Sunrise Service at White Haven Memorial Park – Sermon notes

It has been our privilege at ECF to preside at a 7am Sunrise Service each year at White Haven Memorial Park – for over 30 years. We are always grateful for this opportunity which is advertised locally, as we always get many visitors in this public venue. It is a wonderful opportunity to preach the Gospel to a crowd outside our normal circle.  The picture below is from their brochure, showing the chapel they supply for community event. The Chapel entrance faces east, and when the sun rises and streams through the windows and the stained glass, it is magnificent to see while preaching and worshiping with so many.

Young business couple working on laptop

Below are the notes I preached from for this service.


Easter Sunday

White Haven Memorial Park

Philippians 3:8-11


The material facts surrounding Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection are not hard to establish.

A number of books have been written by legal experts demonstrating that those facts would be conclusive even in a court of law.

We have the eye witness accounts of Matthew in his Gospel, and that of John in his.

The Gospel of Mark we now know was Peter’s account of the facts, written down by Mark.

Luke’s Gospel goes even further, as he writes at the beginning of his Gospel: Luke 1:1–4 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

These positive eye witnesses on the one side, and the absence of contrary witnesses on the other – come together to form a powerful basis upon which to establish the historical veracity of it all.

This is so compelling, that the Apostle Paul, nearly 30 years later, when on trial himself, can say before Agrippa the King – Acts 26:26 “For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.”

But merely knowing the material facts about things, does not guarantee that we have the benefit of them.

If someone is ravaged by a life threatening disease, they are not made well simply by knowing the material facts about a medicine that can cure them.

They may believe with all their heart that this medicine is real, and is a proven cure and would in fact cure them – but until they actually have the medicine administered to them – unless they take personal advantage of it – the facts mean nothing at all.

And so it is with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We may be fully acquainted with all of the material facts surrounding Jesus’ life, death, burial and resurrection – and still be none the better for it.

We may believe the facts as given, of His virgin birth, of His being both fully God and fully man – of His substitutionary death on the cross and especially of His resurrection and ascension which we are gathered here today to celebrate – and still be lost in our sins.

Merely knowing the facts doesn’t mean we have truly trusted in Christ and His saving work, personally.

This is the issue behind the Apostle Paul’s words in his letter to the Church at the city of Philippi: 3:8–11 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Now here, the Apostle makes very clear what it is he is after, and how it is to be obtained.

What is he after? He enumerates it like this:

  1. (8-9a) That I may gain Christ and be found IN Him.
  2. (9b) Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.
  3. (10) That I may KNOW Him. (Experientially)
  4. (10) And the power of His resurrection. (Justification) Romans 4:25 [Jesus] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. That we might be counted righteous in God’s eyes.
  5. (10) And may share in His sufferings.
  6. Persecution for His name
  7. Struggle against sin
  8. Crucified WITH Him
  9. (10) Becoming like Him in His death (dying to the power of sin)
  10. (11) That by any means possible, I may attain the resurrection of the dead. (I want to be raised up to dwell with God as Jesus did).

And how did Paul hope to have all of this?

He answers that in vs. 8 “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

I count everything else that I once invested my life in as nothing but rubbish, so that I can KNOW HIM – that I might gain Christ.

What exactly did that mean for the Apostle?

I forget all about my Jewish heritage – that buys me nothing.

I forget all about my religious heritage – that buys me nothing either.

I forget all about any thoughts of being a good person in myself – righteousness had “by the law” through being a good man. For that I have to see as worthless too.

In order that in giving up any other hope of finding right standing with God – I give myself completely to knowing Jesus Christ experientially.

And having faith in His death, burial and resurrection as having taken the penalty due to me on the Cross, and becoming so one with Him by faith, that in His death for sin, I was crucified too, and that in His resurrection, I am justified before God.

I put all of my eggs in this one basket – being joined to Christ Jesus by faith.

And in that alone – in HIM alone is my salvation – and the hope of being raised up to eternal life on the final day.

All of this – every spiritual good – is found only IN Christ Jesus – and I will give up trust in any and every other thing – so that I may have Him and Him alone. For as Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost: Acts 4:12 “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

This is the glory of Easter – Beholding the Lamb of God, slain for our sins – and raised for our justification. Raised up to prove the sacrifice was accepted and those in Jesus have full forgiveness of sin, and His own everlasting life.

So as Jesus Himself prayed in John 17: John 17:1–3 “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

So I ask you today – do YOU know Him?

Not merely the material facts about Him – do you KNOW Him?

Have you met Him?

This, is THE great question isn’t it?

Do YOU know Him?

Not simply – do you know God exists? – everyone knows that, even those who deny it (Rom. 1:18-23).

And not – do you merely have some acquaintance with Him? Nicodemus, the Rich Young Ruler and a thousand others could claim that.

Not – do you have some true relationship to Him? Jesus’ unbelieving brothers were no different.

Not – do you consider yourself His disciple? Judas was truly a disciple and one of His chosen apostles.

Not – do you know Christ as God in human flesh? For the devils themselves know that much.

To KNOW God in that it is eternal life, is to know Him such that the wretchedness of this world’s and your own sin are shameful, rebellious and completely “other”, and that He is so perfect and infinitely lovely in every way, that your heart longs after Him and seeks Him and delights in Him.

Do you love Him so as to love nothing else as much?

Do you know Him so that He captivates your heart and mind?

Do you love Him with a constant longing to love Him more and to have others see Him and love Him too?

Do you love Him so as to want to make His glories known?

Do you know His glories such that every glimpse makes you want more?

Do you know Him so that Heaven is to be with Him and to know Him fully?

Do you know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent – in mercy and grace to be the propitiation for your sins?

Do you know Him?

Have you believed upon Him and been joined to Him by faith so that you are included in His death, burial and resurrection?

You can today. That is the glory of the Gospel. Moving from mere facts to genuine, saving faith.

Forsaking all other hope or means of being good enough for God – and having Christ’s own goodness put on your account, by trusting Him and Him alone. Coming to know Him by faith.

He is RISEN! And all those in Him – will rise again too – to the eternal life that is in Him.    HE IS RISEN!

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