2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (NIV)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
This morning many children will awaken to find baskets filled with chocolate bunnies and jelly beans. Before getting ready for church, they will hunt plastic eggs hidden around the house. There are even some who will marvel at little powder paw prints left by the mysterious rabbit. No different from Christmas and Santa Clause, parents continue the legend and myth to bless their children and fill their childhood with memories. I am not anti-fun. So please do not get me wrong, but I have always struggled with the idea of these two images with my children.
Several years ago, it was a rare occasion when my husband and I were along with our youngest child who at that time was around six or seven. It was a hot summer day and we had decided to take her to lunch spending some time with just her. Sitting in the backseat looking out the window in clear contemplation, she suddenly asked, “Mom, if I ask you a question will you tell me the truth.” I immediately assured her that I would. She then asked, “Mom, is Santa Claus real?” Silence. Now I know to some moms and dads this would be a devastating question, those who thrive on this age old tradition. My husband looked at me as if to say, “What now?” I said, “You know once you know the truth, you cannot ever go back to believing anything else, right?” “So he’s not real,” she countered. “No, he’s not.” Several long moments went by, “You know that Jesus is real right?” I asked her. See this has been my concern all along with the concepts of unreal figures making fiction factual. Harmless fun that might impact her ability to believe in the unseen. I know, I am weird about that. She immediately and confidently replied, “Of course, Jesus is real!” Relief flooded my heart and soul in that moment.
Today we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is truly the greatest day in history even exceeding His Birth and Crucifixion because the moment He left the tomb – all things became possible to those who believe. I ask you today, “Is Jesus real? Do you believe that He is alive? Does He live in you?” These are important questions. Many people will set their alarms giving up their usual Sunday morning routine to go to church – one of only a few that they will ever attend. Some will even walk down to an altar and surrender their life to Christ for the first, second, third, fourth or a hundredth time. But without faith, confidence and certainty in the questions above, it will mean nothing. Truth can impact our life only if we believe.
What you believe impacts your life? No matter what it is, the nugget of truth we accept creates ripples in the mind like a stone cast onto a lake interrupting the surface and changing its movement. If anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation. A new life begins. A new person begins a process of molding and shaping into the Image of God through Jesus, His Son. New life. Resurrection life requires death of the man or woman who existed before because now our life operates under a new Truth. A new plan. A new identity. As we become reconciled to God, our life takes on new meaning and with that a new message comes forth. We become Ambassadors of Christ who is an authorized messenger and representative of the Living God. So in order to answer the question, “Is Christ alive?” Historically, yes. There is natural and scientific evidence that the tomb was empty. But where did He go? He released His Spirit to live inside of us. Now all things are possible to those who believe.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NIV)
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
When the Spirit of the Living God, Jesus Christ makes a holy inhabitation of our life. It changes us from the inside out. Faith is the conduit of change. Faith is our confidence and trust in a person or thing that is not based on proof. Do you see my dilemma with the mythical images for our children? Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom to live by three things that are constant: faith, hope and love. We have all three of these ideas in us as God has placed Eternity in our heart. Salvation in Spirit and Truth granted us by Jesus allows us to be transformed by His Glory within us to who we were created to be not who we have become. It makes the impossible possible for those who believe. What do you believe today?
Hebrews 6:4-7 (NIV)
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.
I can remember landmark images of places and times that I know that God came close to me. When I was eleven years old and felt Him draw me to an altar. I mumbled a prayer with a pastor who honestly all that I can remember are not his words but that he had really bad breath. I remember screenshots of time when I would say or do something knowing it was not me but only later realizing it was the Holy Spirit working on my behalf. I remember giving my heart to Jesus as a teenager and trying really hard to live a godly life just like our youth pastor told us to. I tried to do everything he said so that I could have a right relationship with God. This religious worship held me until my early twenties and then back in the wilderness I wandered. Like got really messy and the message of God’s Perfect, Strict Plan now was barred by the flawed and errant person I had become. I missed it. I could never had that kind of right relationship and must settle for the crumbs of repentance left behind by the perfect. Wrong again. When I met my husband, we both had drifted far but when we met something changed. Though difficult to discern, there was a desire for the Lord deep within us that quickly connected making us inseparable so we married within about six months. We began pursuing the Lord from that moment on. I remember the night that it all came together laying before the Lord at the Altar. There would be no turning back. Would I sin again? Yes. Would I fail at faith again? Yes, miserably. Did God still want me? Absolutely. Is Jesus alive? Yes, He met me right there and I was filled with His Spirit and Life-Giving Power that moment. Things have never been the same. They will never be the same.
See once you are “enlightened” and the Light of God’s Love fills you, you can’t go back. I cannot explain it but even in our wanderings – He is there. He never leaves us or forsakes us even when we do not want Him. As many head to church today, the empty tomb is still barren and Jesus stands in all His Glory before us. He says, “Can I come in?” He is wondering if today will be the day that you will allow Him to come in and renew you. He wants to restore you today. He wants to bring dead things to life. He wants to make every impossible thing possible. We must only believe that God has raised Him from the dead and invite Him into our life. Is Jesus alive? Yes. Does He live in you? I have no idea. I know only that He lives in me.
John 14:10-12 (NIV)
Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
Our little girl, the baby in our family, thrives on truth. She cannot operate without it. She googles everything she does not know in an attempt to end her ignorance. It is really difficult to get one by on her. She requires brutal honesty. She loves Jesus. I know she does because of her innate nature that desires truth in all things. As we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, I am compelled to examine my own heart and mind for faith. Jesus told His disciples that “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even great things than these.” If my life is not a complete spectacle of God’s Works including signs, miracles, wonders, unnatural grace and ridiculous love – there is more room for Christ in my heart today. Apart from Christ I can do nothing so the barren areas represent room to grow. (John 15:4-5) The Holy Spirit produces spiritual fruit that should be evidence in my life that Christ dwells in me. (Galatians 5:22-25) I should walk in step with God’s Spirit. I cannot base the fullness of Christ in me on the religious condition of my life. Traditions can make us do all the right things and still miss the mark. Anything I can do does not require faith, therefore it is manmade. The Word of God is often twisting just as the message in the childhood game called “Telephone” as people take the Word and put a softer more gentle spin on it to accommodate the compromises and sin in their own life which others adopt as the doctrine for their life. Do you see the problem? (I John 4:1-3)
The Fruit of God’s Spirit in our life can only be produced by His Spirit. Without the Truth of God’s Word planted deeply in a heart filled by His Spirit it will produce nothing of worth just weeds. God searches our heart looking for His Spirit. (Jeremiah 17:10) He allows us to know the contents in our words and deeds. (Luke 6:45) What is our message? It must be no less than to confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart. (Romans 10:9) This is salvation. This is the beginning of life. This is evidence that Christ is alive in us.
2 Corinthians 13:4-6 (NIV)
For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you. Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.
To reconcile our life to Jesus today requires that I compare the evidence in my life, heart and mind to God’s Truth and yield to His Spirit for confirmation. Faith is the evidence that I believe. Once we discover the Light of God’s Love and experience His Grace in person, there is no going back. Not because He grabs us violently but because He holds us so tenderly. His Love makes us want to love Him back when we allow the Lord to enter an intimate relationship with us. He will not force His Love on us for that would not be love at all. His Spirit sets us free from sin and begins to produce those things in us that God desires. The fruit that He longs to consume. Jesus wants to reveal Himself to us. He longs to let His Love change us from the inside out. He went to the Cross thinking only of us and came out of the tomb pursuing us. His Love drives Him to possess us. By faith we discover this love, in that moment every impossible thing becomes possible. Imagine. I have been married for many years. God blessed us in our partnership. My husband instills in me things that apart from him I would never have discovered about myself. He builds my confidence. He has taught me to trust. If that much can come from an imperfect relationship, imagine entering into a relationship with a perfect Lover who teaches us to love perfectly, too. The Lord longs to set you free today. He doesn’t want to change the way you act just what you believe. In doing so, an impossible life becomes one filled with miracles, signs, wonders, fulfillment and completion. Is Jesus alive? Yes. You will determine if He lives in you!
I choose today and every day to let Him live in me. Even today, I ask the Lord to examine me and see if there is any more room to bring the dead to life.
Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.