RISEN WITH CHRIST
(How the Resurrection of Jesus Christ Changes Us)
Today I’d like to share with you one of the deep doctrines of the Christian life: the doctrine of “Union with Christ,” which means that what is true of Christ is also true of those who belong to him. Therefore, since Christ died, we who have put our faith in him also died with him (Col. 3:3). Since he rose from the dead, we too have been raised with him (Col. 2:12).
Now this is a truth that you can only grasp by faith and not by feeling. We believe it, even if we don’t feel it, because the Bible teaches it. So for example, Eph. 2:5-6 teaches that even now we are already in heaven! In Heb. 10:14 we learn that in Christ we are already perfect. By this time you are probably already feeling dizzy. But let me add to your dizziness: Heb. 10:14 also says, “By one offering he has already made perfect forever those who are still being made perfect.” So which is which?
Now is a good time for me to introduce a concept that will explain this paradoxical statement, and that is the difference between our heavenly position and our earthly practice. The sad reality is our earthly practice frequently does not match the truth about our heavenly position. Nevertheless, our failure in this regard does not change the fact that our heavenly position is who we really are in God’s eyes. He thinks of us in terms of what we are destined to become, and he sees us that way now; much in the same way that a sculptor looks at a piece of rock and already sees the magnificent statue he intends to make out of it. That is why in Rom. 8:30 God already considers us as glorified – past tense – when in fact our glorification still lies in the future.
At any rate, the challenge before us is: How do we align our earthly practice with our heavenly position, i.e., how do we become who we really are? Please bear this concept in mind even as we go back to our subject, which is: How does the resurrection of Christ, and how does being raised with him, change us?
1. IT CHANGES THE WAY WE THINK.
When we were still dead in our transgressions and sins what we loved were the things of this world. We lived only for this world because we knew no better. Our minds and affections were set on earthly things because we could not think of anything better than these. But when we came to know Christ and have been raised with him we realize that heaven is our true home (Philippians 3:20) and our treasure is there (1 Peter 1:4). We now pursue things that are infinitely better than anything this world can offer (cf., Matt. 6:33; Matt. 6:19, 20). That’s what the resurrection does. It reorients our minds and affections to the things that really matter, the things that are above, heavenly things. The resurrection helps us to see what and where the real treasures are. Now a person cannot help thinking about his treasure. That’s why we should be careful about where our treasure is, for where your treasure is there your heart will be also. But for us who have been raised with Christ, our hearts and minds are in heaven because that is where our treasure is. But among the treasures in heaven what is the most precious? What should we think of most often and desire most? It is Christ himself! (Col. 2:3; Philippians 3:7)
A) Think of Christ’s Person
Therefore think much of Christ, who he is and what’s done for you. As the song says,
You are beautiful beyond description,
Too marvelous for words,
Too wonderful for comprehension,
Like nothing ever seen or heard.
Who can grasp your infinite wisdom?
Who can fathom the depth of your love?
You are beautiful beyond description,
Majesty enthroned above.
Another song goes this way, “Think about his love, think about his goodness, think about his grace that’s brought us through.”
And you know what, as we do this, think about him often, we begin to take on his character. We become more and more like him: compassionate, loving, forgiving. I call this “spiritual osmosis” (II Corinthians 3:18). There’s a verse in Proverbs which says, “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” You become what you behold.
Not only that. When you think much about Jesus you think less of this world and its treasures. There’s a lot of truth in that song which goes this way,
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
One way to apply this is to read the gospels again and again. Immerse yourself in the life and teachings of Christ. Let him renew your mind in this way and in the process transform your life.
B) Think of Christ’s Parousia.
Think much too of his second coming. When we realize that the things we are so crazy about in this world are destined to perish at his coming, we won’t be too obsessed with them anymore. Instead, we’ll be motivated to live holy lives (2 Peter 3:10-14; cf., 1 John 2:15-17). Also, knowing that Christ may come anytime discourages us from sinning lest he catches us in the arms of sin and we be ashamed at his coming.
2. IT CHANGES THE WAY WE LIVE.
Because we are raised with Christ we can’t just go back to our old way of life. That would be a contradiction of who we really are in Christ. Remember: What is true of Christ is also true of us. He died to sin and now lives to God; therefore we also died to sin and now live to God (Romans 6:5-13). This is our heavenly position; this is the truth about us in heaven. But now we have to bring this heavenly reality down to earth. In other words, we still have to make our earthly practice match our heavenly position. How?
A) Eliminate Earthly Vices.
Holiness is not easy. It requires discipline and self-denial. “Put to death.” “I subdue, buffet, strike my body and make it my slave,” says Paul (1 Corinthians 9:27). “If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out; if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off!” says Jesus (Matt. 29-3).
But what is interesting is we put away all those things that characterize our old life because we’ve already put off our old self and have put on the new self (Col. 3:9, 10). That’s not who we are anymore! So Christianity and holiness is not so much about not doing this and not doing that. It’s not really about rules and regulations. It’s about realizing who you really are and acting consistently with the truth about who you are.
B) Cultivate the Christian Virtues.
Because we are raised with Christ we ought also to reflect his character and be like him in our conduct. In fact, this is one of the purposes of our resurrection and glorification: that we might be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29). Therefore we should put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, and practice forgiveness. In other words, we should be Christ-like because this is what it means to be raised with Christ.
But again what is interesting is that who we are comes before how we behave. Paul says put on all these virtues because you are God’s chosen ones, you are holy, and you are beloved.
Knowing who you really are in God’s eyes is very important. When you realize who you really are in Christ you simply can’t go on being who you’re not. That’s the lesson I learned from the movie “Dragonheart”. There was this knight who became so disillusioned with the unworthy king whom he served that he backslid from the nobility and chivalry which was expected of knights, until one night he came to a certain altar where was inscribed the credo of the Order of Knights to which he belonged. He began to read aloud the creed and as he did so he fell on his knees. He remembered who he was. And when he stood up he was a changed man. No longer a backsliding knight. He was once more who he really was: a knight of nobility and chivalry. That is what we should remind ourselves when we sin. I am a child of God, I am risen with Christ, I am holy, I am beloved, I cannot go on sinning like this. I will arise and go back to my Father.
3. IT CHANGES THE WAY WE RELATE TO OTHERS.
Because we are raised with Christ we are one body with everyone who belongs to him (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). We should therefore make every effort to preserve the unity of his body, which is of course the church. How?
A) Love, which is the secret of harmony.
If we love one another we will forgive one another, we will consider others as better than ourselves, we will care not only about our own interests but also the interests of others. We will seek to build each other up instead of tearing down one another. In other words, when love prevails in the church, there will be harmony.
B) Peace, which is the secret of unity.
The Bible here is saying that if we have any conflicts in the church let the peace of Christ act as the umpire or the referee. In other words, we should do our best to resolve our conflicts in a way that allows the peace of Christ to reign in our midst. When we do this, we shall remain united.
4. IT CHANGES THE WAY WE WORSHIP.
Because Christ has been raised from the dead, and we have been raised with him, we cannot just worship any way we want. We have to worship him in spirit and in truth. We should always remember that when two or three are gathered in his name, the risen Christ is in the midst of them. So what should our worship look like?
The Word of God is very important. We are saved by the word (James 1:21). We are born again by the Word (1 Peter 1:23). We are sanctified or made holy by the Word (John 17:17). We are built up by the Word (Acts 20:32). Therefore whether we preach or we sing let us make sure that we proclaim the Word of God.
Our worship should be aimed at exalting Christ not ourselves (Psalm 115:1). This is especially true when it comes to preaching (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).
We worship not because we want to earn points with God but because God has been gracious to us in spite of the fact that we do not deserve even the least of his mercies.
(Note: Ikthus Villa Angela is now Ikthus East)