I didn’t care about other people and I didn’t care about relationships but yet at the same time I was craving for some meaningful relationship.  I didn’t know what was good for me but was so convinced that making money and finding a husband would be the answer to all my cravings yet experiencing disappointment time and again and left with a gaping sense of disappointment.  I shudder to think about the lonely, jaded, cynical, dark and bitter person that I would have become–unable to trust anyone, hurting others and myself in my sense of disappointment and cynicism, and very alone.  When I think about the kind of things that I was so convinced would make me happy, I realize how different God’s ways are from mine and that only in Christ could the course of my life have been changed so dramatically.  Reaching out to others seemed like a complete waste of time to me because my outlook on life was totally self-centered and I approached everything from a practical cost-benefit analysis approach.  If it didn’t benefit me, it wasn’t worth my time and efforts.  But here I am “wasting” money on people who are half my age, even taking time off work to help start up a new group, none of which benefit me financially or in any other practical sense.  Through doing these I learn the truth a little more deeply that God’s ways are much higher than mine, that only in Christ can others and I be made alive.

Submitted by Edwin H. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

1 Corinthians 15:20-23

·     Why is the resurrection of Jesus not simply an isolated miracle pertaining to Him alone? 

The resurrection of Jesus is not simply an isolated miracle pertaining to Him alone because He is the hinge on which all Christianity turns.  If there was no resurrection of Christ then there is no meaning to our faith and ultimately no hope for us for we are still living under the shadow of sin and death.  For us who follow Christ, the resurrection reveals the path that we will follow as we follow Christ to both death and then to rise with Him in resurrection.  Christ is the firstfruit, meaning that He is the first to conquer sin and death and rise up victorious and for us who are in Christ, we will also follow in rising up victorious over sin and death because of the fact that we are in Christ.

·     Contrast the fate of mankind expressed as “in Adam all die” versus “in Christ shall all be made alive.”  In what ways is the immensity of the movement from one fate to the other felt or shown in my life?

It goes without saying that we will all die and that death is that specter that hangs over everything we do from the moment we are born.  The frailty of life that we experience sickness, disease, and aging, we see that death is the fate of all mankind.  This fact is all too apparent when I speak with students at SFSU and get to know them and the fact that there is rarely anyone who has not had some personal experience of death in their lives or had close brushes with death.  It is a sad and tragic fate that in Adam we all die and the fear of death and the unknown grips us so that we never enjoy anything in life because it will end in death.  As Solomon as said, it is all a chasing after the wind because death will overtake us all and wipe away all that we love and try to accomplish.  But the fact that those in Christ shall all be made alive means that everything changes now.  The purpose and goal of my life now shifts from trying to make this life as comfortable and fulfilling as possible to a life being prepared for the life to come because of what Christ did.

The immensity of this movement from one fate to the other is shown in my life more in these past few weeks and in the weeks to come more than at any other time.  As we work together as the church to face another academic year, I find myself asking why I am taking time off from work, having meetings to plan various things, and investing time and effort to meet new people?  It is because of this one fact that my life has changed its eternal trajectory from death to life because of Christ that I go out once again.  It is because I want to help others experience what I have experienced in having their fates’ eternally changed.  As we did our annual prayer walk last Saturday through the Berkeley campus, praying for the students, I was reminded of how I entered Berkeley with the thought that I am going to try and make a name for myself and become someone that no one can ignore because I needed to leave some legacy behind.  But after I received Christ my junior year, everything changed for me.  It was no longer the pursuit of my own personal glory, besides the fact that I would never have amounted to anything given how lazy and deluded I was, but now my life became something that I can offer to God out of gratitude.  So as I look at the change that God brought into my life my junior year and how almost 10 years later I am back on the same campus praying for the students that will be arriving, there is such a stark difference in how my life has turned out.  Ten years ago, I would never have bothered to pray for anyone else except for myself and my grades so that I could advance farther in my career and social status in life.  But in contrast to that, I am treading the same paths I used to walk as an undergrad but with a completely different purpose.  I remember how I walked those paths from Campanile down to GPB and how it was filled with frustration at my low grades, sense of falling behind in the rat race, and wondering whether there is any light at the end of this tunnel.  Now as I walk down the very paths and pray, it does strike me at how that one moment when I gave my life to Christ and how it did not seem like much at the time.  Maybe I was expecting the heavens to rip open and the angels to shower down angelic music at my decision but nothing external like that seemed to change.  But I know that there was a change in my outlook on life, on how I related with God and with people.  Now 10 years later I see how what seemed like a small but significant decision in my life became such a big change in my life because God was working each year to where I am today.  So maybe the immensity of the movement from one fate to the other wasn’t immediately felt or shown in my life right away but through this prayer walk, it does become clear that the movement is immense and what God has done is wonderful and good.  I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good and I praise Him for the wonders he has done in my life and will do in the lives of those I am praying for.

1 Corinthians 15:29-32

·     What life philosophy makes the most sense if there is no resurrection, i.e., our lives simply end at death?

The life philosophy that makes the most sense if there is no resurrection and our lives simply end at death is the existentialist’s philosophy of life where it is the self that must now give meaning to life because if death is the final end of our journey through life then what else can give meaning to this short span of years we have?  There is ultimately no transcendent purpose to our lives than to live for our selfish desires, gain as much as we can, live as luxuriously as possible, and get away with as much as we can before death ultimately takes us.  If our lives simply end in death and nothing beyond, then there really is no need to fear authority, and there is no institution, government, or cause that would be worthy to live for because it all ends in death anyways.  So the life philosophy of “eat, drink, and be merry” is the most sensible life philosophy if death is the end and the self is more important than anyone else.  So it makes the most sense that a completely self-centered life is the most sensible one to live if death is the end and nothing I do ultimately matters.

·     How does Apostle Paul’s life of braving danger and dying “every day” flow from his conviction about the resurrection?

Apostle Paul’s life of braving danger and dying “every day” flows from his conviction about the resurrection in how he completely gives his life over for the gospel.  It is Apostle Paul’s conviction that he is earning for himself a crown of glory and a better resurrection that he braves danger and dying “every day”.  It is out of Apostle Paul’s conviction that he endures through all the dangers and can say that he is fighting the good fight and is running the race marked out for him.  Apostle Paul would be insane to live such a life of painful toil and sacrifice if there was no resurrection for him to hope in.  And as Apostle Paul suffers, endures, and braves the dangers more and dying “every day,” the more firm his convictions become regarding the resurrection because he is able to see more clearly than anyone else the hope of heaven and the emptiness of all that the world offers to him.

1 Corinthians 15:58

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 

·     Reflect on how the resurrection of Jesus, and the resurrection of all who are in Christ, allows me to be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” 

The fact that the resurrection of Jesus is true and that there is a resurrection of all who are in Christ, this exhortation to be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” can be possible.  In light of the ways I feel like my labors are in vain, I realize how I am looking for immediate rewards and for there to be fruit from the labor that I put in.  I fail to be steadfast and immovable because I see no immediate outcome from my work, I begin to think that my labor was in vain.  But as I look at how it is not about the results of my labor that matters and that the work I do is bringing me closer to the one I promised to follow, it does give me a new sense of hope and desire in the resurrection to follow.  Or the times I see how my struggle against my pride, selfishness, carelessness, lust, greed, and envy seems to be an uphill battle and the times when my labor against these sins of my seems to be in vain and I fall back into old patterns of sin, I find these words to be particularly comforting and strengthening.  There is the hope of the resurrection and when that day comes, my sins will be no more, and the labor of love that I poured out will reveal to me the people whose lives I had a chance to make an eternal impact and I can confidently say that my labor in the Lord was not in vain.

Personal Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for the incredible fact that you have died on the cross, conquered death, and gave count this victory as mine.  I thank you for that day you rescued me back ten years ago when I was lost and blind to where I was going or what I was doing with my life.  You rescued me from a life of seeking after meaningless pursuits and gave me this wonderful privilege of serving in ministry.  I was once a rebel against you who only sought after cheap thrills in video games, alcohol, and internet but you came into my life and took me from the pits of my own sin and gave me a new reason to live for.  So I recommit my life to you and offer up my time, thoughts, and energies to helping others experience the wonders of your grace that I have gotten to experience over and over again.  Please let me live my life for you and be reminded that my labor in you is never in vain.

Submitted by Jessica Y. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

1 Corinthians 15:29-32

·     What life philosophy makes the most sense if there is no resurrection, i.e., our lives simply end at death?

The life philosophy that makes the most sense if there is no resurrection is to live for maximum pleasure because after you die, your body just decomposes to dirt and it won’t matter how you live your life.  Your life ultimately has no purpose and no meaning, so you wouldn’t have to worry about the consequences because when you die, you cease to exist.  Thus, the smartest thing to do in life would be to make your life as enjoyable as possible while you can.

·     How does Apostle Paul’s life of braving danger and dying “every day” flow from his conviction about the resurrection?

Apostle Paul’s life of braving danger and dying “every day” flows from his conviction about the resurrection because Apostle Paul knows that his physical life is not the end of his existence.  He knows that there is a heaven to look forward to where he will be able to spend eternity with God and in the company of many other saints who have gone before him and are to come after him.  He knows that the sufferings and troubles that he experiences now are temporary and one day he will not have to endure it anymore.  Apostle Paul also knows that he can affect the outcome of those who are not saved yet because he knows that if they will receive the gospel message and receive salvation, they too will enter into heaven with him, just as those who don’t receive the gospel will perish.  This fact must have given him clarity about the purpose of his life and caused him to want to bring as many people into heaven with him as possible.

1 Corinthians 15:58

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 

·     Mediate on this verse—the final conclusion of resurrection faith. 

In this verse, Apostle Paul exhorts the Corinthians to be steady, to be unshaken in their faith, and to give their lives fully to the work of the Lord, which is to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth, because they know that their work in the Lord will not be in vain even if they have nothing to show for their efforts and hard work at the end of their lives.  Since Jesus has conquered death and his resurrection power is available to us when we die, we can endure the hardships, the temptations, the troubles, and the sufferings that we face as a result of our faith.  As a result of Jesus’ resurrection, we have the hope of heaven to look forward to, so the troubles that we face today do not have the final say in our lives.  Jesus has given us victory over death because of what he did on the cross so we no longer have to live in fear of death, but can give our lives freely to serve God and to love people.

As the new academic season is upon us, I was thinking about all that our church does to reach those who do not know Christ. Why do we do this?  It’s because we believe that the resurrection is real and they know that whether or not people know God now matters, so they are making every effort to bring people to come to know God.  They know that all the inconveniences, the sufferings, the fatigue, and the sacrifices they are making now will be worth it when they see the people they worked so hard to share the gospel with finally make that decision to surrender their lives to Christ and are able to experience the same life changing power of the gospel that they experienced.  They know that their labor in the Lord is not in vain because they know that they are affecting people’s eternal destiny and that God is pleased with how they are living their lives.

·     When do I feel that my labors are in vain?

I feel that my labors are in vain when I don’t see the expected results of my efforts.  I tend to be results-oriented and when I try so hard to reach out to someone, getting out of my comfort zone, and trying to love that person the best I can only to see her lose interest in spiritual things and to stop coming out to Bible study causes me to feel like I did all that for nothing.  I also feel like my labors in the Lord are in vain when I’ve been struggling with some particular sin for a long time only to realize that I haven’t really changed much.  It is these times that I feel like, why bother or why keep trying?  My efforts won’t amount to much in the end.

·     Reflect on how the resurrection of Jesus, and the resurrection of all who are in Christ, allows me to be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” 

The resurrection of Jesus, and the resurrection of all who are in Christ, allows me to be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” because I know that in the end all that I endure in this life for the sake of the gospel is temporary.  And knowing that one day, when I am resurrected into a new life with Christ, so will all those who have received the gospel, helps me to endure through the tough times and to remain faithful to God in the end because I know that there is a better reality that awaits me in the future.  The fact that we will be able to spend all of eternity together, fellowshipping with one another, and continuing in the relationships with people who I love for an eternity is something that I look forward to.  Right now, many of us are separated at different church plants and we don’t get to be together, but one day, all of that will change if we remain steadfast to the end.  And as I reach out to new people, I have hope that God can work to bring about salvation in their lives.  Having this hope that one day, their lives will be transformed and they will experience the joy of being set free from the chains of sin and death is something that causes me to keep doing the work of the Lord.

Personal Prayer

Heavenly Father, I thank you that I have the promise of the resurrection to look forward to, that our lives are not purposeless and meaningless.  Because of what Christ has done for all of humanity, my eternal destiny has been altered forever.  I thank you and praise you because you have given us victory over sin and death!  As someone who has been set free, I pray that you would help me to be steadfast and unwavering in my trust in you.  You have given me good and meaningful work to do, working to usher in salvation into people’s lives.  I pray that I would be faithful to the work that you have given me to do, not being so easily defeated when I don’t see any results from my efforts, and trusting that you are still at work in their hearts and that it is you who will work out salvation in their lives.

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