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Resurrection now!

On Easter Sunday (March 31 this year), we celebrated a sine qua non of our faith:  the resurrection of our Lord and Savior!  Because of His resurrection, we will be resurrected to eternal life with Him one day.  But did you know that our resurrection begins here and now?  

That truth is signified in baptism.  In Romans, for example, the apostle Paul writes, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  Therefore, we’ve been buried with Christ by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”  To “walk in newness of life” is to experience a kind of resurrection now—the first fruits of our resurrection to eternal life.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul explains, “While our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day...[for] we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen, for what can be seen is temporary but what cannot be seen is eternal.”  Did you hear that?  Our “inner nature is being renewed day by day.”  Through the Spirit in us, Paul sees resurrection as a process of transformation that begins in us before we die.

The Heidelberg Catechism, a Reformed statement of faith, summarizes that process when it declares, “By Christ’s power, we too are already now resurrected to a new life.”  This summary itself is based on Paul’s own use of that phrase “new life.”  It’s a life that’s only possible through the work of the Spirit in us.  We’re not able to live it on our own!  That’s why we still sin.  We don’t have to, but we still do.  We need the Spirit to help us live our new life in Christ, to live as Christ’s faithful followers.

Of course, our resurrection here and now isn’t the same as our resurrection to eternal life after we die.  It’s different in kind.  But Paul understands both as part of the same process of transformation.  In the words of one Pauline scholar, it’s a partial resurrection of the body now that leads to a full resurrection of the body at the eschaton.  So, they’re like two different sides of the same coin.

Here’s how Christian writer George Macdonald describes it:  Think of yourself as “a living house.”  God is rebuilding you.  At first, you see what God’s doing:  there are things in your life that need to be fixed.  But then God starts “throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.”  You thought God would make you into “a decent little cottage,” but God has bigger plans!  God’s constructing “a palace” to live in Himself!

That’s the life-transforming power of our resurrection now, our new life in Christ through the Spirit.  It’s a life of forgiveness, forgiving not seven times but seventy times seven times.  It’s a life lived as peacemakers in a divided and war-weary world.  It’s a life that “does justice, loves kindness and walks humbly with God.”  It’s a life of love:  loving our neighbor, loving one another, loving even our enemies, just as our resurrected Lord did and commanded us to do.

In a previous church I served, a member prepared a questionnaire about faith for one of her classes in graduate school.  One the questions she asked was:  “How has practicing Christianity shaped your life?”  Here’s how one person answered that question:  “Immeasurably!  Because of the work of God’s Spirit in me, I’m not the same person I was twenty years ago, five years ago, or even a year ago.  For example, I’m more patient, kind, generous, self-controlled, forgiving, compassionate, and loving, even to people I don’t like!  I’m also more attuned to God at work in the world and in people.  I’m not perfect, of course.  However, by God’s grace and the Spirit, I’m empowered to live as Christ’s faithful disciple.”

How about you?  How has practicing Christianity—living as Christ’s faithful disciple—shaped your life?  What evidence is there—each day—of your resurrection to “new life” now?


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