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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For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Romans 6: 5

 

Christ changes many things about life. Perhaps the greatest of these changes relates to how we view death. For most people and throughout our history death has been considered to be one of life’s most troubling and even frightening events. It is also its second most certain after the beginning of life. Yet Paul is talking about something even more important and of greater impact on us than the end of our earthly days. He is entering into the idea that in Christ we each die a very real death before we come to that hour of final earthly existence.

 

Although Paul is not talking about us literally following in Christ’s path of death by murderous torture, perhaps he is suggesting something about the harsh reality and the difficulty that most people encounter as we do follow our Lord into His calling for our life after we accept Him. There is much about the old person that we have been that needs to die as we become Christ’s disciples. Our character, beliefs, and primary way of acting were born into our flesh and have subsequently been practiced through all of the days of our lives. Changing all of this is not something that most people can accomplish on our own. It requires wisdom and power beyond the realm of human capacity.

 

Thus Christ invites us into the deep intimacy and profoundly comprehensive experience of His death. As Jesus was nailed onto that life ending cross and overcame death in His resurrection, He seized Satan’s temporary power and control over this earth so that God’s legitimate authority over all of Creation was reclaimed from that false ruler. That same victory over sin and its sentence of death is ours. There is often agony in the process of turning the sinful aspects of ourselves over to Christ and considerable time may pass while the Spirit does His transformative work in us; yet, as the Lord’s perfect will is completed in us, we will enter into the glory of Christ victorious resurrection morning.

Now where there is forgiveness of these things (our sins), there is no longer any offering for sin.

Hebrews 10: 18

 

There is essentially only one thing that separates people from a close, intimate, on-going, and eternal relationship with God, and that one thing is the orientation of our hearts. Once we accept the sacrificial gift of life that God gave to all of humanity through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have started a life long process of transformation, and our hearts are forever connected through the presence of the Holy Spirit to our Creator. The sacrifice that was required to pay for the sin that fills the souls of people from birth was offered, accepted, and finished by Jesus.

 

So why do so many of us go on living as if we need to continually come back to the altar and offer up the works of our hands as sacrifices to God that are given in order for Him to accept us as worthy and to look upon us with loving acceptance? The Lord doesn’t want our works; rather, He desires our hearts. God wants us to be committed to serving Him out of the depths of the love that He has poured into us; for, Christ fills me with His presence, and His presence is defined by a sort of love that is not conditional and that never diminishes or grows cold. The absolute sacrifice that Jesus made for me should set me free from the need to perform and from the fear of failure that can strangle my ability to live fully and to function with the sort of deep peace that empowers me.

 

The only sacrifice that God wants me to make is admittedly a very large one, for He wants me to give my entire being, my whole existence, and every breath that I breathe to Him. Jesus said that He wanted us to pick up our cross and follow Him (1), and surrendering my life to His will is what that looks like. Yet, the path that Christ lays out for us is also the one that brings the greatest sense of peace to the heart, and the efforts that this journey requires are supported by the Spirit of Christ, for Jesus also promised us that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.(2)

 

1. Matthew 16: 24

2. Matthew 11: 30