Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Risen In You

This past week churches celebrated Easter, truly the greatest celebration of all. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Christian Faith and the seal of each Christian’s pardon. As I reflect upon this passing Easter season, I am struck by a couple movie scenes that are as inspirational as they were convicting. The first is from the recent movie, “Risen.” “Risen” is the quasi-fictional story about the spiritual journey of Clavius, one of the Roman Centurions presiding over the crucifixion of Jesus. Following the crucifixion, Clavius was also called upon to investigate and find the missing body of Jesus. I won’t spoil the ending. But, the most striking scene was that of Clavius interrogating the disciple Bartholomew. For Clavius, it was Bartholomew’s testimony that was most compelling. Bartholomew stood before his interrogator bubbling with joy and boundless hope as he testified, “His resurrection changes everything!” Nothing could be truer than that.

As Easter comes and goes on the calendar, I can’t help but ask about what we are celebrating and how? It is one thing to celebrate the fact that Jesus rose from the grave. That is truly worth celebrating. But, it is how we celebrate that flavors what we celebrate. How do we celebrate this? For some, we celebrate Easter on Easter Sunday each year. For others, we celebrate from Good Friday through Easter Sunday. For others, we celebrate the entire Passion Week from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday. And, for others, we celebrate during the six weeks between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. But, shouldn’t our celebration be all 365 days of the year, every year? After all, doesn’t His resurrection change everything? Now, before you think I’m being cute with such a question, give me a few more minutes of reading.

As we personally reflect the life of Jesus, there are three Jesuses that we see exhibited in the lives of those called “Christians.” And, each of these three Jesuses is totally different from the other two. First, there are those who celebrate the life of Jesus. They refer to Him as a great man, teacher or prophet. They celebrate some of His words and even some of His miracles. However, they ignore the things about Jesus that are offensive or divisive. But, this unoffensive Jesus is not the real Jesus. After all, if you know Jesus, you either absolutely love Him or you absolutely hate Him. If you are somewhere in between, then you don’t really know Him. The Christians that celebrate this Jesus are very adept to remember a couple quotes of His and trot them out when they are convenient to them personally. These “Christians” give lip service and attendance on Easter Sunday. But, their lives deny the power of the resurrection by the fact that they live a life that is nothing new from their old self. They might even doubt that the resurrection even happened – at least they live that way.

The second Jesus that some celebrate with their lives are those who are very focused on celebrating Jesus’ death. These “Christians” know everything about Jesus. They know every word He quoted. They especially know every rule He embraced. These Christians attend church not just on Easter Sunday but probably every day the doors of the sanctuary are open. But, their lives reflect a Jesus who is everything but alive. That is because they celebrate the crucified Jesus. Their lives are more dead than alive. Their witness is dead because their love is dead. Therefore, dead also is their Jesus, is He not? After all, our lives are a true reflection of what we celebrate about Jesus. As you can imagine, such a Jesus is not real either.

Then there are those who celebrate the risen Jesus. These Christians live lives defined by life, love, and blessing others often. These Christians have been changed in ways that defy explanation. For these Christians, everything has been changed by the resurrection of Jesus. Their lives are a constant celebration of what they believe – that Jesus is risen. Those, like Clavius, who come in contact with them are struck by something very different about them as compared to other “Christians.” These are the Christians, whom after you have encountered them, you feel blessed by them. These Christians are new. These are the Christians who really know how to celebrate Easter – every day. They celebrate not just the Savior risen about 2,000 years ago. They celebrate the Savior alive inside of them today. Wherever they go, they become the hands, feet and heart of the risen Christ. These are the Bartholomews. Does this describe you? Are you new?

On that last question, I am also reminded of another scene from one of the most famous movies of all time that gets plenty of air time every Easter, “The Passion of the Christ.” One of the most moving scenes of the movie is when Mary, Jesus’ mother, is making her way through the streets of Jerusalem to get just one contact with her son as He is carrying the cross. As she approaches the intersection, Jesus falls under the weight of the cross before her. She is then reminded of a flashback to when Jesus fell as a little boy and how she ran to comfort Him. For many it is this tug of the mother’s heart that causes them to be most moved. But, for me it is what happens next that brings me to tears. Mary, approaches Jesus and says, “I am here.” To which, Jesus touched her face and replied, “See, mother, I make all things new.” With that declaration, Jesus stands up, embraces His cross and presses forward. The gravity of that scene tears me up because He endured all of that to make me and you new. He came and suffered in our stead. He offered us new life characterized by His life in and through me and you. Jesus makes you new because when you repent and believe in Him, He invades your soul and makes it His - new. And, then Jesus is risen in you.

Christian, God spared no expense, including expensing Himself, to make you new. You should spare no expense to live every day like that is exactly what He did. When you do, Easter Sunday might begin to seem like just another day in a year of daily celebrations.

(You can view the movie clip from "The Passion" HERE)

You can purchase the book "Reason If You Will - How To Answer Questions Regarding Faith" by clicking HERE. Profits go to Camp Bahamas. You can also follow @ReasonIfYouWill on Twitter.