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Living in Light of the Resurrection


 

empty tombI woke up on “Good Friday” a few years back, thinking of the day more than 2,000 years ago when Jesus was crucified.

I wondered how something so sad, like the death of a righteous man on a cross could be called “good”. It seems that it should be called “sad” or “disappointing” based on the way the disciples of Jesus must have felt on that day.

Can you picture it? The one you had counted on who was going to rescue you from Rome; the hope of the Jewish people who would change the way religion was done, was now hanging on a cross – suffering the same fate as thieves and other law-breakers. How can that be good?

The events of that original Friday would have been justifiably the saddest day in the lives of the disciples if another promised event had not taken place on the Sunday that followed. The victory of the cross over sin and death was climaxed by the resurrection. Without the resurrection it would not have been a victory at all – not then and not now. And the church of Christ would not have survived into the 21st century.

The apostle Paul said several things about resurrection:

I Cor. 15:13-17,32

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.

The empty tomb sealed the deal.  Death could not hold Jesus down. And it doesn’t have to hold you down – His resurrection opened the way for us, a door into life – not only in the future, but right here and right now.

In a sense, what happened on Friday of that first “Easter” weekend needs to happen in each of our lives, in order for it’s intended purpose to benefit us.  A personal “crucifixion” has to take place:

Gal. 2:20a – “I am crucified with Christ:” says the apostle Paul.

I hadve to die to myself to come to Christ. Everyone of us who has had a true conversion experience has to come to this conclusion: there is nothing I can do to save myself, to get myself right with God; Jesus did that for me on the cross – He made a way for me to get right with God.

Thank God, Jesus was raised from the dead! And because of His resurrection, I too can share in that resurrected life:

Gal. 2:20:  “ . . . nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (KJV)

I don’t have to wait until I die physically to experience a resurrection. When I died to myself at the foot of the cross of Jesus, accepting His sacrifice for my sins and giving up doing it on my own, He raised me up spiritually. I have already been resurrected in Him. Now I am truly alive – and the life I live is His life in me.

The challenge for all of us is to reckon that we are dead to the old ways and now are freed to live in the light of the resurrection – for

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old is gone, the new is here.” 2 Cor. 5:17

That’s what is good about “Good Friday” – it had in view what was to come, and paved the way for us to be able to walk in the light and power of the resurrection, right here, right now.

Are you experiencing resurrection life?

The message of resurrection life is captured in a song from one of my music CD’s. Hope you enjoy it:

We Are the Reason

©2011, Marcy Alves, revised 2015

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Your Death on the Cross


Who was it that hung on the cross? It was a liar, an adulterer, a murderer, a thief, a fornicator, a greedy person, a hardened criminal, a selfish person, an abuser, an addict, and the list goes on and on. But how can I say this? Am I a blasphemer against our Lord Jesus?

Gal. 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” NRSV

Jesus hung on the cross for us, in our place. He died for all kinds of sin, for all kinds of sinners. Think you’re not a sinner? I once thought I wasn’t. Keep reading.

Gal. 5:19-22 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  NRSV

I was a young teenager when God spoke to me about my personal sins by leading a speaker at a youth meeting to use the Scripture quoted above. I had not done really bad things, but I saw myself in the list of sins in the verses above. We were very poor and I had jealousy and envy and sometimes anger about not being able to have things I wanted to have or live in the kind of house where I could comfortably invite friends over. I also had a lot of pride, which is probably why I was ashamed about our house and our poverty.

We were all in big trouble before the crucifixion of Jesus. But thank God:

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2: 24

I remember responding to an invitation the night of the youth meeting, to be cleansed from my sin. I told the Lord that I was wrong – I did have sin in my life – and that I was sorry. I asked for His forgiveness and He told me that because of Jesus death on the cross, I was already forgiven.  It felt like a warm blanket of love had been placed round my shoulders that night. I have never doubted from that night that God loves me and that I have access to the God of the universe now through Jesus. I was re-born that night.

According to the Scriptures, all who have been re-born by the Holy Spirit of God were “crucified with Christ” on that cross.

Gal. 2:19-20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

You and I spiritually hung on the cross with Jesus – He felt our sin, our shame, our guilt. He took our punishment, our pain, our wounds into himself.  We have been set free.

Rom. 6:5-6 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.

Because Jesus was raised from the dead, resurrected, we who are born again by His Spirit also participate in that resurrection, both now and in the future when Jesus returns. The power that was unleashed in the resurrection of Christ is available to us to live the life we have been called to live – one of victory over sin in this earthly life and over death itself when the physical body “dies”. All this is through the gift of eternal life that was revealed in the resurrection of Christ and promised to all those who put their faith in Christ.  Halleluiah!

Forget the Easter bunnies and  colored eggs and chocolate candy. Praise the Lord that Jesus conquered death!

Happy Resurrection Day!!

 

©2012, Marcy Alves (edited 4/19/2014)

From Shame to Honor


Have you ever suffered embarrassment from harsh, unfeeling, and undeserved words that have been spoken in criticism or judgment? Have they left the mark of shame on your life?

After a message I shared with our church regarding two things the devil uses to disable followers of Christ – pride and shame – a woman from our congregation asked to share with the congregation. She said that during the past week an acquaintance of hers had derided her concerning her faith in God, that her friend shamed her.

Her prideful ‘friend’ said: “Your daughter was sick almost to death, your car was in an accident, you have money problems – what good does it do to go to church and believe in God, He doesn’t answer your prayers. I don’t go to church. I have four children and none of them are sick and I’m doing well without depending on God.”

Our church member continued: “It made me feel so bad. I’ve been feeling discouraged. And I have been crying all week. I know I was supposed to be here today for this message.”

Shame is debilitating; it causes believers to live under the cloud of doubt and uncertainty, hesitancy and timidity, depression and hopelessness – shame is not meant to be in the life of God’s child.

Some of our shame comes from others – from what they say and what they do to us. And some of our shame comes from our own participation with things of the flesh – things that end in our personal sin.

When we come to the foot of the cross and drop our burden of shame – seeing the Savior dying for our sins, shedding his blood to pay our debt, giving up His life to give us life – we should walk away from the cross with our heads held high, not hung down with a cloud of gloom surrounding us.

BC – before the cross – we had reason to be ashamed. AC – after the cross – things changed. Jesus came to do away with our guilt and our shame, no matter how that shame came upon us; to give us new life.

There are several reasons we no longer have to be ashamed:

  • Because we trust in Christ for salvation and the forgiveness of our sins:

Romans 6:22-22 –   What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

1 Peter 2:6 For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

  • Because we have made Jesus Lord of our life

Romans 10:8 “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.

  • Because God calls us “sons”*

Hebrews 2:10-11 In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 Both the one who makes men holy [Jesus] and those who are made holy are of the same family.

  • Because Jesus calls us his “brothers”*

Hebrews 211-12 – So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. 12 He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.”

You are no longer an outsider, an outcast, a failure, a loser, a no good son of a gun. You are a child of God, a member of His family.

Recently I shared on Facebook and Twitter a God-tube video of Christopher Coleman­.

He was born dead and laid aside; when his twin sister was born about 15 minutes later and cried, Chris suddenly gulped a breath and cried. But because he was oxygen-deprived for 15 minutes – the doctors were certain he would be severely handicapped and suggested putting him away in a permanent facility. Christopher’s parents made the decision to keep him. Only those who have raised a handicapped child know the hardship of such a decision.

Since the video does not go into detail, we can only guess at the difficulty of attending to this young child’s needs. Yet, Christopher’s mother always gave him encouragement and planted hope in him from early childhood.  She was his cheerleader and pointed him toward his Savior and Maker, the Lord God.

Christopher was not sent to school with his twin sister when she started attending, but at age 5 he taught himself to read from his sister’s school books. He later graduated high school and at God’s instruction attended a college in Marietta, GA where he graduated with honors in a Communications major.

God told Christopher that He wanted to use him.  Chris can’t walk, has limited use of his hands, and labors to speak clearly. Yet he travels and shares his testimony about how much God loves him and saved his life for a purpose. The Lord has chosen him to “confound the wise”.

God has a different philosophy than the world does: the world worships success, wealth, material things, popularity, education, intelligence, influence, abilities, skills, but God chooses the foolish things of this world to shame the worldly wise – the arrogant.

1 Cor. 1:27  “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; “ (Authorized Version)

“Confound” means to stun, amaze, puzzle, mystify, bewilder, baffle, perplex and leave people speechless. That’s what God wants to do through the weak and foolish from the worldly view.

Maintaining our trust in a loving God in spite of circumstances is what confounds the “wise” around us who don’t know our God. We have no reason to be ashamed.

We have a couple of apple trees in our front yard. Because the trees had years of neglect before we acquired the property, the apples that come from those trees are misshapen, wormy, and small, with somewhat tough skins. But when I cut away the apples’ “shame” they are very tasty. They make wonderful applesauce.

I take the time each autumn to “redeem” these apples – to make something good out of them. They would go to complete decay if I did not intervene – like Jesus intervened for us.

Our Heavenly Father sent his Son, Jesus, to redeem us; to take fallen, misshapen, sin-stained, shameful and shamed people – some of us with very tough skins – and make something “tasty” of us.

Because Almighty God, Ruler of Heaven and Earth, is a God of love, He delights in taking his creatures from shame to honor – to leave the wise of this world stunned, amazed, puzzled, mystified, bewildered, baffled, perplexed and speechless.

Are you ready to give up the shame of your life – to exchange it for a life of honor?

 

©2011, Marcy Alves

* “sons” and “brothers” – in the New Testament refers to both men and women. This is actually an elevation of women in the culture of that time – particularly in the Jewish culture where only sons inherited from the father. In Christ we all have the rights and privileges of “sons” and “brothers”. (see We’re the ‘sons of God’ . . . So What?)

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