Friday, April 10, 2009

RISEN?

We as Christians have an unusual fascination with the death of Jesus. I know that what Jesus did for us, on the cross, is an astounding act of love and sacrifice. Without this, none of us would have any hope, and yet Paul the Apostle declares that, "..if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." (I Cor.15:17)

I wonder if our fascination with his death has something to do psychologically with our view of what it means to be a Christian?

For instance, the modern church, especially in America, can't seem to go on enough about the death of Jesus. It seems that all the television preachers can talk about is the fact that, "Jesus died on the cross for your sins".

When a Christian person is interviewed on television or stands to talk about Jesus, inevitably the only thing they can find to say is that, "Jesus loves you and he died on the cross for your sins".

At times it all starts to sound monotonous and cliche. I can almost hear the lost saying, "So what?"

The message we send most loudly to the world is the idea that Jesus died.

Even the most prominent media message in our lifetime, Mel Gibson's mega-evangelistic "Passion Of The Christ", which was dubbed "The Greatest Evangelical Message in Two Thousand Years", was all about the death of Jesus. The resurrection scene at the end was so vague and quick that most of us, even those of us who know the story, were left going, "Huh? What just happened?"

At Easter this overt focus on the death of Jesus is most noticeable. For me, when we spend those two weeks before and after Easter talking about the irrefutable fact of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, it almost seems strange. Like, "Oh yeah! He DID rise from the dead, didn't he?", as if this most historically provable event is something we need to be reminded of, but only once a year.

This has got me thinking. Why is it that we focus so much on the death of Jesus and very little on the resurrection of Jesus? I mean, why isn't the resurrection the main thing we talk about? Why don't we go around proclaiming that "Jesus is Risen!" and argue with people about the fact that there's no refuting the fact of Easter?

Here's my theory:

We, the Church, are the Body of Christ. We are the physical representation of Jesus in the world today, and I think we're more comfortable being the "Body at Rest" than the "Body in Motion".

As the Body of Jesus, we're more comfortable in the dark of the tomb, wrapped in our own shroud, meditating on this death of our Lord, with the stone rolled shut across the door.

We ignore that what we are called to do, as the living Body of Jesus, is to go out and proclaim, demonstrate and testify with our lives the awesome miracle that "Jesus is Alive!" and that we are living examples of this fact.

What I long for is the day when we are bold enough to declare, as one people, with one voice, that Jesus is Alive, and that our conduct in the world would bear witness to this fact.

Our inactivity, our apathy, our aversion to serve others and live out the compassion of Jesus, sadly proclaims that Jesus is dead.

It's when we live for Him, when we continue to love the way He did, when our lives are in sync with His, that we proclaim by our actions that, yes, indeed, Jesus is really alive!

Is Jesus really alive? Has He really come to live in your life? And how would anyone know this to be true if you never actually demonstrated the life and love and ministry of Jesus in your own life?

Do we, as individual followers of Jesus, feel safer within the quiet of the tomb? Or are we willing, even eager, to roll away the stone and begin to live the truth of the power of the Gospel?

If we, the Body of Jesus, do not act as a living Jesus would, within this world, loving those He loved, sharing with those He spent time with, continuing His ministry of transformation, then we do not demonstrate that Jesus is alive, we simply testify that He has died.

What we must do is to wake ourselves from our slumber, shake off the apathy, and begin to proclaim, with our own lives, that Jesus is truly alive.

"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing."- John 14:12

"Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."- 1 John 2:6

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!

Peace,
Keith
www.keithgiles.com

**
Originally sent to the faithful subscribers of the [subversive underground] newsletter on Monday, March 20, 2006

12 comments:

mark-main said...

Great thoughts Keith. Do Christians have a little streak of Goth in them?

Like a Mustard Seed said...

Here's my theory on your theory...

Inactivity, apathy, and the aversion to serve others and live out the compassion of Jesus stem from a lack of appreciation for what Christ has first done for us...

Maybe phrases like, "Jesus loves you and died on the cross for your sins" seem cliche to many, but to those who've been brought to a place where they understand that they were truly dead and lost in their own sin, the cross is not a morose thing to ponder, nor is it a conveniant excuse to hide from obediance. (in fact, obediance is described as "picking up our cross"...)

And to those who have tasted the new Life in Christ, which is possible only because Jesus did not stay in that tomb, the Resurrection is not an "oh yeah..." sort of thing.

Ultimately, it seems that the problem is not a matter of a misplacement of focus on a cognitive or practical level, but an even deeper problem problem of people not first being changed inwardly. Such people will never be burning to proclaim that "Jesus is alive", if His life has not first began to make them live again...

Adam said...

Couldn't agree more. I think it goes a little deeper than what you're saying though (I've been thinking alot about this lately). I think we "western Christians", having grown up in a society that is "Christian" where many of us (especially here in the South), are used to / calloused to the message. On top of that we have the movies with special effects where anything is possible. We totally miss the real power, mystery, glory of Christ and His message. And yes, ESPECIALLY of His resurrection.

I think of Jesus talking to Thomas in John 20: "blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed." I think we lose a large part of this blessing, because here's my point:

We Christians don't realize how much faith it takes to believe our own message.

You can REALLY see this in watching Christian's reactions to other the tenets of other belief systems.

For example, watch Discovery channel when they're doing something on the Druids, or Buddhists. Or get to know some Asians who are worshipping their dead ancestors. Do this with fellow Christians.

Invariably, someone will say, "how can they believe something like that?" This has happened to me a few times, especially with my family. So far, I kept my mouth shut, but I've wanted to ask: "You realize you believe in a man who was also God, who was born of virgin (and all of the implications of that), that He lived COMPLETELY sinless, died and was raised again on the third day? (Nevermind creation, the flood, people who lived hundreds of years, Elijah and fire from heaven, etc, etc, etc...).

Our faith has grown stale,old, dead; "stuck in the safety and quiet of the tomb" as you may put it.

If we really exercised the faith we claim to hold, how different would the world be?

Keith Giles said...

If Jesus is really alive then His Body should be moving, breathing, sharing, giving, speaking, caring and ministering in the very places He did before He was crucified.

If the Body of Jesus is motionless, silent, unmoved, and dormant, then perhaps Jesus is not really alive?

How would anyone know? Is there evidence of life? Is there a tangible essence of the continuing life and ministry of Jesus in the world today?

The only Jesus the world can see, touch, and experience, is the Body of Christ.

Let's roll back that stone and step outside into the daylight...and live as He would live, love as He would love, give as He would give, forgive as He would forgive, share as He would share, go where He would go.

Amen.
kg

Like a Mustard Seed said...

"If the Body of Jesus is motionless, silent, unmoved, and dormant, then perhaps Jesus is not really alive?"

...Or, are those who are motionless, silent, unmoved, dormant (aka: like a corpse...) maybe actually still dead, and thus not really a part of the Body?

Adam said...

Mustard, you asked:

"are those who are motionless, silent, unmoved, dormant (aka: like a corpse...) maybe actually still dead, and thus not really a part of the Body?"

I would say, sure that's true to a certain extent ("everybody" knows Jesus here in the South)...but my own experience has been one of awakening, and I get that from alot of, people, particularly my age group (20's and 30's)...There is a lot of restlessness and believing there IS something more than what is currently happening. It's dormant because we're not exercising our faith. Christians are increasingly aware that their faith is not transformational to a larger world (by doing things such as the 50 listed in Keith's link).

We Baptists LOVE Ephesians 2:8-9, but somehow miss verse 10.

Like a Mustard Seed said...

Yeah, verse 10 does get forgotten, but it would seem that so do verses 1-5....

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.

Awakening, and transformation, are definitely the work of the Holy Spirit, but it seems that as many people recognize the "dormant" nature of the church culture in which they were raised, the desire to "do something" can prompt them to want to rush out and do anything that might get noticed by the world... But, being brought from death to life, being saved by the grace of God, this will never be applauded as "transformative" by the world at large, but only by those who experience this new life for themselves...

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God..."

Keith Giles said...

I think what we're saying is that the natural fruit of one who has been transformed by Christ and who is indwelt by the empowering Holy Spirit should be, naturally, loving, giving, serving, etc.

My catch phrase: "Swimming won't make you a fish, but if you're a fish you will swim."

Meaning, if you try to become a christian, or "saved" by doing good works you're wasting your time, but if you're truly transformed by Christ into a new creature, the new nature you've inherited will, naturally, love and serve and give and share and forgive, etc.

Like a Mustard Seed said...

"if you're truly transformed by Christ into a new creature, the new nature you've inherited will, naturally, love and serve and give and share and forgive, etc."

Absolutely, couldn't agree more!

But earlier you said,

"If the Body of Jesus is motionless, silent, unmoved, and dormant, then perhaps Jesus is not really alive?

How would anyone know? Is there evidence of life? Is there a tangible essence of the continuing life and ministry of Jesus in the world today?

The only Jesus the world can see, touch, and experience, is the Body of Christ.
"

The Body of Christ is called to represent Him, we are to be His ambassadors, yes. But His power, His truth, and the Truth of His resurrection do not hinge on us... We may hinder the work of the Kingdom, but man will never render it void...

So rather than asking, "if there is no sign of life in people who call themselves Christians, is Jesus really alive", shouldn't we rather be asking, "is Jesus really alive in them?"

If a fish naturally swims, why would we be saying to something that's bobbing along on the surface of the water, "Hey! You're supposed to be a fish, you're supposed to swim, start swimming! SWIM!!!" ?

Keith Giles said...

Heather/Daniel - "Why do we say to the bobbing fish, 'Swim'!"

Because Hebrews tells us to encourage one another to do just that:

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Like a Mustard Seed said...

somehow our point is not coming across...

we are not saying that we aren't called to spur one another on in our faith, to love as we've been loved, not at all...

but the original message of your post seemed to be directed at "the modern church, especially in America", which would suggest (at least to us) that what we are considering here are the collective actions of everyone who associates themselves with Christianity, or "Evangelicalism", or whatever else...

It is this kind of broad stroke that seems like a waste of time to us, because it appears to assume that everyone, or at least the majority, of people sitting in churches each week, or who are involved in some sort of religious activity, are actually born of God. Is this your position? If so, it would explain a lot as to why we seem to keep talking past one another. We'll come out and say that we do not see things this way, and that to us, the more realistic scenario is that it is but a minority of people within "Christianity" who actually have been made into new creations. And so, when we look at the vast "Christian" landscape of this country, or the world, and see an alarmingly apathetic and compassionless attitude within "the church", we are really not surprised...

If we don't see good fruit on a tree (or grove of trees), we don't try and spur the tree on, and encourage it to bear good fruit. We don't give it a list of good fruits, to give it ideas... We recognize that the tree is still diseased within, and must be changed internally, before it can ever produce the outward evidence of an inward change...

Keith Giles said...

Cosby's, you say, "..it appears to assume that everyone, or at least the majority, of people sitting in churches each week, or who are involved in some sort of religious activity, are actually born of God. Is this your position?"

I suppose I'd have to say that, yes, this is my position and here's why:

1). It's not my job to assume or judge or verify anyone's salvation. That's the job of the Holy Spirit.

2) Many, many people involved in traditional churches around the world, and even in the USA, are genuinely loving, serving, giving, sharing, and living out the Gospel daily. I'd just like to see a lot more of it than I do now.

So, if you guys disagree with that then I guess, yeah, we do see things differently and that's probably why we're missing each other here.