But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15: 20-22

Today, we take the fact of Christ’s death and subsequent resurrection as something that is based upon the testimony of witnesses who were there and saw Him alive that has been passed on from one generation to the next over a long period of time. We also know of the truth of these events because of the reality of their consequences. When we come to that place in life where we turn away from a self-driven existence and yield our mind, heart, and soul to Christ, something profound and extraordinary occurs within us. This something is transformative, and it takes us into the center of the eternal work that Christ accomplished upon that cross. This was God’s determined response to our sinful rebellion against Him, and it was made full and complete when the Father raised the Son back into life after three days had passed.

Jesus, the Christ, in the perfection of God’s will went before us. Later, after Christ has returned to this world and set all that has been corrupted and broken by sin right and made it whole, all of us who have entered into a relationship with God through Christ will, too, be given the renewed bodies that God has promised to us. Until then, our souls do continue to exist in heaven as we dwell with God and with Christ in that place that is just beyond the tangible and seen created universe. So why should this matter? What difference does Christ’s resurrection make for my days upon earth? It is important if we care at all about being truly alive and about the eternal impact of the life that we do live out during those days that have been allotted to us. In Christ, we do continue on beyond the time that we obtain in our original term of existence. In fact, existence is not accurately measured by the passing of days, months, and years on an earthly calendar; instead, it is counted by the inscrutable passage of heavenly time.

Yet, we do live in these original bodies for a time that is played out in the fulfillment of the promise and the potential that has been given to us as a divine gift. What we do in this life should reflect the orientation of our heart and be accomplished in response to the one who we have granted lordship over our days. In this life, we all serve a master. No one is fully autonomous and self-determinate in all ways and in all matters. There is one such master that has conquered the ultimate limitation that is imposed upon all people, that is death itself. This is Christ Jesus, and He is calling to each and every person that draws breath upon the earth to come to Him, to enter into relationship with Him, and to receive the promised redemption that comes as God’s gift to all who believe. Thus, in Christ, we are made truly and fully alive in this life, and we are also granted the promise of life that goes on without interruption from the moment of last earthly breath throughout all time to come. 

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I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

2 Timothy 4: 1, 2

This is Paul’s direction for Timothy as a pastor and a teacher of God’s Word. It is also a set of directions that anyone who serves the church in a similar capacity today should take to heart. Yet, those are not the only people who Paul is speaking to across all of this time. The Apostle’s words ring out clearly and with great authority to all of us who know Christ and for all of the Lord’s church today. We may not stand before a large audience in a formal setting and speak words of truth and life that come directly out of God’s Word, but we will have many opportunities to share that holy word’s love, grace, and truth with others. The life that we live may be oriented around earning a living by doing work that seems far afield from that of the church; however, the Lord is certainly present in the places where we do go. This day of the week, part of the calendar, or season of life could be one wherein spiritual things seem remote and secondary to the rest of life; yet, today might just be the one wherein a soul in need of a Savior is standing before us awaiting those life-saving words and the touch of Christ’s love.

None of us are Timothy, and no one that we will meet is Paul. They were great men that lived long ago and who gave us a model and a pattern to follow as we walk through life with Christ. Paul, under the guidance and the direction of the Holy Spirit, also wrote out explanations and instructions that are useful to us in understanding our relationship with God and the way that this relationship is lived out in the world. Paul was faced daily with a world that was more hostile to the gospel of Christ than it was open and receptive. He knew that his life on this earth was nearing its end. He was also aware of the glory that was to be his in the presence of Christ when those last few days here were completed. Still, Paul remained focused upon the task at hand. Hostility did not stop him. Human failures and frailty were troubling but even the abandonment of friends could not cause him to experience defeat. Paul’s example is one for us to follow. In fact, we should be prepared for the eventuality of a loss of friends and associates as we stand for the truth of God’s Word in the face of a world that discounts its validity.

That does not mean that we should be angry or harsh in the way that we engage with others. Even in his very trying circumstances, Paul was more inclined to pour out grace, forgiveness, and encouragement than he was to cast blame and reproach. We too can be voices of reconciliation and restoration in our corner of the universe. As we recognize the fact that Christ is the only true and authorized judge of the human soul, we can extend the hand of friendship to people who have been hostile toward us and about Christ. Reaching out in friendship can be done as we also share the truth of the gospel that is the source of the grace, love, and confidence that we require in order to enter into such counter-intuitive acts as these. A life that is lived as a follower of Christ is one that is carried out as a preacher of God’s Word. This is done through the way that we conduct ourselves in private and in public, and the word is demonstrated by the attitudes that we hold toward others and about the issues of life. Christ is with us in all places, over the entire course of life, in all situations and circumstances, and He is Lord of each and every season that we experience in our journey.   

This is how one should regard us, s servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

1 Corinthians 4: 1

 

By definition, a steward is a person who takes care of things, who manages them and who keeps order. Stewardship is the process of maintaining this well-thought out and orderly operation. Paul thinks of himself in this manner. He sees his calling and that of others who, like him, are following Christ by entering into the lives of others as they bring the truth of God’s Word and the direction of His Spirit to the forefront in all aspects of life and of living as being to stewardship. As they work in service to Christ and His Gospel, they strive to restore the order in this world that was lost in our sinful departure from God’s righteous path. We ate the fruit, but instead of God-like wisdom, we obtained a godless capacity to wreak havoc and bring about unceasing chaos. As we attempt to control everything ourselves, life seems to proceed as if we have covered our fragile world with grease and our hands with rubber mittens.

 

We fumble our way through it all and break precious things along the path that we travel. Mostly, we pour out ungodly or other-god oriented views of how this world should be managed as if they were a new and a more informed gospel. We say that we value order and seek after peace, but the fact is, we do not truly desire either. Order and peace are foundational qualities that God designed into the form of life that He created for this world to enjoy. These are aspects of that creation intent and execution that we turned over and tossed out in our rejection of God’s authority over us, and that have been lost in the world that we have claimed as our own. Yet, God does not leave things that He loves in disarray and confusion. Jesus came, and He pronounced the renewed presence of God’s kingdom of peace. Christ brings that peace into our lives as He restores us to the unceasing relationship with our Creator that was ours to enjoy in God’s plan for this world.

 

The possibility of living in a state of deep-seated peace with God and of dwelling inside of the orderliness of His vision for the universe is one of the great mysteries of the Kingdom of God. The evidence that we see around us does not support the existence of this peace and order, but the testimony of God’s people tells of its reality. This is why Paul understood the vital importance of the role of steward of these great mysteries of life in Christ. He presented them to the people that he met and to us in his letters. God’s Word does the same with the entire narrative of God’s vision, intent, and execution of redemption and restoration for all who will come to Him. So, like Paul, we too are servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of this faith that leads to a life. This is a life that stands apart from this world, and so, it joins in the chorus of testimony, along with Paul and all who have come before us, to these great mysteries of peace and order, of life in Christ.

For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.

2 Peter 1: 16

 

This was a literal fact for Peter; as, he had been there, and he had walked with Jesus on a daily basis for several years.  Additionally, Peter was there when Christ overcame the ultimate end of human life by defeating death, itself; then, Peter experienced Christ in a form that transcended this world and that clearly demonstrated the presence of heaven in the midst of his earthly life. However, I wasn’t there, and you weren’t there, either; in fact, almost all of the people who have read Peter’s words did not have the opportunity to meet Jesus while He was living on this earth as a human. Yet, it seems that I can claim what Peter is saying as my own truth.

 

This is a part of the great mystery that is God come to dwell among His people as one of us. Although, this was an event that took place in history, and by all of the rules of nature, it is something that should bound by time and by place; that is not the reality of our relationship with Christ. He is every bit as real and as tangibly so for me as He was for Peter. Christ walks with me through my day; for, He is both in me and in my world. In fact, it seems that I have become integrated with Him. Once in Christ, He defines who we are, and Christ invites us to live each day with Him in the majesty of heaven.

 

There is no cleverness required, and the story of Christ in this world does not need to be written by people using well crafted phrases and creative story telling; for, the story of Christ is told in and through the lives of the multitudes of people who know Him, and who He has claimed as His own. My Lord, Jesus Christ, is clearly present to me in my entire world. He speaks to my heart, and He informs my mind. Christ lifts me from the depths of the darkness that continually swirls about in this world, and He fills my soul with His glorious warming light. Christ is as alive and present in my world as He was in Peter’s, and His majesty fills my days with abundant hope, joy, and peace.

 

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.

Colossians 1: 21, 22

 

This entire idea should be troubling at best for most people, and for many it might even cause anger. You might protest against Paul’s blunt and harsh observation with a response that says that you have never been hostile toward God or, really, toward anyone else, either. Hostility is just not your way of dealing with life. Yet, alienation and hostility toward God is the singular birthright that all people enjoy. We are born into this world with our hearts separated from our Creator and with our minds set on a course for life that is determined by our own wills, and this course will always be one that takes us away form the Lord’s righteous and holy path. We don’t get to choose, for the direction of our journey is in the genetic code that our parents and their parents before them gave to us.

 

That is why death is so much a part of this story. Humanity’s rebellion and departure from God and from His will set us apart from God in ways that took us and all of the rest of creation away from God’s life-granting intent and desire and into a journey downward into the darkness of spiritual and bodily death. So that now we are all born into the graveyard of the soul that is our existence on this earth. However, as this condition is the common one for the entire world from the earliest of times, it is very hard for most people to recognize the state of being that they are dwelling in. This deadness seems normal, and the new life that Christ gives to those who follow Him seems strange, foreign, and even undesirable when viewed from inside the fence of natural life’s darkened and grim terrain.

 

So, there was one singular death that changes everything. As Jesus gave up His life in order to purchase it for everyone else, He broke through the barrier that separated humanity from God, and He granted to all of us the opportunity to enter into the fullness of life that comes only in the presence of our Creator. In and through Christ we are taken out of our old lives which were carried out in a state of separation from God and antagonism toward His righteousness and true love, and we are transformed into people who live within the bounteous joy, deep peace, and unending love of God’s kingdom come. Now, as we enter into Christ’s new life that necessarily followed His sacrificial death, we need to allow the Spirit to put to death our old selves and the walking death in which we were dwelling so that all that was, the decaying flesh of our birth bodies, will be replaced with the glory of Christ and the life that He alone gives to all who follow Him.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 1: 10

 

Sculpted, chiseled, formed, and shaped, these are the words out of various ads that talk about allowing someone to surgically recreate a person’s body image into one that more closely matches some form of ideal. This kind of work can take what is there as a result of lifestyle and nature and remake it, with little effort but with some very real financial cost, into what we desire. This always comes with the suggestion that these changes will do something profound for the quality of life that follows the surgery, and sometimes they pose the prospect of entering into an almost entirely new manner of living after these changes take hold. If we are honest, most of us find aspects of all of this attractive and the results to be desirable.

 

Christ also promises change for people who come to Him, and He does speak in terms of the quality and the nature of life that will follow after we accept His offer. Yet, the similarities between the procedures that God is offering and those that are performed by plastic surgeons and aestheticians stops very quickly. Christ works from the inside to the out. Although the Lord cares about our appearance, He is passionate about what goes on in our hearts and in our minds. His hands of grace and love and the redemption that flows from them reach deep into the nature of our beings and reshapes our character into one that begins to look like the righteous and loving one that God intends for all people to possess and to operate out of in all aspects of living life. Christ remakes us and He continues to refine that new being for the remainders of the life that we are granted to live out on this earth. This continual working on and within us is one of my greatest areas of wonder and joy in my relationship with Christ.

 

Although Christ does the transformative work in and on each of us, we are also asked and required by Him to participate in the outworking of these changes in our lives. Christ does have a purpose and a plan for the lives that God has given to us. His redemptive work is directed toward the satisfaction of those heavenly objectives during the remaining duration of each of our earthly lives. In fact, it seems to me that God has given to each of us who follow Him a duty shift for doing His bidding that has neither a starting time nor a designated end of shift hour other than that moment of our last breath. Life in Christ is a full time occupation for the Spirit as He works within us and for each of us as we live out the Gospel of Christ. We travel through our days in the presence of Christ’s Spirit, and He continually speaks truth and love into our hearts and minds. In this manner, all of the steps that we take across the expanse of our world are a part of an unending transformative journey and are strides of obedience in a continuous prayer walk.