Keeping Our Eyes on the Most Important Thing
Topic: Salvation Passage: 1 Corinthians 15:3–15:4
Grace Community Church
August 12, 2018
Keeping Our Eyes on the Most Important Thing
Good morning! If you’re visiting us this morning, we are glad you’re with us and hope you can stick around for the pig roast at 12pm. We have been going through the OT book of Ruth, but this morning we’re going to take a week off from Ruth and instead turn to 1 Cor. 15:3-4. We will have the verses on the screen so you can follow along that way.
On the evening of December 29, 1972, Eastern Airlines flight 401 was making a routine descent into Miami International Airport when the pilots noticed that the landing gear light wasn’t on. That could mean one of two things: either the landing gear hadn’t deployed (which would be a big problem) or that the light bulb wasn’t working (small problem). The pilots and a crew member spent the next several minutes trying to figure out what the problem was by opening up a floor hatch to try and see whether the landing gear had deployed or not.
Unbeknownst to them, however, was that while they were trying to figure out what that problem was, a far bigger problem was developing. The airplane was slowly descending, to the point that the cockpit alarms started to go off alerting them that the airplane was at a dangerously low altitude but the pilots couldn’t hear the alarm because of all the noise coming in from the floor hatch being open. While they were focused on the light bulb problem, Flight 401 crashed in the Everglades, killing 103 people aboard.
A later investigation determined that the problem was a $12 light bulb had malfunctioned. The report concluded: “Preoccupation with a malfunction of the… landing gear… indicating system distracted the crew's attention from the instruments and allowed the descent to go unnoticed." The pilots got distracted from the most important thing, flying the plane!
If I were to ask you to make a list of the ten most important things in life – do you know what you’d put on that list? Some things come to mind quickly like family, health, maybe being loving and kind to others. But if I asked you to put that list in order of importance, what would be your #1 most important thing? What would be your “fly the plane” priority?
1 Cor. 15 tells us what God says is the most important thing, the top of the list, fly the plane priority that we should keep our eyes on and never be distracted from. “For I delivered to you as of first importance (most important!) what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…”. 1 Cor. 15:3-4
The Apostle Paul says the most important thing is Jesus and what he did on the cross and in the resurrection. He is making the claim that the most important thing in all of human history is Jesus’ death and resurrection. The most important thing in your life and mine is Jesus’ death and resurrection - whether we believe it or not.
But why is that the most important thing? Some might be thinking, that didn’t even make my top ten list, much less the most important thing. Jesus’ death and resurrection is so far removed from my life how can that possibly be the most important thing? I want to share three reasons why Jesus and what he did for us is the most important thing and why, even with all the other important things going on in our lives, we should never, ever lose sight of Jesus and his death and resurrection.
Reason # 1: Jesus’ death and resurrection is the most important thing because it solves our biggest problem
Since we’re doing lists, what would you write if I asked you “what’s the biggest problem you’re facing right now?” what would come to mind? Maybe it’d be financial problems. You just can’t seem to seem to get out of the financial mess you’re in. If you’re having a serious health issue, no doubt that comes right to mind. Or maybe when your #1 problem is a person. A boss that seems to be out to get you. Or a strained relationship with a friend you want to make right but can’t. You might say your biggest problem is you. You don’t like who God made you to be. You wish you were someone else.
For others it might be what I’m going to call “behind closed door” problems. Stuff no one else knows is going on in your life cause you hide it behind closed doors but it’s eating you up alive. Drug or alcohol addictions, sexual immoralities, other sins that no one knows about but have a controlling grip on you.
You might have a totally different thing on your list than what I’ve mentioned. Whatever it is, these are real problems that really affect our lives and saying that Jesus’ death and resurrection solves our biggest problem can seem like religious nonsense. Jesus’ death and resurrection isn’t going to pay my bills or change that prognosis from “malignant” to “benign”. It's not going to heal my relationship with that son or daughter who hasn’t spoken to me in years. It's not going to fill the loneliness in my heart. It's not going to help me stop disliking myself and accept who God made me to be. It can’t deliver me from that behind closed doors addiction.
But stop and consider this one thing for a moment: what if the thing you thought of isn’t the biggest problem in your life, what if it’s just the loudest problem in your life? What if its loudness is distracting you from a much deeper problem? As investigators listened to the recordings of the last minutes in the cockpit of flight 401, they had to pick through a lot of loud noise to get to the most important sound. The cockpit hatch was open so there was the loud sound of rushing wind, but it wasn’t the most important noise. There was a lot of loud talk between the pilots and flight crew, but that wasn’t the most important noise. The most important noise was a very soft click – barely audible on the tape. None of the pilots heard it. Just a quiet click, but it was that click that spelled their doom. You see, as the captain moved out of his seat to look down the hatch, his leg hit the throttle lever just enough to -click!- disengage the auto pilot. Just a quiet click, but the consequences were devastating. Sometimes our loudest problem isn’t our biggest problem.
The Bible is very realistic about the problems we face in life. It’s not interested in denying the very real problems we face. Not at all. But the Bible does give us this incredible insight: all our problems stem from one underlying problem called sin. Sin isn’t just something we do. Sometimes we tend to think of sin as when we steal or commit adultery or kick the dog. We think of things we do - sins. But sin isn’t just about what we do, it’s about what we are. We do wrong things because something is wrong inside of us. We are sinners. Something’s broken inside of us and that’s what breaks everything else in our lives. We can’t get it out of our life just by changing what we do, it’s too intertwined with who we are. I knew a man named Pete who had cancer so the doctors performed surgery to take it out. But when they opened him up, they discovered the cancer had metastasized throughout his body to the point there was no way to remove it. They just had to sow him back up again and he died a short time later. Sin can’t be removed by us doing this or stopping doing that. It’s metastasized throughout us to the point it is through and through all we are. It’s this inner principle of sin that aims our lives downward. We might pull up for a short time, overcome that bad habit or make an improvement here or there, but ultimately our lives are always heading downwards into the swamp of whatever sins have a grip on our hearts. If you don’t believe your auto-pilot is stuck in “descent” try being perfectly good and kind and sinless for a while. Not just on the outside but on the inside too. You can’t do it. And neither can I. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Rom. 3:23.
Our biggest problem is that sin has broken us inside and one day we will have to face God and answer for our sin. The Bible tells us that God is righteous and holy and must judge sin. God can’t allow sin into His presence. So our biggest problem is that we are sinners stuck in perpetual descent and one day we’re going to crash land and then have to face God on Judgment Day. God’s verdict for sin is to be separated from Him and all that is good forever and to be punished for our rebellion against God forever. That’s our biggest – and our longest lasting – problem.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins (vs. 3) Jesus died to pay for our sins so that when we face God on judgment day our sins have already been paid for. Jesus took the punishment our sins deserved so that there is no punishment left for us, only forgiveness. What do we do to receive this forgiveness? Believe in Jesus. That’s our part. Believe that Jesus died for you and you will be saved. God is ready to give forgiveness and eternal life as a gift to all who come to Christ in faith.
Why would God do that? Why would God offer such a gift so freely? That brings us to reason #2:
Reason #2: Jesus’ death and resurrection is the most important thing because it meets our deepest need
God created us with a deep longing and need for relationship, and specifically for relationship with God our Creator. There is a vacuum in each of us that can only be filled by God. The Bible tells us that before Adam and Eve fell in sin God used to walk with them in the cool of the day. It’s a picture of intimacy and friendship. We were created to be friends with God. We were created to love and be loved by God. Like, that’s hard-wired in us so deeply and when sin broke that intimate relationship off, it comes out as this longing that nothing in the world can seem to totally fulfill, this itch that nothing on earth can scratch. You know what I’m talking about – every person has this longing for something that’s like a fleeting memory of something lost. We feel like we can hear the echo just barely, but we can’t ever hear the original sound. We literally spend our lives searching for something we can never get our hands on. We try to fill it with loving relationships with other people, but they are never enough and often go sour too. All the broken relationships in our lives are a by-product of our broken relationship with God.
Our deepest longing is to be known and loved by God. God put that there. And the awesome thing is that God loves us and wants to have that relationship with us too. John 3:16 tells us that the reason Jesus gave his life on the cross was love: God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
I said our deepest longing is to be known and loved. The known part is important because we want to be loved for who we are not just for the image we put up. We are all good at putting up images. But when people love the image we put up, we are always trying to keep the image up out of fear that when they find out who we really are, they will reject us. If someone can know pretty much everything about me and still love me, then I know they really love me. And that’s what we long for. Here’s the awesome thing the Bible tells us about God’s love: with all the billions of people in the world, God knows and loves you personally. He knit you together personally in your mother’s womb. He knows your name. Jesus said God knows the exact number of hairs on your head on any given day. Jesus is telling us that God really, really knows us – intimately and totally knows us – and loves us anyway.
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
God gave His Son so that all who believe would have eternal life. The word “believe” in the gospel of
John means more than just believing something is true the way that we believe that France is a country or that there is a pig roasting just outside these walls. There are people who believe with their heads but it never reaches their hearts. John is talking about a belief that includes our heads and our hearts. When we believe, Jesus’ death on the cross isn’t just something that someone did two thousand years ago – God makes it very personal and very real to our hearts. Faith says, Jesus died for me. God loves me enough to give His Son. We think of Jesus on the cross and we think, God did that for me! God loves me that much!
That kind of faith believes Jesus is not just a Savior, he’s my Savior, and then receives all that comes as a gift from Jesus. Forgiveness. Reconciliation with God. Eternal life. And one other awesome gift: the gift of the Holy Spirit, who comes to live inside of us. God loves us so much and is so committed to us that He takes up residence inside us through the Person of the Holy Spirit. And He begins to empower us to break free from those sins that pointed our lives down in a destructive direction and to enable us to live what Jesus called the abundant life – a better life, a life that soars instead of crashes. When we do sin, the Spirit sets off alarm bells in the form of conviction that warns us we’re going in the wrong direction and we need to turn around. He offers us the power to turn around (repentance).
We don’t have the power to break sin’s hold over us, but the Spirit of God in us does. It doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a process, and though Jesus frees us from the penalty of sin, we’ll never be perfectly free from the presence of sin this side of heaven, but we can experience real freedom from the destructive power of sin in our lives. Jesus’ death and resurrection are the most important thing because it meets our deepest need: a loving relationship with God (which leads to abundant life and healthier relationships with others).
Reason #3: Jesus’ death and resurrection is the most important thing because it gives us the most amazing hope ever
…that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (4)
On the third day Jesus was raised from the dead! Just as the OT scriptures said he would be! That gives us the most amazing hope possible!
When I was 12 years old I went with my family on a vacation to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. I remember the airport had this crazy short runway that had the ocean on one end and a mountain on the other. As we got into the plane and saw that it was headed straight for a mountain we would joke nervously that it had better get off the ground and get some height quickly or it’s going to be a short trip with a very abrupt ending.
Our lives on this planet could be compared to that runway in St. Thomas: whether we live to be 9 years old or 90 years old we live this relatively short span of life on earth between an abrupt beginning and an abrupt ending, and some people believe that’s all there is. When life ends, it ends, and there’s nothing afterward. If that’s true, then the best we can do is try to cram this little runway trip with as much pleasure as possible. As Paul said, “if there is no resurrection, then let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” That’s actually a pretty hopeless motto. It’s like asking the stewardess, any chance I can get an extra bag of peanuts before we hit the mountain?
Jesus the Son of God came to earth as a man, living life on our runway teaching us what God the Father is like, and then at the young age of 33 he hit the mountain at the end of the runway dying a horrible death on the cross. Then his dead body was buried. But the end of the runway wasn’t the end of his life. Jesus was raised on the third day just as the Scriptures said he would be. Jesus rose from the dead in a new and powerful body, what the Bible calls a glorified body. He could eat, but he didn’t need to. He was solid (not a ghost) but he wasn’t limited by time or space. He could never suffer or hurt or experience the pain and limitations of this earth and he could never die again.
Jesus’ resurrection gives us the most amazing hope that there is more beyond this life – in fact way more. In fact, so much more that life doesn’t really begin to soar until after this short little runway. And knowing that this life isn’t all there is frees us up to live this life to the fullest cause we don’t live with the constant fear of the mountain at the end of the runway. Believing in Jesus as our Savior assures us that we will be resurrected too, and have eternal life.
Jesus’ death and resurrection solves our biggest problem: sin. It meets our deepest need. And it gives us the most amazing hope. If Christ is your Savior, be encouraged! Maybe you needed – as I do – to be reminded to keep your eyes on Christ, the most important thing (and Person) in life.
If you’ve never made Jesus your Savior, I urge you to consider him today. He said that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him. Will you come to God through faith in Christ today? The mind might say, “I believe Jesus died on the cross”, faith says, “Jesus died on the cross for me.”
I'm going to pray a prayer - if you have never asked Jesus to be your Savior I invite you to pray it quietly with me.