Nothing Else Matters!

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1 Corinthians 15:12-20

INTRODUCTION: There are relatively few things in life that ultimately matter. There is a sense in which everything matters, because God is sovereign and Christ is redeeming all of life. But there are also all sorts of things that feel important to you at the time, but you soon forget them. For example, when you are in the middle of a sporting event, it seems as if everything rides on the outcome. But within days of the victory or defeat (sometimes even within hours), you have forgotten all about it and moved on to other things. Or when you are stuck in traffic, it is easy to get upset and lose sight of everything else. But how many of us remember being stuck in traffic even a week later? There is a good rule of thumb I like to apply in my life: if whatever I’m going through won’t matter 1,000 years into eternity, then I really don’t need to spend my time worrying about it now.

Sometimes it takes something really big for us to realize that the smaller things don’t really matter. I think about the college student who wrote home to her parents:

“Dear Mom and Dad,

I just wanted to let you know that I dropped out of school last week. I met these really neat people who asked me to drive across country with them to join a commune. So I emptied out all the funds from the college savings account you put together for me, and I bought a camper instead. I also sold all my clothing, shaved my head, and bought a robe. We arrive at the commune tomorrow where I plan to donate the camper and the rest of my savings to the group leader. They call him “Father Sunshine,” and he seems like a really nice guy. Oh, by the way, nothing I just wrote to you in this letter is true. I am still in college, the money is still in the savings account, and I still have all my hair. However, I did get a D in chemistry for the semester. I hope you won’t be too upset.

Lots of love,

Your daughter.

Well, the resurrection of Christ is one of those big things that puts everything else into perspective. In fact, I would say it is the one big thing that puts everything else into perspective. The fact of Christ’s resurrection affects everything else in life.

I was struck by a quote I read recently by church historian Jaroslav Pelikan (1923-2006). Among the last words he spoke were these: “If Christ is risen, nothing else matters. And if Christ is not risen – nothing else matters.” Isn’t that a great quote? Isn’t that what we celebrate at Easter? Doesn’t that highlight the importance of the resurrection? “If Christ is risen, nothing else matters. And if Christ is not risen – nothing else matters.”

I would like to reflect on this quote Biblically this morning by looking at several key areas that are particularly affected by Christ’s resurrection. We will start by looking at three things that do not matter if Christ is not risen. And then we will look at three things that do not matter because Christ is risen.

I. If Christ is not risen …

So what would no longer matter if Christ were not risen?

    A. Your faith is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:14,17)

Well, first of all, your faith would not matter. In fact, the Bible says if Christ is not risen, then your faith is in vain. Look at 1 Corinthians 15 with me. The apostle Paul is writing about the resurrection and he says:

“If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith … If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:14,17)

Paul was the first to admit it. If Christ has not been raised, his preaching was useless and so is your faith. If Christ has not been raised, then you are still in your sins. You see, Christ’s resurrection was the proof that Jesus died for our sins and that he paid the full price. His resurrection demonstrated that he was in fact the sinless Son of God who came from heaven. When God raised Jesus from the dead, God was putting his stamp of approval on Jesus as his Son and upon Christ’s work of salvation for us on the cross.

But if Jesus was not raised, then his death on the cross was meaningless. If Christ is not risen, that would mean he didn’t really die for our sins; he just died for his own sins. But because Jesus was sinless, because he was God Son, death could not hold him. That’s what the Christian faith is all about. Christ rose from the dead victorious over sin and death. And so if Christ is not risen, then your faith is in vain. We can close the doors to the church and all go home. It doesn’t really matter.

    B. Your hope is hopeless (1 Corinthians 15:18-19)

Another thing that would not matter is your hope for the future. If Christ is not risen, then your hope is hopeless. Look at 1 Corinthians 15 again. If Christ has not been raised,

“Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Corinthians 15:18-19)

The Christian hope is not just that God will give you a better life in this life. The Christian hope is the hope of resurrection. The Christian hope is that there is life beyond the grave, that death does not have the final word. The Christian hope is that our loved ones who die in Christ – we will see them again! What child who has lost their parents doesn’t long to see their parents again? What parent who has lost a child doesn’t long to see their child again? Our hope as Christians is that we will live forever with God and Christ along with our loved ones who have fallen asleep in him.

But if Christ is not risen, then your hope is hopeless! It is all a deception! If Christ is not risen, then your loved ones who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. They have died in their sins, and there is no hope for them. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. If Christ is not risen from the dead, your hope does not matter.

    C. Your life lacks purpose (1 Corinthians 15:30-32)

A third thing that would not matter is your life itself. If Christ is not risen, then your life lacks meaning and purpose. Look at 1 Corinthians again. Paul writes:

And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I die every day — I mean that, brothers — just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Corinthians 15:30-32)

When Paul says he fought wild beasts, he is speaking metaphorically. He did not fight literal wild beasts in Ephesus, but he faced persecution. Paul made many sacrifices for the faith. He took risks. He was put in prison for his faith; he was flogged, beaten, stoned and shipwrecked. He experienced hunger and sleeplessness. Why? Because Christ was risen from the dead! He had a message to share, and the sacrifices were worth it to him because the message was true.

As believers in Christ we also make sacrifices. We choose to reject the short-term pleasures of sin in order to please God. We give sacrificially to God’s kingdom. And when we stand up for Christ, we also face persecution for our faith. Paul wrote, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (1 Timothy 3:12) If Christ is risen, then no sacrifice we make for him can be too great. But if Christ is not risen, then what is the purpose? Why does it matter? If you make all these sacrifices merely for human reasons, what have you gained? Nothing! That’s why Paul says, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.'” (1 Corinthians 15:32)

You see, if Christ is not risen, then nothing really matters anymore. Your faith is in vain; your hope is hopeless; and your life lacks purpose. If Christ is not risen, nothing else matters.

II. If Christ is risen …

But there is another part to the quote. If Christ is risen from the dead, then guess what? Nothing else matters! That’s right. That’s how important Christ’s resurrection is. If Christ is risen indeed, nothing else matters in comparison.

    A. Material gain does not matter (Matthew 6:19-21)

If Christ is risen, material gain does not matter. Life is no longer about possessions and accumulating more and more things. Listen to what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

You see, because Christ has risen, all the rules change. It’s not about he who dies with the most toys wins. So if you don’t have a lot of material things in this life, that’s okay. Be encouraged! There is more to life than this life, and we are to store up treasure in heaven, not earth.

How do you store up treasure in heaven? Jesus said, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42) So how do you store up treasure in heaven? Love and serve God; love and serve your family; love and serve other people. The book of James says, “Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” (James 2:5) Living out our Christian faith is so much more important than having lots of stuff. If Christ is risen, then material gain does not matter.

    B. Your trials do not compare to eternity (2 Corinthians 4:8-9,14,16-18)

If Christ is risen, then the trials we go through here on earth do not matter. Listen to what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed … because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence … Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9,14,16-18)

We all go through hard times in life, and if this life is all there was, then we would feel cheated, discouraged, disheartened. I know some of you are going through trials right now. But God wants to remind you and me that our trials do not compare to eternity. God who raised Jesus from the dead will also raise you and usher you into his presence forever. And therefore we do not lose heart. Why? Because Christ is risen! Yes, the trials we go through here are real and they hurt, but they are light and momentary compared to the eternal glory that awaits us.

    C. To die in Christ is gain (Philippians 1:20-21)

And finally, if Christ is risen, then not even death ultimately matters. Listen to Paul’s words in Philippians 1:

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:20-21)

Paul was not writing these words from the comfort of his home, imagining what it might be like to someday face death. He was in the thick of the battle. He was in prison for his faith and awaiting possible execution. But his main concern was not whether he lived or died, but would Christ be exalted in his life? That’s all that mattered to him. Paul’s attitude reminds me of what one Christian said when he was facing possible death after a heart attack. He said, “If I die, I get to go see my parents. If I live, I get to see my son grow up. Christ is with me, and so either way I win.”

You know, when you get to the point where death doesn’t even matter, you can pretty much handle anything life throws at you. Paul said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Can you say that today and really mean it? “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Why? Because if Christ is risen, then not even death matters anymore.

CONCLUSION: If Christ is risen, nothing else matters. And if Christ is not risen – nothing else matters. People, let me testify to you this morning: Christ is risen. That is the good news of Easter. That is the message that we need to spread far and wide. He is risen! (People respond: “He is risen indeed!”) He is risen! (“He is risen indeed!”) He is risen! (“He is risen indeed!”)

© Ray Fowler

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By Ray Fowler. © Ray Fowler. Website: http://www.rayfowler.org

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