Friday, April 10, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Resurrection (2 of 3)

A part of the promise of Christ’s resurrection, is that we too may be resurrected. Today’s post provides four considerations for this truth.

First, to be resurrected with Christ, you must first die to self. Galatians 2.20

Paul has willingly crucified his own ambitions and desires so that he can better reflect Christ. In fact, Paul laying down his life to Christ, is similar to Christ laying down his life for us. It doesn’t have the same ramifications, but the willingness is similar. What I mean is that Jesus willingly gave Himself over to die. Yes, He was arrested and beaten and hung on the cross, but He also stated that He could be removed at a moment’s notice if He so desired. I agree with the old phrase that says, “It wasn’t the nails that held Jesus on the cross, it was His love.” Likewise, Paul gave his life over to Christ. His body still existed within the context of his flesh, but it was not his flesh that lived any longer, it was His faith that guided Paul to live as he did.

Second, to be resurrected with Christ, you must be a new Creation.  2 Corinthians 5.17

What do I mean by a new creation? Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3 that to enter the Kingdom one must be born again. Born again. Truly to become a new creature. And like any new creature learning is involved. For instance, a new baby has to learn to move, to crawl, to walk, to feed him/herself, etc. Likewise, a new creature in Christ must learn to live as Christ. That is why Jesus said to his disciples (his learners), “Follow me.” Jesus certainly meant as He traveled. But more importantly He meant to follow His example. To imitate Him. Or, as this series has been entitled, to become more like God.  As a new creation, God supplies the power, but we still have to do the work. To paraphrase Charles Spurgeon, “We must work as if everything depends on man, and pray as if everything depends on God.”

Third, to be resurrected with Christ may come after you are already with Him. 2 Corinthians 5.8

This verse has been traditionally rendered, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Later in 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about entering the third heaven. I believe this took place when he was stoned to death at Lystra (Acts 14.19). 2 Corinthians 12 makes clear that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was given so that he would not be prideful about the wonders he saw in heaven. Yet, Paul admits in that passage that he did not know whether he was in his body or not. Frankly, he didn’t care as he simply states – “God knows” (12.3).

But Paul also writes elsewhere that the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians 4) at the last trumpet. Then, those who remain alive at that time will rise. So, the resurrection of the dead is real, but it doesn’t happen until Christ returns. And He will return. The words of Jesus, Himself, as recorded in Revelation  22.20 – the next to the last verse of the Bible – “Surely I am coming soon.” (Lest we think it isn’t still soon, to God a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is as a day – 2 Peter 3.8. God is not bound to time, but even if He was, this verse could suggest that, in God’s time, it has been less than 2 days since Jesus’ resurrection.)

So, if you die as a follower of Christ, you will be with Him in some form even before the resurrection. Let me make one further clarification. Our form will not be the form of an angel. When you die, despite popular belief, we do not become angels. The Bible is clear that angels long to understand salvation (they don’t receive it). Paul says that we will judge the angels, not become one. So, whatever form it is that we take after our death before the resurrection, it will not be as angels.

Finally, fourth, to be resurrected with Christ, is about Him, not us. Philippians 3.10-14

Let me summarize Philippians 3. Paul had it all. Everything a Hebrew could desire, he had. But he gave it up because although he was completely blameless according the law, it did not make him righteous before God. Only God can do that. So he voluntarily renounced every right he had so that he could gain what truly mattered. Reminding us of the first two points, he died to self, and became a new creation in Christ.

But this was not the end. He was “saved”, but there was still something missing - a perfection that comes from God. In today’s terms we talk about being saved. What most people mean comes down to a theological term – justification. This is like the judge striking the gavel and saying, “Innocent.” But justification is just one part of salvation. If it was the end of the process, why do we remain here after we are saved?  The truth is, for one who receives Christ as Savior, they are saved, but they are still being saved. This second part of being saved is called being sanctified. It is the process of becoming holy. Here, we become holy in part, in eternity we will be truly holy (or glorified). That is what Paul means regarding the prize of the upward call. That he would receive His glorified body – the body we receive after we are resurrected. Our perfect body – a body without sin, without pain, and fully glorious. This is the kind of body that Jesus had after His resurrection, to which he refers in John 20.17. He could eat, but He also passed through a locked door. Do I understand that? No. But I don’t need to understand it. I just need to believe God is capable of it. And in placing my faith in Jesus, who was the first to rise from the dead (1 Corinthians 15), I too, will one day experience a similar resurrection and be with Him forever.

In this week’s third post, I will provide a conclusion to this week’s blog regarding the resurrection and point to the series concluding blog (the final post of the week).

* This series of blogs has been adapted from Donald Whitney’s book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

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