He is (Still) Risen

For as by a man came death, by a man has also come the resurrection of the dead. (1 Cor. 15:21)

 

The landfills are littered with colorful plastic eggs. The leftovers sit in the fridge. That chocolate bunny with one ear eaten is still tempting and your pastel Easter shirt is back in the closet. Easter has come and gone.

But Jesus is still risen.

It is quite easy to get caught up in the brightness of Easter. In the midst of the colors and family (and this year, heavenly weather), the air is electric with praise. After all, we celebrate the greatest news in the history of the world. Great news carries great buzz (“Did you hear?!?!”) and the greatest news carries the greatest buzz.

So how do we move on from this news? How do we zombie though another day and forget the power of Jesus’ resurrection? For many of us, it’s like watching a great movie. You’re moved and then you move on. But we cannot move on from celebrating Jesus’ resurrection. It is the hope from which we live.

 

Hello, Immortal

Grab your phone. Look at your contacts and picture their faces. Think of your friends and those who you might consider enemies. Picture everyone you have ever known in a giant room.

They are all immortals.

We are on an eternal trajectory to heaven or hell, to (as Scripture playfully puts it) “recline at table” with Jesus or to endure eternal separation from Him. Death is a transition, not an ending. Those of us in Christ shall be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22) again.

Today is not another day spent in our short existence, it is another day to enjoy in our permanent union with Jesus. We are immortals because of Jesus’ resurrection, and we will enjoy Him forever.

 

The Power

Jesus was fully human. He humbled Himself to be fully human. This means He wept, slept, and ate. He endured the human experience just like we do, one day at a time. When He was tortured and hung on a cross, he asphyxiated and died. If you have ever seen someone recently dead, the heavy reality of their death is unexplainable. They are without life, just a shell.

Jesus reanimated and walked out of there. When the angel told the two Marys about what happened, they trembled in fear. Could it be true? It’s true.

The man who raised Himself from death is the same man who offers Himself to you this very day. If He can lay down His life and pick it back up, imagine the strength He can wield in a difficult marriage, an illness, or depression. Jesus’ power was showcased in His resurrection and He continues to show it off, raising us to eternal life and working in the right now of our lives to draw us nearer to Him.

 

Rescued

We live in a broken world on a path to redemption. Things aren’t right but they’re being made that way by God over time. This world is His even though Satan has a stronghold. When Jesus raised from death, He conquered evil and sealed our promise of hope. We live in that light.

Too often we see ourselves as the rescuers, the heroes. Or maybe we don’t think about it at all. We just live through today and do some stuff and send some texts and sleep so we can do it all again. We are like the avalanche victim who, when uncovered and warmed, chatter through blue lips, “What’s f-f-f-for d-d-dinner?”

You, my friend, have a bright future – one that never ends. Having been rescued from your sin and the death it rightly causes, you will live in the Father’s house when your last breath leaves your body. Jesus will be there with you. Live today in light of that hope.

He is still risen.

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The Freedom of the Law

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17)

 

Two trees stood on the side of a mountain. One grew towards the sun and the other one grew underneath a rock. The sun-prone tree leans over and whispers to the rock-prone tree, “Hey man, you know that we only grow when exposed to the sun’s rays. Lean out this way and you’ll see what I mean.” Well, the rock-prone tree was, so to speak, a little hard-hearted. It replied, “Have it your own way, sunny boy. I like the shade.” The rock-prone tree slowly withers and dies in the shade. As its wood rots, it provides more fertile soil for the sun-prone tree to grow.

God designed the world a certain way. Trees need sun. Fish need water. Mammals need air. And for us to consider the design of our Creator and decide to try a different way is much like the kid who tries to fly. The other day my son, Liam, jumped off the coffee table and flapped his arms. He was trying in earnest to fly. It was cute but he didn’t fly. God designed gravity.

In addition to the laws of nature, God set moral laws in place as well. Do not kill, don’t lie, don’t covet other people’s stuff. And while the effect is often not as obvious as Liam’s failed flying attempt, our attempts to live outside God’s moral law produce wreckage. Our loving God wants to see us flourish and that’s why He created the law.

 

Pharisees Fail

It’s easy to pervert the notion of God’s law, though. When we measure our righteousness by our adherence to the law, we become self-righteous hypocrites. Like the teacher’s pet who belittles the rest of the class, we lose the heart of the law. Plus we fail at keeping the law, so there’s that.

The Pharisees were hard to hang around. They demanded perfection of everyone, their hearts quiet and cold within them. They were not motivated by love. They just wanted a good score card.

 

The law creates a clear separation between us and Jesus. That may sound heretical, just stay with me. Consider Jesus. Under the law, He was perfect. Tempted and tried, but true and faithful. Try to imagine your life with zero sin. Not a careless word, a second glance at that woman, or a jealous ogling your neighbor’s new boat. It makes me tired just thinking about it. That’s the separation I am talking about. Jesus is perfection and we are not perfection. There is a chasm between righteous and unrighteous. I think we know what side of the chasm we stand on.

 

Here, Have Mine

The clear separation between us fallible people and Jesus must be accounted for. It’s not just that we fall short, but that our shortcomings are treason against God. We betray Him by not only going against His design but doing so for our own sake and our own glory. There must be a reckoning.

Here again we look to Jesus. Instead of throwing His head back and laughing at our pathetic state, He stoops down and tenderly grabs our shoulders. “You are lacking in righteousness. Here, have mine.” His obedience on the cross gives us a clean record as Jesus hands us His righteousness.

He was perfect on earth because we cannot be perfect. Then He hands us His perfection which He purchased with His slaughter.

 

 

Free to Obey

Because the record is set straight, we can return to the law of God with humble dedication. We can take up the sword of faith and fight our sin as we clamber up the hill of godly obedience. If we slip and tumble we know that Jesus will be there every step of the way.

There is a scene in Forest Gump where Forest overcomes his physical impairment in his legs. Forest is with his friend Jennie and these bullies roll up on their bikes. They start chunking rocks at Forest, hitting him in the head. Forest is slow of mind so Jennie pleads, “Run, Forest! Run!” Forest has leg braces on both legs which creak as he hobbles to a run. As he picks up speed, the leg braces move with greater range of motion. Then, as Forest reaches a sprint, the braces fall apart and fall of his legs as Forest runs like a gazelle away from his tormenters.

Satan likes to whisper lies. You are a mess. What if they found out? You’re a fraud. These lies act like leg braces, slowing us down so he can throw more rocks and keep us from intimacy with Jesus. But Jesus calls us to follow Him – at a sprint. He’s already loosened all of the screws and taken off the leg braces that trip us. Do we feel the freedom to freely obey? It’s there.

Obedience to the law of God is pure freedom. It is a ticket to flourishing. Jesus made it so when He fulfilled the law. We can consider the law and meditate on its beauty, considering it is the way God made the world to operate. We can see His loving character in His commands.

And we can freely run towards Him.

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Implications of Saltiness

You are the salt of the earth…(Matthew 4:13)

 

Salt has been used as a food preservative since ancient times. Salt draws out water from cells through osmosis and this process kills the organisms that cause decay or disease in the food. The salt kills that which intends to kill.

Salt was vital in Jesus’ day. It was used as a preservative for food and a seasoning. When Jesus preaches the Sermon on the Mount, the people to whom He was talking understood the significance of salt. It had value and it had an important role in their lives. Roman soldiers got an allowance to buy salt, which was called their salary. That’s where we get the word.

Jesus says that we are the salt of the earth. This has some big implications. Consider what it means to be the salt of the earth.

 

We Preserve

We bear the image of God – the imago dei. However broken and sinful we may be, those of us who follow Jesus are God’s ambassadors and He makes His appeal through us (2 Cor. 5:20). He entrusts His gospel to us to share with others. We represent Him and showcase His attributes.

As preservatives, we are tasked with keeping the world fresh with truth. When the truth is proclaimed, especially the capital T Truth of the gospel, it invigorates the world. Truth is like oxygen.

Through divine delegation, we get to preserve God’s kingdom.

 

We Push Back Darkness

There is a force of darkness – Satan – that prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8). He hates Jesus’ kingship and he loathes our worship of Christ. Satan’s chief end is to destroy and tear down, and usually he does this in the shadows through distraction, disqualification, or subtle lies. In the same way that Satan destroys subversively, it’s not easy to spot disease in food with the naked eye until it’s too late. But when salt is present, it kills disease and decay, making room for light and flourishing.

If we share the glory of God – His light – with the world around us, we shine light into dark corners. Think about the light metaphor that Jesus uses. If light played rock-paper-scissors with darkness, light wins every time. When light and darkness collide, the light illuminates the darkness and snuffs it out. Darkness cannot hang with light.

In the cosmic battle of good and evil, we carry the sword of God: His light. The light of the gospel, which is the love story we all hope for. This light transforms the world by pushing back darkness.

 

We Season

Growing up, I remember my mom putting salsa on a tortilla chip and salting it. It seemed gross until I tried it. Salt tastes good. It seasons.

The good thing about salt – especially in Jesus’ day – is not only that it preserves by killing disease and decay, but also that it makes food taste good. (It’s almost like God designed it that way.) So too we grains of salt have the opportunity season the world with the glory of God. Though some will take offense to the gospel (Isaiah 8:14, 1 Peter 2:7-8) and will respond with hatred, by God’s grace can make life taste better for our fellow man.

When you go next door to speak an encouraging word to your neighbor who just lost a loved one, that’s seasoning. When you create art, you season. With God’s help, we can make the world a more beautiful place by seasoning it with the scandalous love of Jesus.

 

It all starts in the heart. When Jesus takes hold of you, your heart will change. You will become salty. Embrace your saltiness and look for opportunities to preserve, push back darkness, and season God’s world. Pray to Jesus and ask Him what areas in His kingdom could use some salt.

Being salt is an adventure. It is dangerous to preserve, fight darkness, and season. There is risk involved for sure – but that’s what makes it fun. As we listen to God’s call to be salt, He goes before us and stands beside us and abides in us. He moves powerfully and impacts the world. And we get the joy of watching our King in action.

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The Coiled Spring of the Sermon on the Mount

And he opened his mouth and taught them…(Matthew 5:2)

The Sermon on the Mount never convicted me. I have always read it, the red letter brilliance, as advice and commands from Jesus. Clearly words to heed and live by. Certainly good verses to pray over and seek for clarity. And it is that, no doubt. But this past weekend when Pastor Scott recommended we also use the Sermon on the Mount as a diagnostic, it took me down the path of brokenness.

If you consider Jesus’ words in the SOTM and compare yourself next to them, you will despair. You will feel anguish. If you don’t, I hope the Spirit moves and makes you more contrite because none of us can stand in the light of the SOTM with swagger.

The SOTM is a gracious self-fulfilling command if we see it rightly. Jesus starts with “blessed are the poor in spirit.” There are two reasons, I believe. First, when we are poor in spirit we are humble recipients of the grace we so badly need. Second, I believe Jesus was about to help us get poor in spirit with His words. The SOTM sobers us if we consider how our life compares. By Jesus helping us get poor in spirit we can then come to the fountainhead of grace – His feet – and drink.

 

Why Go There?

You might wonder why it makes sense to turn this beautiful sermon into an opportunity to feel broken. Shouldn’t we just sit underneath His wisdom and listen and stay positive about it all? Why the long face?

The reason we should welcome the awareness of our spiritual bankruptcy – both in this context and in the broader context of our walk with Jesus – is that brokenness precedes healing. And we are all broken. If we deny our brokenness, we are delusional and we remain in a posture of pride. A person who knows she is broken will walk behind Jesus, meet Him at the well, and pour her expensive perfume on His feet in an effort to get better. She’ll plead with Him, and she will lay hold of the Word until the Spirit lights up the pages and delivers the words deep into her heart.

You are sick. You are guilty. If you’ve ever been angry at someone, it’s as good as murder to Jesus. So you’re a murderer. Have you ever lusted for someone who wasn’t your spouse? You’re a cheater. I won’t go on – you get the point. We need to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to the words of the SOTM to help us understand how badly we need Him.

 

A Good Cycle

As we read Scripture, we should see God more clearly. And when we see God more clearly, we can then see ourselves more clearly. The more I read the Bible and the more I walk through life with Jesus, the more convinced I am of my depravity and God’s goodness. I’m a mess and He is magnificent. The distance between my righteousness and Christ’s righteousness seems to grow in my mind even as, by the power of the Spirit, He makes me more like Himself every day.

Beholding the glory of God and our human brokenness, we feel small. Have you ever stood on top of a mountain or watched giant waves pound the shore? It’s a glorious smallness we feel. We comprehend that what we observe is massive and we are not but we don’t want anything to change. We search the expanse with our eyes on top of the mountain and we stand there on the beach with the salt air as the waves roar. We were designed to take in awe and stand amazed at God’s greatness.

The more small I feel, the bigger God seems. And this is a good cycle. Because the more I see God’s power and holiness, the happier I get. He has adopted me as His son. He has my back. All of this grandeur, this terrifying power, is leveraged in my favor. How great thou art!

 

The Coiled Spring

The SOTM compresses us. We read it and lap up every word Jesus says and if we do so from a self-aware mindset, we will feel our unrighteousness. Jesus perfectly exhibits the qualities He preaches on and while we may have glimmers of them, we want more. But we don’t measure up. But we want more.

As we sit at Jesus’ feet and listen, we are like a coiled spring. The more we are compressed by our imperfection the more potential energy is stored. The Gospel – the Good News of Jesus’ perfect life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection for us sinners – releases that kinetic energy. When we are weak we are strong (2 Cor. 12:10). We spring upwards in joy as Jesus looks into our eyes and says, you are mine. I will heal you.

The Lord doesn’t give us commands so we can fail a test (unlike my math professor in college). He gives us commands so we can understand how to live and to see the grace of Christ more clearly. So let us sit underneath the SOTM and soak up Jesus’ words as applicable ways to live our life. And let us also notice how dreadfully short we fall. But let us move from there to spring upward into the arms of God with a soul-penetrating grin. He has saved us and He is making all things new – including us.

 

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