Living the Resurrection Life as the Body of Christ

reposted from DEDICATED

 

By Anne Jeffers, Assistant Professor of Ministries

How do you say the last goodbye to your 16-year-old granddaughter?  Where do you find hope as you stand by your mother’s fresh grave? As I reflect on these and other life changing questions I’ve faced, I realize the answers are found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And yet, despite its profound impact, we as Christians rarely give it the attention it deserves.

As followers of Jesus, we know that His death paid the penalty for our sin. He was, and is, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world. We speak often of His death, but not too often do we speak of the resurrection—at least not until Easter rolls around.

Author Eugene Peterson observes, “It is interesting that the world has had very little success in commercializing Easter—turning it into a commodity—as it has Christmas. If we can’t in our phrase ‘get a handle on it’ or use it, we soon lose interest. But resurrection is not available for our use. It’s exclusively God’s operation.”[1]

During this Easter season, I believe it is important to ask, “What does it mean to me personally that Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, died and rose again?  And, how does it affect the way I live, each and every day?”

The apostle Paul declared the resurrection to be of utmost importance. “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved … For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor. 15:1-4) In verse 14, Paul goes on to say that if there is no resurrection, then our preaching is vain and so is our faith. We need the resurrection. Verse 19 states, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”

The resurrection impacts our faith both now and for eternity.  Through it, the Lord offers assurance of His promises, hope to dispel the fear of death, and power beyond ourselves.

 

Assurance that God keeps His promises

The reality of the resurrection proves that God keeps His promises. Jesus had explained that when He died, He would rise again. He would not stay in the tomb. In Matt. 12:40 He said, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” He kept that promise. Friends and family may not live up to what they have promised, but I can have confidence in the Lord. His resurrection means I can face the future with assurance, knowing He keeps His Word.

I find it interesting that although Jesus told His followers He would rise again, they did not understand, and perhaps did not believe, it was possible. The women who came early that first day of the week found the tomb empty of His body and inhabited by dazzling angels.  The angels reminded them of Jesus’ words, “He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered His words.” (Luke 24:5b-8)

The story continues in verses 9-10. “When they (the women) came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the eleven and to all the others … but they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.”

It’s easy to question the disciples’ faith and wonder why they didn’t believe what Jesus told them, but I think most of us experience similar doubts and questions.  Even after we’ve followed Christ for many years, and studied the promises of Scripture over and over again, we still struggle with fear and anxiety. But the resurrection clearly demonstrates that the Lord does keep His promises, and we are to believe Him.

Jesus also showed this truth through His interaction with Mary and Martha in Luke 11:17-44.  When they had lost their beloved brother Lazarus to death and were weeping in sorrow, Jesus came to them, sharing in their grief with His own tears and reminding them that death was not the end. Martha was upset that He had not come sooner and said, “Lord … if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus responded, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha, who knew the Scriptures, replied, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha responded, “Yes Lord.” What a promise and what a consolation Jesus gave her. He then acted on the promise, and raised Lazarus from the tomb.

 

Hope to dispel the fear of death

The reality of Jesus’ declaration was cemented in my heart on an unseasonably cold January day in Kentucky some forty years ago. Several inches of snow covered every marker in the church cemetery. Due to the frigid weather, our circle of relatives and friends was fairly small.  But our immediate family—including my dad—stood at my mother’s grave awaiting the final words.  The comfort expressed by Jesus to Martha rang out as my brother-in-law proclaimed the Scripture noted above, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.”

I often wonder how people who do not have hope in Jesus Christ stand by the grave of a loved one without the hope that only He can give. For me, the confidence that He lives and we, too, shall live means I can face whatever comes, no matter how painful or devastating it may be.  I am confident of the words of Bill Gaither’s classic song, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know who holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.”[2]

The truth of the resurrection means I do not need to fear death. It is not the end. There is much more beyond this life. Heb. 2:14-15 tells us that through Christ’s sacrifice, He destroyed the one who holds the power of death and frees those “ … who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”  The fear of death is a paralyzing fear, hindering each of us from living fully and freely.

 

Power beyond ourselves

The resurrection also means that the power used to raise Jesus from the dead is available to us. In Eph.1:19-20 Paul prayed that we might know, “… His incomparably great power for us who believe … like the working of His mighty strength which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him in the heavenly realms.” In their book, Experiencing the Resurrection, authors Henry and Melvin Blackaby state,

The resurrection is the best and clearest demonstration of an astounding power that comes from God’s presence. That is the power that gave new life to Jesus once He had been publicly crucified and had His physical life taken from Him. Life is the essential nature of resurrection power that comes from God’s presence. The same is true today … and God has placed this exact same power within every believer. He intends to bring life through those who have come to abundant life in Christ.[3]

In Phil. 3:10 the apostle Paul said, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings …” Are you and I experiencing the resurrection, or are we living defeated lives? I am with the apostle Paul in this. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, even if it leads through the fellowship of His suffering.

 

Strength amid suffering and loss

Even Job, who suffered more than anyone I know or have known, seemed to have had some understanding of the resurrection. He said, “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes—I, and not another.” (Job 19:25-27a)

I personally witnessed an amazing example of resurrection hope in the midst of suffering through my precious granddaughter Jessica. When she was a sophomore in high school, she began to experience some tiredness and pain. She was a healthy teen who had not been to her pediatrician for a long time, so her mother took her to the doctor. When they received the call with results of her examination, the news was devastating. Jessica had acute lymphocytic leukemia. The prognosis was not good.

At the time of her diagnosis in May, Jessica was raising funds for a summer mission trip to Mexico. She continued with her plans, even as she began treatment at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon. The treatment was effective and she went into remission very quickly, while still making regular trips to the hospital for tests and continuing therapy. As summer approached, however, she suddenly began having problems again and was admitted for medical care. Her immune system had been drastically compromised, resulting in an infection which swept through her body and was resistant to antibiotics.

When Jessica was diagnosed with leukemia, she knew that death was a possibility. She had to face the prospect that at age fifteen, her life might be cut short. Yet the hope of resurrection was clear in her testimony, as expressed in the Oct. 13, 1995, entry of her journal:

God is in control of all things!

He has a plan for me that is being carried out as I write this.

Angels are watching over me.

What have I to fear? Death?

That is only one more step to HEAVEN!

GOD IS IN CONTROL!

Jessica’s struggle with leukemia lasted eleven months. Finally, after eleven days in pediatric intensive care, the doctors said nothing more could be done. She was disconnected from all life support, and at age sixteen, her earthly life ended. The date was April 5, her mother’s birthday. It was Good Friday.

The tears we shed while we stood around Jessica’s hospital bed as she departed this life did not ease the pain.  But through it all, the promise of the resurrection was real. Good Friday was not the end.  Hallelujah. Yes, we grieved when Jessica’s earthly life ended, but not as those who have no hope. (1 Thess. 4:13) The promise of Easter and the resurrection of the Savior gave us hope.

 

Resurrection reflections

Maybe our lack of attention to the resurrection is due to the fact that getting there requires going through death and the grave.  The road to Easter must go through Good Friday, and it does.  I like how author Billy Sprague says it:

Life is a journey toward eternal delight. It is a bittersweet recipe for a delicious future that first requires crushing, sacrifice and dying  … We are being turned and blended, prepared for eternity with our Maker in whose presence is a fountain of endless pleasures. And in that place no one goes away unsatisfied, grows fat, old, or weary of sweet perfection. There will be a reunion of loved ones.[4]

In its final pages, the Bible leaves us with a picture of resurrection, “ … God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  (Rev. 21:3b-4)

As I reflect on the question I asked early in this article, how the resurrection affects the way I live my life, I realize the answer is in my granddaughter’s journal. To quote Jessica, “What have I to fear?”


[1] Eugene Peterson, Living the Resurrection (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006), 13.

[2] William and Gloria Gaither, “Because He Lives,” Words and music, 1971.

[3] Henry and Melvin Blackaby, Experiencing the Resurrection (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books, 2008), 149.

[4] Billy Sprague, Ice Cream as a Clue to the Universe (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2000), 18.

Advertisements

This is one of my favorite stories in the NT retold by Michael Kelly in his blog FORWARD PROGRESS. -STEVE

by Michael Kelly

Let me tell you a story.

A long time ago, there was a man named Onesimus who found himself in a less than desirable life situation. He was, in fact, a slave, and not a very good one at that. It’s true that in the Roman Empire, slavery was much different than the institution we think of today. Far less brutalized, that what happens in the world today, Onesimus was more like an indentured servant and didn’t suffer nearly as much of the horrible treatment rightfully thought of in this century in terms of slaves and masters.

Especially not given that Philemon, Onesimus’ master, was a Christian. A beloved and generous brother, according to Paul.

Onesimus had run away, most scholars believing his running was because he had stolen something from his master. At some point in his running, had come to know the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was dramatically and permanently changed, and now was with Paul. And this is where we find the counter to some of our own misunderstanding of the implications of the gospel:

Paul was sending Onesimus back. Back to slavery. Back to his master. Back to face whatever consequences there would be for his escape.

There’s the rub, because isn’t there part of you that pushes back against Paul’s decision? Isn’t there part of you that says, “But Paul! He is a Christian now! Shouldn’t he be free because of his life change?”

For that matter, isn’t there part of us that thinks the same thing, that the gospel should free us from the consequences of our sin? That all will be forgiven, our slate cleaned, and a fresh start extended by all?

In a sense, that’s exactly what happens. The gospel frees us from the eternal consequence of sin. No longer are we staring down the barrel of the just wrath of God given to us rightfully for our willful rebellion. That punishment has been laid upon the back of Jesus Christ – case closed. But there are a host of other consequences that the gospel doesn’t free you from.

Onesimus had to go back. He had to own his sin. He had to deal with the implications of what he had done.

The gospel doesn’t free you from these consequences; instead, it enables you to stand under those consequences. The gospel enables you to fully own your sin because Christ has already fully owned it. Onesimus could go back to Philemon without justification for his actions, without trite explanations, without the blame shifting and focus averting spirit that is so tempting.

Instead, the gospel enables to go to those against whom we have sinned and simply own it. Stand under it. Accept the consequence with honor and courage.

In other words, the gospel empowers us to simply say, “I’m sorry.”

“I was wrong.”

“I have sinned against God and against you.”

“Forgive me, please.”

Jesus has freed us not only from the eternal consequence of sin, but the earthly need of justification. We can own our consequences because He has already owned our sin. So be it.

BY STEVE DUNN

My teenage years were lived out in the Sixties.  It was a highly skeptical age and often quite hostile to faith.  In fact, many persons I knew in those days called themselves atheists or they bought into the philosophical position of one Karl Marx who declared “Religion is the opiate of the people.”  Persons who had a faith, especially if it carried a strong affirmation of the reality of the supernatural, were considered ignorant, naive, or perhaps even dangerous. In the academic world it was a badge of honor to deny that humanity had a spiritual side.  The spiritual side was considered an impediment or an opponent of becoming fully enlightened and fully human.

“I’m just hungry for God.” – Austin Young

Yet as humanity has turned on the hinge of history and moved beyond the narrow framework of the Twentieth Century, we have once again accepted the truth found in the New Testament that healthy humanity acknowledges its spiritual nature.

“Oh, I am a spiritual person” is a proud claim by so many; including those of the emerging teenage generations.

Spiritual is not synonymous with Christian, but it is a common ground for once again introducing people to the “Truth that sets us free.”

Blaise Pascal wrote in the 17th century: “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

Jesus Christ declared in the first century, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

In this photo is a friend of mine, Austin Young.  In fact, I baptized him a couple of years ago.  A young man with great leadership skills, athletic gifts, a heart of deep compassion and a propensity to action.  But at the heart of his life always seemed to be a hunger for a right-relationship with God that drove his decisions and actions.

Young men like Austin have their ups and downs, their ebbs and flows, their close walks and even their falling always.  But once they have tasted of what God has to offer, they always seem to return to that anchor of personal relationship with Christ.

Easter People are hungry people.

They hunger for a confident closeness to God.

They hunger to embody the love spoken of the Bible.

They hunger to make a difference in their world.

They hunger for justice and mercy to prevail.

They hunger for grace to continue its amazing work.

They hunger to be like Jesus.

So just what are you hungering for these days?

(C) 2o12 by Stephen L Dunn

From Karen Spears Zacharias comes this powerful story ….

I worry about The Marine sometimes.

He would scoff at me for that, so I’ve never made mention of it until now.

The news reports of 29-year-old Jaman Iseminger of Indianapolis, In. are a reminder to me that there is a real cost to serving others the way Jaman did, the way The Marine does.

Jaman, a pastor at Bethel Community Church, was reportedly shot and killed by a 49-year-old homeless woman on Saturday as he and others gathered to clean up a nearby cemetery. Something that many do routinely as part of the preparations leading into Memorial Day.

Those who knew him best say that Jaman “believed the church of Jesus Christ was not to be in these four walls, but to actually love the least of these.”

While others argue about how the Christian life ought to be exemplified, The Marine is out doing what others are arguing about.

I’ve witnessed The Marine’s faith in action.

The way he speaks with respect and honor to the fellow wearing fishnet hosiery and high heels.

The way he coddles the toddler of a teen.

The way he banters with the group of homeless men gathered around a coffee pot.

And I see it in the way the homeless respect him.

He is the real deal and they know it.

Still, I worry when I hear the reports that a homeless man that was drinking coffee the morning before has stabbed someone.

Homeless requires a certain mental toughness and a raw vulnerability.

Mostly it just requires that every other safety net in your life has been ripped wide open.

You become homeless because of a whole host of reasons, but you don’t become homeless because you prefer freezing your ass off or because you like sleeping on hard concrete in a pouring rain.

Living like that could turn most of us into wild-eyed loons.

It might make us act in ways we never imagined.

Not that any of us ever imagine we will be homeless.

And that’s part of the problem.

We might not admit it but there’s this small part of us that entertains the notion that homeless people are homeless because they aren’t as smart as the rest of us, who thus far have managed to escape the fate of the homeless.

The Marine doesn’t think like that.

He understands what most of us don’t.

He understands that the only thing separating “us” from “them” are the numbers in our cell phone.

We have people we can call when things go bad for us.

They don’t.

So he set out to become that person.

The one they can call.

No matter what.

He’s not trying to fix them.

His main agenda is to be a friend to the homeless.

Even if being that friend cost him his life.

The way it did Jaman Iseminger.

In order for love to win, somebody has to be willing to pay the cost.

That’s why I worry sometimes.

And pray often for Hugh Hollowell.

 

TRUE STORY

From blogger Emma Scrivener comes this delightful story.  I encourage you to visit her at A NEW NAME.

True Story

Once upon a time, there lived a couple called Glen and Emma.

Glen and Emma lived in a big town but Glen had to find a job.  Glen was very worried about Emma because Emma was very sick. She didn’t want to move to the seaside town because she was frightened of meeting new people and going to a new place. But God brought them to a church full of lovely, warm-hearted Christians who looked after them and loved them and accepted them with all their issues. God brought them to a church that didn’t put them under any pressure, but prayed for them and loved them and helped Emma to get better and showed them what Jesus looks like.

Glen and Emma lived in a lovely house with two unlovely cats.  Outside the lovely spotty gate was parked a lovely car. The  car was a gift from a lovely couple who attended their church. This couple turned up one day with the keys and gave it to them, asking for absolutely nothing in return. As you can imagine, this made Glen and Emma feel very happy indeed.

Emma and Glen had lots of new friends from church who took care of them when they couldn’t take care of themselves.  These friends looked after their crazy cats when they went on holiday and weeded the garden when they were gone. They encouraged them and prayed for them and  gave them time and money and tea and hugs and planted tomatoes in their garden. It took a long time for Emma especially to feel strong and brave enough to go out.  But many lovely ladies asked her to go for coffee and visited her and encouraged her and kept calling even when she cancelled or changed plans at the last moment and even when she acted very strangely. These people weren’t being paid but they helped Emma and Glen to keep going even when they felt like giving up. And they gave them hope and reminded them that God loved them and cared for them and was looking after them. God also gave Glen two wonderful jobs, better than he could ever have imagined when he lived in the big city. And he helped Emma to meet lots of new friends by using her computer.

Emma and Glen had lots of adventures.  Glen was very brave but Emma was scared of lots of things. Only last week, Emma and Glen were travelling in their lovely car when it broke down on the motorway. Emma saw smoke coming out of the bonnet and was worried that the car would blow up. Emma had been watching too many TV programmes. Glen told her that this was silly and he gave her a hug. Emma also panicked because she knew that cars cost a lot of money to be fixed. She forgot about how God had looked after her up until now. But Glen reminded her and they asked God to help them. Then they waved goodbye to the broken car and waited for a phone call from the lovely repairmen.

Last night Emma and Glen came back from the lovely church to find an envelope on their carpet.  They opened it and Emma’s mouth made a big ‘O’ as they saw what was inside.  They hadn’t told  people about the car or Emma’s worries.  But somebody must have guessed.  Inside the envelope was £400 in cash – but with no letter.  They didn’t know who it was from and they were both excited and surprised. They thanked God for the lovely people who had given them such a lovely, lovely gift.

Today, Glen telephoned Emma to tell her that the lovely repairmen had phoned to say how much it would cost to fix their lovely car that was given to them by some other lovely people. It would be £400.  Emma had to go and lie down for a little bit. She felt very hot and teary again – but in a very good way. Emma told her mum (who didn’t know any lovely Christians or go to a lovely church) what had happened.  Her mum said that God and her friends must be Very Lovely Indeed. Emma agreed with all her heart and went to lie down again.

The End.

GOOD RISING

The first blog in my blogging ministry is called LIFE MATTERS based on the thought that “your life matters to God.”  It is cross-posted on both Blogger and Word Press.  The following post, which originally appeared Easter 2011, is the most popular of my posts on that site. – STEVE

I have a very good friend who is Greek Orthodox. Last week he offered me some words of blessing. He said it in Greek, but I won’t attempt to write in Greek. Roughly translated it means, “Good Rising.” Throughout Holy Week, Greek Orthodox people greet one another or bid each other good bye with these words, “Good rising.” They are words that anticipate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, They remind people to live in eager expectation for that occur.

On Easter the words change. “He is risen.”

For Christians, Easter is the most important day of the year. The Apostle Paul makes it very clear as to why:

“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.’ – 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

The resurrection is the foundational event for the entire Christian experience. An empty cross reminds us that all of our sins have been forgiven. An empty tomb reminds us that nothing every again will separate us from God. Empty grave clothes in that tomb remind us that death no longer has the last word.

It is a reminder that there is Truth sets men from, that Truth is a person named Jesus Christ, I love this quote from Clarence Hall:

“Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.”

I love this cartoon by the late Johnny Hart:

 

This is the heart of my reflection for you on this Easter Monday. Christ has risen! May you know “good rising.”

DO YOU HAVE A GOD STORY?

I have just finished my post on “The Anointing of Ruby.” I have been away from this blog for a while but intend to begin posting at least once a week. But I could use some help. Do you have a “God Story” or something else you would like to contribute to EASTER PEOPLE. This blog has over 669 followers on FACEBOOK as well as regular subscribers.

I would love to see your stories, which we would post under a copyright with your name.

I will reserve the right to publish or not publish, but would be pleased to help you in this way. It might be the start of a blogging career for you. Send your posts to sdunnpastor@coglandisville.org.

I look forward to hearing from you.