The Resurrected Life: An Easter Reflection
By John Telgren
Most understand the ultimate implication of our Lord’s resurrection from the tomb. Because he raised from the dead, so we can look forward to the resurrection of our own bodies (1 Cor 15). However, there is much more to it than that.
"… having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions…(Col 2:12-13)."
This passage connects our own conversion to the resurrection of Christ. There is a reason that scripture portrays our conversion as a death and resurrection. Conversion implies change, and what more radical change can there be than to die and be reborn as a new person? Notice how much of this is taught in the New Testament:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3)."
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Gal 2:20)."
"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom 12:1-2)."
"He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5)."
Colossians 2-3 is perhaps the best exposition on baptism and its connection to resurrection. We are "buried" with him in baptism and die to ourselves. We are then "raised up" with him through faith in the working of God who raised him from the dead (Col 2:12). After explaining how Jesus paid our enormous sin debt on the cross and how he disabled the wicked forces of evil, the passage goes on to explain the practical implications of this.
The passage begins with what the resurrection is not about (Col 2:16-23). It is not merely about observing rules. It is about a change of heart. God has always been interested in the heart of the people. Ceremonies and rituals neither makes a person clean or defiled. Spiritual cleanliness or defilement is of the heart. That is why God said that the law was to be, "on your heart (Deut. 6:6)." Jesus taught this quite clearly in his ministry:
"Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man (Matt 15:17-18)."
Someone could be ritually clean, yet still be defiled on the inside in the eyes of God. That is why Jesus called the Pharisees whitewashed tombs. They were ritually clean, but they were still filthy with sin (Matt 23:27).
One of the clearest examples of God’s desire for the heart comes from the reign of Hezekiah.
" For there were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves; therefore, the Levites were over the slaughter of the Passover lambs for everyone who was unclean, in order to consecrate them to the Lord. For a multitude of the people, even many from Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun, had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than prescribed. For Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, ‘May the good Lord pardon everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.’ (2 Chr 30:17-19)."
The ritualists and legalists would say that they should not and could not observe the Passover. They would have to forgo worshipping God that year at the Passover and wait until next year. However, that is an incorrect conclusion from those who do not understand the nature of God. The very next verse says this:
"So the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people (2 Chr 30:20)."
There were many who did not consecrate themselves. The Mosaic code specifically commanded this. Maybe the people were ignorant of it. Maybe they didn’t have time to do so. Whatever the case is, God saw that their heart was pure. Therefore, he accepted and was pleased with their worship. The text goes on to say that there was so much joy, that they observed the festival for an additional week!
God has always been interested in the heart. This is why the 24th Psalm says:
"Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the Lord And righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Your face--even Jacob. Selah (Psalm 24:3-6)."
Clean hands is not talking about ceremonial uncleanness, but hands that do not commit evil, such as shedding innocent blood. It is talking about the result of a clean heart. One with a clean heart will have clean hands. Jesus echoes the same thought when he said,
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matt 5:8)."
This is the thought that Paul wants to get across in Colossians. The resurrection is not about keeping a set of empty rituals. It is about a change of heart. This radical change is nothing less than our own death, burial and resurrection to a renewed life on this earth with a hope for an eternal life in Heaven.
So Paul goes on to explain what this change of heart looks like:
" Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:1-3)."
Since you have died and have come back to life, you are now a new and improved person. Notice how the passage puts it:
"…you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him… (Col 3:9b-10)"
What does this new self look like? It doesn’t look like the old self that died, because the old self consists of anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech, lying, immorality and greed (Col 3:5-8).
However, the resurrected, new and improved self consists of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and love (Col 3:13-14).
Becoming a Christian means living a resurrected life. You exchange the old self for a new and improved self that is being renewed into the image of our Lord.
This impacts your everyday life. This means that you get a resurrected, new and improved spouse (Col 3:18-19). Husbands, don’t you love it when your wife says, "Who are you and what have you done to my husband? My husband would never do anything like this." You can reply, "That guy is dead. I’m the resurrected, new and improved husband. Enjoy!"
Yes the resurrection is practical for everyday life. Teens and children, the resurrection means that you can offer your parents new and improved kids (Col 3:20). Parents, it means that your can offer your children godly parents (Col 3:21). Employees, it means that you can offer your boss trustworthy, valuable employees (Col 3:22-25). Bosses and employers, it means that your employees get a generous, honorable boss (Col 4:1).
The resurrection is not merely some esoteric doctrine to discuss intellectually in some class. It is highly practical for our everyday lives.
Do you live the resurrected life?