Thursday, March 14, 2013

Holy week, the resurrection, and us

Jesus birth literally divided history. The reason this fact is true is Holy week. From the jubilant triumphal entry, to the dark, heart breaking kiss of Judas, to the agonized cry of my God my God why have you forsaken me, to the moment that the veil of the temple tore in two, to the great moment of joy on the other side, the resurrection on Easter morning, it is holy week that tells you why this life mattered so much that it divided history. All of the gospel writers go to great pains to show you the importance of holy week. Over 30 percent of the gospels are devoted to this one week. Holy week is important. But what seals the deal on holy week is the resurrection. The resurrection is the signature moment when God revealed to the world that everything Jesus said about himself and his death, is true. Easter is that moment when the God demonstrated his power in an unparallel way, and showed the world that death was conquered, that Christ had  indeed triumphed over sin and evil, and that the world would someday be put right.
As we go through the month of March, and the weeks that lead up to holy week and Easter that Christians have traditionally called lent, I want to encourage you to think about five ways that this week impacts our lives as followers of Christ.

First, it means that our sin is paid for. On the cross, Christ paid for our sins. All our sin. Peter writes that “Christ died for our sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.(1Peter 3:18). That means all our rebellion, all our failure, all the cruelty, all the momentary indiscretion, all of it, every sin. Christ took it. He took our punishment, substituting himself before the wrath of God, while simultaneously giving his righteousness to those who look to him for salvation. This wonderful reality is what Luther called the great exchange. “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Second, we have no need to fear death. Jesus resurrection is the first fruits of the grave. He is in essence a down payment on what we all can look forward to, a glorious, renewed, perfected body. One with no aches, and pains, no tendency to sin, and mess up time and again, one that will be able to live in perfect relationship with God and others forever. With this in mind, we can say with Paul “"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.7 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1Corinthains15:55-57).

Third, adoption as sons. Ephesians tells us that “He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will (Ephesians 1:5)”. Galatians tells us that “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5). This is so often the overlooked treasure. We are not just saved from punishment. We are saved to something wonderful. Adoption. Now, because of what God has done through Christ, if we place our faith in Christ, we are his children. Adoption means that we have a new status. Before we were children of wrath. Now, our very status is changed, forever. This is incredible, and worth pondering. In Knowing God, Bible Scholar J.I. Packer notes that “The idea that all are children of God is not found in the Bible anywhere…” He’s absolutely right, it’s not. Instead it teaches that “the gift of sonship to God becomes ours not through being born, but through being born again. ‘To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or of a husband's will, but born of God.' (John.1:12-13)  Sonship to God, then, is a gift of grace” (J.I. Packer, Knowing God, chap 19) .

This is an amazing truth. Have you stopped and pondered it lately?  Looking at it, Sinclair Ferguson, the Scottish Bible scholar observed, “If we fail to see this truth, we will reject the power of our adoption… The notion that we are children of God, His own sons and daughters… is the mainspring of Christian living… Our sonship to God is the apex of Creation and the goal of redemption.” ( Sinclair Ferguson, Children of the Living God). Do you rejoice in this reality? This is the jackpot. There is no greater effect on you here and now than this, and how you view this truth, says so much about your walk with God.  J.I. Packer adds, “If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how he much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. [Adoption] is the highest privilege the gospel offers (J.I. Packer, Knowing God, chap 19). Adoption is the jackpot, don’t miss it.

Fourth, living for the glory of God strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit. We were created to live for the glory of God, but if you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you know that this is just about impossible on our own strength. On our own we do everything but live for the glory of God. But now, the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead is living in us, through the Holy Spirit. Now, though the work of the Holy Spirit, it becomes possible for us to glorify God. Before, it was impossible, but now, as Paul writes “you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code (Romans 7:4-6).

Finally, we can be sure that God keeps his promises. This is simple, but amazing. God made promises to his people about the messiah, and he made promises to us as his children. His promises about the messiah, his son Jesus Christ, were kept, at a terrible cost. The cost of the death of Christ. If he kept promises about the messiah, Christ, which cost him everything, how much more, having paid that cost, will he be willing to keep his promises to you, to us, his children. Surely He will keep promises to love us, care for us, watch over us, do what’s best for us.  Sometimes that feels like pain. Sometimes it involves discipline, but it means that no mater what, we can trust him and be sure that he keeps his promises.

During Lent and the weeks leading up to Holy Week and Easter, stop and ponder what it all means to for you, personally. Stop and ponder the death and resurrection and be heartened by all that it means. Consider what they mean in your life, and allow yourself to be encouraged, chastened, and called to a life lived for the glory of God. 

Additionally, I would encourage you to plan on coming to Holy week services. We will be having a Maundy Thursday service at 7:30 on the 28th, and then we will be having a Sunrise service on Easter morning at 6:30. This is tentatively scheduled for the Wheelock field. The location will be announced when confirmed. Then, we will be having our Easter morning celebration at 10:30. Plan on coming, plan on pondering the implications of the cross and resurrection. Plan on inviting friends to these services, and plan on sharing the hope of the gospel with them. Easter is the super bowl of the Christian Calendar. If Christmas is opening day at Fenway, Easter is the Super Bowl. Plan on coming, and plan celebrating all that God has done through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

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