Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Far-Off Battle

It seems just about everything I've read this week deals with the Resurrection and what that history-changing event is supposed to mean in the lives of those who love and follow the Resurrected One.
For most of my life, I thought the Resurrection only affected what happens to me after that last breath, that final heartbeat. But, thanks to those whose words have opened the eyes of my heart, I'm beginning to grasp that God wants me to walk in the power of the Resurrection in the here and this very day.'ll let Paul tell you in his words: "I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 2:19-20 NLT)
So, what keeps me from living in that incredible power? Well...for's probably a combination of things. First of all, I don't take the time to fully embrace that truth and what it means in and for my life.
Secondly, I don't want to experience the death that resurrection requires. I don't want to "die to Karen Bowdle"...her wants...her worries...her motives...her plans...her old patterns. I want her to be in charge. In other words, I'm so full of Karen Bowdle that the power of the Resurrection can't even find room.
But, thankfully...the Holy Spirit is teaching me ('s a process) long as Karen Bowdle is in charge...she cannot live in the power of the Resurrection that Jesus longs for her to live in.
So...the call is to die daily to past old patterns. And, in this physical, natural, material world, "death" always sounds like something negative and depressing. this upside-down Kingdom of faith...this daily dying is simply a cross-shaped door that allows me to live this day in the power of the Resurrection--with all of its blessings and brokenness, crashes and chaos, dreams and disasters.
Here's how the Resurrected One said it to those first disciples: “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it." (Matt. 16:24-25, NLT) Eugene Peterson translates the Master's first few words this way: "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead."
Wow! What would life be like if I fully embraced those words?
I want to share some words by Alister McGrath about the power of the Resurrection. I know they're long, but since I've read them, they've stayed with me. They encourage me. They help explain for me the seeming contradiction between this physical fallen world we live in and this spiritual Kingdom in which those who love Jesus walk by faith:
"The cross spells freedom. It brings liberation from false understandings of God. It shows that God is there--despite all suggestions that he is not. Good Friday seemed to confirm that God was dead....Easter Day showed that God is alive, well and caring. The cross frees us from the idea that human nature is somehow too sinful, or the human dilemma too complex, for God to do anything about it. The surly bonds that tie us to these deeply pessimistic and oppressive views of God are torn apart by the cross. The Creator becomes a creature within his own creation, in order to recreate it. In the aftermath of Gethsemane, we catch the fragrance of Eden. Jesus was betrayed in a undo the disobedience of human nature within the garden of Eden. The resurrection is like the first day of a new creation.
So, how does this image of what God achieved through the cross help us make sense of sin? What does it tell us about our situation apart from Christ? It encourages us to think of sin as enslavement and oppression. It is like the oppression that burdened the Israelites in Egypt...It invites us to imagine the sense of despair and hopelessness that plagued Europe in the darker days of Nazi occupation. It declares, "This is what sin is like." It reminds us that a state of oppression leads to a feeling of oppression. And, no amount of tinkering around with the feeling can ever change the real state (situation), which causes the (feelings) of despair (and oppression) in the first place. Real peace of mind requires a real change in our situation.
Now, think of the cross and resurrection of Jesus as breaking the power of sin (the state of oppression). But, if the power of sin, death and evil has been broken, how can we make sense of the fact that it still continues to plague us?...How can be handle this (seeming contradiction)?
A helpful way was (described) by a group of writers....They noticed important parallels between the New Testament and the situation during the Second World War. The victory won over sin through the death and resurrection of Christ was like the liberation of an occupied country from Nazi rule. We need to allow our imaginations to take in the sinister and menacing idea of an occupying power. Life has to be lived under the shadow of this foreign presence. And, part of the poignancy of the situation is its utter hopelessness. Nothing can be done about it. No one can defeat it.
But...then comes the electrifying news. There has been a far-off battle. And, somehow, it has turned the tide of the war. A new phase has developed, and the (evil) occupying power is in disarray. Its backbone has been broken. In the course of time, the (enemy) will be driven out of every corner of Europe. But...(for now)...they are still present in the occupied country. In one sense, the situation has not changed, but in another more important sense, the situation has changed totally. The scent of victory and liberation is in the air. A total change in the psychological (and spiritual) climate results.
I remember once meeting a man who had been held prisoner in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Singapore. He told me of the astonishing change in the camp atmosphere that came about when one of the prisoners (who owned a shortwave radio) learned of the collapse of the Japanese war effort in the middle of 1945. Although all in the camp still remained prisoners, they knew their enemy had been beaten. It would only be a matter of time before they were released. And, those prisoners, I was told, began to laugh and cry, as if they were free already.
The end of World War II in Europe came (in 1945),...but an objective change had already taken place...with the establishment of the bridgeheads in Normandy in June 1944--(which caused) a resulting subjective change in the hearts and minds of captive people.
And so with us now. In one sense, victory has not come; in another, it has. The resurrection declares in advance...God's total victory over all evil and oppressive forces--such as death and sin. Their backbone has been broken, and we may begin to live now in the light of that victory. ..." (Alister McGrath, "In the Light of Victory")

"In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen:
everything perishable taken off the shelves
and replaced by the imperishable,
this mortal replaced by the immortal.
Then the saying will come true:
Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who's afraid of you now?
It was sin that made death so frightening
and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage,
its destructive power.
But now in a single victorious stroke of Life,
all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone,
the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God! With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends,
stand your ground.
And don't hold back.
Throw yourselves into the work of the Master,
confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort."
(1 Corinthians 15:54-58, The Message)

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