Resurrection Sunday. Today we celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the grave and His victory over death. Because of Christ’s victory, we can all have victory in Him. This is the message that we hear ever year at this time and every year at this time we read of Christ’s resurrection. The message is so clear and so simple, if we are in Christ, we get to experience victory over death. Our sins are forgiven and Christ gives us the eternal life that belongs to those who are in Him. This is the good news of the Gospel! There is nothing we can do to cross from death to life, but Christ offers to carry us. There is a popular illustration that shows the cross bridging the gap for us so that we can cross over into eternal life. I want to make this clear, Christ is not a bridge. He is the one who must carry us if we ever want the hope of salvation. This is the message of Christ’s resurrection.
This message has another side, and it is never a side that we like to talk about. So many often skip over it in the text of Scripture. We must, though, recognize this truth: If life is found in Christ, the only thing that we can find anywhere else is death. Last week we discovered what it is to know God and to be preserved by Christ. What about all those who look to something other than Christ for their success, their salvation, or their satisfaction? What about those who have given themselves to the false gospel of ‘how-to’s’ that we got to talk about last week? If Christ wins the victory, what is to become of the kingdoms of this world?
Revelation 18:1-9 HCSB
After this I saw another angel with great authority coming down from heaven, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. He cried in a mighty voice:
It has fallen,
Babylon the Great has fallen!
She has become a dwelling for demons,
a haunt for every unclean spirit,
a haunt for every unclean bird,
and a haunt for every unclean and despicable beast.
For all the nations have drunk
the wine of her sexual immorality,
which brings wrath.
The kings of the earth
have committed sexual immorality with her,
and the merchants of the earth
have grown wealthy from her excessive luxury.
Then I heard another voice from heaven:
Come out of her, My people,
so that you will not share in her sins
or receive any of her plagues.
For her sins are piled up to heaven,
and God has remembered her crimes.
Pay her back the way she also paid,
and double it according to her works.
In the cup in which she mixed,
mix a double portion for her.
As much as she glorified herself and lived luxuriously,
give her that much torment and grief,
for she says in her heart,
“I sit as a queen;
I am not a widow,
and I will never see grief.”
For this reason her plagues will come in one day —
death and grief and famine.
She will be burned up with fire,
because the Lord God who judges her is mighty.
The kings of the earth who have committed sexual immorality and lived luxuriously with her will weep and mourn over her when they see the smoke of her burning.
Nature of the world
When I served in Oklahoma City, I met a pastor who drove a really nice Camaro. He wore a nice watch and always wore a nice suit. His shoes were always shiny. He looked like an old-school evangelist. I don’t know what he preached or how his congregation felt about his luxurious living, but I do know that it made me very cautious when he was present. My thought was this: we have students in our church whose families cannot afford food, yet this man who claims to serve God in the same community has spent his money so that he can enjoy luxury.
Luxury. Luxury is kind-of a funny word for the Christian. What I am not going to say is that people who claim to be God’s people and who experience great luxury are not saved because that is not what Scripture claims. I do, though, find it interesting that here, when John describes the kingdoms of the world (Babylon) that he describes them as kingdoms of great luxury. His description is that the luxury of Babylon causes the kings of the world (those who are stewarding the world or people) to commit idolatry against God.
We see the same concern for luxury in the lives of the religious people at the point of Christ’s resurrection. In Matthew 28:11-15, in response to Christ’s body being absent from the tomb, some of the Jewish religious leaders bribed the Roman soldiers to tell a lie so that people would not think that Jesus actually rose from the grave. What they were concerned about could be described with one simple term: luxury.
Luxury describes our culture and our society today. We live in a land full of luxuries, and even the poorest of us has more than most people in the world. As of 2015, most people in the world live on less than $10 per day. That is less than $300 per month and less than $3,600 per year. In the United States, most families live on more than $53,000 per year. Those in poverty in the United States live on more than $20,000 on average. We live in a land of luxury compared to the rest of the world. We are so blessed.
Here is what makes the sin of Babylon so detrimental and so serious: the kings of the world commit idolatry with the luxuries of this world. We see John describe it here in Revelation and we see it in the religious leaders’ response to Jesus’ resurrection. They wanted to keep their pride. They wanted to keep their positions. They were concerned with the luxury of authority. They gave into the temptation of committing idolatry with the luxuries of the world.
Now, we might observe the world we live in, and this is probably going to hurt us just a little bit because our luxuries are great. During part of my childhood, my dad (my biological father) provided so well for us. He owned a business. We had a nice house on some land in a rural area. Life was good and we had much because my dad worked hard. My mom and my biological dad are no longer together. I never knew my dad well because he was always working. He cared so much about the luxuries of the world that, though his children had much, they did not have him.
Our pursuing the luxuries of the world can cause us to neglect family. More importantly, our attention is diverted from God when we focus on worldly luxury. Because I want to stay up late and sleep in, I forsake participation in Christ with the local church. Because I feel it is so important to provide physically for my family, I neglect providing for them spiritually. When my attention is even on the smallest luxury in this world, my attention is not on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. By trying to gain for myself, I lose my very soul.
For those of us who are guilty of pursuing any degree of luxury rather than wholly surrendering to King Jesus, there is good news. The world, for luxury’s sake, put Jesus to death. Jesus, for our sake, overcame death!
Nature of Christ’s resurrection
Jesus operated in complete contradiction to worldly luxury. It simply was not something that He was concerned with even in the slightest degree. I think the apostle Paul sums it up nicely in Philippians 2:5-11:
Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,
who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be used for His own advantage.
Instead He emptied Himself
by assuming the form of a slave,
taking on the likeness of men.
And when He had come as a man
in His external form,
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death —
even to death on a cross.
For this reason God highly exalted Him
and gave Him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow —
of those who are in heaven and on earth
and under the earth —
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father (HCSB).
Jesus did not have a vocation; He did not have even a place to lay His head (Luke 9:58, Matthew 8:20). He was homeless and had been forsaken by the world. Yet, He was content. The King of the universe, on whom all people must depend, humbled Himself. There was no luxury. There was no promise of worldly luxury for those who followed Him. In fact it was quite the opposite. In Matthew 19, when we read of the rich young ruler, we learn that the rich young ruler was good according to the religious standards of the world. Jesus said that he lacked one thing: he must sell all of his possessions and give the money to the poor. Then he could have eternal life.
We often will hear that luxury is not a sin, that we should pursue our own comfort, that we are blessed if we have material wealth, that earning lots of money is a good thing, and so we pursue luxury. The pursuit of worldly luxury, according to Christ, is in direct contradiction to having Christ as Lord. Christ sought to give of Himself, yet we have the audacity to claim to follow Christ and still work for personal gain. I thank God for His grace, because if He did not choose to love us in spite of our insufficiencies, our love for luxury would surely kill us.
So I find that if anyone unashamedly pursues luxury, it is evidence that he or she does not know Christ. If anyone knows Christ, he or she is humbled by Christ through sanctification and places the worldly pursuit of luxury aside more and more with time. Christ’s resurrection draws His people to not gain for themselves, but to give to others in the context of the community of faith.
Nature of those in Christ
When Christ brings us to a place, then, when we are more willing to give up the luxuries of this world, then we are being prepared to have a place in His resurrection. Christ gave Himself. When we give ourselves, we are like Christ. Christ won victory, and when we are conformed to Christ’s image, we also win the victory! With this being said, I ask this question: will you deny the luxuries of the world (which will fall in the end) so that you can participate in Christ’s resurrection? For some of us, it means working less so that we might see Christ. For some, it means giving up some sleep in order that we might participate in the community of faith. Christ calls us to simple living; not so that we can benefit mentally or materially, but so that our lives might be lived for His glory. When we do receive material blessings, those blessings are wasted if they are not used for Christ’s name’s sake. He is King and He was raised to prove that! If all we do is celebrate Christ’s resurrection on one holiday, then we do not celebrate Christ’s resurrection at all. We celebrate every day as we deny ourselves and live for Christ in light of what He has done on the cross!