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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Why We Sing

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…

(Ephesians 5:18-19 ESV)

 

Many years ago, I came across Ephesians 5:18 in a moment of regret. I had, in the sinful idiocy of my younger days, drank too much the night prior. The morning I encountered this verse I sat with my skin crawling and my head pounding in my parents’ living room. I was looking for answers.

I found my answer in the contrast offered by these words:

“Do not get drunk with wine…but be filled with the Spirit…” 

Here Paul explains to the Ephesians that we have a choice – get drunk or fill up with the Spirit. (Note: this is not a wholesale restriction on consuming alcohol. Paul is referring to overindulgence in alcohol.) The effects are similar in some regards. A belly full of liquor will dominate you and lead you down paths you would not have otherwise chosen. Same goes for a heart filled with the Spirit. Alcohol will warm your affections, as will the Spirit. Alcohol can gladden the heart (for a little while), and the Spirit certainly does this as well. The key difference between being filled with wine and being filled with the Spirit is the trajectory of our intoxication. Alcohol leads you in no certain direction, or in many directions at one time. The Spirit leads you towards deeper affection for and communion with Jesus. Easy choice, right?

So we want to be filled with the Spirit. What does that look like today, in this moment called right now? What means and methods should we use to connect with the Spirit?

First, we must understand that we are already connected with the Spirit. The Spirit of God lives within us as Christ followers (1 Cor. 3:16). We are a temple for God’s presence. Now wait a second. We must not move past this statement hastily. You, Christ follower, have the Spirit of God living in you. Close your eyes and think about this for a moment.

Second, we have the ability to cultivate an awareness of the Spirit in us – to sync our lives with His movement. Now this sounds a little weird, I must admit. But hang with me. You have a moral compass, which is a rudder that tells you right from wrong. Surely you have noticed this. Now sometimes our moral compass, which we’ll call our conscience, fails us. Because our hearts are sick and dark (Jeremiah 17:9), we cannot follow them without the grounding rod of Scripture. Scripture reading is vital to a Spirit-filled life. So, the way to sync your conscience with the Spirit is to be aware and listen to your conscience and then make sure your conscience – your inner thoughts – are in step with the truth and commands of the Bible. Prayer is another means to sync your life with the Spirit.

Finally, we can sing. Have you ever sat and listened to a beautiful song and thought about the odd human experience you are having? You are listening to noise, to sound waves that hit your eardrums. Your brain processes the stimulus and informs you that you have heard something pleasant. God has made us in such a way that certain octaves and pitches combined together can churn our emotions like the eye of a storm. Music can make you cry, dance, and rejoice. It is a powerful thing.

God knows the power of song because He made it. He intends for the power of music to gladden your heart towards Him as you sing.

It is one thing to listen to a beautiful song, but it is an immeasurably deeper experience to participate in it. I am learning to play the guitar, and the first time I was able to play one of my favorite songs and sing it at the same time – entering into the song itself – it was a magical experience.

C.S. Lewis said it well:

.…I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.

What Lewis says here is true. When we eat a great meal, we want to share it with others – or at least tell someone about it. There is something significant about shared experience. So it goes with singing and worship. When we sing together, our voices raised to whatever ability we have, we unite in a profound way. When we together extol the glory of God together through singing, the heavens rejoice with us as we together declare the greatness of God.

The reason we sing is simple – because in singing we join together to ignite the passions of our souls towards God. So whether you’re a trained singer or you worry you sound like a dying hyena, open your lungs and sing. God doesn’t care about the quality of your voice, He cares about the condition of your heart. Sing praises to your mighty King.

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