Saturday, April 23, 2005

How to Live in Christ

I was reading a book by Ravi Zacharais titled 'The Real Face of Atheism' and had my thinking arrested by a concept that I found illuminating, because I have been trying to put this thought into words. Ravi said this on page 145, "The naturalist has no intelligent cause to look to, no moral law to point to, no essential meaning to cling to, and finally, no hope to look forward to for one's destiny." It is this final part that is the basis of the concept that illuminated my thoughts; man's destiny and how it causes us to live; I will deal here with the life of the believer in Christ.
Ravi states that the resurrection of Christ from the dead is the power that drives the believer's apologetic and is the guarantee of one's destiny. He states that as the linchpin of the Christian's defense of the Christian faith, the resurrection addresses the most painful part of man's struggle, the agony of death, that experience that separates all of us from everything we desire and love. Although Ravi is thinking here of apologetics for the Christian faith, I saw a concept that helps me understand better how to live as a Christian as well as defend the faith. It is the resurrection of Christ from the dead, that guarantee of destiny to the Christian, that should guide us in life here in this world.
Look at the disciples after the death of Christ and His burial. They were fearful and in hiding. The suffering and death of Jesus did not register with them for the gift that it was, nor did it empower them. Like the two on the road to Emmaus, their dream had been shattered, their hopes of a restoration of the kingdom was gone. The response of the two going to Emmaus to the One that joined them on that road was, ' We trusted that it had been he which would have redeemed Israel'. It took the explanation of Jesus to awaken their hope and send them back to Jerusalem with the message, 'The Lord is risen indeed'.
Like many Christians, I have tended to focus on the cross of Christ and His shed blood for the remission of sins to provide me with the earnestness to serve Christ in the work of the kingdom of God. It is as if I am seeking a way to thank God and/or Jesus for this saving action of love, in doing so we want to serve Him as if we could repay Him. This should not be the basis for the concept of our service, for we can not repay God or Christ in anyway. See Luke 17:10.
The suffering and death of Jesus was necessary first. He is the sacrifice for sin. He willingly offered Himself as the Lamb of God for the sins of the world. However, without the resurrection, there is no power. This is what the disciples did not see coming, even though Jesus told them many times before it actually happened. Paul says that without the resurrection we are without hope and still in our sins. In raising up Jesus, God took the death and shed blood of His Son and transformed it into the greatest power the world has ever known, the power to remove the enmity between man and God, man's sin, and to provide a destiny for a believer in Christ to live eternally with God in heaven.
Eternity in heaven with God should be the motivating factor in our service to God, and it is this resurrected life that enables us to function as true believers in this world. We were dead in our sinful condition until the preaching of the gospel awakened us to our condition of spiritual death because of sin. We learned from the Word of God that we had no hope within ourselves or any other source, even the Law of God from the Old Testament. The Word further taught us that the only way to God was through the finished work of Jesus Christ, provided on the cross of Calvary, and empowered by the resurrection. A finished work that God predetermined, before the creation of the world, would provide the abiding place for all believers to live eternally in heaven. If the resurrected life resides within us we are transformed in our minds and we have a new spiritual 'heart'; we have been made new in Christ.
So here is my concept spelled out. Because of the resurrection, it is the conquered grave that should give our life and message impetus. Physical death and its accompanying agony that confronts us all has been defeated. We can live the resurrected life here because of Christ's finished work. To die is only to enter into a valley of the shadow of death, not the pit, grave, or sheol of the Old Testament. We walk as did Enoch, in faith and with God leading us from this life into the next, with death only a shadow that we pass through.
Ravi says this on page 147, "Paul was too much of a thinker to construct his life on an uncertain foundation of credulity. {--} It was the knowledge and conviction that Christ had truly broken the chains of death and conquered the grave that gave Paul his hope. It impelled him from within and became the compelling and enduring feature of his proclamation. He feared no man or power because he knew Him, Whom to know is life eternal. Paul stood in a unique position to the other disciples. They all knew Jesus in the chronological sequence of His birth, life, death, and resurrection. Paul encountered Him in the logical sequence of His resurrection, death, life, and birth. Through the keyhole of the resurrection, he argued backwards in time; for through it he saw the authentication of Christ's message, the explanation of His death, the meaning of His life, and the prophetic fulfillment of His birth. God indeed had spoken and the authenticity of His message was demonstrated with His power over death."
It is this authentic message of God that, through Christ, He has power over death, which should be what guides us to live for Christ in this life. No fear of man or earthly power, no fear of illness, physical weakness, whether due to age or accident is a concern to the believer, because God has defeated death, removed the sting, and made it a veil that we pass through to be with Him forever. This earthly life looses its appeal as the consummate existence for the believer in God and His Son. All we do in this life is to be with this view of eternity before us, our decisions, our plans, our dreams, our education, our families, our business, our pleasure, our suffering, our rejoicing, everything about our life is to be seasoned by the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the promise of our own bodily resurrection in the last days. This crucified, yet resurrected, life we live for Christ, is by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. In this resurrection power we truly live, now and forever.
May the Holy Spirit teach us to live this victorious resurrected life to the glory and praise of God.