What does it mean to live with Easter power within us? As we celebrate the foundation of our faith, Jesus’ resurrection, we’re told that “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you” (Romans 8.11). The Apostle Paul says further that “if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness” and that God “will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8.10-11). These are bold life-affirming statements that call us to engage the power we have been given to live this life for God’s glory through eternal hope.
As Christ’s resurrection was a bold victory over death, so are we called to live boldly against death in resurrection power. This is a daily struggle though for we still must wrestle with the power of death in different ways. It is definitely hard to live boldly when it seems like death has the upper hand. We do suffer in our bodies. We do face temptations. We do face trials of all kinds. We do face dry times in our faith where it seems like God’s power is absent. The question becomes, do we allow the power of death to define us, or the power of resurrection?
Before his death and resurrection, Jesus, at different times, would tell his disciples what was going to happen to him. One time is recorded in Matthew 17.22-23. Jesus tells them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” It is perhaps easier for us to grasp Jesus’ statement since we live after the events Jesus predicts here, but the disciples struggled to grasp what Jesus was telling them. Jesus does talk about his death, which is vital to redemption, but he closes his statement with talk of triumphant resurrection. Though there is bad news in death, it leads to greater news in restored life. But as Matthew records, the disciples stopped listening after Jesus talked about being killed. Matthew records the disciples’ response quite succinctly, “And the disciples were filled with grief.” To the attentive reader, this response should give us whiplash. We might object to the disciples’ reaction, “Why are you grieving over Jesus’ proclamation of resurrection?” We must concede though that the disciples were unable at the time to imagine death’s defeat in this way. They hear Jesus’ death as the end of the story.
In certain ways, we’re tempted to let the power of death be the end of our story too, or at least to put up the white flag in this life and simply wait for our future resurrection. Even as those raised with Christ through the Spirit’s presence, we see the power of death threaten and we grieve like the disciples. We fail to remember the life-transforming resurrection power within us. We stop listening, allowing death’s belittling of us to define us. We let sickness define us. We let addictions mock us for our weakness. We let temptations shame us into worthlessness. We let doubt slow us rather than assurance drive us. We let indifference hold sway in our hearts because what real difference can we make anyway. We allow the power of death to be the last word. This is not what living in the resurrection is.
No, we are called to a bold life that stares the powers of death in the face and says, “You won’t win because you’ve already been defeated by my Savior and Lord. You don’t define me. Jesus defines me and I am a person saved, forgiven, held secure in heaven above, and loved as a child of God.” To be a child of the resurrection is to turn from Satan’s taunts of control and declare the bold freedom of living in Christ who has conquered death.
With all this said, it doesn’t mean we won’t face all the things of hardship in this life. We’ll still face sickness. We’ll still face trials. We’ll still struggle with temptation. We’ll still face the fury of evil. Paul acknowledges this as he encourages us, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (II Corinthians 4.8-10). As we face these things, we’ll have a different strength to confront them. We go forth not on our own strength, but upon the same strength and power that raised Jesus from the dead.And further, with all this said, it doesn’t mean our bold living in the face of death’s power will look the same for all of us. It will depend on the time or the situation and will change with time or situation. For some, resurrection power will bring a triumphant and boisterous joy. For others, resurrection power will give a steady perseverance to move forward in courage. For others, resurrection power might simply give strength to see God’s blessings in the midst of deep sadness. For others, it will simply keep them from going over the edge of despair and give them courage to take one life-affirming step forward. The key thing is not to fit a mold of Christian expression, but to engage God’s molding of you in Christ—in his death and his resurrection.
The key is this – to not allow the power of sin and death to define us and defeat us. We are children of God, those risen in Christ and those with the same Spirit within us that raised Christ from the dead. In that truth, we hear Paul’s word of encouragement, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (II Corinthians 4.16).
As those in Christ, we must always have resurrection perspective. No matter what threats the darkness brings, the light of Christ has already triumphed. It is supreme. No matter how ominous the dark clouds of death might look, they have no power over us to define us. All they can do is scare us a bit. This is when we need to be reminded by Paul again, “you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 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” (Romans 8.15-17).
Christ Is Risen! He Is Risen Indeed!