Welcome, friends! On this Resurrection Day, we consider the impact of Christ rising from death. The Lord’s resurrection is not only a doctrine to believe; it is a powerful reality to live into. Click the videos below, and let us celebrate new life in Jesus Christ….
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54b-57, NIV)
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the tomb. Look, there was a great earthquake, for an angel from the Lord came down from heaven. Coming to the stone, he rolled it away and sat on it. Now his face was like lightning and his clothes as white as snow. The guards were so terrified of him that they shook with fear and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He isn’t here, because he’s been raised from the dead, just as he said. Come, see the place where they laid him. Now hurry, go and tell his disciples, ‘He’s been raised from the dead. He’s going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ I’ve given the message to you.”
With great fear and excitement, they hurried away from the tomb and ran to tell his disciples. But Jesus met them and greeted them. They came and grabbed his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Go and tell my brothers that I am going into Galilee. They will see me there.” (CEB)
The Resurrection of Christ from death has changed everything – especially when it comes to fear. In this season of Eastertide, we discover and explore the vast implications of what it means to possess a new life. Because Christians serve a risen Savior, this newfound awareness brings courage and confidence. Fear isn’t something we can simply exercise willpower over. Rather, fear begins to give way to the presence of God among us. Consider just a few of the many references to this in Holy Scripture:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9, NIV)
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV)
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV)
“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.” So, we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6, NIV)
Believe it, or not, the Bible tells us 365 times to not be afraid. Maybe that’s not a coincidence that we can quote a verse every day of the year about our own fearfulness in the face of so much of the world’s cruel circumstances.
When it comes to fear and bravery, God does not so much command us to be courageous, as he wants us to draw from the great reservoir of bravery within. That is, God has already created us strong, as creatures in his image. We just need to get in touch with what is already there. And the reality of Easter awakens and calls forth that life.
We can act with boldness and overcome fear because Jesus is the pioneer of our salvation. He is the One which enables us to draw from the deep well of courage….
“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the same testing we do, yet he did not sin. So, let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:14-16, NLT).
You and I really can face the fears in front of us. You can surmount the adversity you are in the middle of – not because of some words I say, but because Christ has risen from death. He’s alive, and his presence makes all the difference.
The following is an Easter homily from the fourth-century preacher St. John Chrysostom to the Church of Constantinople:
“Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hades when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
“You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!”
Click Because He Lives sung by Guy Penrod as we are reminded that the living Christ makes all the difference today.
When I was in college I drove a big Oldsmobile Delta 88. Because I had the largest car around, I could fit a lot of people into my car to drive to church on Sundays. Since I often gave rides to people I did not know very well, one Sunday I picked up two sisters who had never been to my church before.
Everything went like a typical Sunday morning, until toward the end of the pastor’s sermon one of the sisters began yelling and crying out in the service, maybe like the guy in the synagogue who cried out to Jesus when he was just beginning his ministry (Mark 1:21-28). The pastor quickly brought an end to the worship service and the congregation quickly filed out of the building. I stayed behind because, well, I was her ride.
What happened next is a story in itself for another time. I will just say that I saw some crazy things and that there was a deliverance that day from whatever or whomever was influencing that young lady. Let’s just say it was an awkward ride back to the dorms afterwards.
In think this begs the questions: What are our expectations when we come to a worship service? Do we anticipate that Jesus will be present via the Holy Spirit, and that he will confront demons and bring deliverance to people? Perhaps there is so little deliverance from evil in the church today because we simply do not expect it to happen. Maybe the demons just sleep through the service knowing that their influence is not being threatened.
I also think there are some presuppositions or assumptions that we need to take for granted when it comes to the subject of evil:
Demons are real. The Gospels are filled with accounts of Jesus confronting demonized people. There is no evidence that they existed only in the ancient world; they are present in this time in this world.
Jesus has authority over demons. Jesus took charge of situations with demons because he had the authority to do so. Throughout the Gospels Jesus is portrayed as one who came in order to decisively deal with the powers of evil.
Demons could be in our churches. I do not mean to be creepy; I simply intend to point out that if demons are real, they are not just out there somewhere in the world. Jesus encountered the demonic when he was teaching in synagogues. Although we encounter dramatic stories in Scripture (because Jesus seemed to bring it to the forefront), much demonic activity goes unaware because demons do not like to be recognized; they like the anonymity of the shadows and to operate in the dark where no one can detect them. If we knew they were around we would likely do something about it! Just because church buildings are dedicated to the worship of God does not mean that they magically keep evil out. We, as God’s people, must be savvy to demonic ways and take charge to use our authority in Christ through truth, justice, peace, faith, and the message of the gospel in order to live wisely and shoo the devil away.
Jesus directly dealt with evil because he was interested in bringing freedom to people, of confronting the spiritual roots of human suffering, and giving grace to those in bondage. We all need the deliverance that Christ provides through faith in his person and work. Being amazed or impressed with stories of the demonic and deliverance ministry is not the same as exercising faith ourselves in Jesus.
Whenever the church celebrates at the Table together, they are to do so with the cognizance that Jesus has won a tremendous victory over the devil and his demons. Only Christ can give us the confidence and hope we need to confront all that ails us. Let us personally and corporately implement that victory daily through the grace given us by faith in love.
The big three enemies of every Christian are: a sinful world system (1 John 2:15-16); the inherent sinful nature (Ephesians 4:22); and, the devil, who seeks to exploit the world and the sinful nature to tempt and move us into rebellion against God (1 Peter 5:8-9). The good news is that Jesus Christ has obtained deliverance and freedom for His people from each of those enemies. However, for this deliverance and freedom to be a practical reality in daily experience, each believer in Jesus must know and practice the truth.
In the original Fall of humanity there was a passive response to the temptation of the serpent, an acceptance of doubt concerning God’s Word, the acceptance of insinuations concerning God’s goodness and wisdom, and a deliberate choice to follow the suggestions of Satan and disobey the only true and living God. The seriousness of that Fall into disobedience cannot be overemphasized. The Fall introduced the dimensions of sin, lust, depravity, slavery, ignorance, death and every form of evil into the human race. In short, people became alienated from God and enslaved to the devil. The final effects of this sinful bondage will not be completely severed until the final judgment. The hold of the devil is so profound that it took the death of Jesus Christ and his resurrection to break that hold and make it possible for humanity to be redeemed.
The descriptive titles given to Satan indicate his activity and what he is up to: Tempter (Matthew 4:3); Deceiver (Revelation 12:9); Accuser (Revelation 12:10); Adversary (1 Peter 5:8); Murderer and Liar (John 8:44); the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4); and, the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). Holy Scripture indicates that a Christian can be significantly influenced by the machinations of Satan through: giving the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:27); lying (Acts 5:3); physical and spiritual attacks (Job 1-2; 2 Corinthians 12:7); deception (Revelation 12:9-10; 2 Corinthians 11:3); temptation (1 Corinthians 7:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:5); pride (1 Timothy 3:6); corruption (2 Corinthians 11:3); accusations (Revelation 12:10); hypocrisy (Acts 5:1-11); and, “fiery darts” (Ephesians 6:16). In other words, the Christian ignores the activity of Satan at his/her peril.
Satan’s purpose and aim is to keep each and every believer in Jesus from spiritual progress and maturity, and from the daily experience of living in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, the evidence of Satan’s success is all around us, and even in the church. All Christians are under the attack of the enemy of our souls in some way, shape, or form. When well-meaning Christians experience difficulty in prayer, in reading Scripture, in witnessing to the truth of Christ, in overcoming sins, and in maintaining right fellowship with other believers, then this is a tangible reminder of the subtle and powerful effect that Satan has in the church, not to mention the world. Such a situation requires that we know and understand the provision we possess in overcoming the evil one.
The most basic truth to know and practice is that in the crucifixion and resurrection the Lord Jesus Christ defeated Satan (Colossians 2:15). Jesus has through his death and rising from death destroyed the power of death and delivered those held in bondage (Hebrews 2:14-15). In fact, Jesus, the Son of God, came to this earth so that he might destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). What is more, through the Ascension Jesus was seated in triumph over Satan and this tremendous victory has been given to each and every believer in Christ (Ephesians 1:19-21; 2:5-6).
In order for this incredible access to become a reality there must be a complete and honest confession, repentance and renunciation of past and present sins. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). There must be a complete and honest practice of the truth in the obedience of faith and love through standing with the truth (Ephesians 6:10-18). There must be a complete and honest as well as aggressive resistance of the work of Satan through constant vigilance and standing firm (1 Peter 5:8-9).
When you are made to feel guilty but do not know what you have done or why you should feel this way – then be aggressive about rejecting it. When you are accused (i.e. “If you were really a Christian you would not be thinking a thought like that…”) – then be aggressive about refusing the guilt. When your thoughts, emotions, and desires threaten to get out of hand – then take charge of them and bring them into subjection to Jesus. You have all the authority of Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension behind you to reject and refuse error and satanic whispers.
Know the enemy’s lies and deceptions and be aggressive about dealing with them according to the truth of the gospel. Always attempting this alone is somewhat like trying to be an army of one – it would go much better with the help of the church as we share, pray, and practice the truth together in the context of community. May the kingdom of God come in all its fullness as Christians learn to know and practice the truth. Soli Deo Gloria.