Foundations

The Resurrection: Grief to Joy

The resurrection defines Christianity. Without the resurrection, there is no Christianity. Christianity then becomes the biggest scam, lie and embarrassment in all of human history. Without the resurrection, there is no remedy to sin: Christianity becomes the weapon of sin. The resurrection can be believed not only through the accounts of the Gospel narratives but by looking at the transformations and changes that affected those involved.

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One of the most striking realities of the Christian faith is the fact that the foundation of said faith is such a tragic and devastating story. The founder of the faith was crucified as a criminal and died. The symbol that became synonymous with the faith is the very instrument that brought its leader to his last breath. At the heart of the Christian story is blood, pain, suffering and sadness. Without the resurrection, the story of Jesus Christ is not only tragic, but to place faith in the story without the resurrection makes no sense whatsoever. Without the resurrection the story of Christianity is just sad. There is no place for joy, no place for hope, and no place for faith. In fact, given the promises of Jesus and the claims he made concerning his own life, without the resurrection the story of Christianity is embarrassing.

One of the most courageous acts of the early apostles and early Church was their honesty in recounting and retelling the life, death and resurrection of their leader, Jesus Christ. The accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are all brutally honest when describing the early leaders of the church. These disciples are not portrayed as men of unshakable faith. They are honestly described as thickheaded cowards. The most shameful example of their weaknesses comes after the death of Jesus on the cross. Instead of clinging to the promises of Jesus that he was meant both to die and to rise again on the third day, they allowed the simultaneous death of their hopes in Jesus as the Messiah and Christ they had hoped he was. In an instant, they scattered before fear, their hopes shattered by intense grief. As Jesus breathed his last, the disciples who were to go on to be the early leaders and evangelists of the Christian Church were not only doubting everything they had heard from Jesus while he was alive, but were distancing themselves from Jesus entirely in the hopes that they might be spared punishment, torture and perhaps the cross as well. Considering the context, a person seriously questioning the reliability of the resurrection account must then ask several questions, among them “What happened? Why did they change? Why did they continue on with such unfailing passion for Jesus as God? How did their grief turn to joy?”

As we ponder these questions, the list of possible explanations comes down to one unavoidable conclusion. The reason their grief turned to joy was because their leader lived, died and ultimately conquered death and sin as he promised through his resurrection.

John 16:16-33

Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”

At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”

Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”

“Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Without the resurrection there is no reasonable explanation of why these men would change their attitude, why they would include their cowardice in the Gospel narratives and why the Church after the death of Jesus not only survived, but began to grow at a furious pace in the face of mounting persecution.

Tuesday Devotional: Revelation 2

Read Revelation 2:1-7bible

What does it mean to be a Christian?  What does it mean to have faith in Christ?  What does it mean to go to church?  What does it mean to read the Bible?  What does it mean to serve as Christ served?   What does it mean to desire heaven and fear hell?

What does any of it mean?

Why would a person go through day after day after day consumed by such things?  Is it to stay busy in a world of drifting and laziness?  Is it to find purpose in a life of wandering and ever-changing directions?  Is it to right wrongs that we know deep down exist in order to sleep at night?  Is it submission to an authority figure in our lives that we strive to impress?

Christians do a lot.  Christians are very busy people consumed by their Christian lives, and while this is not necessarily a bad thing, it is a horribly misguided, useless existence if the Christian is caught up in what they can do and not what Jesus Christ can do.  The foundation of Christianity and of every Christian must be the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And this life, death and resurrection occurred for no other cause than outrageous love.  Therefore, a Christian’s busy-ness must only stem from the love received from Christ and returned to him.  Understanding the relationship between man and God is no different than understanding relationships between people.  A relationship built on activity and productivity is empty and futile without love.  Love between people is not just the product of that relationship, but the fuel that propels the relationship forward.  Similarly, a relationship built on anything other than this received and returned love is not the relationship that God desires.

The debate between faith and works has been waged since the early church and will continue until Christ returns.  In a true relationship, one overwhelmed and overcome by the love freely given us by Jesus Christ, there is no possibility of service void of love.  The love that we received from him on the cross is returned to him in our transformed lives. The selfless nature that operates in ours works devoted service to him as proof of our commitment to loving him with everything we have, because he loved us first.

Tuesday Devotional: 1 John 5

Read 1 John 5:1-12bible

If we desire change, we must introduce something that has the power to create change.  If we desire a radical change, we must introduce something that has radical power.  We face extreme troubles with insufficient resources, and we desire a change in our limited ability to ultimately overcome and find success. In order to create a change in our limited human ability to overcome the daily trials of this world, we must introduce something so radically powerful and real to give us any hope that the change is possible.  This new agent for change must be more extreme than the obstacles we face if success is possible.

To commit to this process and to hope in this change requires great trust and confidence.  Jesus Christ claims the power to produce the change necessary for overcoming the challenges of this world and providing us with a hope beyond them.  If we approach these promises with anything less than complete submission to their power and reality, we should not be surprised when our progress in this life remains limited by what we try to overcome.  There is no complete healing without complete submission to the healing agent.  If we cannot or will not take the promises of Jesus seriously then we must not seriously hope that we can ultimately be healed.  If we cannot submit to the reality of Jesus Christ’s life on Earth and continued presence in the form of the Holy Spirit, then we must submit to the fact that our problems will remain.

Faith in Jesus Christ is all encompassing.  There is no halfway.  There is no 50 percent.  Faith in Jesus Christ establishes truths that must be foundational, never decorative or supplemental.  These truths include complete submission to his life and death on the cross, complete submission to his resurrection and life in our present age through the Holy Spirit, complete submission to the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit to transform us from sin and self-indulgence to righteous passion and service in the likeness of Jesus Christ.  These truths must be held if the obstacles they promise to overcome shall be in fact overcome. Pretending to take medicine will only result in pretending to be healed.