Devotions

1 Corinthians 15:3-8

Jesus Physically Rose Again & Ascension | Devotion #5: 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
Chuck Lindsey | Reach Pastor

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 NKJV

What if Jesus had never risen from the dead? What I mean is, what if He had come, taught us all that He taught us, showed us all He showed us, even died on the cross, was buried in the tomb, but that was it? What if that was where the story ended? What I am asking is, what if Jesus had not risen from the dead? Would it change anything? Could we just go on as we always have? Does anything change?  

We do not need to guess about this. First Corinthians chapter 15, tells us exactly what it would mean if Jesus did not rise from the dead. It would have been the end of Christianity. It is not an exaggeration to say that Christianity would have been over before it even began! Jesus would have faded into the background of history as any other good man or teacher, and we would not be having this conversation. In short, it would mean that we are not saved, that our sins are not forgiven, and that we have no hope at all!

The denial of the resurrection is nothing new. Following the resurrection, many tried to explain it away or dismiss it altogether. Some suggested that Jesus never actually even died, that He revived (and somehow in His weakened state rolled back a 2-ton stone by Himself and all of His disciples died knowing He was lying). Some suggested that He died, but never actually rose from the dead at all, that the disciples came in the night and stole His body (overpowering the Roman guards and again, each of them dying knowing that the whole thing was a farce). One of the heresies (false doctrine) that was being spread by false teachers in the days of the early church was the idea that Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead physically. These heretics taught that when Christ rose from the dead, He only did so “spiritually.” Most of them also said that He only came “spiritually” teaching that He left no footprints when He walked. The apostle’s (especially Paul) continually fought against these false teachers and their false doctrine. 

In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, Paul dealt with the bodily resurrection of Christ. He said that Jesus Christ not only died and was buried (you can not bury a spirit!) but He also rose from the dead the third day. He said this was all according to the promise of the Scriptures. He does not stop there. What he says next is so important. He says Jesus was seen alive by Peter (Cephas), then by the 12 disciples, and then by over 500 others at one time. Now here is the kicker, Paul says, “They are all still alive! Ask them what they saw! They will tell you.” He goes on and says, “He was seen by His brother James, then by all of the apostles and then, I saw Him myself.” 

Now, it is certainly possible to get a few people to go in together on a lie. But how many are willing to die for what they know is a lie? Christians were being persecuted and killed for saying that Christ was alive. How many would be willing to die knowing it was all a lie? Even if over 500 people were in on the lie, how many of them would have maintained that lie while being persecuted, tortured, and killed for that lie? The answer is very few if any. If it were a lie, it would have eventually been exposed as such and Christianity, and indeed Christ, would have faded into the background of history amid scandal as so many others have.

But we do not have that. We have countless eyewitness Christians with their dying breath proclaiming that He is risen! They are convinced they saw Him alive. They had touched Him. They watched Him as He both rose from the dead and ascended 40 days later into Heaven before their eyes.

John 20:24-29

Jesus Physically Rose Again & Ascension | Devotion #4: John 20:24-29
Caleb Combs | Gathering Pastor

I am an avid sports fan, Okay, sometimes in an unhealthy way, I will watch or play anything. I recently had the opportunity to travel to Israel for a Holy Land experience. One night at the hotel, I found myself watching a game called snooker. It is a version of billiards with some very interesting rules. I googled the rules so I could follow along in the match. Yes, I am that guy. I love the art of competition and sport; it is enthralling. On November 20, 1982, the world experienced one of the greatest plays in the history of sports. It was a college football game between the California Bears and Stanford Cardinals. They were and are still rivals, with each matchup being highly anticipated. The game went back and forth with both teams holding leads in the game. John Elway, the quarterback for Stanford, found himself down two points late in the fourth quarter. He was able to lead his team down the field for a field goal with four seconds left to take the lead and seemingly capture the most important win. The team celebrated because they had just taken down their rival. They poured the Gatorade jug over the head coach and celebrated this incredible victory. However, by rule, there were four seconds left on the clock, and they must kick the ball off to the other team. The announcer, Joe Starkey said, “Only a miracle can save the Bears now!” If you know the situation, you know what happened next. The term “The Play” was coined because the Cal Bears would take the kickoff back for a touchdown. It is one of the craziest plays you will ever see (trust me, if you have not seen it go check it out on YouTube) that included five laterals. The Stanford players, coaches, and even the band came on the field thinking they had won. The California Bears walked away victorious against their greatest rival in one of the biggest turn of events in sports’ history.

This story reminds me of another turn of events in the history of the world, and Cal’s win does not come close to touching it in the level of importance. I am referencing the resurrection and victory of our Savior Jesus Christ. After Jesus died on the cross and paid the debt we owed with His own life; He was put into a tomb. It was a tomb where everyone thought He would stay; His followers even came to put oils and spices on His body. There was no hope; death had won. Jesus’ greatest rival, Satan, began to celebrate his victory. I can just imagine, Satan and his followers celebrating because they had finally defeated Jesus. He was dead, and the story was over. Oh wait, the game was not over. The tomb could not hold Jesus. Death had no victory because Jesus Christ conquered Death, Hell, and the Grave and walked out victorious. When no one else thought there was hope, and the “announcers” said only a miracle can save Him now, that in fact was exactly what happened. It was the greatest comeback in the history of the world, and one I am thankful for every minute of every day.

I mentioned that Jesus’ followers had even given up on Him. It is just like the game between Stanford and Cal. When Stanford seemingly captured the victory in the closing seconds, most fans of Cal began to head home. They “knew” the game was over and there was no hope. The same happened to Jesus’ followers. Many went home dejected and disappointed knowing they had lost. In the days following Jesus’ victory, He would appear to His followers and show them His victory; they were amazed and astonished. One follower, named Thomas was still in disbelief. He saw with his own eyes Satan’s victory and headed home.  

In John 20:24-29 we pick up in the story. “Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.’ Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” Thomas needed to see the victory with His own eyes, and Jesus showed up. The victory Jesus earned is given to us. So may you today truly understand the greatest victory in the history of the world, Jesus Christ! 

Luke 24:5-7

Jesus Physically Rose Again & Ascension | Devotion #3: Luke 24:5-7
Jayson Combs | Family Pastor

Is it all a scam? Did Jesus die and rise from the dead?  This question and its implications are vital for us to consider as believers. For without a literal raising from the dead, all of Christianity is in vain. As Paul states in one of his letters to the early church, our faith is “useless” if Jesus did not rise.

There are many skeptics. Some will say it was an illusion organized by His followers. Others say Jesus did not die on the cross, and therefore He never had to rise from the dead (although Mark chapter 15 tells us Pilate carefully made sure He was dead). Some critics say that Jesus did die, but the disciples kidnapped His body (even though Matthew chapter 27 tells us the tomb was guarded by Roman Soldiers).  Here are a couple of points I think are very helpful when considering Christ’s resurrection.   

First, take time to read Luke chapter 24. You will read about a few ladies traveling to Jesus’ grave on the first day of the week to finish preparing His body for burial.  When the women arrive at the tomb, they find the stone rolled away and the body of Jesus gone. Instead of being excited, they were perplexed and afraid. Immediately, the women left to tell the disciples what they had found. But rather than believing Jesus rose from the dead (as Jesus had claimed He would), the disciples themselves believed the women to be lying. It was not until later when Jesus appeared to the disciples in the Upper Room that they finally believed.

Luke 24:10-11 says, “Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”

Next, the Bible teaches that Jesus spent 40 days on Earth after His resurrection. Acts chapter 1 gives an account of the final interaction between Jesus and His disciples before He ascends to Heaven. Jesus gives the disciples instructions on how to live after He is gone. After the ascension, Scripture reveals the determination and passion of the disciples to live out the call given by Jesus. But the disciples were met with much opposition. In Acts 12:1-3, we read, “Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also.” In this passage, we learn that James, the brother of John (the disciple) was killed for his belief in Christ. Other accounts reveal many were beaten and killed because of their faith in Christ and the resurrection.

Therefore, knowing the disciples were under severe persecution and even martyred for their faith in Christ, there is another question I must ask myself regarding the disciples and the resurrection of Jesus, “Why would the disciples be willing to die for their faith in Jesus if it was just a hoax and He did not really rise from the dead?” In other words, why would the disciples put their lives on the line for something they knew to be a lie? It does not make sense.

Rather, the accounts of the disciples provide compelling evidence that Jesus did rise from the grave, appeared to the disciples, and inspired the disciples to give their lives so that many would come to know Jesus as Messiah.

Personally, you must also consider the questions, “Did Jesus rise?” and “Why would the disciples give their lives for the Christ?” If you believe He rose from the dead, then Jesus is God; and if He is God, He deserves all of our worship and praise. How will you live out your life to glorify and praise Him as our resurrected Messiah? 

Mark 16:1-6

Jesus Physically Rose Again & Ascension | Devotion #2: Mark 16:1-6
James Clouse | Student Pastor

“Where Are You Looking?”

Have you ever had a time where you went to a store looking to find something, and you did not find it? Have you searched for that one ingredient you needed for the one recipe for which you were responsible? In Georgia, we lived in a college town. Most of the time living in a college town was great. It was awesome seeing all the young people walking around, the opportunities for ministry were limitless, the excitement in the city was great (most of the time). The time where it was not so great was the move-in weekend. The grocery store shelves were empty during this time. You could not walk into the grocery store and get your whole list of things you needed; it was next to impossible. But if I went to the grocery store in the town over I could get what I needed. Before, I was just looking in the wrong place.

In Mark, we read a story of Mary Magdalene and some other women going to the tomb of Jesus. They get there to see that the stone had been removed from in front of the tomb. Mark 16:1-6 says, 

“When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?’ And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.’”

Jesus has risen! Mary and the other women had not known that this had happened. They came to the tomb expecting to see Jesus. However, when they got there, the body was gone. I love the exact words the angel uses when he says, “He has risen; He is not here.” He is telling them that they are looking in the wrong place for Jesus. He is no longer in the grave but has risen from the grave. 

People of our world often look for salvation in the wrong places. They look for salvation in drugs, sex, money, success, or alcohol. Let me tell you, if you are looking for salvation in those things then you are looking in the wrong place. There is only one place you can find salvation, and that is in the name of Christ Jesus, who has risen from the grave for you and me.

1 Thessalonians 4:14

Jesus Physically Rose Again & Ascension | Devotion #1: 1 Thessalonians 4:14
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

He Came Back 

Jesus was there at creation. Jesus looked upon humanity after sin came into the world. Jesus watched as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived out their covenants. Jesus watched as Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Jesus watched as David defeated Goliath. Jesus watched as Solomon made Israel the strongest nation in the world. Jesus watched as Babylon and Assyria sacked Judah and Israel. Jesus watched as the remnant came back to rebuild their kingdom. Jesus watched all those moments in history happen until the day He came to be born. Jesus died on the cross. Jesus fulfilled God’s will. Jesus paid the price that we could not pay ourselves. All of that is worthy of what an amazing God has done for us, but the crown jewel of all of the acts of Jesus is that He rose again.

1 Thessalonians 4:14 says, “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again.” It is a factual statement. It is as factual to say that Jesus rose from the dead as it is to say that water is wet. There has never been any historical document that has ever disproved the fact that Jesus rose from the grave. There has never been a movement against Christ that has ever buried, derailed, or slowed down the amazing truth that Jesus rose again. There has never been a king, dictator, ideology, or philosophy that has been able to rule over the fact that Jesus rose from the grave. The truest statement that we can say is that Jesus did, in fact, die and He did, in fact, rise from the grave.

We live in a society that only likes to reason in the physical realm. We no longer believe history as fact but as a narrative to those who win. We live in a world where on July 21, 1969, everyone woke up and everyone was in awe of the fact that on the previous day man just landed on the moon. Fast-forward thirty years and people now believe that it was a hoax.  We live in a world where despite the fact there has never been any document that disproved Jesus’ resurrection, 2000 years after this amazing event people believe it was just a story for the weak-minded. Every Christian should know and preach every day that “He has risen!”

We as Christ followers must make sure that the resurrection is at the cornerstone of our relationship. We are meant to live our lives in constant identification to the fact that our Savior rose again. The significance of the resurrection from death to life is shown in our lives of dying to our former self and rising to newness of life. Take a moment today and figure out how you show the world that you have the power of the resurrection living inside of you. 



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