The Christ of Easter
This was my teaching at the Cornerstone Church on Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018.
THE CHRIST OF EASTER
Part 4 of Our Great Savior. Luke 24:1-8
Peter Foxwell. The Cornerstone Church. April 1, 2018.
CHRIST IS RISEN!
If someone asked you, "What is the central idea all Christians believe," what would you answer? The earliest Christians were convinced of one thing above all: God raised Jesus from the dead. We read that a few minutes ago: "He is not here; he has risen!" - Luke 24:6 This is what Christians believe. They are staking everything on Jesus being alive.
The first followers of Jesus testified to this everywhere they went. For example, the apostle Peter stood up in Jerusalem and declared: Acts 3:15 "You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this." Peter was an eyewitness - he saw Jesus alive and well. He wasn't shy about letting people know every chance he got - Acts 2:24-32; 4:1-2, 8-12; 5:29-32; 10:34-43.
If you do a little googling online, you'll find people who follow Jesus because they have done the research and concluded that Jesus is alive.
Christians believe they follow a risen, living, present-here-and-now, Jesus.
CHRIST IS RISEN: SO WHAT?
The resurrection of Jesus has a massive impact on our lives. One of the first Christians - the man we call the apostle Paul - wrote this: "I no longer live, but Christ LIVES in me." - Galatians 2:20.
Paul actually met the risen Jesus. It was a dramatic encounter - a blinding light and a voice from heaven (see Acts 9:1-6; 26:12-14). And it totally transformed Paul. It forever changed how he looked at religion and spirituality.
Until then, Paul had been a very religious man. He was careful to observe all the requirements of Judaism - for example, food laws, prayer times, and rituals. He was running on a treadmill of religious duties.
But when Paul encountered the risen Jesus, everything changed. He discovered that faith is relational, not religious - "Christ - himself in person - lives inside of me."
Years later, Paul described his faith this way: "I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of KNOWING Christ Jesus my Lord." - Philippians 3:8. Relationship trumps ritual every time. Knowing Jesus beats everything.
The resurrection isn't just an idea to believe. It's a reality to experience. This is what sets Christianity apart from other religious traditions. Look at my graphic:
I'm not a touchy-feely kind of person. I can't say that I'm able to "feel" Jesus living in me. This is why Paul went on to write, "The life I live, I live by faith. - Galatians 2:20b. By faith, I am in constant contact with Jesus. He is present in me, and I know it.
It's very difficult for me to explain this, but remembering the difference between dial-up and wi-fi might help. Do you remember the days of dial-up internet access? It was just awful waiting while the computer tried to connect - dinging, hissing, static. But now, we have always on wi-fi. Constant connection.
In a similar sense, before I was a Christian, I had no concept of communication with God. In my mind, he was distant and unreachable - static. But since I met Jesus, I have this always-on connection with a real person. The living Jesus is living in me.
The connection between Jesus and his people is so real and so close that the Bible pictures it as a marriage between a man and a woman (see Ephesians 5:25-33). Just as in marriage, the man and woman are joined as one, so Christ and his church are super-glued together. We live in him and he lives in us. I call this total integration with and identification with Christ.
My experience is this: There is no practical distinction between Jesus and me. He is the breath of life in me that makes me truly alive. I agree with Paul - "I no longer live." It's like the song we sing here - "Your love has ravished my heart and taken me over, taken me over."
This integration and full identification with Jesus has a profound impact on our lives: One of my commentaries on Galatians 2:20 reads,
"What does it mean to be "in Christ"? It means to be so united to Christ that all the experiences of Christ become the Christian's experiences. Thus, his death for sin was the believer's death; his resurrection was ... the believer's resurrection; his ascension was the believer's ascension, so that the believer is ... seated with Christ "in the heavenly realms" (Eph 2:6). When one died with Christ, one's "old self" (cf. Eph 4:25) died with Christ. This was arranged by God so that Christ, rather than the old Paul, might live in him. True, Paul is still living. But he adds that the life he lives now is lived "by faith." It is a different life from the life in which he was striving to be justified by law. In another sense, it is not Paul who is living at all, but rather Christ who lives in him." Expositor's Bible Commentary (abridged version) on Galatians 2:20.
This is the essence of Christianity. It cannot be reduced to certain rituals, or church services, or patterns of behavior. It is not about trying harder, it is about trusting Jesus. Our faith is centered on a real person, Jesus. He is alive and present and active in everyone who believes. And our lives are integrated with and identified with Christ. In that sense, then, Christianity IS Christ.
CHRIST IS RISEN: READY TO TRUST HIM?
Are any of you board game fans? Do you ever read the rule book or do you make up the rules as you go along? Does it drive you crazy when you play with friends and you expect one set of rules and they tell you, "We don't play that way. Here's the rule we use?" It seems to me that everyone outside the church has their set of "rules" for the Christian faith. And they are nearly always wrong. I hope I've cleared up some of the mystery for you.
Maybe you came here today with an understanding of the Christian faith that is nothing like the one I described: "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." And you are intrigued and curious. This might be what your heart has always longed for. And now you've found it. A relationship with God that is not based on you keeping the rules. But a relationship based on an actual relationship - the risen, living, Christ in you.
If you want to explore more about this, I have a couple of suggestions. Before you leave today, go into the Atrium area back there and take a look at our free resources table. Take a Gospel of John and read through it in the next few days. Ask God to make sense of it in your mind and heart. You'll also find some other books there that will help you explore the Christian faith.
The other thing you could do is talk to me. I'll happily answer your questions and help you explore the faith. I'll be right down front here and I'm in no hurry to leave.
Finally, consider returning here on Sundays for more teaching. Next week, we begin a new teaching series called Free Indeed. It explores the ways in which the dark world of demons intersects with our lives. The teaching will help you live free from demonic influences and attacks. Join us!
Are you ready to trust Jesus? Then begin with a prayer like this:
"Lord Jesus, I am tired of trying to work my way to God. Right now, I'm stepping off the treadmill of religion. I put my faith in you. Join yourself to me, be my life so that all you have done is mine. By faith, I trust in you to bring me to God. Amen."