Now on the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women went to the tomb, taking the aromatic spices they had prepared. ~ Luke 24:1
They found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. ~ Luke 24:2-3
While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood beside them in dazzling attire. The women were terribly frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men (the angels) said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? ~ Luke 24:4-5
Why do you look for the LIVING among the DEAD?
He is not here, but has been raised! Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then the women remembered his words, and when they returned from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. ~ Luke 24:6-9
Why did they look for the living among the dead? Before we frown on Mary and the other women and the disciples who went to the tomb looking for the living among the dead let’s admit, we STILL do that A LOT as human beings don’t we? Like the men and women at the tomb, we too often look for life in dead places, in dead practices, in dead relationships, in dead things. We look for meaning, purpose, adventure, happiness, fulfillment, direction, joy, significance in unhealthy, unhelpful, unlikely, sometimes dead places.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.” – John 10:10
Jesus has laid out a plan for an ABUNDANT life for us. It is a life plan that is overflowing, exceeding and overwhelming with joy and purpose and direction. Yet we routinely choose lesser things. We follow destructive desires, we practice destructive habits, and we pursue destructive relationships in the wrong places at the wrong times for the wrong reasons with the wrong people and all of these choices drive us further away from God and further away from his plan of abundant life for us. The truth is, everyone wants to experience the kind of abundant life Yeshua offered us but we go looking for the living among the dead! We go looking for the fullness of life among the empty things the world has to offer. It’s the same as looking for life in graveyards and so we end up missing out on what God wants to show us in life. We miss out on becoming who God wants us to be in life.
Jesus promised in John seven: “Let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.’” – John 7:38
Wouldn’t you love for that to REALLY be true of YOU spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally every single day? Wouldn’t you love to wake up EVERY morning and feel like you have rivers of living water flowing in you, through you, out of you, infusing you and everything and everyone you care about with power, purpose, energy, direction and joy! YAY GOD?
If you are ready for that say this short prayer out loud after me! “I am ready Lord Jesus! Let Your living water, of abundant life, burst through me, into every arena of my world! Amen!”
I’m not talking about doing just a little one-time sinner’s prayer at the altar where we can feel good that day because we “got saved.” I am talking about a daily dependence, a minute by minute connection to Christ, a close relationship where we actually LIVE like we REALLY believe that the Creator of the universe, LIVES IN US and is roaring like a lion, ready and willing to direct our lives with abundant fullness of purpose and meaning! If you can really embrace and live this one truth it will change your entire life and you will RISE up and live the abundant life Yeshua promised us! If you only take away one thing from my message today, let this be it.
Here it is, THE ONE TRUTH I want to be sure you get today. Let YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD replace YOUR RELIGION ABOUT GOD!
So, why in the world do we, instead, so often look for meaning in empty places, look for life among dead things? Why do we so often seek significance in hollow practices? Why do we block up the channels of the river of life? Why do we dam up the flow of living water and create stagnant ponds inside of us instead? Why do we so often choose our ways instead of God’s ways? Solomon wrote in Proverbs 16:
“There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way that leads to death.” – Proverbs 16:25
I could go on all morning telling stories … but sooner or later, we all know I would eventually get to YOUR story. I will eventually hit on the way you are still looking for the living among the dead. We would eventually hear about the ways that SEEM right to you, maybe the only way you have ever known but its end is the way that leads to death. The death of dreams, the death of joy, the death of meaning, the death of adventure, death of significance. So just insert your story here. Why can’t we see the reality in our lives? Why do we keep looking for the living among the dead? Why do we keep wasting day after day after precious day on lesser things and miss out on the greater things of abundant life that Jesus came to show us and lead us through? The days of a Christ-follower are supposed to be bursting with life, abundant life!
Why don’t we take the hard action steps to break free from the traps, break out of the tombs, leave the cremation urns that bury our lives of joy, purpose, fulfillment, significance? All of us, if we are honest with ourselves today, we admit that we all have disappointments, letdowns, broken dreams, past regrets that haunt us at night when we’re alone. They are the woulda shoulda coulda’s, the tyranny of the oughts and the shoulds that ROB us of the abundant life! I ought to do this. I should have done that. If only I had done this. If only I had not done that.
Missing purpose, missing meaning, missing significance, we often find ourselves not actually living, but simply existing. If we are honest with ourselves, we all desperately want to have abundant life flowing out of our actions and thoughts like fountains made by rivers of living water but the reality is we usually end up looking for the living while surrounded by the dead in a graveyard of missed opportunities, regrets and disappointments.
So eventually, Most people, just GIVE UP. They just settle for less, an ORDINARY life.
They just mark their time and try to numb the pain. So every year, on Easter Sunday they get up, dress up and go to church. The Pastor says: “CHRIST IS RISEN!” And they respond “HE IS RISEN INDEED!” And they (SING) “Up from the Grave He Arose,” and “Amazing Grace” but then they go home, completely unchanged, unfulfilled and they just, truth be told, return to pursuing the same dead things that always leave them feeling empty at the end of the day. Is that true for you? Do you have no experience of an abundant spiritual life at all? No river of abundant life flowing through you at all? Let me ask you a serious question today… Aren’t you tired of that? Aren’t you tired of that? …..Aren’t you tired of empty living? Don’t you long for a life of adventure, significance, abundant purpose, meaning, joy, fulfillment, a life of soaring above the level of mediocrity?
Jesus IS risen! That’s a BIG YAY GOD! That is FANTASTIC NEWS! But what do you DO with that information? What is the NEXT step of YOUR life? Jesus IS risen, but that’s not a new thing! 1,988 years ago, Jesus was risen too! What has happened in you since you FIRST believed that? How have YOU RISEN in your life? Eternal life is given to you by placing your faith in Christ.
I hope you have made that decision at some point in your life, to claim Jesus as the Hero, the Rescuer and Leader of your life. If not, I’ll give you a chance to do that before we finish today. Maybe you have ETERNAL life but are you still missing out on ABUNDANT life? If you are already a follower of Christ don’t make the mistake of being so heavenly-minded that you are no earthly good!
Being a follower of Christ is not just fire insurance. Becoming a Christian is not just about getting a get out of hell free card! It’s not just about riding the glory train to heaven. Following Christ is ALSO all about how you live on earth in THIS life! Letting Christ live through you. Letting Christ love people through you. Bringing the Kingdom of God to your part of the world through you! Being a river of living water to a world that is dying of spiritual thirst! Amen? Unfortunately, instead of always seeking out Jesus’ guidance and wisdom and direction, we often tend to listen to the counterfeiter, the thief, the devil. The Apostle Peter, because of his hard-learned experience in this matter warned us about our enemy. We’ve talked about this recently on Sunday mornings Peter says:
“Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8
The devil does this by tricking us into seeking a happy life in a bigger paycheck, a bigger house, a newer car, a younger lover. He convinces us joy and happiness can be found at the bottom of a bottle or at the end of a joint, or at the end of a meth pipe, or at the bottom of a Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Pint, or through an illicit affair or through a so called “adult” website.
The devil tries to bury us alive with workaholism, or abusive relationships, or people-pleasing needs or co-dependency struggles or through control attempts of anger, resentment, jealousy and gossip. He tries to trap us in a casket, bury us in a tomb, burn us alive to dump the ashes of our misspent life in a cremation urn of bad choices. We find ourselves doomed in a death spiral of self-destructive pursuits, seeking life in behaviors of death. Don’t be misled!
Our ENEMY is ALWAYS prowling around us seeking to DEVOUR us. We will NEVER find fulfillment in life those dead ways! Never! To do so is to look for the living among the dead! We need to know the truth because the truth will set us free! That’s what Jesus told us in John chapter 8.
“Then Jesus said to those Judeans who had believed him, “IF you continue to follow my teaching, you are REALLY my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free… So if the son sets you free, you will be really free.” – John 8:31-32, 36
Four action steps of how you stop looking for the living among the dead and start living the abundant life God really intends you to live.
ACTION STEP #1) FACE THE TRUTH
AA calls it “taking a fearless moral inventory of yourself. Identify all the things in your life, all the misconceptions, misinterpretations, baggage, disappointments, scars, destructive habits, patterns, and toxic relationships that are preventing you from experiencing the abundant life God wants for you. Ask God to help you figure out what those are. Denial is a river in Egypt but it is not a healthy way for you to live your life. King David wrote in Psalm 139:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24
It’s time to take a brutally honest look at all your anxious thoughts and all your offensive ways. It’s time to take inventory of all these dead places, dead habits, dead relationships, dead dreams and dead pursuits that are blocking the river of life that wants to flow from you. Again, you all received two dead body paper dolls when you came in this morning! Hopefully you at home have made some paper dolls of your own. Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to be thinking about at least one thing, one DEAD thing, one dead thought or practice or habit in your life. Maybe a couple of them will come to your mind with equal urgency. That’s okay too.
Prayerfully ask God to search your heart and help you find at least one habit or attitude or pursuit or relationship or mindset that you have that leads to death, leads you away from the abundant life God has planned for you and write it on one of those paper dolls. Maybe for you it is an alcohol problem or a drug problem. Maybe it is workaholism. Maybe you have anger issues. Maybe you have self-hatred issues. Maybe you have a defeatest, pessimistic attitude that keeps you from trying new things. Maybe you are in a relationship where the other person does not cherish you, value you, treat you right. Maybe you are in an immoral physical relationship. Whatever it is for you. Start by praying aloud David’s prayer in Psalm 139.
Search me, God, and know my heart; Put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there is any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way. ~ Psalm 139:23-24
Make that your prayer and listen for the answer of what your #1 way that has SEEMED right to you in the past but you know now, in the end, it leads only to death. Then write it on one of those dead bodies. Maybe there are 2-3 equal ones for you. Face the truth. Because the truth is going to set you free. Just write on one of your dead bodies for now. Don’t put your name on it. Keep it anonymous. Hold onto your other dead body for now. Don’t write anything on it. That one is for you to take home. Keep praying David’s prayer all week and keep adding to the list just between you and God. Where do you need to stop looking for the living among the dead?
ACTION STEP #2) BURY THE DEAD
Let me ask you a question. If you went and saw a movie and it was horrible, I mean it was the worst movie you had ever seen, would you keep going back and paying to see it over and over and over again? Or if you went to a restaurant and your meal gave you food poisoning, would you keep going back to the same restaurant and keep ordering the same food over and over and over again? Of course not. We all agree that would be foolish, a waste of time, money and energy. A waste of life. If you keep doing what you’ve always done then you will always get what you’ve always got. That’s true isn’t it? So let’s stop returning to those anxious thoughts and offensive ways in our lives as well. Let’s stop returning to the ways that used to SEEM right to us but now, with God’s help, we realize they lead only to death. You have the power of God inside of you to change your life! You are not a victim! Stop looking for the living among the dead! You won’t find it ! Abundant life isn’t in the graveyard!
I want you to take that first dead body, the one you wrote your dead things on, fold it in half and I want you to come forward and place it in this Box, in this empty tomb. Dead things had no power over Jesus and they have no power over those who are found in Jesus either. God and me are the only ones that will see these cards. Don’t put your name on it. Once we’ve all done that I am going to shred and then burn all these dead things this week. No one else will ever know what was written on them. Let’s bury the dead. We’ll do it just like this. Here is my dead body with my dead stuff on it. I will not look for the living among the dead. Amen. Will you participate in this with me? Come if you will.
You know, when Jesus was buried in the tomb, He took the power of all our sins into that grave with Him but when he rose again Easter morning, he left the power of sin buried in the ground. And on Easter morning, the tomb was empty! Sin has no power over you if you belong to Jesus! Those things that seemed right to you before, but you realize now, end only in death? They are gone and have no power over you because the tomb is EMPTY!! YAY GOD? YAY GOD! That’s even a WHOOP GLORY moment right there! In addition to telling us to bury the dead the Apostle Paul also reminds us to pursue life. That’s the third action step.
ACTION STEP #3) PURSUE LIFE
Paul writes in Romans 12. “Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
After you weed a garden it’s much easier to see all the good flowers isn’t it? In the same way, once all the dead things are buried, it is much easier to spot the living things isn’t it? Why? Because they are the things that are still moving, still growing. Start pursuing the things of abundant life that Jesus has in mind for you. Start doing the things Jesus calls you to do. Maybe you have had the experience of doing everything you can think of to change your life for the better and it seems like nothing has worked. You still can’t seem to improve your finances. You still can’t seem to get a better job. You still can’t seem to find a long-term, healthy relationship. You still can’t seem to find joy, purpose, direction, fulfillment in your life. Maybe those previous unsuccessful attempts make you feel afraid of trying again because you are afraid you will fail again and experience pain or sadness or disappointment again. You believe nothing will work so that’s what you’ve chosen to do….NOTHING. Nothing will work, so I will do nothing.
In Psychology we refer to that as a state of “Learned Helplessness.” You have literally taught yourself to be helpless and so you never try to change your behavior or your life because you have given up. People say “I’ve tried THOUSANDS of ways to fix this situation in my life and nothing works! So, I give up! I accept that this is just the way it is.” The reality is, you have probably not even tried ten ways to fix the problem yet alone thousands or millions of ways. Thomas Edison found over 6,000 SUCCESSFUL ways to NOT make a light bulb. Colonel Sanders was refused 1,009 times when he tried to get restaurants to sell his chicken before he heard his first yes! Walt Disney was turned down 302 times before he got financing for his dream of creating “The Happiest Place on Earth!” What’s my point? What’s the message? Don’t you quit! Don’t you ever give up! We ALL have problems, disappointments and frustrations in life but its how we deal with our setbacks that will shape our lives more than anything else we do.
Many of you know, 7 and a half years ago I was bankrupt, unemployed and recovering from a catastrophic gasoline burn injury on my hands, face and head and the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that comes with that particular bag of worms. I won’t sugar coat it. Life was looking pretty grim for awhile. Look at my life now! I still have my beautiful bride of 31 years, I have a dream job, serving Jesus, living in a dream location surrounded by awesome people who love me and my wife with all the aloha they can possibly give. My life is BLESSED. But you know what, it was still BLESSED 7.5 years ago too. My circumstances were different but my God was the same! AMEN?
He still loved me! He still had a plan and a purpose for my life even though I confess, I couldn’t always see what it was at the time. Listen to me now, listen, don’t miss this. God is good! All the time! And all the time, God is good! My life and all my goals and hopes and dreams were sitting in a success graveyard 7 years ago but I was able to rise back from the dead because I didn’t fall for the enemy’s trap of looking for the living among the dead. I looked for a new chapter of life through my abundant life gift relationship with Jesus Christ and you can too!
In Ephesians 4:22 Paul said, lay aside the old man. Bury him. But he also said, Be renewed, be reborn, recreated, resurrected, in the spirit of your mind and put on the new man. In other words: PURSUE LIFE. Sometimes you WANT to pursue life and you WANT to change the course of your life but you just aren’t sure where to begin. So what do you do?
ACTION STEP #4) JUST DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING
I’ve shared this many times before. It’s one of my diamond level life lessons. This is massive. Don’t miss this. JUST DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING. JUST TAKE THE NEXT RIGHT STEP. Live Aloha and stay Pono. You don’t have to know the whole future. God knows the future! That’s His job, not yours! You just keep doing the next right thing. Jesus said if we believe IN HIM we will have eternal life and abundant life. Jesus said if we have faith IN HIM rivers of living water will flow out of us and our lives. Paul told us that God has a specific will for our life. He tells us that it is good, well-pleasing and perfect.
Trust all that! Trust that God has already figured out all the really hard stuff for us. So all we have to do is keep asking God “What’s next Lord?” and then take the next step following HIM. We don’t have to get bogged down in massive to do lists and we don’t have to be overwhelmed with conquering ALL the details and discerning all the right chess moves of life. Our God is the Master Chess Player! He is an infinite number of moves ahead of us. All we need to do is take the next right step, do the next right thing and keep trusting and following Christ, one step at a time. Just live Aloha and stay pono.
Let Yeshua speak life into you right now! Stop looking for the living among the dead. It’s time for you to RISE!
Let your relationship with God replace your religion about God!