Archives For The Resurrection

The Day Between

Joshua Walker —  April 4, 2015 — Leave a comment

Celtic CrossOn this day 1,982 years ago the men and women who had devoted their lives to following Jesus for the previous three years locked themselves in a room and brooded in despair and fear. Their Lord, the one they thought was the Messiah, was dead. Some of them had even been the ones to wrap His body and bury Him.

What transformed this group of fearful, despairing men and women into the group that would turn the world upside down? It was their witness of the risen Lord and the subsequent gift of the Holy Spirit 50 days later at Pentecost.

The full scope of what Jesus had accomplished at the cross was brought to light through those events: He had made a way for all men to be reconciled to God; He had initiated New Creation in the resurrection; and He had initiated the New Covenant which includes the incredible gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit!

Here we are, almost two thousand years later, and I want to ask you: Do you live in the Day Between, in fear and despair, or do you live in faith in the risen Lord and the power of His Holy Spirit given to us? Although today is the day that we remember the Day Between, we never have to live there again. He rose and is risen today! We can live in that reality each and every day: we don’t have to wait for tomorrow!

My prayer is that you would be encouraged in the reality that we serve a risen Lord! May we live in faith and power and not despair and fear. What is our King asking you to do today that requires faith and the power of His Spirit? Obey His calling with His power as you walk in the “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

Zombies in the Bible

Mark Beuving —  October 30, 2013 — 4 Comments

What, you don’t think the Bible says anything about zombies? Believe it or not, one of the signs of the power of Jesus’ death was the introduction of Christian zombies:

“And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” (Matthew 27:51–53)

Admittedly, these zombies didn’t go around eating people, but here we have dead bodies climbing out of their graves, walking back into civilization, and interacting with the living.

That’s terrifying. Imagine the events of that day. Jerusalem was stirring with the unusual trial of this Man who claimed to be the Messiah, the King of Israel. He was led out of town and crucified. In the hours leading up to his death (from noon to 3pm) the sunny sky turns black. And when he actually dies, a ripple of supernatural activity crosses the land. The 60 foot tall temple curtain is torn from top to bottom. The earth splits open with a violent earthquake.

And then a true Halloween terror takes place: hands that were once decaying in the grave stretched out into the fresh Palestinian air. Bodies that had been resigned to the darkness of the underworld stepped out into the light of day. Corpses that had been carried out of Jerusalem and planted in the earth now bloomed into new life and walked back through the city gates. Mouths that should have gone eternally silent began speaking to townspeople.

But this wasn’t some weak form of magic that gave a minimal amount of life, allowing decaying bodies to stagger through the streets but not fully regenerate. No, these zombies came to life with all of the power of the resurrection. For in that one moment, death had been dealt a lethal blow. The effects of decay were entirely reversed. The stain of the underworld was irrevocably removed. These men and women were the true undead (not the everything-but-dead as in our zombie tales). They had been dead, but death could no longer hold them because Life himself had just entered the realm of death and burst it open.

This true zombie story, then, speaks not of the reign of death, but of eternal life. It speaks not of the dead haunting the living, but of the newly-re-living haunting death and proving themselves untouchable.

We don’t know exactly who these once-dead people were. Very likely, they were faithful Jews who had died clutching to their hope that God would send his Messiah to restore his people eternally. In other words, they died waiting for Jesus, and on this day, their hopes were validated. We also have no idea what happened to these zombies after they entered Jerusalem. But it seems highly unlikely that they died again, since their life was a visual sign of the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Perhaps they ascended with Jesus in Acts 1.

While we’re missing some details, Matthew records this incident for us so that we can have confidence in our future and the reality that death is nothing but a passage to life. So when you see zombies this Halloween (whether they’re terrifying or two-feet tall and super cute), be reminded that God once sent zombies into Jerusalem to remind the world that death is an empty threat.

In my last post, I explained that Christians typically try to convince non-Christians of the truth of the Bible by proving its reliability textually and historically. But non-Christians have another way of evaluating Christianity: they want to know if they can trust the Bible morally.

whitecrossIt doesn’t occur to me to answer that question for one main reason. I have lived so long inside the Christian worldview that I forget how different our religion is. Most religions and philosophies aim to change behavior from bad to good in order to please God, be a good citizen, or feel good daily. Christianity, on the other hand, only tries to prove that something happened historically. Once you’ve proved that, you work backwards to prove the rest.  My question is “Is Jesus God who rose from the dead?” Once I answer that question then I can assume that God knows how I ought to live.

Here’s why this is great news. When a person simply evaluates from their own perspective whether or not a certain philosophy or religion will make them “good,” “please God,” or “feel good,” they’re doing the best they can. But they’re basically just reflecting the current wisdom of their friends and family and media. They cannot rise above their culture because they’re stuck in it; just like a fish couldn’t imagine walking on land because his whole world involves water. When Christianity comes along with its way of “being good,” “pleasing God,” and “feeling good daily,” the wisdom comes from another world. It’s not up for debate or evaluation because we humbly realize that God is speaking (as opposed to humans, who should be critiqued).

We evaluate the trustworthiness of our religion in a completely different way. It has very little to do with personal experience, whether it seems to work, whether it makes me feel like I’m a good person, whether I get personal peace. (It will do pretty much all of that for you even though that’s not the point.)

Evaluating Christianity goes like this: Did Jesus die as a historical event? Did he rise from the dead? If so, then he must have been someone very important. What did he say about himself? Did God approve of his message? Jesus claimed to be God. And when God lets Jesus come back to life, that seems like a pretty significant endorsement of what Jesus said. Now, with that in mind, how did Jesus say we get on good terms with God? How did he command us to live? Our aim is to figure that out, respond accordingly, and assume that God knows best how to be good rather than bad, how to please God, and how to feel good today. History comes first, and all the practical stuff is the natural result.

Cornerstone Moorpark TombOn Easter Sunday, virtually every sermon highlights Jesus’ resurrection. And rightly so. It is healthy for the church to remember this event, which Paul says happened at “the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4), with our annual church calendar.

Resurrection Sunday, as many call it. It’s a big deal.

But what about Monday? And the days after that? We are certain that it’s important to remember the resurrection, but does it matter for the other 364 days of the year? We’ll all say yes. But can you give a clear answer as to why?

The resurrection happened, and we should rejoice in that. But what difference does it make?

I want to point out two of Paul’s answers to that question in the last verses of 1 Corinthians 15. Paul believed that Jesus’ resurrection made a huge difference. He famously said,

“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (vv. 17–19)

The resurrection matters. Here are two reasons it matters for our daily lives. The first is that the reality of the resurrection allows us to live in the certainty that death will not have the last word:

“This perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’

‘O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?’” (vv. 53–55)

Should your life look different because you know that death is not the end? Of course! Paul says that if death is the end, then “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (v. 32). In other words, get all your living in while you can, because you only live once. But if we will be raised, then the fear of death is gone. We can take bigger risks. We can pursue delayed gratification and look for rewards beyond the here and now.

The second way the resurrection affects our daily lives is closely related:

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (v. 58)

Paul is telling us that because death does not have the last word, what we do in this life will last longer than our lifespan. What we do for the Lord in this life has eternal implications. If Christ was not raised, then our 60-90 years are all that matter. Because Christ is raised, our labor will linger. Plato’s writings have had a continued impact for thousands of years. Our labor in the Lord will last longer. It’s not in vain. It will continue into the future of the God who killed death.

So take yesterday’s celebration of the resurrection and put it into practice today. That’s what the other 364 days are for.

Luke Comes Before Acts

Mark Beuving —  February 12, 2013 — Leave a comment

Luke the Physician wrote a two-volume work. Volume I is the Gospel of Luke, Volume II is the book of Acts. Taken together, these books give us a careful and compelling account of what happened in the Roman Empire during the first century AD.

In this post, I want to explore the obvious: Luke comes before Acts.

In the church today, we rightly understand that we have a mission. So we get busy evangelizing, church planting, sending out missionaries, caring for the needy, counseling, etc. Our mission as the church continues what was begun in the book of Acts. Of course, we don’t do this perfectly, and the church needs strong and frequent calls to recover what we are actually supposed to be. But the point is, the biblically sensitive among us read the book of Acts and get inspired to continue on with the life of the early church.

But Luke comes first. If we’re not careful, we can become attracted to the life of the early church without considering the motivation of this community. It’s so appealing to see Christians sacrificing for one another, boldly speaking about Jesus, and literally changing the world. We read that and want to get in the game. We may even try to directly imitate the things the early church did.

Now, none of this is bad. But when we consider why the early church did what it did, our fascination with Acts gets a bit more refined.

Jesus on the Cross 2Luke’s gospel records the strangest events in the history of the world. Here was a man—clearly more than a man but clearly human—walking around speaking words of wisdom, healing the sick, raising the dead, challenging those who claimed authority, speaking gently to the oppressed, and generally transforming everything he touched. Luke leaves us no doubt that this man was the most unusual the world has ever hosted.

This man was about to be made a king, but then his supporters decided to kill him instead. If you were reading Luke for the first time, you’d reach Jesus’ death and think—well, that was a weird end to a weird story. But then it gets even weirder. Jesus doesn’t stay dead. He comes back to life, sends out his followers, promises to empower them for the mission he is leaving with them, and then ascends to heaven.

And then Acts happens. Do you see why it’s important that Luke comes before Acts? It’s not enough to rally around a common mission. It’s not enough to have a sense of goodwill towards mankind and to set out to change the world. The reality is, a group of twelve (or 120 when Acts begins) doesn’t just change the world. It can’t be done. At least, not unless Luke comes before Acts.

The amazing truth is that twelve hearts transformed by the risen Lord can change the world. They did it. This is why Acts is so compelling. Actually, the unbelievable events recorded in Luke’s Gospel changed the world, though the change was largely imperceptible until Jesus’ followers went about proclaiming the kingship of the man who raised from the dead.

So when you read Acts, be careful to understand that Acts is not giving us a manual for church planting, nor is it giving us a program for “Changing the World in Thirty Tumultuous Years.” Acts gives us an inspiring account of what happens when human beings are transformed by Jesus and devote their lives to carrying on his mission together. We probably shouldn’t be trying to recreate the events of Acts in our modern setting, but the reality of a transformed community on a common mission is something we should devote ourselves to—not as an end in itself, but as the outflow of hearts transformed by the Man described in Luke’s gospel.