Life Wins

It’s Easter. It’s the day we celebrate Jesus’ victory over the grave. It’s the day we remember that the story didn’t end at the cross. It’s the day that makes all the difference.

Without Easter, frankly, we wouldn’t have much.

The Apostle Paul said that if Christ were not raised our faith is “futile” and we are still in our sins (1 Cor. 15:17).

Dallas Willard said:

In today’s presentation of the gospel, Jesus’ death is primarily presented as a ransom that deals with guilt and the effects of guilt regarding our standing before God. But there is more to life than guilt. Once you have been forgiven, you still have to live. Jesus is about the redemption of actual life from actual sin. It is by entering into his life, which is still ongoing on earth, that we are delivered from actual sin. The New Testament is absolutely clear on this. You just take Colossians 3, Philippians 3, 1 John and Titus 3. All make it clear that the righteousness which is by faith is a matter of being delivered from the evil that is around us in action and that we are in danger of falling into ourselves.

Faith in the living Christ raises us above merely being delivered from the consequences of sin. We need a doctrine not only of justification but of regeneration. We need a picture of our life in God that does not leave most of our life untouched. What has happened today is that we’ve reduced salvation to justification. We’ve reduced the saving work of Christ to his death on the cross. So what relevance has the resurrected Christ? None!

Taken together, Paul’s words and Willard’s make a powerful point: overemphasis on the cross and Jesus’ sacrifice to take our punishment for sin misses the heart of the matter, which is life in and with Christ.

Again, as Willard points out, “It is by entering into His life, which is still ongoing on earth, that we are delivered from sin.” Even if our focus were strictly on the avoidance of sin and salvation from its consequences, the cross alone doesn’t get us where we need to go.

The resurrection does.

This has tremendous implications for dealing with compulsive sexual behavior.

No man i know has ever experienced lasting freedom with regard to compulsive sexual behavior by looking only to the cross.

The cross is essential. The resurrection even moreso.

N.T. Wright says that if Jesus had stayed dead nobody would have given a second thought to the significance of the crucifixion. But, he says, the crucifixion means what it means because Jesus is raised. The resurrection means what it means because it is the resurrection of the man who had been crucified.

Likewise for us, our hope of resurrection through our connection with Christ means that we can live whole lives free from the compulsive sexual behaviors of our past which left us mired in death.

Again, Paul:

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:9-10)

The progression here is crucial. We were God’s enemies and He reconciled us through the death of Jesus (ie. the cross). In light of that reconciliation, Paul says “how much more” will we be saved through the life of Christ.

The life of Christ was a life of the Kingdom on God. He referred to His message as the Gospel of the Kingdom, and He demonstrated what the Kingdom was like in the miracles He performed as well as the way He interacted with people.

Everything about Jesus was oriented toward the Life of the Kingdom, which He made the cornerstone of His ministry when He announced in Luke 4 (quoting Isaiah 61) that He had come to set the captives free, bind up the brokenhearted, and so on.

The resurrection is the moment it becomes clear that death and darkness are defeated in and through Christ. It’s a profound demonstration of the restoration Isaiah 61 anticipated.

Life conquers death and we get to participate in that. We get to live.

This is why Easter is everything. Men trapped in compulsive sexual behavior need a resurrection; they need real life to invade the death of their compulsion. This is precisely what we get in Easter.

It’s all too common for the addict to define his or her life in terms of not returning to whatever compulsive behavior has been the issue in the past. Life can easily become about not relapsing. The sole focus is on the addiction, even as the addict endeavors to stay clean.

The promise of the resurrection is that i no longer have to anchor my identity in my addiction. i don’t identify as a recovering addict.  i anchor myself in the triumphant life of Christ.

The life i get to live is one of vibrant goodness where death and destruction are consumed by the reality of the kingdom that gets unleashed as the same power that raised Jesus from the grave manifests itself in me.

The kingdom is about life. Real life. Abundant life.

We are raised with Him. Life conquers death. Life conquers our compulsions. We get to live.

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