This Easter was, for me, one of the more meaningful in memory. Most of us like the flowers, the joyful songs, the positive sermons that come with the day, don’t we? The mess that is COVID, a year’s worth of bad news, suffering, sorrow, and loss, made us desperately need the message of hope that is part of the Resurrection.
After leading worship on Sunday, I made my way to the cemetery where I stood at the graves of my wife and parents, in the sunshine, holding flowers, but most thankful that I could say, as I did, “I left your bodies here in the ‘sure and certain hope of the Resurrection.’” It is a brave statement to make in a place of such grim finality, but it is my hope.
Resurrection faith is not just for cemeteries and Heaven, however. It is for now.
Christ’s death and Resurrection provides us with hope of Heaven and
makes us fully alive in this present temporal world.
Consider the inspired words of Scripture. “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (Colossians 2:20-23, NIV)
Religion, alone, is based on cause and consequence, like the rest of life. From the earliest days of our lives we learn that there are choices to be made that help things to go better for us. Apply yourself in school and you will get better grades. Follow your parent’s guidelines and you will enjoy greater freedom.
We naturally tend to bring that idea to our Christianity, somehow convinced that we can find acceptance with God and eliminate guilt by keeping the rules – “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” And, we slip into ‘legalism,’ writing evermore rules for ourselves and others, gradually squeezing whatever joy we might have found in Christ out of our lives. Some of the saddest people I know are Christians who are working hard to save themselves, attempting to be morally and spiritually impeccable by their own determination.
The Gospel of Christ is the wonderful truth that God meets us at the point of our worst failure to save us from our sins, not because we are good enough, but because He is perfectly loving. What a liberating truth!
We enter into the life of Christ, by faith, and because of His Spirit, we come to know an entirely different way of life. We are fully alive to God even now. The Word says “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4, NIV) Yes, Christian, we delight in the fact that we are ‘raised with Christ!’ God’s Spirit fills us up and makes us people of confident faith, with vision that is able to see beyond the edge of time and into eternity.
Oh yes, we are very much in this world for faith does not exempt us from aging, dying, or even disappointment. But… look at what being ‘raised with Christ’ makes possible. We “know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. … Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:14-18, NIV)
Our lives are held in His hand, our eternal assurance wrapped in the truth of the Resurrection so that we are able to access the Presence of God, to know renewal, to experience joy, to love beyond the limits of human affection. I love Charles Wesley’s eloquent words. They are from a Christmas carol but reflect Easter hope.
Come, Desire of nations come,
Fix in us Thy humble home.
Rise the woman’s conqu’ring seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head!
Adam’s likeness now efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Today, I encourage you to move beyond the religion of rules and to embrace, by faith, the resurrection life of Christ. Thank Him that because He lives, you are fully alive now, even as you anticipate the glory to come.
The word from the Word comforts us and challenges us to go and tell what we have found! “What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19, NLT)
Are YOU fully alive by faith in the Resurrected Christ?
I searched the world but it couldn’t fill me
Man’s empty praise and treasures that fade
Are never enough
Then You came along and put me back together
And every desire is now satisfied here in Your love
Oh there’s nothing better than You
There’s nothing better than You
Lord there’s nothing
Nothing is better than You
I’m not afraid to show You my weakness
My failures and flaws
Lord You’ve seen them all
And You still call me friend
‘Cause the God of the mountain
Is the God of the valley
And there’s not a place
Your mercy and grace won’t find me again
You turn mourning to dancing
You give beauty for ashes
You turn shame into glory
You’re the only one who can
You turn graves into gardens
You turn bones into armies
You turn seas into highways
You’re the only one who can
Brandon Lake | Chris Brown | Steven Furtick | Tiffany Hudson © 2019 Music by Elevation Worship Publishing (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) Maverick City Publishing Worldwide (Admin. by Heritage Worship Publishing)
Bethel Music Publishing