Straight to the Heart

 
 
 

Why You Should Gather With the Church the Sunday After Easter

This Sunday is Easter Sunday. It’s the day when Christians throughout the world focus particular attention on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s also a Sunday when many people will come to church for the one time of the year. Consequently, churches will invest a lot of time, money, and resources to make Easter Sunday a special time for visitors. But what happens the Sunday after Easter? While Easter Sunday is usually the Sunday of highest attendance for a church, the Sunday after Easter is usually the very opposite. But if we really understand who Jesus is and what the resurrection means, then the Sunday after Easter should be no different than Easter Sunday or any other Sunday of the year. In fact, I would argue that for the Christian, every Sunday is Easter Sunday.

 

The reason I say that every Sunday is Easter Sunday is because from its beginnings the church gathered on the first day of the week, Sunday, to remember Jesus’ resurrection. Consider the historical record as laid out by Richard Bauckham (see R. J. Bauckham, “Lord’s Day”, in From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, ed. D. A. Carson, pages 221-250).  Bauckham’s arguments are carefully made and humbly presented.  At the risk of oversimplification, I want to summarize them in three points:

 

  1. The early church met on the Lord’s Day to commemorate Jesus’ Resurrection (Bauckham, 232-245): All four gospels emphasize Jesus’ resurrection on the first day of the week.  Though it cannot be proven that this was the reason established for Sunday worship, early Christians did connect gathering on the first day of the week with the Lord’s resurrection (Bauckham, 236, 240). Early church history attests to this fact as well (see Didache, Justin Martyr’s, First Apology, chapter 67).

 

  1. By the end of the first century, “Lord’s Day” is seen to be a technical term already in use in reference to the first day of the week/Sunday, the Christian gathering day (Revelation 1:10; see Bauckham, “Lord’s Day,” 222-232).

 

  1. By the middle of the second century, Lord’s Day worship gatherings are the universal practice of the church (Bauckham, “Lord’s Day,” 230).

 

From such evidence, I have come to the conclusion that the Lord’s Day is the chosen gathering day for distinctly Christian worship because it was the day that Jesus rose from the dead. Therefore, every Sunday the church gathers, it remembers and celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. In other words, for Christians who understand who Jesus is and what the resurrection means, every Sunday is Easter Sunday! That means that we should gather again this Sunday to remember and celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.

 

So join us this resurrection Sunday as we confess together that Jesus Christ is risen and has been granted all authority in heaven and on earth. Join us as we humbly submit to His authoritative Word. Join us as we hear testimony of God’s grace this Sunday. Join us as we encourage one another with the good news that Jesus is alive and present with us until He comes again.

 

But make plans now to join us the following Sunday, and every Sunday after that. Join us on the mission to tell others that Jesus is alive, for He is risen. Join us as together we await Jesus’ return to consummate the kingdom of righteousness, justice, and peace that He promised. Join us every Sunday, each Lord’s Day, as we celebrate Easter all over again!

 

Love,


Christ, The Firstfruits of Our Resurrection

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

(1 Corinthians 15:20, ESV)
 

God has put eternity in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). It’s no wonder, then, that we all have questions about life after death. But what do people believe about the afterlife? Atheists believe this life is all there is. If that’s the case, then we should eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. Yet, most people in the world believe in an afterlife. While the religions of the world hold to some kind of heaven or paradise or ultimate reality, those who hold to Eastern views likely believe in reincarnation: a seemingly endless cycle of incarnations until one is finally united with ultimate (spiritual) existence. Because God has put eternity in our hearts, we know that this life is not all there is. Christianity teaches that every person is born a sinner and deserves God’s judgment, which is death. But Christ lived a life pleasing to the Father and died on the cross to receive the penalty for sin that we all owe. On the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead, indicating that He accepted Jesus’ life and death as a substitute life and death for all who believe in Jesus. Through Christ, and only through Christ, all who believe have the hope of eternal life with God.

 

This month gospel churches throughout the world will gather to celebrate the living hope that we have in Jesus. Our hope is that all who believe in Him will also experience the resurrection from the dead, a physical resurrection to eternal life with the triune God. This is what the Old Testament taught (Daniel 12:1-3); this is what Jesus taught (John 5:25-29); and this is what the Jews believed (John 11:23-26). Apparently, some Corinthians denied the reality of the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:12). They did not deny the afterlife altogether; what they rejected was a physical afterlife. They had no place for a resurrected body. It is this denial that Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 15. As we prepare ourselves for Easter this month, let’s remind ourselves of the hope we have in Christ, and let’s equip ourselves to answer skeptic’s questions about resurrection, both Jesus’ and ours.

 

If you deny the resurrection of the dead, then by consequence, you deny Jesus’ resurrection (15:1-19).Paul’s basic argument: If Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, and if you (Corinthians) embraced this gospel, then how can you deny the resurrection of the dead (15:12).  Paul preached the resurrection of Christ as essential to the gospel (15:1-11). To deny the resurrection of the dead is to deny the resurrection of Christ because Christ’s resurrection is the basis for ours. If Christ has not been raised, then there is no hope for the living. We are still in our sins; there is no forgiveness; the gospel and our faith are without basis (15:14-17). Further, if Christ has not been raised, there is no hope for the dead; their bodies are in the ground decaying and nothing more (15:18). If Christ has not been raised, then Christians are the most pitiful people on earth (15:19).

 

But in fact, Christ has been raised, and His resurrection guarantees ours (15:20-28).By faith in Christ we are united with Him in His death, burial and resurrection (15:20-22; cf. Romans 6:1-11). Just as our union with the first Adam brings forth death, so our union with the last Adam brings forth life. However, everything happens in its own order: Christ, the firstfruits of the harvest, then at His coming, the full harvest to come and the resurrection of the dead (15:20, 23). Jesus’ first coming inaugurated the kingdom, the beginning of His reign (15:25-27). At that time Jesus crushed Satan (Genesis 3:15), accomplishing forgiveness of sin for those who believe (Colossians 2:15). Now, Jesus is ruling Lord, crushing His enemies under His feet (Hebrews 2:5-9). When Jesus returns, then comes the end, the final resurrection when death will be defeated (15:24, 26, 28, 54-57).

 

Since Christ has been raised, we have hope!Therefore, UNTIL Christ returns we must live consistently with the knowledge of Jesus’ resurrection (15:29). As we await the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23), our lives must declare this hope! 

 

With the hope of the resurrection, we know that to die is gain(Philippians 1:21). Consequently, we will not fear death, for Christ has defeated sin and death and Satan (Hebrews 2:14-18).

 

With the hope of the resurrection, we know that to live is Christ(Philippians 1:21). Our lives have meaning, purpose in Christ. We will not sit idly by and await the return of Christ. We will be willing to suffer for the sake of the gospel (15:30-32; Philippians 3:7-11). We will press on in pursuing holiness so as not to be ashamed on that day (15:33-34; Philippians 3:12-21).  And we will call all people to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus that they too may share in our hope. What does your life say about what you believe concerning the resurrection of the dead?

 

On April 21, we will gather to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many unchurched and unbelievers are willing to go to church this Easter. Will you make plans to bring someone with you so that they might hear the good news about Jesus and the resurrection hope he offers? After the service, you can continue the conversation over lunch. Let us take advantage of every opportunity the Spirit gives us to tell others about Jesus and his promised kingdom.

 

Love,
 


Help Provide a Welcoming Environment for Our Guests

Greet every saint in Christ Jesus.  The brethren who are with me greet you.  All the saints greet you, . . .
(Philippians 4:21-22)
On Sunday, April 21, we will welcome many visitors to our worship gathering for the very first time. I thank God that High Pointe welcomes visitors with kindness and love each Lord’s Day. Guests notice and usually comment on how loving a fellowship is (or is not) by their willingness to welcome newcomers. Let us praise God for His work among us. Yet, sometimes we get caught up in fellowship with those we know that we may not notice visitors, so let us continue to remind ourselves about the preciousness of others. The following are just some ways we can help our guests feel welcome and at home each Sunday, but especially this coming Easter Sunday.
 
Leave the parking spaces closest to the entrances for our guests and senior adults. We have clearly marked our guest parking area. We ask that our members honor our guests by leaving these spaces open for visitors. For those who are able, we ask that you utilize the farther parking spaces so our senior adults will not have as far to walk. Also, please note that if our parking lot should happen to be wet, then it may be slick, so help one another to the building.
 
Greet everyone you see with a smile whether you know them or not. From the time you step out of your vehicle greet everyone with a friendly smile and tell them how glad you are to see them. Use the time from the parking lot to the pew to get to know one another.
 
Introduce yourself to those you dont know. If you don’t know someone, take the time to greet them and introduce yourself. Make an effort to meet a new person or family each Sunday.
 
Assist those who dont seem to know where they are going. Remember, you may know where everything is, but our guests are not familiar with our facilities. Take time to show them around, and offer to take them to where they need to go.
 
Fill the seats at the front of the sanctuary first when you enter to worship. We all run behind schedule at times for various reasons. Late comers and guests do not like to parade before the entire congregation on their way to find a seat. If we fill the seats up front (and scoot toward the middle), then visitors and late comers can slip in without having to walk in front of the entire congregation.
 
Dont rush off after the service. Instead, take a few minutes to greet visitors. Thank them for attending our services and invite them to come again.
 
Bring your guests to the welcome table in the foyer for a free gift. We have prepared gift bags for our guests, which contain information about our church, a free ESV New Testament, and other free materials. Gift bags are also available in the nursery.
 
Invite visitors to your home for a meal. One of the best ways to get to know someone is to share a meal together. Practice Christian hospitality by inviting someone to eat lunch with you after worship.
 
Invite first time visitors to worship with us again. You will be amazed how much weight a personal invitation carries. Encourage visitors to return and worship with us on a regular Sunday. I thank God for High Pointe and the love and fellowship we share with one another. Right or wrong, visitors will form an opinion about our church within the first few minutes after they arrive. Join me in making every effort to make our guests feel welcome through genuine, Christian hospitality.
 
Love,
 



Juan Sanchez

Juan Sanchez (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as the senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. In addition, Juan serves as a council member of The Gospel Coalition, co-founder and president of Coalición, assistant professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. He has authored numerous books, including 1 Peter for You and Seven Dangers Facing your Church. Juan and his wife, Jeanine, have five daughters, two sons-in-law, and two grandchildren.
 
    

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