Living the Resurrection Life as the Body of Christ

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LIVING IN THE REALITY OF THE RESURRECTION

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.

THE GOSPEL DOESN’T FREE YOU FROM CONSEQUENCES

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.

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.

TO CLIMB OR NOT TO CLIMB

A great post about Zaccheus from the blog Forward Progress: by Michael Kelley

I haven’t climbed a tree in years.

His heart was beating fast now, though he didn’t really understand why. But he had a growing sense that things in his life were coming to a head. A culmination. Something was getting ready to happen.

The branches are low enough. I could do it, you know. I could…

Never before had he been so upset to be short, and he had been upset about it plenty. There were the calls and nicknames from the boys when he was growing up, but then he had showed them hadn’t he? He was the one who had the important job now. He was the one they had to be nice to because he was, in large part, in control of their livelihood. He had proven his importance and put his thumb of authority down on top of those same people who had made up those silly songs about his height. He had more money, more power, and more prestige than any of them had. But now, there was this whole issue of height. He simply couldn’t see, but he wanted to. He wanted it more than anything he had wanted in a long time.

It’s the only way, right? If I want to see, I’ve got to climb. I can’t push through this crowd.

His feet were twitching now. He was moving back and forth, a kind of nervous dance. He knew his anxiety and excitement weren’t logical. Who was this he wanted to see so badly anyway? A teacher? A magician? A miracle worker? Or was he something else. It was this thought that had made the well dressed but small man consider the unthinkable.

What would people think? I’ve got a reputation to think about it. I’m sure they would make up whole new songs about me now. The short man climbing a tree. Foolishness. Right?

Foolishness, of course. But then again, not much in his life made sense any more. He no longer was satisfied with the accumulation of more and more wealth. The pursuit of power over others seemed more and more empty. He had been asking questions, at least in his own mind, that were of a foreign sort. His life seemed devoid of meaning, and he was looking… for something anyway. And now, in his robes, he was standing on the edge of the road, looking into the distance. Jesus was passing through, and the tax collector couldn’t shake the idea that this mysterious man walking through Jericho was was he was looking for. The only way for him to see Jesus was to go up. To climb.

To climb or not to climb? To risk or not to risk? The tree is right there. I know I could get high enough.

He took a tentative step forward. Then another. Then he grabbed hold of the low branches and swung a leg up. He looked around briefly. The crowd was coming, the noise growing louder. Up and up and up. His heart beat faster and faster and faster. Still he climbed. He was sweating now through the weight of his clothes. They were right below Him now, teeming with excitement. The leaves got thicker as he edged forward… and then he saw Him. And something burst inside of Zaccheus. He froze, straddling a branch of the sycamore tree. It was a feeling like he’d never experienced, for to his great surprise, the man wasn’t looking at the crowd. He wasn’t glad-handing the people around Him, nor was He looking forward where He was going.

He was looking into the tree. And for a moment, Zaccheus was crushed.

Great. He’s looking up here. Now everyone else is looking up here, too. Here it comes – the jeering and mocking, just like when I was a kid.

“Come down, Zaccheus.”

And then he knew. He could never, in the days that followed, know exactly how he knew. It wasn’t quite a feeling, but something more. But as he scurried down the tree, he was absolutely convinced that though he was anxious, though he had climbed the tree, though he had wanted just one glimpse of Jesus…

He knew that Jesus had really been looking for him.

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

Illustration added by Steve

NO KIND OF RELIGION AT ALL

“In a sermon Dick Lucas once preached, he recounted an imaginary conversation between an early Christian and her neighbor in Rome.

“Ah,” the neighbor says. “I hear you are religious! Great! Religion is a good thing. Where is your temple or holy place?”

“We don’t have a temple,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our temple.”

“No temple? But where do your priests work and do their ritual?”

“We don’t have priests to mediate the presence of God,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our priest.”

“No priests? But where do you offer your sacrifices to acquire the favor of your God?”

“We don’t need a sacrifice,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our sacrifice.”

“What kind of religion is this?” sputters the pagan neighbor.

And the answer is, it’s no kind of religion at all.”

—- Tim Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, p. 48.

BASIC GUIDELINES FOR FASTING

On his blog site ConvergeUSA Gary Rohrmayer shares these helpful insights. Click at the bottom of this post to read the whole article.

Eight insights that will guide you through a spiritual fast.

1. Fast SENSIBLY. Don’t feel that you must fast many days to be effective. Many biblical fasts were “until evening’ (Judges 20:16; II Samuel 3:35; Acts 10:30).

2. Fast SENSITIVELY. When Israel fasted before a crucial battle, the Bible says they “inquired of the Lord.” (Judges 20:23; I Samuel 23) When we fast we should take special time to hear God speak. (13:1-2)

3. Fast SYSTEMATICALLY. When Jesus taught His disciples about fasting, He began with the words “when you fast” (Matthew 6:16). He was suggesting that believers should have regular times of fasting, whether one day a week or a portion of a day each week.

4. Fast SACRIFICIALLY. If we normally do not eat breakfast it is not really a sacrifice to fast breakfast. A true fast must be a sacrifice. David said, “My knees give way from fasting; my body is thin and gaunt” (Psalm 109:24). True fasting must have an humbling effect on us (Ps 35:13).

5. Fast SPECIFICALLY. God said to Israel, “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? (Isaiah 58:6). We must ask God to direct us in the focus of our fasting.

THE HEART OF CHRISTIANITY

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

Galatians 5:6

Volumes upon volumes of commentaries have been written on Christianity. Entire libraries are filled with theological treatises outlining the basic doctrines of the Christian faith.  But if I had to refine Christianity down to its basic essence, it would be this verse from Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  For God is love, perfect love.

When a rich young ruler asks Jesus to sort out from the proliferation of commandments and rules that had come to define 1st century Judaism, Jesus answered “love the Lord your God with every ounce of your being, every dimension of personhood” and “love your neighbor as yourself.”  The great declaration that little children are taught regarding God’s nature and intention is “For God so love the world that He gave His one and only son.”  God is the epitome of love and the definition of love.  And love is the baseline upon which Christianity stands and falls.

Love is the litmus test.

Christians do a disservice to themselves and to the God they represent when they allow other measures to have even equal weight with love when defining how one goes about being a Christian.

But the love that Christians speak of is immeasurably more than the counterfeits that pass for love in human value systems. Christian love involves seeing ourselves as God sees us. Love is not accepting our incomplete or less than God-sized image of ourselves.  That’s why love can never be defined as tolerance of our sin or acceptance of our desires or unquestioned support of our personal choices.

In John’s gospel we read the story of the woman who is brought to Jesus having been caught in the act of adultery.  The letter of the law said that she should be stoned, condemned to death for her sin.  But Jesus saw that she was being used a test case by men who did not have the Spirit of Love in their hearts.  He also saw that her sin was the result of choices that she had made that did not necessarily describe what she desired to be in her heart of hearts. So when he sent her self-righteous accusers packing, Jesus asked the woman, “Where are those who are your accusers” (i.e., where are those want your sin to have the last word in your life?)  The woman said, “They are gone.”  “Then neither do I condemn you.”  That didn’t mean that Jesus didn’t believe she was sinless in her choices. It was his way of saying – then neither do I intend for your sin to have that last word. Neither do I desire to have your sin define your being.

He said, “Go and leave your life of sin.”

For love that comes from God is love that transforms us from men and women who have abandoned their destiny to sin into people once again able to live as persons who reflect His image, who embody that perfect love themselves.

Which is why love ultimately brings us to experience of grace.  Grace that allows us have the faith to trust the perfect love of God with our lives and our living.

Love is the heart of Christianity.

(C) Stephen L Dunn