Hey everyone, I just want to check in with you early this week and offer you of a couple kind encouragements. First, Easter Sunday is over but Easter season is never over. Every day is resurrection life and hope for the Christian. Today is opportunity for renewed hope and joy, the prospect of love and forgiveness. Each of us has an enduring need along these lines that only Christ himself can satisfy. My prayer for you is that you allow the Spirit of God to assure you that such needs are his highest concern—he will not abandon you; hang in there. Second, below is an essay I wrote a year ago this week. I include it here as I believe it still has something to say.
Much love to you.
Dan Behrens, Co Pastor EFC
The real miracle of the resurrection
“Indeed, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first of those who have fallen asleep. Since death itself came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man; and that man is Jesus Christ. In Adam all men die, yet in Christ all men will be made alive. Each in his turn: first Christ; then when he comes, those who belong to him. After which, the end will be when he hands over to God his kingdom after he has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power. For he must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet—the last being death itself.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-26)
The real miracle of the resurrection of Jesus is the release of the church into the world. The church—the bride of Christ, who he himself loves as one loves his own body—is released into the world, bearing a most peculiar testimony. More than a story. More than mere history. An incredible testimony. A real miracle. Jesus’ closest friends really had witnessed something the world had never known. They had seen a man who claimed to be God executed by torture at the demand of religious Jews under the governorship of Rome’s Pontius Pilate. They had seen this man buried in the ground (like all men are buried in the ground), then suddenly come to life again and walk among them as a living conqueror over death, a just champion over sin. The church witnessed this, and thus continues to defend (for over 2000 years now) against every anti-God spirit that Jesus Christ is LORD of all Lords. Such defense is rooted in an unshakable confidence that only by confessing this name Jesus is there salvation from sin and justification for righteousness. There is a peculiar power in bearing witness of this Jesus. For the name Jesus is our witness.
The name Jesus is our witness
“Let this be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God has raised from the dead—by him this man is standing here before you well. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we can be saved.” (Acts 4:10-12)
The name Jesus is our witness. The power of this witness is what the church immediately sees and hears in her new life of spirit-born allegiance. It is what the world around her sees and hears as this spirit-born allegiance leads to daily radical obedience in the face of injustice. The name Jesus is more than mere story or history, it is the only real miracle of our life. And in that sense is beyond natural; it is supernatural, born of God. For his is the name we have taken as our own, the only name for which we are pledged. The church belongs to Jesus; he belongs us. We are one in him as a bride and groom are one in marriage. We are one in him as the whole of a man’s body is one being. Wherever we are we witness Jesus, seeing in everything else his miraculous provision, yet bearing in ourselves his living presence. “Thus it is written that you might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in Him you might have life in his name.” (Jn 20)
Our witness of Jesus are the acts of the Holy Spirit
“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we all are witnesses of it. Even now, exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” (Acts 2:32-33)
Our witness of Jesus are the acts of the Holy Spirit. The visible actions and vibrant activity of the Spirit pulsing through the people of God testify that this Jesus who was crucified is very much alive. For Jesus is “the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11). He is the restoration, regeneration, and renewal of all things; in whom all things are brought forth and hold together. We see this in his birth—Jesus is Spirit-formed in the womb of Mary. We see this in his ministry—Jesus is Spirit-led among the people of Palestine. We certainly see this in Jesus’ death—one wholly surrendered to the Spirit of obedience. Our earliest accounts of the new testament church describe miracles and wonders at the hands of the apostles, the defining testimony of the resurrection of Jesus and the fulfillment of the scriptures. Repentance and forgiveness preached; present healing and enduring hope offered; the enduring obedience thrust forward through Spirit-filled martyrs readied for heaven. Still, these things are not so much a history of the acts of the apostles as they are a witness of Christ through the acts of Spirit. The Spirit of God comes alive in us as he first came to life in Christ himself who surrendered all unto death. “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you” Paul says, “then he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rom 8)
We are witnesses of these things
“This Jesus, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, even now sits at the right hand of the Father as both LORD and God, having poured out the Holy Spirit on the church. We all are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:8, 2:32, 3:15, 4:20, 5:32, 10:39-41, 13:31) [paraphrased].
“But the righteousness of faith says this: the word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the word of faith that was preached to you), that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses unto salvation. And there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord is LORD over all and gracious to all who call upon Him. For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:6-13) [paraphrased].
We are witnesses of these things. The church is witness of something the world has never known—a real resurrection, a miracle of life over death. That which was truly dead is now alive, and we along with him. By way of faith (that is, by way of belief substantiated by demonstration) we are the visible, viable testimony that Jesus is risen, Lord of all, and able to reconcile us to God. Now here comes a snag. The resurrection of Jesus is only made real if Christ has indeed risen in our hearts; really come to life in us. If he has not, than Jesus coming up from the grave is only one more fantastic story in a world plagued by fantasy. Is Christ alive in you? Has Jesus arisen in your heart? Do you bear in yourself his peculiar witness in the world? Every sane person is looking for honest testimony, reliable evidence, unalterable facts. Your neighbor, your boss, your landlord, your in-law, all these are looking for something much deeper than peace-of-mind; they are looking for real life, true life. Do you have life? If so, that what you yourself have freely received, freely give. Your witness makes all difference in the world!