Back to Index

Listen to sermon by clicking here:

New Life
April 11, 1993

1 CORINTHIANS 15:14-22

Spring signals new birth. The hills are green. The trees grow leaves, flowers burst with color, pruned bushes sprout new growth. Easter signals new life, new beginnings, hope for the future and resurrection from death to life. Craig, my youngest son, and I went to Oakland last Monday evening to watch the A’s opening game of the season. There's something very exciting about baseball and Monday's opening game was very exciting. It had just about everything in it—double plays, a runner caught off base, two Detroit Tigers caught standing on the same base, a home run and a Grand Slam home run. And what was a sign of new life was the A’s first home run of the season and the A's first Grand Slam home run was not hit by the old multimillion dollar pros like Mark McGwire, Ruben Sierra or Rickey Henderson. They were hit by new, young, relatively inexperienced newcomers—Troy Neil and Eric Fox. Teams change. Teams may lose their big names like Jose Canseco, but there's new birth, new life. Change and new growth come like spring.

Our church is in for a change. Renea and I are in for big changes. This is my last Easter sermon from this pulpit. New pastors have been appointed and they will be here July 1. In the United Methodist practice, change of pastors happens very quickly. Once the decision is made, the process gets in gear and it moves quickly. Oh, that change and new life might happen in congregations as quickly as ministers are changed! For those of us who love this church, let us be in constant prayer that the changes will bring new birth and new life to our congregation. Renae and I have done our best and we have given our all. In my ten years here, much has been accomplished. Our congregation moved out of crisis into stability. New ministries have developed as we respond to needs. Our church’s ministry has broadened considerably through a Children's Center, creative drama, Samaritan Counseling Center, ministering to the homeless, opportunities for spiritual growth, the Walk to Emmaus, which is a church renewal movement that is even blessing the conference.

Now it is time for phase two. Now it is time for new leadership to work with you to bring new life and growth because new life is what we are all about. New Life is the message and spirit of Easter. My text is 1 Corinthians 15. 22, “For as all die in Adam so all will be made alive in Christ.” New life. A young teacher was appointed head of the department. There were many teachers with much longer tenure that were bypassed. One rejected applicant, quite upset over the appointment, complained to the headmaster that he had many years more experience than this new young department head. The headmaster replied, “In reality you have not had 20 years experience, you’ve had one years experience 20 times over.”

How alive are you? Are you experiencing new life and new growth? During a television interview, an 87 year old woman was asked what things were like in her day—kind of a dumb question. “What were things like in your day?” With a smile the woman replied, “This is my day.” Have you ever pondered on the ridiculous phrase “growing old”? How can you grow old? You can only grow new. A growing plant grows new roots, new branches, new leaves, new flowers. It doesn't grow old leaves and old flowers. You can't grow something old. You can only grow new.

And when you're alive and growing, you grow new. So this is your day. When I went to Dr. Michel for my annual physical, which for me was every three to five years, he took tests and examined me to see how my body is deteriorating. He asked questions to determine how alive or how dead my body is. We usually don't realize what is happening to our bodies because we adjust to what is. I recall when my cousin Joanne was first prescribed glasses. She was 10 years old. We all celebrated with her because she kept saying, “I've never seen that tree before. I’ve never seen those flowers. Well, where did that come from?” A whole new world opened up to her. She experienced new birth and new life because she now could see. How was she to know she was not seeing all that others see until she was examined and it was determined her body needed help. She was a prisoner of bad eyesight.

Similarly with our spirits, as our bodies decline so our spirits can decline, decay, deteriorate and even die. Usually we don't realize what is happening because we adjust to whatever is. If we're lucky, someone who loves us might tell us in honesty, “Hey, your soul is shriveling. You're becoming bitter, depressed and burned out.”

I have an examination for you this morning. Like an annual physical to determine how alive and well functioning is your body, this is a spiritual examination to determine how alive and well is your spirit. Are you ready for the test? If you don't want to take it, close your ears!

Number one. During the past year have you wept with real tears? Have you really laughed, laughed from the belly and laughed so hard that tears rolled down your face? Has your heart beat faster at the sight or sound of beauty? Has your heart warmed within you and overflowed with joy and thanksgiving to God? Did you joyfully and gratefully praise and worship and tell God how great it is to be alive? Do you listen when people are speaking to you, really listen to what they are saying? Or are you waiting for your turn to speak? Are you preparing what you are going to say rather than really listening to what the other person is saying? Have you thought seriously about the fact that someday you are going to die? Have you thought about death? And, is there anyone you know in whose place if one of you had to suffer great pain, you would volunteer yourself? If you answered “No” to all or most of those questions, chances are you are not really alive. You are not really enjoying life. You are not really enjoying the experience of being alive, not really alive spiritually.

How can we grow spiritually? “In Christ all will be made alive.” But how? Let me give you the gospel in the next few minutes, the Gospel in A, B, C, D. You've had the diagnosis;  here is the prescription.  A stands for accept. Accept God's love for you. You are loved by God. How God loves you! God loves you just as you are. God loves you so much it costs Jesus his life. That's how much. Through the death of Jesus, the depth of God's love is revealed. So when you feel unworthy, when you feel hopeless, when you feel rejected, when you feel spiritually dead, look on the cross and accept God's love of you. A is for accept.

B is for believe. Believe in Jesus Christ. Believe that truly He was the Son of God, the ultimate embodiment of the divine energy we call God. Believe in his resurrection. Paul in Romans 10.9 wrote, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” And then the lesson read today from Paul's letter to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 15.17. “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sin.” Easter is the major Christian festival because we celebrate Christ's resurrection from the dead. His physical body became a spiritual body, matter was transformed into spirit. Death is swallowed up in victory. No longer are we confined to this body. No longer are we sentenced to endless repetition of behavior. No longer do we die spiritually. No longer do we grow old. We grow new. We have new life, a new beginning, a new chance. We have life eternal, life victorious! Believe Christ was raised from the dead. Believe that Christ can raise you to a new life.

C is for commit, an ugly word today because few want to commit. They would rather live together than commit. But true life comes from commitment. Commit your life to God; don't just live together. Trust Christ with your life. Trust God enough to believe he raised Jesus from the dead. Trust God enough to live your life belonging to Christ. Trust God enough to live your life in service to God, to be Christ's hands and feet doing God's work. Commit..

D is another ugly word. D is for discipline. Practice the spiritual disciplines to keep your spirit alive, to prevent your soul from decaying, deteriorating and dying. Keep in fellowship with God. Keep in relationship with God and keep it alive and well by practicing the spiritual discipline of prayer.

Secondly, develop a study life. Keep your mind alive and growing. Study the Bible and theology. Come to the Transformation Retreat next weekend. There's a flyer in your bulletin for a fascinating mind stretching experience as we explore a new worldview, replacing the old materialistic scientific worldview that we were taught.

Pray, study and thirdly, become an active part of a church where you learn, fellowship, study, pray and serve with other Christians. A log trying to burn by itself will soon die, but put other logs with that log and it will burn brightly and warmly.

How alive are you? ABCD. Accept God's love. Believe in Christ. Believe he was raised from the dead. Commit your life to Jesus Christ and practice the spiritual disciplines. In Adam we are all dying. Our bodies die. We begin to die as soon as we are born. But in Christ all will be made alive.

How alive are you?

© 1993 Douglas I. Norris