The Challenge: What Next?
Churches were full last Sunday morning. People around the world, many hungry for the hope of new life, flocked into chapels to hear the Easter story. It is a good story.
But everyone who hears the story must wonder at some point or another; “What next? How does this story change anything for me, really?”
The story of God’s love for us is far more than just a story. It is the miracle of God making the ultimate sacrifice — giving the life of his only son as a sin offering — so that we might be redeemed. His triumphant resurrection, conquering the power of death, enables us to conquer it too. And there is much more to this faith than Easter morning.
Easter isn’t the happy end of a fairy-tale. It’s the triumphant beginning of life redeemed. And Easter, seen as a beginning rather than an end, means two things. First, it means that what came before Easter (think: death, condemnation, accusation, etc.) is in the past. And secondly, it means that there is still more to come.
When you decide to identify yourself with Jesus, God counts you as having been there on that cross with him, having died with him, and having been buried with him. But in the new story, you are also counted with him as he was raised to life.
Oswald Chambers wrote, “The idea all through the apostle Paul’s writings is that after the decision to be identified with Jesus in His death has been made, the resurrection life of Jesus penetrates every bit of my human nature.”
So what is this more to come that happens after we are raised to new life with Jesus?
The Hope: Becoming Like Christ
When Jesus rose from the dead, he opened a door that had been closed since the fall of mankind. The door represents our justification. God’s unfathomable grace — the unmerited love and forgiveness of our sins by the God of all creation — makes us just in an instant. We have all stood behind that massive wall of guilt that trapped us in on all sides, cutting us off from so much of the good God intended for us. Most still do. But soon as we pass through that door, we stand justified; finally free, with the wall of guilt behind us and permanently out of sight. And what we find in front of us is a path. The path represents a process known as sanctification: our journey in becoming more like Christ. Finally free from the oppression of our sins, we find that we have a path to walk that is as long as the remaining days of our lives.
The full experience of salvation exists in two parts. Jesus completed the first part, and that is where our new lives and new stories begin. When we identify ourselves with him, we pass through the door of justification, and we are truly saved. At that point, we rejoice over what we have been saved from. We are saved from guilt. We are saved from sin. We are saved from death. Then we see the path ahead of us and realize we have also been saved for something.
What have you been saved for?
Jesus is our savior, but he is even more than that. He is also a perfect example of what a totally sanctified human life looks like. He was a man who submitted himself entirely to the Spirit of God, yet that didn’t make him any less of a man. The Spirit of God in him did not overshadow his human-ness. Instead, it completed it. It enabled him to fulfill his unique human purpose.
This is why Jesus left after his resurrection and sent the Holy Spirit to his disciples instead of staying with them himself. He sent the Spirit to enable them to continue along the path of sanctification and to fulfill the unique purposes to which they were called. That same Holy Spirit of God is with us as Christians, ready to strengthen us, guide us, and make us more like Christ.
The Holy Spirit is the very power of God, which enables us to live more and more like Jesus did as we learn to yield to him. In Acts 1:8, Jesus said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” Oswald Chambers points out that it is “not power as a gift from the Holy Spirit; the power is the Holy Spirit. The life that was in Jesus becomes ours.”
Chambers also wrote, “The Holy Spirit cannot be accepted as a guest in merely one room of the house — He invades all of it. He takes charge of everything. My part is to walk in the light and to obey all that He reveals to me.”
Chambers continued, "Eternal life is the life which Jesus Christ exhibited on the human level. And it is this same life, not simply a copy of it, which is made evident in our mortal flesh when we are born again. Eternal life is not a gift from God; eternal life is the gift of God. The energy and the power which was so very evident in Jesus will be exhibited in us by an act of the absolute sovereign grace of God.“
Our job after Easter, as we strive to move forward along the path of becoming more like Christ, is to yield in every way possible to the Holy Spirit working inside us, remembering always that we have been saved for a purpose. What is that purpose? To "see and reflect the glory of the Lord” to be “more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
So as we go about our daily lives - as a student, or a teacher, or a public servant, or an elected official, or a mom, or the countless other roles we may have in our lives simultaneously and at various times - the goal is to allow the character of Christ to develop in us so that we might express his character in all that we do; so that his character might become ours. It is in this calling that we find fulfillment in the mundane, in the pain, in our accomplishments, and in our very breath.
“For in Him we live, and move, and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” (Acts17:28) This is what comes after Easter morning.