How the Resurrected Christ Changed People (4-12-2020)
How the Resurrected Christ Changed People Devotional for 4-12-20 Opening Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15: 5-8 Paul describes the evidence that Christ rose from the dead and “that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time… Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.“ I read a book written by Lee Strobel, a journalist who started out being an atheist who was very skeptical about Jesus rising from the dead. He had seen the changes that had taken place in his wife as a result of her conversion to Christianity and decided he would gather evidence about this Jesus, like a good journalist does, and after reviewing loads of Christian writings like that opening scripture, he finally became convinced that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead, that he was not just an ordinary or even an extraordinary man, but was also God. After completing his research and writing about it at age 29 he became a Christian and eventually even a pastor. It could be said that the risen Christ changed this hard-nosed atheist journalist into a Christ- follower. The Resurrection is Foundational Today’s Sunday School lesson says that the Resurrection is foundational, that the early Christians never doubted it and they lived by it. A while back I read a book about the 12 apostles entitled Twelve Ordinary Men. The author, John MacArthur, throughout the book pointed out chapter by chapter for each of the apostles how they were “only human” in that they had flaws and weaknesses just like the rest of us who choose to follow Jesus. But in each chapter he showed how their association with Jesus, the great teacher, changed them. No! Jesus did not just change them. He transformed them and much of that transformation did not happen until after Jesus rose from the dead. By being with and experiencing Jesus and then the glorified Christ, the Twelve, as well as the apostle Paul became different men who had an intense commitment to spread the good news of salvation and redemption far and wide. To me, the two apostles that stand out as examples to us are Peter and Paul. Both of them had either denied or persecuted Christ. But they made radical turn-arounds in their lives due to their encounters with THE one whose radical love and example changed everything. “A relationship with Jesus Christ always produces a powerful transformation in the believer.” (p. 46 of Sunday School lesson). The Resurrection is Motivational As I read that book: Twelve Ordinary Men, with each succeeding chapter each one of the apostles became my favorite guy. But after reading and studying 1 Corinthians 15 and our Sunday School lesson, the disciple who is now my favorite is Thomas. He believed only what he could touch or perceive with his senses. He doubted that Jesus had risen. I tell you that in my faith walk, from time to time I have been haunted by doubt. I was trained as a social scientist and came to respect the scientific method and its reliance on a disciplined gathering of evidence in order to demonstrate what is real as opposed to just being imaginary or simply a matter of opinion. But now as a result of my faith walk and my belief in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I realize that science in inherently limited. Not that I doubt the usefulness of science at all. But I now know that faith is necessary if I am to become fully human and if I am to rise above my own feelings, weaknesses and limitations, and if I am to dwell in the Kingdom of God. And it is my belief that enables me to have many many tiny resurrections. I also have to say, it is my relationships with my church and my brothers and sisters here and with the other good people in my life that pull me out of my own darkness and limited ego-self into the Light. I have become aware in these weeks of shelter-in-place of my need to be in the physical presence of other people and to interact with them. I’ve had moments of feeling lost and depressed just being cooped up in the house. Thank God for my wife or I would be really crazy. Tiny Resurrections I am reminded of what Paul said in Romans 12: 1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. In the Easter season I like to think and write about the way we humans can rise above what Paul calls the natural body. When I get up in the morning, especially in retirement, my still sleepy body does NOT want to work. In the flesh, my body wants to take it easy, wake up very gradually by sitting and reading or writing. I do NOT want to do the work of cleaning the dishes, I do NOT want to exercise and I do NOT want to cook breakfast for Helen and me. I’m ashamed to say it but that is Glenn in his natural uninspired self. But listen to what our brother saint Paul asserts in verses 50 and 51: “I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a MYSTERY: … we will all be changed…” And I would add this sentence: We will be transformed. By faith and trust in God and his beloved Son, in small and sometimes large ways, we can rise daily above our natural impulses. When I am tuned into Jesus and when I remember my role as a Christian husband: I get up, clean myself up, go the kitchen, feed the cats, wash the dishes and then cook breakfast. I am able to rise above my flesh that wants to lay around and read or watch TV. And I do this NOT with resentment, but with joy. My cleaning and cooking are tiny resurrections. At those small moments I am joining Jesus Christ the risen Lord. In Luke 9:23 we hear this from Jesus: Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. The Appearance of the Risen Lord After his resurrection Jesus joined his disciples. He did not use the doors to that room, but he just appeared to the them. That is the glorified body that Paul spoke of. It still had the wounds he suffered before he died. These wounds gave evidence that he was also the Jesus they walked and talked with on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and the surrounding roads, paths and hills. It was the same Jesus whom they touched, conversed with and listened to. It was the same Jesus they came to love. If we are to be raised up after our bodies die, we must do it with Christ. I suppose it might be accurate to say that we are all like Thomas in a way. We need the Christ who is really alive before we will be able to be raised up in power and glory. Questions and Challenges 1. Thinking about yourself before you were saved or reborn in Christ, can you identify with the Apostles and how they were before they experienced the risen Christ? Please explain. 2. What examples can you give that describe you as being in your natural state of mind and your natural body-self as opposed to your “believer” state of mind or your spiritual self? 3. Give examples of your “tiny resurrections.” Prayer Jesus, please help us to become aware of ways that we suffer and die to self and how faith and trust in you gives us power. Thank you for suffering and dying to show us the meaning of our own sacrifices and suffering. Thank you for staying with us, for opening doors for us. Please help us to appear as you in the presence of loved ones, friends and strangers so they will know you as risen Lord and Savior.