Livin’ my Best Life: What is it?

 

I'm Livin' My Best Life

“I’m livin’ my best life!”

When you hear this statement, what comes to mind?  During a recent conversation with a dear friend, she shared that her son was visiting California.  When asked how he was enjoying his trip, he replied, “I’m livin’ my best life!”

Therein marks the genesis for this new series.  As I listen to radio talk podcasts and television talk shows, this statement is frequently given as a response to current living.  But what does it mean?  It is my intent to explore with you what “best life” looks like.  Viewed through both contemporary and biblical lenses, we hope that we as believers will walk away with a better understanding of the “best definition”.

The worldview of best life

In the 21st century we live in, we are continually bombarded with information.  This includes what “best life” looks like.

Reality television has given us an “upfront” yet distorted seat of what the best life looks like.  We can quickly access via our devices how celebrities and luminaries live their lives.  Unfortunately, these personalities have a great influence on how we think life is to be lived.  Right or wrong.

In the 20th century, we were busy trying to “keep up with the Joneses.”  This is the 21st century!  Forget about the Joneses!  Let’s keep up with the Kardashians, Housewives of whatever city, or the young people Growing up Hip Hop.  If I did not list your favorite “go to show” for seeing how the other half lives, I’ll let you fill in the blank.

Of course, these “made-for-tv” realities don’t show the other side of that golden coin.  We later see the impact of the “best life” played out in the media as we see broken relationships and the emotional carnage left behind.

Why is this important?

Our view of “best life” can impact every area of our life.  Pursuit of the best life (ill-defined) can lead us down paths that will result in bad decisions, unrealistic expectations, and wasted energy.  Even more risky is when the quest is for something that can never satisfy (Is. 55:2).

This best life journey usually begins with misleading us into believing how quickly we can have it.  Credit cards, payday loans, and quick financing make our best life just a click or signature away.  “Why wait when you can have it now?”

When taking a look at how specific types of debt have shifted since 2019, mortgage loans, auto loans, student loans and personal loans all reached new record highs. Student loan debt saw the largest growth (12%), followed by mortgage debt (7%) and personal loan debt (6%), according to Experian data from Q3 2020.

 From a faith perspective, the pursuit of best life, creates spiritual tension for the believer.  We are told to seek first the kingdom of God first (Matt. 6:33) and to set our mind on things above (Col. 3:2).  Does that mean we cannot pursue our “best life”?  No.  Remember Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).  That sounds like best life to me!

Best life guidelines

First, we as believers, operate from a different reality than the world.  Our reality is based on God’s goodness and God’s greatness.  We do not depend nor trust on material gain to experience our best life.  God is our exceeding, great reward (Gen. 15:1).  To focus on the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:15-17) can potentially lead us to sin and other moral failures.

Secondly, we remember our identity and who we are in Christ.   When we became believers, we were adopted into the kingdom of God (Eph. 1:5).  That new relationship came with many blessings and promises that provide for our livelihood (2 Pet. 1:3-4).  Best life is defined by what God has outlined in His Word.  The Holy Spirit uses that Word to reform (renew) our hearts and minds so that we look and act like Jesus.  When people look at us, they should see Jesus (not what we have or who we are).

Finally, we strive to achieve the purpose which God designed specifically for our lives.  Before the foundations of the world, God identified the purpose for our lives (Ep. 2:10).   The Holy Spirit empowers us to accomplish that purpose (Act 1:8).  It is our privilege to walk in God’s purpose.

More to come

Livin’ our best life is more than a catchy phrase or personal mantra.  When we speak of our best life, we are revealing what is most important to us.  It is also an indicator of who is in charge of our life.

In Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT), the Apostle Paul gives good advice on discovering our “real best life”:

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.  

Memorial Day Gratitude: Throwback Wednesday

Memorial Day Gratitude

 

Time for gratitude

While preparing for the next WordBytes series, I was stopped by this thought, “It’s time to thank God.  Before moving on to the next “thing”, stop and express gratitude for today!”

If you’re reading this WordBytes, guess what?  God has blessed you with life. Who could have imagined?  After 604,000+ COVID deaths, we are still standing.  God has kept us during this global pandemic.  Yes, we’ve loss friends and family but for some reason God has extended  mercy to us (once again).  2020 and 2021 have been challenging years never before imagined.

But God

Jeremiah wrote these words as he lamented the tragic destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian armies (Lamentations 3:18-23, New Living Translation).

I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the LORD is lost!”  The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.  Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:  The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. 

But God.   In tragedy and loss, God was faithful.  Guess what?  God is still faithful!  In the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, in the midst of economic uncertainty, in the quagmire of social injustice, in the throes of food insecurity and homelessness, in the fallout of global warming, God is faithful.  Therefore, we will have hope.

Throwback Wednesday

To express our gratitude this Memorial Day, we’d like to do “Throwback Wednesday”.  The WordBytes we’ve chosen is Discovering God in the Psalms:  Forget Not God I invite you to formulate your personal Memorial Day gratitude. As we celebrate our loved ones from the past let us, also, “forget not God” for all He is doing for us right now.

A Foretaste of Glory: The Holy Spirit of Pentecost

 

A Foretaste of Glory

The promise of Pentecost

Sunday we will celebrate Pentecost Sunday.  This will mark the end of Eastertide and introduce the arrival of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Promise (Acts 1:4; Luke 24:49; John 14:16).

Many churches will dress their altars in red to symbolize the fire of Pentecost.  This fire, the Holy Spirit, fell upon the apostles and early followers of Jesus who were gathered in the Upper Room (Acts 2:3).  This fire would empower the apostles then and believers now to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world.

Pentecost marked the availability of the Holy Spirit to everyone who would “call upon the name of Jesus” (Rom. 10:13; Acts 2:38).  Collectively, individuals responding in faith would form the Church promised by Jesus to His disciples (Matt. 16:18).

The presence of the Holy Spirit

While we may know about the various ministries of the Holy Spirit, it is even more important to fully grasp the enormity of His Presence within us.  I love the way Jesus described this phenomenon in John 17:23 (NLT).

I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Imagine.  We have deity living within us!  Jesus in believers and God in Jesus.  Why?  So that we will be in complete agreement.  Our will, our thoughts, and our lives operating together.   And when the world sees us, they will see God and know how much He loves us.

Like the disciples on the day of Pentecost, we need the Holy Spirit’s power and direction as we live for God’s glory.  Pentecost is not only a day on the church calendar, but it is also an invitation to join God in His ministry of deliverance, wholeness, and grace (Eph. 2:10).

Stormie Omartian, bestselling American Christian author, describes our partnership with the Holy Spirit this way:

God wants to lead you to places you cannot get to without Him, and He does that by the power of His Spirit. He can bring you into the realm of the miraculous—not as a show, but as a demonstration of His love and compassion for the lost, hurting, or needy. Who among us doesn’t want or need that?

The glory of Pentecost

In meditating on the glory of Pentecost, the words of the hymn, “Blessed Assurance” echoes within my heart and mind:

Blessed assurance Jesus is mine

Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine

Heir of salvation, purchase of God

Born of His Spirit, Lost in His love. 

This song captures in totality the work of salvation.  It describes in its opening lines the work specifically of the Holy Spirit who gives us a foretaste of the glory that belongs to those who are in Christ.

“Foretaste” is made up of two Latin words:  ante which means “ahead, before or previously” and gustus meaning “flavor, zeal” (this is where we get our word gusto).  Foretaste is described as a taste before possession; a limited awareness of something to occur.

This is a good illustration of what the sealing of the Holy Spirit accomplishes.  The Holy Spirit whets the spiritual appetite for those things which God has reserved for believers until the day we all shall see Jesus for ourselves (1 John 3:2).  Paul referred to this time as the “redemption of the purchased possession” (Eph. 1:4).

As we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, let us look forward to the time when we will be fully in the presence of God.  While we wait, let God’s Spirit lead us to where we might witness and serve.  Having received a foretaste of glory, let us not squander the power within us—the power of the Holy Spirit.

This is my story, this is my song.

Praising my Savior all the day long.

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.”