“If we acted like we truly believed all the stuff that we spout, not only would the Church be different, but the world as well.”—Pastor Corey
For this part, I’m going to take things in a different direction; I want to begin setting the table for where I’m going with this. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the “dead” and perhaps some of you have thought that I’ve flat lost my mind…wait! Does anyone even question that anymore? (lol) I promise that this is going somewhere :) So with this piece, I want to talk about new life; or more to the point, life where there was previously death.
We have a faith for which the resurrection of Jesus Christ plays a central, foundational point. Paul is pretty succinct to this point, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1Corinthians 15:14-17)
Another central point? We have been made “alive”/“risen” with Christ. Once again, I’ll turn it over to Paul, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Col 2:13-15) Secondly, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:1-2) The obvious implication being that new life has been imparted through and by Jesus.
Keeping with this theme, once again I’ll defer to my good buddy Paul, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2Cor 5:17)
This is by no means an exhaustive list and I generally shy away from simply listing scripture to make a point lest we hear screams of, “Proof texting!!!” I list these (contextually relevant by the way) simply to get us in the right frame of mind. Scripture is very clear on two points that I’d like to emphasize, those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior have experienced a “resurrection” in this life, moving from death to life; and by having experienced this resurrection, we are a new creation with new life. Is this not what we preach and teach? Simple logic dictates that we ought to be different the day after resurrection from what we were the day before and that with the passage of time, we ought to continue to put more distance between old and new (sanctification...alright, my Wesleyan theology is showing itself a little bit).
As we consider such things, allow me also to offer Galatians 5:19-26, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
This passage in Galatians offers a nice dichotomy between crucifixion/resurrection and death/life; what lives looked like prior to a new life with Christ and what life is supposed to look like after. For Paul, he is declaring that to have the Spirit of God frees us to have “new moral ability” and that we are “able to reflect God’s own character”[i] This is not something optional or theoretical for the Christ follower; this is to be our reality. A higher moral standard that reflects the character of God, not for our benefit I would argue, but rather for that of the world. In us, the world ought to see this God of mercy, grace, and holy love reflected and modeled. In us, the world ought to see by our example that there is not only a more excellent way, but also a more preferable way. Paul is also clear that we cannot have the Spirit of God and continue to live lives defined by the dead.
Speaking of reflecting “God’s own character”, this scripture contains the classic “fruits of the Spirit” passage and this is where I would really like us to focus. These are supposed to be the hallmarks of Christians and as such, we can surmise that these ought to be the defining traits of Church, where those who have received new life gather…if we really believe, you know, the “stuff” that our book says…and the “stuff” that we spout…. love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
I look at the fruits of the Spirit, in light of the concept of resurrection/new life, and I see nothing that could be attributed to the aforementioned dead (parts I and II), spectral or living. The fruits of the Spirit are not only life affirming, but they are life giving. These are the very kinds of things that shine in the darkness. These are the things that not only encourage this new life in action, they demand it and propel it.
The temptation is to say that the dead do not concern themselves with such things, but the temptation would be wrong. Death hates life; death consumes life.
Stay tuned for Part IV: Pulling the String.