They are trying their best to hold onto notions about a loving and forgiving God who won't hold us accountable for our sin. They are troubled by the thought of a blood atonement. They want to preserve all that is pleasant, nice and understandable about the Christian faith without affirming the resurrection.

Let me be very frank. I can understand how a person might have difficulty believing in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. But it would appear to me that that same person would ultimately have a hard time believing in their own romanticizing of the faith into spiritual principles void of the divine authority of Scripture.

In fact, it is this denial of the historical facts of the faith that has brought Western European, British and American so-called Christianity into such decline. Take the facts away, and there's nothing left but bland religious platitudes that are the equivalent of putting rouge and lipstick on a corpse.

Approach Three: The resurrection actually happened.

This is what the church has affirmed throughout the past twenty centuries. This is the basis of our faith. The historic teaching of the church is that Jesus Christ literally, physically rose from the dead!

You see, these are the terms of your Christian faith. Paul writes reminding you and me of that which is of first importance. This is an expression of that which God has given to us and that to which we have committed ourselves.

Any legal document has its presuppositions, its contractual understanding. There are basic commitments a person agrees to in a mutual negotiation when called to a new job. You are saying, "I will provide certain specific services in exchange for a particular amount of money and additional benefits that you will give me." These are the facts of life. You know them. You live according to them.

Every time we call a new member to our staff here at St. Andrew's, we have a specific contract signed by both parties. We try to be as specific as possible in terms of position description and in terms of what the church is responsible to provide in return. If someone resigns to accept a call elsewhere, it is clearly understood that those conditions have changed. That person will not continue to receive their paycheck and benefits, as they no longer are on the staff of St. Andrew's. We still love the person. We will remain friends. We hope to see the person with some degree of regularity, but the working relationship has changed. That person's new terms of call are with the new church or institution to which they have accepted a call.

You and I can relate to this, can't we? You and I know that we can't have it both ways. There are basic facts of life, and we have to live with the realities of them. There are basic terms, also, to the Christian faith.

All the sentimental notions in the world cannot change reality. I am either a United States citizen or I am not. My admiration of the Swiss does not make me Swiss. The warm feelings I have when I'm in Scotland do not make me a Scot. There are certain terms of citizenship in any earthly kingdom. And there are certain terms for citizenship in the kingdom of God. God has established that kingdom, and the establishment is based on His very nature, which requires righteousness, justice and even wrath. Sin cannot be dealt with lightly. Some must pay the price of sin. The Bible says that He himself bore our sins in His body on the cross that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. The Bible says that, on the third day, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. That is why Paul, at this strategic point in his letter to the Corinthians, states emphatically in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6: