Friday, April 3, 2015

Sermon: Easter (Phil 3:20-21)

The Ultimate Extreme-Makeover (Phil 3:20-21)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2005

Coming from the suburbs of New York City, the only wildlife that I saw as a child were cats, dogs, pigeons, and squirrels. When, on rare occasions, I saw another animal, what immediately came to mind was a fictional character: Yogi Bear, Tony the Tiger, Bulwinkle the Moose. Some times the associations we make as children stay with us as adults.
A man from the city was driving down a country road. Suddenly, a rabbit skipped in front of the car. The man tried to stop but hit the rabbit. He jumped out of his car to check the scene. Seeing the lifeless form, he cried out, "I've killed the Easter bunny!" Another car stopped, and a woman got out to see if she could help. "What's the problem?" she asked. Still sobbing, the man answered, "I've run over the Easter bunny. Now there will be no one to deliver eggs to the children." The woman went back to her car, returned with an aerosol can, and sprayed the motionless rabbit. Immediately, it sprang up, ran into the woods, stopped, and waved back at the man and woman. Then it ran another ten feet, stopped, and waved. It then ran another ten feet, stopped, and waved again. It did this over and over until it was out of sight. Astonished, the man exclaimed, "What is in that can?" Walking back to her car, the woman replied, "It's hare spray.... It revitalizes your hare and adds permanent wave."
While the Easter Bunny has nothing to do with the true meaning of the holiday, the fragile nature of life in this world should make you contemplate the durable nature of life in the next world.

That was the apostle Paul's situation as he sat in a Roman prison, writing a letter to the church he established at Philippi, a city in northern Greece. Three times in the first chapter he mentions his plight, saying, "I am in chains" (vv. 7, 13, 17).1 What has he done to warrant such treatment? Has he been arrested for theft or murder? No, he says, "I am in chains for Christ" (v. 13b) and "for the defense of the gospel" (v. 16b). To make matters worse, there are those back in Asia Minor who oppose Paul and would cause him further grief by taking credit for his missionary efforts.2 He writes,
Phil 1:17 [They] preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.
Despite this unfortunate turn of events, Paul does not despair,3 but his experiences bring his mortality into sharp relief and turn his attention to the prospect of something else.
Phil 1:21 die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body...I do not know! 23b [Yet] I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;
Apart from bringing an end to his current troubles, what advantage is there to being "with Christ?" Paul does not give a detailed answer that question, but what he does say provides us with a glimpse of what lies ahead and offers us encouragement when troubles bring our own mortality into sharp relief. Turn, please, to Phil 3, where Paul explains in v. 20 that by his sacrifice,...

I. Jesus enables our relocation to heaven (Phil 3:20).
Phil 3:20 [O]ur citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,