Millions of people around the world celebrated the resurrection of Christ over the weekend. For many though, the joyful celebration ended after the sermon and life will continue on as normal this week.
But as my pastor says, we are ‘Easter people’. Easter people continue to live out the Easter message, even when the Easter bunny has come and gone, the Easter egg hunts are over and done with and the Easter baskets are found and emptied of their bright yellow peeps. Easter people not only know what the Jesus story says, but they know what it means. Christ was resurrected from the dead so we can have eternal life with God AND resurrection life here on earth.
I love how the Apostle Paul describes this so-called resurrection life:
“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us an unbelievable inheritance!” (Romans 8:17, Message)
How awesome is that? Adventurously expectant…touching God’s Spirit…confirming who we are…filled with hope, joy and blessing! Who wouldn’t want to live the resurrection life?
The challenge for many is not wanting resurrection life, but how to live it out. How do we practice this resurrection life?
Living the resurrection life is quite simple really. Romans 8:17 tells us it is a gift we receive from God, so we must simply make the choice to receive it. In order to receive it, we must believe it. Too often we get hung up on whether it’s true or not true, or on little details like whether Jesus literally rose from the dead in bodily form or not. It’s not that we shouldn’t ever contemplate these things, but we should never let them distract us from the Truth. The Bible says if we believe in what Jesus did on the cross, we will be ‘raised up’ (John 6:40) to live out the adventurously expectant Christian life through the empowerment of His Spirit.
Choosing to believe is the first step towards living the resurrection life. Here are four other practical steps we can take to make room for Jesus’ resurrection life to manifest fully in our lives:
1. Surrender. We’ve got to surrender our own ways and take up His. This is a conscious decision. Will we continue to go on living according to our own will, or will we allow Him and His Word to direct our path? Matthew 16:25 says, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” It is only when we surrender control of our lives and give Him the reigns, that we experience the true fulfillment and satisfaction we long for. This is when His resurrection life can make a home in our hearts, flourishing and bearing fruit in all areas of our lives.
2. Seek. If after attending church on Easter Sunday and you felt no connection, conviction or meaning whatsoever, there is only one thing to do: seek His face! Scripture tells us that he who seeks WILL find (see Matthew 7:8). It is a promise! When I re-committed my life to Christ nearly 5 years ago, there was a lot I didn’t understand about God and why He had to send His son Jesus to die for our sins. So I made it my personal mission to seek out answers. I studied the Bible, read books, asked questions and prayed to God for understanding. The more I sought Him out, the more He revealed Himself to me. Try it… He never breaks a promise!
3. Serve. Part of living the resurrection life is to rely on His empowerment to serve others. Jesus himself said that we would do even greater works than He did because we would have the Holy Spirit living in us (John 14:12). If we have been saved, we have been given the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. It is also important to ask God for the supernatural filling of His Holy Spirit, so that we can most effectively serve the needs of others around us through His power and not our own. God gives each of His children special and specific gifts (Ephesians 4:11-12) through His Holy Spirit, which enable us to complete the works He calls us to do. If you don’t know what your gifts are, pray and ask Him to show you. There are also tests you can take online to help you discover your unique spiritual gifts. Don’t delay!
4. Sow. Scripture tells us when we live to please the Spirit, we will reap life from the Spirit (Galatians 6:8). This means when we sow or invest our time and efforts into things of spiritual value, like loving, forgiving and serving others, spending time studying the Word, praying, and taking good care of our physical bodies, which are temples for the Holy Spirit, this will result in God’s life and character growing inside of us. This makes for a Christian life that is not dead or boring, but vibrant and alive in Him!
These are just a few practical things we can do to help us live out to the very fullest, the resurrection life Christ promised us through His finished work on the cross. What will your response to Easter be this year? Will you go on living your normal life, or will you take steps to make His resurrection a reality?
**Ponder this: the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead is residing within YOU this moment. What are you going to do about it?
I said my final good-bye and walked away from the grave. It wasn’t easy. Funerals never are. They’re full of pain, loss and grief. But this funeral was different.
Because it was my own.
Yep. I died to my old ways and buried them myself. Old attitudes, habits and behaviors I had picked up over the years were all thrown into the grave and covered up with dirt. But unlike most funerals, where the grave represents the end of a person’s life on earth, this kind of funeral–according to the Apostle Paul–was only the beginning:
“We were buried with Him…that just as Christ was raised from the dead…even so we also should walk in the newness of life” (Romans 6:4)
Jesus sacrificed His life on the cross not only so that we could have eternal life, but so that we may also walk in the ‘newness of life’ on earth. But this newness of life doesn’t just go “poof” and happen on its own. Just like Jesus had to die so that God could raise Him up, we too must die so that we may be raised up with Him. Oswald Chambers said,
“If there has never been this crucial moment of change through death, sanctification will never be more than an elusive dream.”
Salvation can only happen through Jesus’ death. But if we want to experience real, true, authentic change in our lives, it can only happen through our own death. We must choose to die to our old ways if we are to experience the transforming power of Jesus in our lives. He cannot do it for us.
But we can go to the cemetery, not with doom and gloom, but with hope and excitement, knowing that this kind of spiritual death is not the end of the road, but merely the beginning of a new thrilling and fulfilling adventure with God! He replaces our self-willed life with His resurrection life, empowering us to do the very same works (and more) that Jesus did when He walked the earth. How awesome is that?
So, when’s your funeral?
1.Meditate on Romans 6:4. What does being ‘buried with Him’ mean to you?
2.In what ways have you experienced radical internal transformation as a result of knowing Jesus? If you haven’t, pray and ask God what might be hindering or blocking that process from taking place.
3.As you reflect on the death of Jesus this week leading up to Easter, examine your own life and see if there is there anything that needs to be buried or re-buried in your life (Selfishness? Pride? Greed? Lust? Distrust?) The Christian life is a life-long journey of transformation and therefore requires multiple ‘deaths’ of our fleshy nature along the way. Pray and ask God what He might be asking you to ‘die’ to in order that you may experience resurrection life with Him more fully.
Please share your thoughts and join the conversation!
I was about to exit the sanctuary after the Easter event was over when a woman came running up to me in a frenzy, “Don’t leave without your gift!” Then she handed it to me and scurried off to catch another woman who had apparently forgotten hers too.
Since the mood for the women-only event was a warm, cozy and intimate time of celebrating Jesus’ life, I expected the usual gift of a nice-smelling candle or hand-crafted journal. Instead, I held in my hand something I had never received before in my life: a rusty old nail.
I love Easter because it’s a time of remembering what Jesus did on the cross so that we could enjoy abundant and eternal life with God. We know that He had to die a brutal death on the cross, but often it seems we focus our remembrance on the good that came from it.
But when that nail hit my hand, a deep revelation simultaneously hit my heart anew: Jesus suffered. Terribly.
I walked out to my car and sat there like a stone-faced statue unable to move. As I gripped the rough edges of the nail, I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind, this nail pierced through His body. Jesus’ death was no longer a testimony found in the Gospel accounts that I could proclaim to strangers in the street, but it was something I was holding onto. A tangible thing. I even traced the center of my palm with its pointed tip, imagining what it might have been like, felt like, tasted like to be Him– naked and nailed to that wooden cross.
Before I knew it, tears were flowing down my face. Compassion and empathy welled up in my heart. There I sat in the empty parking lot alone, weeping for my sweet Jesus.
When was the last time you wept for Jesus?
I couldn’t remember the last time I had, but something about it felt good. Allowing ourselves to connect emotionally with the events that make up the foundation of our faith can be a powerful thing. It makes way for the knowledge stored up in our heads to rush like a waterfall to the softened, vulnerable walls of our hearts. It’s not emotionalism. It’s going from knowing about God to experiencing Him personally.
Have you experienced God personally in the last week? Month? Year? Decade?
It’s never too late. The Author and Creator of our souls is waiting with open arms just around the corner of YOUR life to blow YOUR mind with a greater reality of Him. Do you believe it?
Make it a point to take some time in the next couple weeks leading up to Easter to pause, be still and reflect not just on the power and resurrection of Jesus, but on His suffering that made it all possible. Let’s be like Paul, who said,
“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11)
When we participate in His suffering by remembering–really remembering– and soaking in the reality of what He did for us on the cross and by enduring suffering in our own lives for His sake, we will experience His abiding presence in a much deeper, more intimate way. Jesus Himself says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
Nothing like a rusty old nail to let the reality of that Truth sink in.
1. What does Easter mean to you? When is the last time you meditated on Jesus’ suffering on the cross?
2. Recall a personal encounter you had with Christ. What was special about it? If you can’t recall one, ask God to give you a greater revelation of His love so that you may experience Him in a deeper way.
3. What does ‘participating in Jesus’ suffering’ mean to you? How can you apply it in your life this week?
*Feel free to share your thoughts on Easter, suffering, experiencing God or whatever you’d like!