The Easter promise of Christ’s resurrected life is applied to our resurrected life, too. That is the message preached in Christian churches all over the world. What wonderful news!
The preached promise of Easter, however, loses some of its power in three ways: when resurrected life is reduced to the springtime freshness, when the resurrected life is focused only on the next life, and when resurrected life is deprived of the Spirit’s power.
- When we lived in Los Angeles, I noticed an ad for the Easter Sunrise Service at the Hollywood Bowl. The featured speaker for this Christian celebration was—a Jewish rabbi. How could someone who does not recognize Jesus as the true Messiah make sense out of the New Testament resurrected life in Christ?
For those who do not recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah, Jesus was just a popular itinerant rabbi who crucified and buried. End of story. How could this man come to life again? He can’t, according to the Modernist interpretation of Scriptures. That would take a miracle, and supernatural miracles have no place in their world view.
Thomas Jefferson was a leader of the Enlightenment movement that was emerging roughly two hundred years ago. It became popular in the mid-twentieth-century scientific Modernist movement. Jefferson famously cut out all references to miracles in his Bible. If your starting assumption is that a supernatural God does not exist, you have no category for evidence that he does.
Today that assumption persists in a wing of traditional churches now labeled liberal. Their Modernist’s assumptions are directly related to their on-going swift decline. In American culture, there now is a growing demand for the authority found in the inspired Scriptures.
- Basic to the great and glorious New Testament message is that when believers die we will be resurrected to eternal life in the hereafter. In most of church history, that promise was a powerful motivator for church life. In affluent America today it no longer is. Much more persuasive is the promise that believers will experience new life not just later but here and now.
- The deficiency with conventional Easter preaching is that it does not explain how this new resurrected life happens now. There is a leap in logic. The too-often-omitted step is explained in the Apostle Paul’s preaching and writing. Central to his message is the role of the Holy Spirit in the everyday lives of believers. In Martin Luther’s words, Christ’s Spirit calls individuals to faith, gathers them as the church, brings deeper insights, and moves them toward more Christ-like living here and now.
As Jesus taught, the Holy Spirit influences human spirits. Through him, we are born again into a resurrected life. Christ’s Spirit changes our emotions and motivation. You can spot the Spirit’s work in the fruit he produces, like love, joy, peace, patience, faith, and hope. Where you see believers living with more joy or more peace or more hope, you see evidence of the Holy Spirit’s influence here and now.
Among those biblical promises you can trust, included is a trust that the Holy Spirit will influence you day by day, changing your heart and motivations. In Christ’s redemption, we have hope for the next life. Through the Holy Spirit’s influence, we have hope that the best is yet to come in this life.
By God’s grace through Christ’s redemption, we are saved for eternity. By God’s grace through Christ’s Spirit, we can have a better life now!
Is the best to come for Christianity throughout the world? What does the future look like for your congregation? What can you do for better days ahead?
Frank Janzow says
Yes. Without the crucifixion AND resurrection the Christian gospel loses its transformative power. The resurrection of the crucified one is what raised up the global church in the first place. And it’s what gives life to the church today. And those who play it down thinking the gospel will be more palatable to moderns will find that that approach backfires, as we see clear decline in ultra liberal churches.
Assuming the reality of resurrection then leads to the reality of a resurrected life being translated into every day life now. I like that the resurrection of the body is put under the Holy Spirit’s work in the Creeds. As you say, that Spirit is raising us up in new life bit by bit every day, already now, until the fullness of the resurrection in glory. As Luther says, we die and rise with Christ in baptism every day.
Hi, Frank. Now ascended, Christ does his work through his (and the Father’s) Holy Spirit. I love Luther’s phrase to daily drown out the old nature and let the new nature arise. I would be careful about using Baptism as the symbol, because so few Evangelicals understand its full meaning.
Douglas Schoelles says
I believe that if we would be clear that the Gospel is what God does to bring promises to fruition, perhaps we would quit turning faith into a work. Along with this “God does the Gospel” focus is recognizing that all the heavy lifting of faith in our lives is done by the Holy Spirit and that this deserves to preached as Gospel alongside the work of the crucified and risen Savior.
David Luecke says
I hear of the approach that says God has to make things happen; it is out of our hands and therefore ministering to those at hand is simple. The Spirit works through the Word, but presenting the Word is our job. God depends on humans to figure out how to do that best.
God doesn’t depend on anyone, parson. “The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this” (Isaiah 37.32).
There is nothing to “figure out” but only the call of loving service to neighbor that the Gospel sets us free to carry out joyfully whether we’ve “figured out” anything.
David Luecke says
God does depend on humans to gather people around God’s Word. The Spirit works better through some forms of ministry than others.
I do believe the best is yet to come! First, there is heaven. Second, we pray for others so that hearts would be able to open to the Gospel. We pray for the Holy Spirit to move those who are followers of Jesus to be lights and to be bold about telling people of their relationship with Jesus. I have friends all over who have been having significant spiritual conversations that have led to people becoming followers of Jesus. Many of these through thr lockdowns and such. They are directing them to congregations with small groups, great preaching, and sound doctrine. It’s been amazing!
David Luecke says
Great to hear that good witnessing is going on. Our times are right for presenting solutions to a better life (in Christ). But we have to do so winsomely through establishing relationships