New Life

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Raised to Walk in Newness of Life

The Monday night before one Easter several years ago, I casually asked my pastor husband what he would be preaching on the following Sunday.  Although he usually has it all planned out by then, he said that he didn’t have anything special in mind at that point, and asked me if I had any ideas.  I thought for a moment, and then told him that the only thing that had come to mind was the expression new life.  And, since I was busy watching my favorite television program at the time, I didn’t give it another thought for the remainder of the evening.  But the next day, when I began wondering what new life might have meant to Jesus’ disciples on that very first Resurrection Sunday, there were three things that immediately popped into my mind.  They were freedom, hope, and powerfreedom from the bondage they had known in the past; hope for a better, more meaningful life in the future; and the power they would need to leave the one behind and fully enter into the other.

Freedom…For freedom Christ has set us free…Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (Galatians 5:1, 13).” 

From what I know about the times in which Jesus lived, it seems quite likely that most, if not all, of His disciples originally began following Him because they expected Him to be the leader of a rebellion that would secure the freedom of the Jews from their oppressive Roman overlords. This, however, was not the kind of freedom that Jesus came to bring them.  Instead of the temporal political liberation that they had been longing for for so long, the liberation that He came to provide was one which was spiritual in nature, and one that would endure throughout all eternity.  And, while they couldn’t have realized the full import of that type of liberation on that first Easter morning, in time they would come to treasure and rejoice in the freedom it gave them from…

  • The penalty and power of their sin;
  • Their fear of and enslavement to death; and,
  • The legalistic religious system under which they had had to operate all of their lives. 

Because of the resurrection of Jesus, never again would they have to…

  • Live day in and day out, wondering if they had “done enough” to have their sins forgiven, and if they were “righteous” before God;
  • Live dreading death and wondering what eternity would hold for them;
  • Offer up another sacrificial lamb, for the last and Perfect Lamb had just been offered;
  • Go through an earthly priest to get to God, for the Great High Priest had come and would soon be seated at the right hand of the Father and interceding for them; or,
  • Work at observing the letter of the Mosaic Law because the Holy Spirit would soon begin writing the Laws of God upon their hearts!

Wow, what a sense of freedom that must have been!

Hope…“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 3-5).” 

As a result of these new-found freedoms, new life would have also meant that the disciples could begin to enjoy a hope that they had never known before; a hope that…

  • As the born again Sons and Daughters of God, they could stand forgiven before God in the righteousness of Christ Jesus;
  • While Jesus was seated in Heaven interceding for them, He would also be living in and through them by His Spirit; and,
  • Jesus, the Blessed Hope, would one day return and take them to Heaven with Him, where they would stand in the presence and glory of God, and receive the inheritance that had been set aside for them and for all the saints.

Power…“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of him…that you may know…what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him form the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come (Ephesians 1:16-21).”

Of course, setting men free from their bondage to sin and death, from their centuries old religious traditions, and all the while giving them new life through a rebirth of their spirits was no mean task; it would require a power that had never before been seen by mortal men. And yet, this is the kind of power that was demonstrated when God, after Jesus had conquered the powers of hell and the grave, raised Him from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at His right hand.  And, the wonder of it all is that this same power, which was available to God’s only Begotten Son, is the very same power that He has made available to each of His adopted children—that is, to those of us who have placed our faith in this resurrected Christ.  For the power that can raise someone from the dead is the only power strong enough to free one from the chains of his past, to cleanse and purify him of his sins and place him in the position of an adopted child God, and then to lead him to victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil.  No wonder the disciples had cause to rejoice!

But they weren’t the only ones with a reason to do so; like them, we have become the beneficiaries of this new life of freedom, hope, and power which was made available through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This matchless gift of new life is something that this Easter should serve to remind us of, and something which we, as the modern-day disciples of Christ, should be rejoicing in every other day of the year.

The Resurrection of Jesus

…But No One Said It Was Going to Be Easy!

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During our last visit, I think we pretty well established the fact that life is really very simple, and that’s because it is all about Jesus.  However, just because we have been able to reduce it to its simplest form, that does not mean that life is ever going to be easy.  If you will recall my “Basic Principle #1”—that all of the events in our lives are designed for one of two purposes, either to bring us to Christ or to make us like Him—then just think of the many difficult things that each of us have had and will have to walk through or endure in order to arrive at either of those destinations. And, if we take into consideration the other billions of people who have made appearances on planet earth during its lengthy history, with each one having his or her own story of hardships to tell, the only conclusion that we can come to is—life is just plain hard.

Although it would be impossible for us to catalog the countless kinds of hardships that people have endured in this life, especially those who made their way to the cross, or afterward, in the struggles they encountered on their road to becoming more Christ-like, I am convinced that if we take a few minutes to look at the hardships that Jesus encountered on His pathway to the Cross, we will begin to see why life for us, both before and after the Cross, could never be easy.

Crown of thorns1Although, I can’t think of anyone who would willingly sign up for a life like this, the one that Jesus freely committed Himself to was one that was repeatedly characterized by humiliation, rejection, opposition, and affliction; which, when you add them all up, equal a whole lot of suffering:

Just think of the humiliation involved when  “…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  (Phil. 2: 5-8 ESV)

Or, the rejection He must have experienced when:

  1. “His family…went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”  (Mark 3:21 ESV)
  2. The people in His hometown said, “’Where did this man get these things?  What is the wisdom given to him?  How are such mighty  works done by his hands?  Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?  And are not his sisters here with us?”  And they took offense at him.”  (Mark 6: 2-3 ESV)
  3. John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus, asking, “Are you [sure] you are the one [the Messiah] who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matt. 11:3 ESV)
  4. Upon hearing some of Jesus’ hard sayings, “…many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”  (John 6:66 ESV)

As for opposition, Jesus had that in abundance, for, even as a child, when He was perceived to be a contender for his throne, King Herod tried to have Him killed.  And later, during His earthly ministry, He found Himself constantly at odds with all factions of Jewish society:

  1. With the Sadducees, because He threatened their economic and political power;
  2. With the Pharisees, because they considered Jesus a law-breaker, and His teachings overturned their religious traditions;
  3. With the Essenes, the ascetics of the day, who considered Jesus too worldly because He socialized with “sinners;”
  4. With the Zealots, or the anarchists of the day, because Jesus preached a message of love instead of rebellion; and,
  5. With the people who, in their apathy, did not want to be confronted with change.

And when it came to affliction, no one has ever endured more.  Of Him, it was said that…

“…he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.  He Nail pierced hands1was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.  By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?”
(Is. 53: 2-8 ESV)

So, what conclusions can we draw for our own lives from these observations of Jesus’ journey to the Cross?  Well, whether we are just coming to the Cross, or journeying from it, we must learn to expect that life is going to be hard.  That’s because, as followers of Christ, we, too:

  1. Are going to have to experience humiliation;  first, when we finally acknowledge that we are not God, but sinners whose very best efforts at righteousness are no better than filthy rags in God’s sight;  and then, throughout the remainder of our lives, as we continue to learn that God is in charge, and that our lives are no longer our own;
  2. Are going to experience rejection, because, most likely, our families will think we are crazy, our neighbors and co-workers will be offended by us, and many of our friends will no longer want to have anything to do with us;
  3. Are definitely going to encounter opposition.   Since we will no longer be heading down the wide road, but will have turned and be heading in the opposite direction, we will be running headlong into the multitudes that are rushing toward their own destruction.
  4. Are surely going to experience affliction.  When you consider the fact that the sinless son of God, “…learned obedience through what he had suffered,” (Heb. 5:8 ESV), do we really believe that we can learn to be obedient in any other way?

Remember Christ1However, just because life is hard, that doesn’t mean it is a bad thing.  When we think again of Jesus and all that He accomplished on our behalf as a result of the hardships that He endured, we can begin to see just how much good can come out of our own hard experiences.  And when we start to see things in that light, hopefully, we will learn to
“…rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  (Rom. 5:3-5 ESV)  And, with the Spirit living within us, we can also rejoice because it is He who will be bearing “… witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified in him (Rom. 8:16-17 ESV).

Therefore, even in the face of all the difficulties that life puts in our paths, “…we do not lose hope…for this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” (2 Cor. 4:16-17 ESV)   For…“…no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9 ESV)—Praise be to God!

 

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Join with Selah in giving thanks for “The Beautiful Terrible Cross”…