Living the Resurrected Life

Living the Resurrected Life

Resurrected Living

Since Easter, we have embarked on the journey to gain a greater understanding of the resurrection.  More specifically, we have focused on its reality, its wonder, and its power in our everyday life.

Hopefully, what we have come to realize is that our “everyday life” can be lived more fully through the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Eph. 1:19-20).  This power we learned is through the Holy Spirit that also dwells in us.  “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He (God) who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rom. 8:11)

Living the resurrected life can be realized as we incorporate three (3) key principles to our understanding.  Resurrected life is: (1) transformational, (2) intentional, and (3) relational.

Resurrected life is transformational.

When we accept Jesus as our Savior, our life begins to change.  How does change occur?  By emptying ourselves of our agendas and replacing them with God’s plan.  We move from a “self-directed life” to a “Christ-directed life”.

Paul explains this transformation to the church in Galatia (Gal. 2:19-20, NLT):

I have been crucified with Christ.  I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 

Our transformation is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.  It is our responsibility to cooperate with His instructions.  Each day we empty ourselves through our acts of obedience and by loving one another.   We then let the Holy Spirit fill that space in our heart (the filling of the Holy Spirit) and follow His lead.

As we empty ourselves, there is more room for the Holy Spirit to occupy.  In the filling, we begin to look and act more like Jesus.  We become conformed to His image (Rom. 8:29).

Resurrected life is intentional.

It begins with acceptance of resurrection as a “new way” of life.  When we accepted Jesus as our Savior, we did more than buy the “fire insurance”.  We spiritually “died with Christ on the cross”.  Part of that dying includes ending our “preoccupation” and “attraction” to the things of this world (1 John 2:15-16).

Paul explains this intentional behavior to the church at Colosse (Col. 3:1-5, NLT):

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power.  Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth.  For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.  And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires. Don’t be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry.

Living intentionally is a process that doesn’t happen overnight.  That’s why we must be thoughtful and mindful in our pursuit of the resurrected life (Rom. 12:1-2).   This process should include disciplines which help us daily renew our hearts and mind, i.e., prayer, study of God’s Word, meditation.

Resurrected life is relational.

The Apostle John captures Jesus’ final hours with His disciples in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17).  Jesus knew that in less than 24 hours He would be on the cross.  After spending 3 ½ years in intimate relationship with His Disciples, Jesus would leave them on their own.  However, the Disciples would not be alone (John 15:7-15).

In chapter 15, Jesus takes time to stress the importance of relationship and preparation for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  The Disciples’ success would depend on their ability to stay in relationship with or abide in Him.  This “abiding” would be accomplished through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Abiding describes the “dwelling as it were within Jesus and to be continually operative in Him by His divine influence and energy.”[1]  This relationship is like that which Jesus experienced with the Father (John 10:30; 14:31; 15:10).  The Disciple’s power would come through developing a similar relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Our success in living the resurrected life is also dependent on our abiding relationship with Jesus (vv.1-11) and our demonstration of love for our fellowman (vv. 12-17).

Resurrected life in the 21st century

Resurrection is more than a one-time event.  While the resurrection of Jesus is a documented, historic occurrence that took place over 2,000 years ago, it is much more.  Its power continues to exert an unprecedented and recurring influence in the hearts and lives of believers around the world.  Even in 2021, when the Gospel is shared, people believe and become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

For believers, resurrected life is a time for transformation as we experience a new relationship with God the Father, Jesus our Lord, and the Holy Spirit.  Resurrected life is possible as we intentionally pursue God’s plan and will for His kingdom.  Resurrected life is an experience, from which, we will never be the same.

Why is this important for us today?  Because with Christ’s resurrection, we have an opportunity to “new life” that is found by our faith in Jesus Christ.  It is in resurrected life that victorious living begins. We can depend on God’s power and Jesus’ victory beginning on Resurrection Sunday AND extending throughout all of eternity.

[1]  Thayer’s Greek Lexicon

Resurrection Spirit

Resurrection Spirit

Preparation for ministry

We continue our celebration of Eastertide, the 50-day period following Easter.  This season gives us the opportunity to reflect on the power and the presence of the resurrection in our lives.  It culminates on Pentecost Sunday (May 23rd) which marks the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on man.  In discussing the resurrection, we would be remiss if we ignored the source of “that power”.  That source is the Holy Spirit.

Jesus directed the disciples to wait in Jerusalem “for the promise of the Father, which, they had heard about” from Him” (Acts 1:4).  That promise was the Holy Spirit.  With His arrival would come “power” needed to fulfill their commission.  This would not be temporary nor external power.  But this power would come from the indwelling of the Spirit within each of them (John 14:17).  For God’s kingdom to grow, the Disciples would need the power of the resurrection Spirit.

The Disciples laid the groundwork for the spread of the gospel message after Jesus’ ascension.  It would later be the work of the New Testament writers, like the Apostle Paul, to teach the Church how that gospel would be lived out in the believers’ daily life.  That would include the work of the Holy Spirit.  Paul’s teachings in the book of Ephesians gives us great insight into the power of the resurrection Spirit in those who are in Christ.

Role of the Holy Spirit

In Ephesians 1, the Apostle Paul focuses on the work of the Triune God in fulfilling the work of salvation.  God the Father provided the way to redemption (Eph. 1:3-8).  He chose believers and predestined them to adoption.  Jesus Christ the Son offered Himself for the redemption and forgiveness of sin for those who accept Him by faith.  He paid the righteous demand for sin (Heb. 9:21-22).  The Holy Spirit’s role in the work of salvation would be to seal those in Christ until eternity future (Eph. 1:13a-14).

A seal, in biblical times as today, is used to guarantee security or indicate ownership.  Ancient seals were often made of wax, embedded with the personalized imprint of their guarantor.  In both the Old and New Testament, the significance of the act of sealing was dependent on the authority of the one doing the sealing.  It would authenticate the guarantor’s ability to “make good” on that which was promised within the sealed document.  In this case the promise of the believer’s salvation and future inheritance.   

Sealing of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit not only endows the believer with power to accomplish the purposes of God (Phil. 1:6; 4:13) but He also gives assurances that God will do and can do all that He has pledged—promises and blessings for today and an inheritance in the future (2 Pet. 1:3-4; 1 Pet. 1:3-5).   

The Holy Spirit seals those who trust in Christ (Eph. 1:12, 13).  His presence is God’s guarantee that believers are owned by Him and secure in Him. Since the Holy Spirit’s task is to apply Christ’s work to God’s people, He anoints those in Christ the moment they believe (2 Cor. 1:21-22).

The believer is then secured as a member of God’s family, not in their own power, but because the Spirit is applying the promises made possible by God through our relationship with Christ.  His sealing comprises the initial down payment or the earnest of the full redemption of God’s possession in eternity future (1 Cor. 6:19-20). 

Resurrection Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the power of God for the people of God.  Our position in Christ makes resurrection power available to us.  It is our responsibility to access it (Eph. 1:18-20).

I leave you to consider these thoughts from preachers, past and present, who speak clearly on the power made available to each of us through the resurrection Spirit.

Smith Wigglesworth, British evangelist, influential in the early history of Pentecostalism, wrote this about the Holy Spirit:  

Enter into the promises of God. It is your inheritance. You will do more in one year if you are really filled with the Holy Ghost than you could do in fifty years apart from Him.

Charles Stanley, Pastor, televangelist, and theologian, offers this insight:

The power of the Spirit is God’s divine energy and authority released in believers’ lives for the purpose of righteous living and fruitful service. When we walk in the Spirit, we’re relying on His strength to accomplish God’s will. When we do God’s work by His strength, in His way, and with His wisdom, we’ll be blessed no matter what goes on around us. Walking in the Spirit doesn’t mean life will be easy—but we never have to walk through it alone, because our Helper is always with us. 

Is it time to access the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit?  Absolutely!  Today, take hold of God’s divine power living within you.

Resurrection Understanding, Part 2

Resurrection Understanding, Part 2

The Reason for our hope

If someone were to ask us about Jesus’ resurrection, what would we say?  Could we give a good reason as to why we believe in the resurrection?  But more importantly, are we able to witness to an unbelieving world why we follow Jesus?

It is not my intent to teach apologetics.  However, as followers of Christ, it is important that we “be ready to always give an answer to the reason for our hope” (1 Pet. 3:15).  Understanding the resurrection will inform our life—our identity, our power, and our purpose. To do this, like the disciples, we need to clearly understand the “what and why” of resurrection.  The Gospel of Luke captures Jesus’ teaching this truth as He prepared the Disciples for their commissioning.

After the resurrection

The gospel of Luke gives us insight into Jesus’ teaching of the resurrection to the disciples.  Written to a Greek audience, this gospel was written to convince readers of the truth of the things they had heard of Jesus (Luke 1:4). The most controversial event being Christ’s resurrection.  In Luke 24, we see how Jesus deals with the unbelief of His disciples.  He then seeks to reverse that unbelief by broadening their understanding.  Within this chapter are two (2) accounts for our learning.

On the road to Emmaus (vv. 13-33), two disciples of Jesus (Cleopas and one unnamed) were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus on resurrection Sunday.  Joined by Jesus (whom they didn’t recognize) they proceeded to tell of the crucifixion and the recent report of Jesus’ empty tomb.  Jesus would use this time with the disciples as a “teachable moment.” He gave a lesson on the prophecies of the Old Testament which were fulfilled in His death and resurrection. “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” (Luke 24:27) After Jesus’ departure, the disciples then understood because Jesus “opened” the scriptures to them.

Likewise, when Christ appeared to the ten disciples (vv. 36-49), a similar understanding was needed.  After several proofs that He was alive, Jesus “opened” their minds to understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:45).   Opened in these two (2) encounters means to rouse in one the faculty of understanding.  While the disciples may have heard this teaching before in the synagogue or through other teachers, Jesus caused them to make the connections from Scripture and the events they had recently experienced.   In addition, they had Holy Scripture and prophetic proof that the resurrection of Jesus was a reality ordained and empowered by God Himself (Eph. 1:19-20).

The essentials of the resurrection

It was critical that Jesus solidify with the disciples their understanding of the resurrection.  The resurrection was more than an historical or miraculous event.  It was the promise of new life and a blessed hope. (Luke 4:18-21)

Unfortunately, we have allowed the busyness of our calendars and distractions of the world, to reduce the resurrection to a “one and done” attitude.  We celebrate Easter Sunday, acknowledge the resurrection, eat the eggs, and then go back to our daily routine on Monday.

We have reduced the resurrection to a “transaction”—an event that occurred thousands of years ago.   “Jesus rose from the dead therefore I am free from sin.”  To think of resurrection this way limits the impact it can make in our daily life.

Resurrection is not transactional.  It is transformational and relational.  Resurrection for believers is the beginning of a life changing, intimate relationship with God the Father, Jesus our Lord, and the Holy Spirit.

Resurrection understanding in 2021

Why is this important for us today?  Because with Christ’s resurrection, we have an opportunity to “new life” that is found by our faith in Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:20).  It is in the resurrection that victorious living begins.

This season of Easter (Eastertide) affords believers the opportunity to celebrate more than the grace and mercy of God on Good Friday.  As important, we can depend on God’s power and Jesus’ victory beginning on Resurrection Sunday AND extending through out eternity.

Spend time during this season learning more about the resurrection and the extraordinary blessings that are now ours.  Let the Bible and the Holy Spirit (as your Teacher) “open” your mind to the resurrection.  Begin with the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke).  Then explore the prophetic proofs found in the Old Testament.  These will expand your understanding and help you answer the questions that begin with “why”.

Resurrection Understanding

Resurrection Understanding

Resurrection hope

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the foundational tenets of our Christian faith.  If Christ had remained in that darkened tomb, preaching the message of the gospel would have been in vain.  (Imagine all the revivals you could have skipped).  Our faith would be in vain (1 Cor. 15:14).  Worst of all, we would still be dead in our sins (1 Cor.15:17).  Just imagine!  Guilt, shame, bondage, spiritual death—all these would still be at play in our lives.

The crucifixion had dashed the hopes of the disciples.  They had imagined how life would be as part of the promised Messiah’s entourage.  Plus, they would finally be delivered from the tyranny of Rome.  But what happened?  Jesus was dead.  They scattered and hid for fear of the Jewish leaders (John 20:19).  They returned to their old homes and their old lives–disappointed, disillusioned, and disheartened.

But God.  The Creator of heaven and earth, the Great Deliverer of Israel from Egypt, raised Jesus from the grave (Acts 13:30).  God made good on His promise to deliver man from sin’s grip and “begat man again” (Eph. 2:1, 5).  In Christ, man was a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17).  Resurrection was, and still is, definitive proof that God is sovereign with power over life and over death.

Resurrection promise

God’s plan of salvation has always included resurrection (Gen. 3:15). The Old Testament prophets and psalmists spoke of, not only the promised Savior’s coming, but also of his death and resurrection (Ps. 16:10; Ps. 53:11; Ps. 45:6-7; Ps. 110:1;  Is. 53:11).

Because of this, it is somewhat surprising that Jesus’ disciples initially disregarded the resurrection proclamation (Mark 16:11; Luke 24:11).

In the horror and grief of the crucifixion, the Disciples had forgotten that Jesus Himself told them that he must “suffer at the hands of sinners, be crucified, and be raised the third day.” (Matt. 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19).  The disciples were devastated by Jesus’ words.  Unfortunately, they missed the good news beyond the death of Jesus—resurrection on the third day.

On the other hand, it is ironic that the chief priest and Pharisees, who rejected Jesus as the Messiah, remembered Jesus’ statement that He would rise again after three days.  They requested from Pilate a Roman centurion to guard the tomb (Matt. 27:62-66).  Was it an empty tomb they feared or the risen Christ?

Resurrection confusion

In reading the synoptic Gospels and John, the followers of Jesus shared a common reaction to the resurrection.  They did not believe it.  Some scholars say Mary Magdalene imagined that grave robbers had stolen Jesus’ body (John 20:11-13).

Our four gospel writers all complete their narratives of the Gospel of Jesus with a story or stories of Jesus resurrection. They come at it from different directions and provide different details, but one element is common to each of them:  a sense of wonder, astonishment, and surprise. Despite the several hints scattered throughout the Hebrew scripture and Jesus’ three explicit statements forecasting his resurrection (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34), when it happened it turned out that no one–no one–expected it. The first people involved in Jesus’ resurrection were totally involved in dealing with his death. Now they had to do a complete about-face and deal with his life. [1]

Resurrection possibilities

Do we as believers “scatter” as we are daily challenged by unbelievers who reject Christ?  Do we “hide” from those who discount the resurrection?  Even after Easter Sunday, do we return to our old lives—disappointed and disillusioned.  Are we disheartened by the continuation of the health pandemic, financial uncertainty, and social unrest?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it is time that we believers expand our understanding of the resurrection.  As new creatures in Christ, victorious living awaits us as the Spirit that raised Christ from the grave, now indwells us (Rom. 8:11).

Eastertide, a fifty-day season on the Christian calendar, is dedicated to examining the deep and wonderful mystery of resurrection.  It is a perfect opportunity to reflect on what the resurrection means to us personally.  “It is a season of learning how to live a new kind of life called resurrection.”[2] 

Next week, we will continue our teaching on “resurrection understanding”.  The resurrection is key in strengthening our resolve to press forward through difficult times.  Most importantly, it enables us to live out our God ordained purpose. Let’s explore what it means to live each day in the light of the resurrection (Eph. 2:4-6).

[1] Living the Resurrection, Eugene H. Peterson.

[2] Living the Way of Jesus:  Practicing the Christian Calendar One Week at a Time, Michaele Lavigne.

Resurrection Wonder

Resurrection

Last week we discussed what it means to live in resurrection power.  Resurrection power is the supernatural force God used to raise Jesus from the grave (Eph. 1:19-20).  It is that same power that has delivered us from sin and its penalty.  Along with the “Good News” there is also great news!  BELIEVERS have access to that same  power today.

Resurrection is primarily discussed during the Easter season.  However, more  time may be needed to address questions around this foundation belief within our Christian faith.  These include questions such as, “how does Christ’s resurrection affect my daily life?”

To increase our understanding, I’d like to spend the next few weeks exploring the resurrection experience.  Let’s begin with  resurrection wonder.

What emotions do you feel?

The discussion of the resurrection can produce a wide range of responses from people.  For those outside the family of Christ, it can be a point of disbelief or irritation.

What do you think when you read scripture concerning the resurrection? What emotions rise within you?  Confidence or confusion?  Gratefulness or embarrassment?   Let me give you one emotion to consider—wonder.

Wonder is defined as a feeling of surprise caused by something unbelievable, unexpected, or inexplicable.  Undoubtedly these are all appropriate descriptions for Christ’s resurrection.

Jesus Wonder

The people were in wonder of Jesus as He ministered to “the brokenhearted, the captives, and those who were bound” (Is. 61:1).  Jesus’ love and compassion gave new excitement and hope to those who had been cast aside by society.

The crowds’ wonder with and admiration for Jesus drove them into the deserts, to the mountainside, and to the seashores .  They hoped to catch a glimpse of His healings and miracles.  Little did they know or expect that Jesus’ resurrection would become an even greater reason for their wonder.

Resurrection Wonder

The Gospel resurrection narratives explode with “wonder”.  Imagine the unbelievable wonder that Mary Magdalene and the women felt as they found the empty tomb on the first day of the week.  They quickly witnessed to what they had seen to the disciples even though their witness fell on their “hardened and unbelieving hearts” (Luke 24:11).

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus also experienced resurrection wonder.  Unknown at that time, it was Jesus who conversed and fellowshipped with them.  Such unexpected wonder could only be captured by the expression “did not our hearts burn within us” (Luke 24:32).  Like Mary and the women, these disciples became ready witnesses to the wonder of Christ’s resurrection.

Christ’s sacrifice (accepted by God) and resurrection (empowered by God) is a wonder in and of itself.  First, the fact that God loved us so much, that He sent His only son, Jesus Christ, to die for us (John 3:16).  Secondly, we are now in Christ with all its spiritual blessings because of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection (Eph. 1:3-14).  And finally, we have eternal life (beginning now) and an inheritance reserved in heaven just for us (1 Pet. 1:4).  Resurrection, without a doubt, is an inexplicable wonder.

21st century Wonder

A sense of wonder should emerge as we consider God’s plan of salvation.  With Jesus’ resurrection came supernatural outcomes that can never be repeated—Satan’s defeat, sin forgiven, man reconciled to God.  Unbelievable, unexpected, inexplicable wonder!

How then are we as believers to respond to resurrection wonder?  Do we joyfully witness as Mary and the Emmaus travelers? Or do we harden our hearts through unbelief or indifference?

The historical “event” of Christ’s resurrection occurred over 2,000 years ago.  Yet it still exerts an unprecedented and recurring influence in the hearts and lives of believers around the world.  It is because of their wonder of Jesus and His resurrection.

Resurrection wonder offers believers exuberate hope, embolden witness, and empowered service.  Let us daily testify to the unfathomable wonder of the resurrection.

Living in Resurrection Power

Living in Resurrection Power

Resurrection Reality

“Christ has risen!” (Matt.28:5)   “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; He is not here” (Mark 16:6).  “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here but has risen” (Luke 24:5).  These are the biblical explanations to the reality of Jesus’ resurrection noted in the synoptic Gospels.

But one of the responses by Jesus’ followers (not recorded in the biblical record) might have been, “Ok, but what now?”  They had received the resurrection proclamation from the women who visited the empty tomb early Easter morning. They had personally seen the glorified Christ “behind shut doors” (John 20:19-30).  But, “what now?”

Even after this, the Disciples did not fully comprehend the implications of the resurrection and how it would change their lives forever. The Disciples and the New Testament Church would now face persecution and even death for their belief in Jesus Christ.   They would need to depend on resurrection power to achieve Jesus’ commission (Matt. 28:19-20).

Even now, in the 21st century, we as believers must come to terms with how the reality of Jesus’ resurrection impacts our lives every day.  To successfully navigate the challenges of today, we need resurrection power.

What is resurrection power?

Resurrection power is the supernatural power God used to raise Jesus from the grave (Eph. 1:19-20). It is this same power that has delivered us from sin’s power and penalty (Rom. 6:14).

Sin kept us in our brokenness and our bondage.  It manifested itself in our lives as guilt, shame, and misery.  These led us to dark paths of despair, depression, and feelings of hopelessness. However, as new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), we have access to the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the grave (Rom. 8:11).  Satan has been crushed.  We are free (Col. 2:15).

Although we may be tempted, we are able to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).  Even if we stumble or fall, we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:39).  We have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, our Guarantee, until we arrive in heaven (Eph. 1:13, 14).

Living in the power of the Resurrection

In the final days of His earthly life, Jesus hinted about this resurrection power.  He assured His disciples, “he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do” (John 14:12).

The Apostle Paul knew how to live in the power of the resurrection.  He wanted to not only “share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings” but also, to know Him and the power of His resurrection (Phil. 3:10).  It was through the power of the Holy Spirit that Paul proclaimed the sufficiency of God’s grace through the “power of Christ that would rest on him” (2 Cor. 12:9).

How do 21st century believers live in resurrection power?

The early New Testament church gained its potency through the anointing and indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Through resurrection power, we too, as 21st century disciples, can gain the same strength to accomplish God’s purpose.  In addition, it is through this power that we can find personal forgiveness, acceptance, and wholeness.

The Holy Spirit is the source of resurrection power.  It is through His presence that we are empowered for service to the Lord (John 16:13-15). The work that has been entrusted to us is destined for success because of the Holy Spirit working within us (Phil. 1:6).

The key to unlocking resurrection power is our willingness to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Cooperation is critical in every endeavor a person may attempt.  If we are to live successfully in resurrection power, we must follow Jesus’ example who practiced obedience and humility.  Although Jesus was God’s son, He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross (Phil 2:8).   We must learn to cooperate with the Holy Spirit.

Opportunities for resurrection power

Easter 2021 is over.  Once again, we have received (through every form of media) the resurrection proclamation. We have personally experienced the glorified Christ through our new life in Him.  The question we must ask ourselves is, “what now?”

As I look around and reflect on the state of our world, it is more evident than ever, “we need supernatural power” to deal with our challenges.  The human needs of the 1st century still exist today.  The resurrection power of Jesus Christ is still as powerful as when He rose on Easter morning.  And we have access to the same resurrection power in 2021.

Let us begin today to access resurrection power on behalf of our families, our communities, and our nation.  Let us courageously intercede on behalf of those experiencing the effects of sin in our world—hate, hurt, and hopelessness (2 Cor. 5:15).  Jesus, teach us how to live in your resurrection power TODAY.

Lessons Learned at the Cross

Lessons Learned at the Cross

Willingness to learn

There was book that was popular many years ago entitled, “All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”  It contained simple nuggets of wisdom that were garnered from watching how children interacted with each other and the world.

It’s been said that life is a giant classroom in which we can experience many valuable lessons.  What really determines our success in learning is our willingness to learn.

As the close of Lenten season approaches, I have learned three valuable lessons in observing Christ’s journey to and ultimate sacrifice on the Cross.  I share these with you on your journey to living victoriously in Christ Jesus .

Lesson #1

 I must Die to Live.  Believers will have difficulty living victoriously until we are willing to die to ourselves and surrender to the Lord.  In His final days with His disciples, Jesus used an example from farming to illustrate this point.

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (John 12:24-26)

Lesson #2

I must Lose to Win.  Believers cannot live in the fullness of God apart from the “filling” of the Holy Spirit.  “Filling” means relinquishing control to the Holy Spirit.  Paul shared this belief in his letter to the church in Philippi.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:7, 8) 

Lesson #3

 I must Surrender for Victory.  Believers who surrender to the King of Kings acknowledge God as the Sovereign of the universe.  We are part of God’s kingdom and we must willingly abdicate to His rule over our lives.  Habakkuk, the prophet, understood this relationship when he prayed this prayer. 

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines , though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

What now?

Lenten and Easter seasons are a time for us to not only celebrate the victory of Jesus over the Cross (Is. 49:1-7) but also to prepare for  our next steps after Easter.  It is a perfect time for reflection and redirection.

What are the things God is asking you to lose, surrender and/or die to in order to live victoriously in the fullness of God?  We need only a child-like trust in the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ, to learn all we need to know about “what really matters.”

The Surrendered Life and Sin

The Surrendered Life and Sin

Who do we choose?

Sin and surrender have more in common than their first letter.  Sin has at its core the stubborn resistance to surrender oneself to the authority and rule of God.  Remember Adam and Eve?

We all have used the excuse, “the devil made me do it” but someone had to open the door and invite him in!   As a child I accepted Jesus as my savior.  I bought the fire insurance but lordship?  That came much later in my adult life.  After much sinning and denying Jesus’ rule in my life, I surrendered to His lordship.  Thank God for His mercy and His glorious grace (Ep. 2:1-6).

Often time we fail to see the spiritual reality of two conflicting influences in this world—God and Satan. Each day we, unknowingly or knowingly, choose the one we will surrender to.  We give them rule, control, and influence in our life.  Paul makes clear this truth to the church at Rome (Rom. 6:16).

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 

The surrendered life in Christ, is by far the best choice.  But as Jesus cautioned, it is important that we consider the cost.

“Everyone need not apply!”

Jesus in His teaching on the cost of discipleship was brutally honest about His expectation of His followers.  There was no mincing of words or changing of position to make the offer more appealing to His listeners (Matt. 16:24; Luke 14:33).

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

“So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”

Deny or forsake?  It’s still good-bye!

Intimate relations with Jesus require that we “deny self and forsake all”.  Such was the case during His earthly ministry 2000 years ago.  Jesus’ ministry continues today with us as His disciples.  His expectations have not changed.  

Deny has two meanings: (1) to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone and (2) to lose sight of oneself and own interests.  Matthew uses the second definition to explain Jesus’ rebuke to would-be disciples unaware of the cost to follow Him.    

Luke chose to express the same idea using the word forsake.  To forsake adds further to the ideal of departure from one’s old self and habits.  It means to renounce or bid farewell to.    

As we deny our own interest and forsake our past self, we must also reject our love for this world—“the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16).  All these create within us a divided heart which cannot love Jesus well nor surrender to His leading.

The surrendered life

The world, Satan, and our flesh are not big on “denying or forsaking.”   They encourage us to place our desires above the Lord’s.  They deceive by whispering, “You can have it your way right now.  Jesus can wait another day.”  Jesus replies, “I am The Way” (John 14:6) and offers instead His love (John 3:16), salvation (Heb. 2:10), forgiveness (Ep. 1:7), freedom (Ps. 146:7), and peace (Col. 3:15).

The surrendered life in Christ results in great joy and wisdom.  There is great confidence in knowing we have made the best choice in choosing “the Pearl of Great Price” (Matt. 13:46).

Recognizing Our Sin

Recognizing Our Sin It wasn’t me!

Chuck Berry, guitarist, singer and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music, recorded a song in the 60’s that has become the automatic response when Ron and I accuse each other of some “mishap in the house.”  These lyrics have been modernized in a television commercial showing a child (hiding under the dining table) joyfully eating a cake obviously confiscated from the dessert buffet.  The lyrics are these: “It wasn’t me, baby!  No, it wasn’t me, baby!  Must have been some other body, uh, uh, baby, it wasn’t me.”

This is often the response we hear when people are confronted with their sin.  Listen to the news this week, this month, this year!  Rather than take responsibility and quickly confessing, we begin to distance ourselves from the sin.  Denial doesn’t remove the sin.  Instead, it allows sin to strengthen in our life.  Our willingness to accept responsibility for our sins is further complicated by living in a postmodern world where truth is relative.  This further numbs us to the presence of sin in our lives.

Because of these factors, it is critical that we take personal responsibility for our sinful actions.  This process begins with our being intentional in identifying sin in our lives (1 John 1:6-8, 10).

Living the Way of Jesus

This year as part of my spiritual development, I am reading Michaele Lavigne’s notable book, Living the Way of Jesus:  Practicing the Christian Calendar One Week at a Time.  The book is organized around the Christian calendar, using scriptural texts that follow the seasons of the Christian Calendar.  While Jewish celebration revolves around the Exodus from Egypt, the Christian Church year focuses on the life and ministry of Jesus.

Lavigne includes weekly practices that invite readers to the rhythms of the Christian calendar and to orient us to God’s reality.

We do not merely ask God to join our lives: instead, we are invited to participate in God’s life. Subtly and explicitly, this way of making time reminds us that we [Believers] are part of a story that is different from the stories we hear all around us.[1]    

This Season of Lent provides us an opportunity to walk with Jesus as He makes His way to the Cross and to gain a whole new understanding of what it means to be Christ’s disciple. This includes how we address sin in our lives—both subtle and obvious.

For Lent, Lavigne has suggested weekly practices that invite us to observe “who we really are and what the world is really like”.  Practices to date have included Silence, Honoring Others’ Requests, and Recognizing our Sin.  It is this last one that I share my personal reflections.  Perhaps you will find it helpful in your journey to becoming more conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).

Where do I start?

I was invited to begin with prayer and to consider what Jesus may need to “clean out of me”.  Are there desires, activities, or decisions that are cluttering my life and preventing full worship of Jesus?  I was to write them down and then take them to the One Person who could help me with my “sin problem”.  I was to take them to Jesus.

Jesus alone could clear out and burn away the things that harmed me (John 2:13-22).  Jesus would shine His light of truth on those things that kept me from being in right relationship with God and with others.  I was to listen to anything Jesus might share with me during our time together.  That was the most illuminating part of this practice.   Once I confessed my sins, Jesus faithfully forgave me and cleansed me from my sins (1 John 1:9).

At the end of the week, I was to process what I learned from this practice of recognizing my sin.

What did I learn about myself?   About God?

I learned that there were things that cluttered my life and prevented me from spending quality time with the Lord.  I had allowed busyness to dominate my time.  My schedule was interfering with my time with my First Love (Rev. 2:4).

For me, even ministry work (externally focused) sometimes takes time away from prayer, reading God’s Word, meditation, journaling, and more.  Dedicated time with Jesus provides “sacred space” where He can direct, reproof, instruct, nurture, and correct me.  It is time when I can “d-r-i-n-k” from the fountain of life (Ps. 36:9).  And as I drink, I am being transformed (Rom. 12:2).

What did I Learned about God?  He never changes!  Hallelujah!  God is loving and patient.  Even in my foolishness and sin, He never gives up on me.  “The Lord will wait that He may be gracious unto me.” (Is. 30:18)

Recognizing My Sin:  The Conclusion

I close with this quote from F.B. Meyers concerning sin.  “We often expose ourselves to more anguish in our effort to retain and to restrain [our sins], than to remove them absolutely and forever.”   Where are you spending your efforts?

It is our responsibility to keep sin at bay in our lives.  While we live in this flesh, we must deal with the presence of sin.  However, we have been delivered from its power in our lives (Rom. 6:6-14).   The intentional practice of recognizing sin can draw us nearer to Jesus and becoming the people our Heavenly Father created us to be.

[1] Living the Way of Jesus:  Practicing the Christian Calendar One Week at a Time

Rising Above Sin: The Grace Factor Multiples

This month we published a WordBytes entitled,  Sin:  What do we do with it Our intent was to show the relationship between our nation’s current social/economic dilemma and “sin.” In response, our guest writer, Bethany Spilde offers encouraging options to address the “elephant in the room”–SIN.  ENJOY!

The question

That 6-word question (What do we do with sin?) splashed color on the elephant (SIN) that had blended into the walls of churches, homes and society.  And, like a carpet stain, it drives us nuts at first because we know it’s not supposed to be there.  Then, life gets busy and distractions come in.  Every day that passes, the stain is tolerated a little more until eventually it “blends in” and is forgotten.  That’s what we refer to as the “slow fade.”

Well, the freshly painted elephant needs our attention.  Take a deep breath and reflect on what is going on in our world. What sins have we accepted, tolerated or become numb to – which are leading families, leaders, communities and nations to ‘death’ (Ephesians 2)?

So, what more could we do with ‘sin’ after we have confessed, repented and are dead to it?

Is there a way to lead our families, communities and nation away from their current direction?   What about the hopeless, ungodly, and captives which the last WordBytes referenced in 1 Peter 4:17-18?

YES!  If you have experienced God’s grace – it’s time to take it up a notch to GLORIFY Him!

Your TESTIMONY has the power to inspire others to faith in Jesus Christ.

By SHARING your personal story of God’s saving grace, He is glorified!   It is our duty and privilege to share who God is and what He has done. We must never lose sight of the reality that God is active among us – it is what sets us apart from the rest of the world and inspires the lost soul to know Him.

In Romans 5, Paul writes: “…He [Jesus] has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live.  And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory!”

Also, in the tenth chapter Paul states that salvation is for ALL.  “How can people believe if they have not heard the message?  How can they hear if the message isn’t proclaimed? … How wonderful is the coming of messengers who bring good news!”

Indeed, it’s time to get real and relational with the people around us.

Bring the message.  We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. When we let our walls down and stop judging, we allow God’s love to overflow onto everyone around us.

What would happen to families, churches and society if parents and leaders humbly admitted/shared their personal failures and how their life has changed because of God?  What if there were more “God’s grace stories” in general – at breakfast, lunch and dinner?

Your testimony will encourage and increase faith in fellow believers and lead the lost to Jesus.  Even David took testimonies as a heritage, which rejoiced in his heart (Psalm 119:111).

 What is the most effective way to share?

 Start with God.  Talk about who He is and how He created the world and each of us in his image, with plans to prosper and give us hope.  He knew us before we sinned (example of Adam and Eve) and had a redemption plan in place (Jesus) to save us from a fallen world.

Past sin/struggle. Describe the sin, a little of what life was like living from human nature/fleshly desires of the world, while realizing that God is bigger than any sin.  Note, this is where most people start their testimony (“I was a sinner” i.e. alcoholic, glutton, thief).  It’s important to start with God because He has been and will always be with us.

Jesus.  Next, explain your encounter with Jesus.  God sent His only son to die upon the cross for our sins, while we were still sinners, so that we might have a relationship with Him (Ephesians 2).  God loves you and cares deeply to not leave you where you are at.  He sees you as whole, complete, and His child above all else (Philippians 1:6).  He has specific plans for you, for good.  God’s kindness spurs us to confess and repent, knowing He is quick to forgive and shower us with the depths of His grace (Romans 4:7).

Life.  Share how are you living now after coming to Jesus with your sin and receiving Forgiveness and Grace.  There is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ.  Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  He has placed a new heart and spirit in us, which inspires us to do what is right and good (Ezekiel 36:26).

It is my hope that you and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ will be bold in rising above the sin through your testifying of His Grace in your life.   I pray boldness and courage…and an increase of faith and revelation for you.  Who will you “say it forward” to for His Glory?

 Bethany Spilde is the founder of Social Buzz Media, a leading social media, relationship marketing and branding firm. She is also an adjunct professor, and recently honored as an Emerging Leader of the Year by eWomen Network.