I Am the Resurrection and the Life

Tears. They filled Martha’s eyes as she spoke with the man before her. She respected him and was happy to see him, but couldn’t help but be slightly angry at him. He could have fixed things. He should have been there. She’d choked out some words of trust to him, but they were somewhat hollow.

Then he replied. And his reply turned her dejected expression to a puzzled one. He told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.”

If it’s not obvious now, I recount the funeral of Lazarus here, and the one who spoke those mystifying and powerful words is none other than Jesus Himself. When Lazarus died, Jesus told the mourning sisters that He was the resurrection and the life. And of course He followed this up by actually raising Lazarus from the dead. “What a magnificent miracle!” we think upon hearing the story.

In my own life, death has reared its ugly head twice in only a few weeks. First it claimed my grandfather, and now also my aunt. Both tragedies were on the same side of the family, so it’s been a traumatic season for the Smiths.

In the wake of both losses, I’ve been gripped by a particular thought, one which lies at the heart of our faith. Resurrection has been the hopeful theme. While the funeral preaching attempted to comfort us all with the thought of loved ones now in heaven, I found myself consoled, even excited, by the prospect of the coming resurrection. One day I could see life pulsing once again through the very same bodies which had just gone cold. Where there was now no breath, there will be breath again. And this will be no mere reanimation, with the new life just a return to the same frail bodily existence which ended, but a glorious restoring transformation. The physical, tangible matter I’ve seen, heard, and hugged will be back and better than ever before by the power of the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.

Honestly, it saddens me how neglected this hope is. You could hear a hundred sermons even at funerals in most churches and never know that one of the basis tenants of our faith is the resurrection of the dead. Heaven is seen as our home and final destination, when Biblically and Christianly it is really our vacation home, a place to rest between death and new life. Yet Jesus died and then rose precisely so that we also could rise after death.

Let’s not forget this. The salvation we’ve been given is not just for our souls, but also our bodies. We will see those we love in Christ again, not just as ghosts but real, touchable people in a solid, tangible new creation. It’s exhilarating. And it is comfort. Death is not the last word. Life is. Because we are in Jesus, who says to us all in our grieving and sorrow, when tragedy strikes and relationships are cut off, just one glorious encouragement:

“I am the resurrection and the life.”

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

I Feel Robbed of the Psalms

The heavens declare the glory of God;
 the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
 night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
 no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
 their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
 like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
 and makes its circuit to the other;
 nothing is deprived of its warmth.

Psalm 19:1-6

As you’ve just read, the psalms are amazing. Truly, out of all the history of world literature, there is no collection of poems so impressive. Besides merely its size, impressive as that is, the psalms record for us hundreds of years of praise, lament, and prayer inspired by the Spirit and written by the people of Israel to their God, who is our God, now known to us in Jesus.

Yet I feel robbed of them.

What do I mean? I recently read a book by Tom Wright called The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential. In this book he discusses the tragic neglect of the psalms in the life and worship of much of the modern Church.

I have to agree, and at the end of his book I felt like I had been missing out for years. Wright, an Anglican, grew up praying and singing the psalms in the Anglican churches he attended. They’ve always been in his life, sustaining him like breakfast and shaping his prayer and worship life. But I, along with many others who grew up in American evangelical churches, do not share that story. While we certainly include the psalms in our Bible reading, we do not generally make use of them as a prayerbook and hymnbook the way some other Christian traditions (and Jesus Himself!) have.

We don’t use the psalms, at least not like Jesus and the early Christians.

This really saddens me. Jesus grew up, as every good Jew did, reading, singing, and praying the psalms in both His private life and public worship. So did the early Christians. And it made a profound impact on them. A quick glance at the New Testament shows dozens and dozens of quotes, references, and allusions to the psalms. In depth study reveals even more of these. So the psalms even greatly influenced our uniquely Christian Scriptures in an incomparable way.

What’s my point? My issue is that we don’t use the psalms, at least not like this. Sure, we’ll have our AWANA kids memorize a few verses, and we have a handful of hymns and Chris Tomlin songs based on them, but overall they get little attention. Yet the psalms are magical. The Holy Spirit brought them to life when they were first written and continues to do so today. They are filled with all the emotions and reflections that all people, especially all of God’s people, live with every day. They are equally filled with God’s hope, promises, and majesty. 

All this means we need the psalms to function in our lives like they were originally written to function for the people of Israel. We need them to lead our prayers and worship, both in corporate life, in the middle of our actual church services on Sunday mornings as a congregation, and in personal life, in our closets and bedrooms as we spend time in fellowship with God.

Like I said, I feel robbed when I hear of Tom Wright’s story, in which he grew up around the psalms used this way. They are written in his heart and mind now, affecting the way he prays, worships, hopes, and sees the world (including his approach to Christianity overall). That’s not my story. The psalms were always just a peripheral part of Scripture, some nice poems that we might include verses of in memorization or stick into a reading plan. We were never taught to pray them, or to sing them, or to really even understand them. At any of the churches I’ve been to (mostly Baptist, but also some Pentecostal and nondenominational, not counting the Episcopal church I went to a Christmas service at), this has been the same. I feel let down by evangelical American churches.

If I could go back in time, I would read, pray, and sing the psalms more.

If I could go back in time, I would read the psalms more. I would pray them and relate them to my own life and our world. I would find music to use so I could sing them. And I believe they would transform the way I think and feel about God, people, and everything else. As it is, I can’t go back and try again, so I’m trying to start doing these things now. I’m only 20, so I guess I still have time (Lord willing!) to be molded like this, but I still feel like I’ve missed out on a lot.

Does anyone agree with or relate to me on this? If so, leave a comment or even email me. I might want to start posting some thoughts on individual psalms and relating them to our lives and prayers, maybe even finding good song versions. Who knows? Well, God does, and to Him be the glory!

I Feel Robbed of the Psalms

Jesus is the New Us: Being In Christ

My title probably makes no sense, so I shall move straightaway to explaining it. We are humanity. We are humans. So is Jesus. Jesus is the God-man, both entirely divine and entirely human. He is indeed entirely human.

So what is my point? Jesus is not just any human, but the human. First time around, Adam was the human. He represented all of us, and was deeply connected with each one of us by being the original man from who we all descend. And thus because of his sin, in Adam we all die. Adam’s death is our death, and our death is Adam’s death. In Adam we, humanity, were given dominion over creation, dignity as God’s chief creation, and divine communion with God Himself. Yet Adam forfeit these gifts, and in him we did as well.

Fortunately, God always had a plan. Regardless of Adam’s sin, humanity was truly made for being united with God, and as long as God and man are completely different beings there is no hope of such communion. Therefore we have Jesus. He is God, and He is human. Not only is He human, but He is the human, moreso than even Adam. In fact, Jesus is the most human person that ever lived, because He alone fulfilled God’s will for human existence perfectly. Only Jesus, as a human being, trusted God perfectly, loved His neighbor perfectly, and walked every step perfectly in line with the Father through the Spirit.

Because He was (and is!) the perfect human being, He is able and qualified to head up humanity again in replacement of Adam. He stands before God on behalf of each and every one of us. And thankfully, He stands in a very good standing, in perfect relationship with the Father. The Father loves Him utterly, and He has even as a human loved the Father utterly. There is perfect communion between God and man going on in that relationship, and by grace through faith we ourselves are part of it. We are in Christ, as He personally stands for each and every one of us before the Father. This is no mere legal arrangement, either. We are united with Him on a deep and spiritual level, reaching the core of us, made possible by the indwelling Holy Spirit. So in this context, we all being made new in Christ, we commune with the Father. Moreover, since Jesus has a perfect relationship with the Father, we share in that perfect relationship. It is already accomplished. No chance of it faltering or ending. Any troubles we have connecting with God on earth are just because the reality Christ made for us is still working its way into this fallen world. But we are secure in Christ. For He is the new us, and He is perfect.

I’ll end with John 17 for your contemplation:

Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said:

the hour has come.
Glorify Your Son
so that the Son may glorify You,
for You gave Him authority
over all flesh;
so He may give eternal life
to all You have given Him.
This is eternal life:
that they may know You, the only true God,
and the One You have sent—Jesus Christ.
I have glorified You on the earth
by completing the work You gave Me to do.
Now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence
with that glory I had with You
before the world existed.

I have revealed Your name
to the men You gave Me from the world.
They were Yours, You gave them to Me,
and they have kept Your word.
Now they know that all things
You have given to Me are from You,
because the words that You gave Me,
I have given them.
They have received them
and have known for certain
that I came from You.
They have believed that You sent Me.
I pray for them.
I am not praying for the world
but for those You have given Me,
because they are Yours.
Everything I have is Yours,
and everything You have is Mine,
and I have been glorified in them.
I am no longer in the world,
but they are in the world,
and I am coming to You.
Holy Father,
protect them by Your name
that You have given Me,
so that they may be one as We are one.
While I was with them,
I was protecting them by Your name
that You have given Me.
I guarded them and not one of them is lost,
except the son of destruction,
so that the Scripture may be fulfilled.
Now I am coming to You,
and I speak these things in the world
so that they may have My joy completed in them.
I have given them Your word.
The world hated them
because they are not of the world,
as I am not of the world.
I am not praying
that You take them out of the world
but that You protect them from the evil one.
They are not of the world,
as I am not of the world.
Sanctify them by the truth;
Your word is truth.
As You sent Me into the world,
I also have sent them into the world.
I sanctify Myself for them,
so they also may be sanctified by the truth.

I pray not only for these,
but also for those who believe in Me
through their message.
May they all be one,
as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You.
May they also be one in Us,
so the world may believe You sent Me.
I have given them the glory You have given Me.
May they be one as We are one.
I am in them and You are in Me.
May they be made completely one,
so the world may know You have sent Me
and have loved them as You have loved Me.
I desire those You have given Me
to be with Me where I am.
Then they will see My glory,
which You have given Me
because You loved Me before the world’s foundation.
Righteous Father!
The world has not known You.
However, I have known You,
and these have known that You sent Me.
I made Your name known to them
and will make it known,
so the love You have loved Me with
may be in them and I may be in them.

John 17

Jesus is the New Us: Being In Christ