I want to commend a new book spelling out the practical implications of the resurrection. Evangelicals rightly emphasis the centrality of the cross. But one unhappy by-product of this focus can be a neglect of the resurrection which becomes merely an affirmation of the finished work of the cross. Allberry shows us the saving significance of the resurrection and its practical impact on our lives. (He does this, thankfully, without the crass attempt to associate different traditions with different moments in the Christ-event as if our soteriological focus was a matter of preference). The main chapters cover (1) Assurance; (2) Transformation; (3) Hope; and (4) Mission. The book is short, punchy, engaging – a great book to give to others. It’s popular theology without compromising the theology.
2. Power to be weak
We not only follow the way of the cross, we also experience the power of the resurrection. We have the Spirit, the Spirit of the coming age, the empowering, liberating, life-giving Spirit. But it’s vital to see how the power of the resurrection and the way of the cross fit together.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection … (Philippians 3:10)
[Christ] lives by God’s power … by God’s power we will live with him. (2 Corinthians 13:4)
We pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way … being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might … (Colossians 1:10-11)
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline … (2 Timothy 1:7-8)
All these verses contain a wonderful truth. We have Christ’s resurrection power in us through the Holy Spirit. But the verses goes on:
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death … (Philippians 3:10)
For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you. (2 Corinthians 13:4)
We pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way … being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience … (Colossians 1:10-11)
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God … (2 Timothy 1:7-8)
We have resurrection power so we can be like Christ in his death. Power to be weak. Power to endure. Power to suffer. That is true Christian experience. Power in weakness is our boast (2 Corinthians 12:9).
We are people of power. We have resurrection power coursing through our bodies. God’s mighty power, pulling Christ from the grave, is in your life. But we don’t have this power for victory over suffering, for an easy life, to lord it over others.
We have power to follow the way of the cross. To serve. To suffer. To love. To die.
It is in this way that we reveal Christ to people. ‘We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.’ (2 Corinthians 4:7)
One day the skies will be filled with the glory of God. One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord to the glory of God. One day. But already his resurrection glory is being revealed. It is being revealed in your home. In your street. In your workplace. In your school. It is being revealed as you follow the way of the cross: as you deny yourself, as you serve others, as you love Jesus.
Christians are united by faith with Christ in his death and resurrection. This is the basis of our salvation: his death is our death that he bears in our place and his new life is our new life. But this union with Christ in his death and resurrection is also the basis for the way we live our lives as Christians.
1. Suffering followed by glory
‘Then [Paul and Barnabas] returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.’ (Acts 14:21-22)
‘Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.’ (Romans 8:17-18)
In this present life we follow the way of the cross. Jesus said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’ (Luke 9:23) Everywhere you look in the New Testament the cross of Jesus (more than the life of Jesus) defines what it means to live as Christ. It can be summarised with five Ss:
The way of cross impacts both our big life choices and our small daily actions: from martyrdom to washing up. Identify what the way of the cross will mean for you in the next five minutes? Five hours? Five days? Five months? Five years?
We follow the way of the cross because it leads to resurrection glory. We live sacrificially because we are living for a glorious inheritance kept in heaven for us. (See Matthew 6:19-21 and Hebrews 11:24-26 and 12:1-3.)
In the meantime we cannot expect glory without the cross (see Mark 10:35-45).
Peter concludes his first letter by saying that he has written ‘encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God’ (5:12). What is this true grace of God? ‘And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.’ (1 Peter 5:10-11) The true grace of God, the grace that makes him ‘the God of all grace’, consists of this: he has called to eternal glory after we have suffered a little while. Suffering followed by glory. The pattern of suffering and glory in the experience of Christ (1:11) is the experience of all believers (1:6-7; 4:13; 5:1-6, 10).
What’s really important to you? What matters? Here’s God’s answer to that question. ‘For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures’ (1 Corinthians 15:3–4).
This book is about what it means to follow the Christ who died and who was raised. How should the cross and resurrection shape our lives? What difference do they make on a Monday morning?
One of the phrases the New Testament often uses to describe Christians is ‘in Christ’ or ‘united to Christ’. You and I are in Christ. This means his death is our death and his life is our life. It means his cross is our model and his resurrection is our hope.
Perhaps rather surprisingly, when the New Testament writers tell us how we should live, they don’t often point back to the life of Jesus. Instead they take us again and again to the cross and resurrection. Whether they’re talking about marriage or conflict or community or money or opposition or leadership or temptation or work or suffering, they look to the cross and resurrection. So if you want to know how to live as a Christian, you need to understand how the cross and resurrection shape our lives. The pattern of the cross and resurrection needs to become our reflex, our habit, our instinct. We need to live the cross and resurrection …
The death and resurrection of Jesus are the most extraordinary events in human history. That God’s promised Saviour King should die was beyond comprehension for the people of his day. It was unthinkable. That the Son of God, God incarnate, Emmanuel, God with us, should die is extraordinary. And that he should be crucified, cursed, shamed, and die under God’s judgment, abandoned by the Father – for the Jews this was weakness; for the Greeks it was foolishness. Yet this is the power and wisdom of God. It’s the pivot of history, the centrepiece, even the purpose of history.
And then Jesus rose again. Whoever heard of a dead man coming back to life? A dead man now living. A condemned man now vindicated. This isn’t just an historical event. It’s an event that pushes the boundaries of history. It signals the end of history. It’s the future invading history.
But here’s the point I want to make. The cross and resurrection are extraordinary events that create extraordinary lives. When we are shaped by the cross and resurrection, our ordinary lives become exceptional, special, heroic. We become ordinary heroes.
This looks like a great book to read in the run up to Easter: Nancy Guthrie (ed.), Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter (Crossway). It’s an anthology of reflections on the cross and resurrection from Reformed writers, ancient and modern. It’s due out in the United States and in the UK at the end of the month – just in time to get a copy for Lent. Here’s the line up …
1. Martin Luther, “True Contemplation of the Cross”
2. John Piper, “He Set His Face to Go to Jerusalem”
3. Alistair Begg, “An Innocent Man Crushed by God”
4. C. J. Mahaney, “The Cup”
5. R. Kent Hughes, “Gethsemane”
6. J. Ligon Duncan III, “Betrayed, Denied, Deserted”
7. Charles Spurgeon, “Spit in His Face”
8. Adrian Rogers, “The Silence of the Lamb”
9. J. C. Ryle, “The Sufferings of Christ”
10. John MacArthur, “Father, Forgive Them”
11. John Owen, “With Loud Cries and Tears”
12. Martin Lloyd-Jones, “That He Might Destroy the Works of the Devil”
13. Skip Ryan, “I Am Thirsty”
14. Phillip Ryken, “God-Forsaken”
15. R. C. Sproul, “Cursed”
16. James Montgomery Boice, “Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit”
17. John Calvin, “Blood and Water”
18. J. I Packer, “He Descended into Hell and Ascended into Heaven”
19. Jonathan Edwards, “A Sweet-Smelling Savor to God”
20. Raymond C. Ortlund Jr., “The Most Important Word in the Universe”
21. Francis Shaeffer, “Resurrection Preview”
22. Saint Augustine, “Peace Be Unto You”
23. Tim Keller, “Knowing the Power of His Resurrection”
24. Joni Eareckson Tada, “Knowing the Fellowship of His Sufferings”
25. Stephen Olford, “Crucified with Christ”
HT: Justin Taylor