A Fun Little Song With Truth We Can Celebrate

It was a fun little song. It amuses me that, 47 years later, I still  remember both the lyrics and the upbeat tune. Especially since I really didn’t understand exactly what it meant.

Being good Charismatics, we predictably sang this ditty almost every time someone decided to lay hands on me for healing. After all, we assured ourselves,  we were merely claiming God’s promise in Romans 8:11. In our understanding, that fragment of Scripture taught that Christ’s resurrection guaranteed physical healing in this present life.

But looking at this verse in context, we see an entirely different meaning, and a meaning that gives us a correct way to apply Christ’s resurrection to ourselves. Let’s read this verse in its immediate context first, and then we’ll talk about how it fits into the apostle Paul’s overall argument.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. ~~Romans 8:1-11 (ESV)

Even here, we can plainly see that Paul is talking about personal holiness rather than physical healing. He contends that the same Holy Spirit Who affected Christ’s resurrection gives us Christ’s very righteousness, thereby empowering us to live in obedience to God’s law instead of following the dictates of our sinful inclinations.

You might wonder why Paul refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit Who raised Christ from the dead. To answer that question, we need to go back to Romans 6, where the apostle discusses our baptism as a way of identifying with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. ~~Romans 6:1-4 (ESV)

As the Spirit raised Christ literally, so He raises us figuratively in our present life to resist sin and to walk in righteousness. Going back to Romans 8:1-11, then, we understand that the same Spirit Who raised Christ from the dead gives us Christ’s life in order that we can live in Christ’s righteousness. Through the Lord’s resurrection, we have new lives, liberating us from the tyranny of sin.

Certainly His resurrection also carries the assurance of our physical resurrection at Christ’s return, as we’ll discuss in subsequent blog posts. Please don’t misunderstand me as saying that the benefits of Christ’s resurrection are limited to their implications in our present life. But also appreciate the wonderful truth that His resurrection allows us to enjoy a new life, even now, that permits us to experience His righteousness.

That little song based on Romans 8:11 is still fun to sing. Its proper context makes it even more fun as we celebrate the victory over sin that we enjoy because the same Spirit Who raised Christ from the dead dwells in us!

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Anticipating The Resurrection: Future Posts, Future Study And Our Future Bodies

Resurrection Butterfly 02

A while ago, we discussed the possibility of doing a Bible Study series on 1 Corinthians 15, which goes into depth about Christ’s resurrection. Right now I’m still deciding exactly how I want to structure the study. The study I wrote on Titus last year demanded a lot of energy from me, and I question whether or not I have the physical stamina to do something on that scale again.

That said, let me reiterate my observation that the resurrection, although it’s the cornerstone of our faith, goes largely ignored by most Christians. We easily comprehend the significance of the crucifixion, knowing that through it Jesus atoned for the sin of those who believe in Him. But we have more difficulty figuring out what the resurrection means.

In part, our difficulty comes about because pastors don’t say much about the resurrection outside of Easter Sunday sermons. But before we place too much blame on pastors, perhaps we should think about our own awkwardness with the subject.

Death, we understand. We’ve all experienced the death of someone we’ve known. The older we get, the more of our relationships end in death. Therefore, the Lord’s death has an element of familiarity that we can latch on to.

Resurrection, in contrast, lies in our future. Except for Jesus, nobody has yet experienced resurrection.  So we understandably feel removed from the very concept. Even seasoned Christians have trouble grasping the truth that Christ has a physical body right now, and that one day we will have glorified physical bodies either in heaven or in hell. We’ve read this truth repeatedly in the New Testament, but somehow it doesn’t quite register.

So, although we verbally affirm the resurrection, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. I know I don’t!

Over these next two weeks leading up to Easter (or Resurrection Sunday, if you prefer that term), I hope to write a few posts about the resurrection. I’ll look at Scriptures other than 1 Corinthians 15, sharing insights that I’ve learned over the past couple years. Hopefully my posts will prepare us to celebrate His resurrection Sunday after next as well as building our excitement about going through 1 Corinthians 15.

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Easter All Year Round

Is it too early to start celebrating Christ’s resurrection?

Talk about a ridiculous question! The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ provides the cornerstone of our faith, and really should be celebrated throughout the year. Because He rose from the dead as He said He would, He guarantees that He will one day raise us to live with Him forever. That promise fills me with joy!

Since celebrating Christ’s resurrection can never begin too soon, let’s get into the Resurrection Day spirit with this contemporary hymn that accentuates the joy of His triumph over sin and death.

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Who Our Departed Loved Ones In Heaven Watch

Spring in Boston May 9 2011 001The night John survived his cancer surgery, a family member attributed his survival to his sister, who had lost her own battle with cancer nine years earlier.

I had just been through one of the most emotional days of my life, and I was too exhausted for a theological conversation on the state of the dead, so I swallowed my annoyance and mumbled something about God’s faithfulness. But the remark troubled me then and it troubles me still.

It troubles me even more when evangelicals (who claim to know Scripture) talk about their departed loved ones looking down on them from heaven and perhaps even intervening in their circumstances. A nominal Catholic understandably makes such fanciful assumptions, as my family member did, but people who say they read and believe the Bible really should know better.

Before I go on, let me acknowledge that when someone close dies, it’s natural to want to continue the relationship. I occasionally catch myself trying to talk to my mom, almost four years after her death (and I have no evidence that she ever turned to Christ). So I really do understand why people want to believe that their loved ones still hear  and observe us. It’s painful to accept that our loved ones no longer participate in our lives.

But even leaving aside the issue of those who die without Christ, I see nothing in Scripture to indicate that those in heaven maintain any concern for us. Since they behold the Lord in all His glory, wouldn’t He be the singular focus of their attention? Consider this passage from Revelation.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” ~~Revelation 7:9-10 (ESV)

As much as we’d like to think that our loved ones gaze lovingly down on us from heaven, I believe we miss  the whole point. Our loved ones in heaven behold the face of the resurrected Savior, Who captivates all their attention simply by being Who He is! Would we even want to distract them from such a magnificent preoccupation?

John’s sister had nothing to do with him making it through a surgery that, because of his disability, should have ended his earthly life. But make no mistake: there was most definitely heavenly intervention. God the Father Himself watched over John, guiding the surgical team. Like our loved ones in heaven, I can glorify and praise God for mercifully granting me a few more years with my husband. The Lord deserves all the glory, as John’s sister surely would tell us.

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This Isn’t A Eulogy, Exactly

IMG_0693Saturday, a friend of ours lost his battle with cancer. I suppose I could tell you about his love for the Lord, about his beautiful devotion to his wife and family, about his ministry as the Youth Group director at his church or about how he and his wife fostered children and young adults. Alternately, I could tell you how, early in my marriage to John, he taught us a few important points on marriage.

Some of you might enjoy reading such things, but face it — almost all of you never met him. A eulogy probably wouldn’t be very meaningful to you. It might not even be that interesting. For most of you, he was just an obscure guy in Massachusetts that had no direct impact on your lives. You’re sorry for my loss and all, but you didn’t come to my blog to read about him. And I definitely understand that position.

So rather than write about my memories of this man, I want to reflect on the joy he’s experiencing now. If people who knew him happen to read this article, please understand that I by no means want to minimize your grief; all of us who knew him are broken hearted by his passing. And yet, as Christians,  we know he’s beholding the wonderful face of Jesus.

Obviously, none of us really knows what it’s like to stand before the Lord Jesus Christ face-to-face. I therefore want to avoid any extrabiblical speculation or conjecture, preferring to keep within the bounds of what God has revealed in His Word.

Scripture gives glimpses of that wondrous occurrence by recounting the experience of the apostle John.

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”

12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. ~~Revelation 1:9-20 (ESV)

Okay, I realize that John still had his sinful body when he saw the Lord, making his experience arguably different from that of someone who has died.  But I would submit to you that he described Christ’s glorified state. Those who die, because they finally have freedom from their sinful bodies, may not fall paralyzed  at His feet, but we will see His same glory.

With that fearsome glory, however,  John saw Christ’s compassion. Notice verse 17, where the Lord reassures John. The tenderness in that verse beautifully balances the overwhelming description of Christ’s magnificent and terrifying holiness in the preceding verses.

With compassion to temper the brilliance of Christ’s glory and holiness, John could joyfully serve the Lord by writing the Revelation. Fear subsided as he went on to narrate what will happen when Christ finally returns to claim His Bride and establish His kingdom.  What joy fills those last two chapters of Revelation!

Although I have no way of knowing what my friend saw when he entered heaven Saturday, I rest assured that it brought him immeasurable joy. As a result, the sadness I feel for his wife and children gives way to rejoicing for him. And one day I will also see that same glorified Christ in all His splendor!

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A Discernment Issue Leading To A Question For My Readers

Resurrection ButterflyEvangelical women typically flock to blog posts about sex, current events or the exposure of false teachers. The third item is generally thought of as discernment, and sometimes that’s a correct assessment. I appreciate those discernment bloggers who courageously name names. But I also know that true discernment bloggers are more concerned with promoting sound doctrine than with gossiping about popular evangelical celebrities.

One of the most basic Christian doctrines is the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ironically, it’s arguably one of the most ignored and least understood doctrines. To be honest, I’d been a Christian for over three decades before I started understanding its significance. So, at the risk of writing unpopular blog posts, I propose to step up my articles on this foundational topic, convinced that doing so will enhance your discernment abilities much better than simply identifying the latest false teacher.

While Christ’s resurrection most definitely provides concrete evidence for the truth of Christianity (as I explained last week), please take care not to reduce its significance to mere academic validation.  Paul begins 1 Corinthians 15 by demonstrating the historical reality of the Lord’s resurrection, but from there he moves into a beautiful discussion on the implications of His resurrection.

Obviously I  can’t work through all 58 verses of 1 Corinthians 15 in a single blog post, but I fully intend to write more essays on this wonderfully important subject from now on. I might consider writing a verse-by-verse Bible Study on 1 Corinthians 15. Although many other passages contribute to our understanding of Christ’s resurrection, this chapter supplies the most definitive handling of the occurrence and its implications.

Writing verse-by-verse studies requires much time and effort. Yet I would joyfully make the commitment if enough women (remember, men other than my husband and elders from First Baptist Church Weymouth, MA should not be reading my teaching articles) would read them. I truly believe that cultivating a Biblical understanding of Christ’s resurrection would go a long way in protecting us against false teachers.

Please use my Comments Section or my Outspoken TULIP Facebook page to let me know if you’d prefer a structured Bible Study series on the resurrection or less formal posts from time to time (FBCW elders, please weigh in too!) so that I’ll invest my time and energy in the wisest way possible. I want you to be excited about the resurrection, so I need help determining the most interesting way to approach it.

Discernment requires knowing at least the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Because the doctrine of the resurrection is so critical to the Gospel, and because false teachers often distort, downplay or disregard it, we dare not neglect it. Instead, dear sisters in Christ,  let’s grab on to its glorious promises and celebrate it.

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Enough Evidence For Faith

Clouds and light

Occasionally — usually in the wee small hours of the night — the thought comes to me that I’m believing a gigantic fairy tale. Perhaps God really is just a myth, and nothing exists beyond the grave.

When such thoughts come, I immediately remind myself of the overwhelming evidence of Christ’s resurrection. For instance, His tomb had been sealed so securely that the women who came to anoint His body wondered who would roll away the stone?  Didn’t they realize those burly Roman soldiers guarding the tomb would be the only people with the authority to do so? Or is it possible that the stone was even too heavy for them?

And those soldiers definitely wouldn’t have permitted anyone (least of all the disciples) to steal the body. Pilate appointed them to guard the tomb for precisely that reason! Sure, they probably thought it was a ridiculous assignment, but they also knew that any dereliction of duty would cost them their lives. In fact, the Pharisees had to offer them protection in exchange for letting them spread the story that the disciples took the body.

Speaking of Christ’s disciples, why would such a cowardly collection of men risk their lives to perpetrate a story that they knew to be a fraud? Ten died horrendous deaths as martyrs, and John suffered as an exile in a prison camp on Patmos. All any of them had to do would have been to say they made the resurrection up. Seems to me that, given their abandonment of Jesus at His arrest, they simply lacked the fortitude to then allow a falsehood to dominate their lives and  send ten of them to death.

Finally, Paul made this claim:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. ~~1 Corinthians 15:3-6 (ESV)

Did you catch verse 6? Most of those 500 men who saw the risen Lord were still alive when Paul wrote the letter to the Corinthians. That means, dear sisters, that the Corinthians could have interviewed enough of them to legally establish the truth or falsity of Paul’s claim. No court of law, in any judicial system, could reject the testimony of almost 500 eyewitnesses!

Since Christ’s resurrection is therefore an established fact, I believe it follows that His claim to be both God and Man must also be true. Likewise, He must also have sent  the Holy Spirit to superintend the writing of Scripture. As I see it, the resurrection validates everything else about Christianity.

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