The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Power of the Resurrection’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Easter Sunday, 4/20/2014, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1ifX3GV
Power of the Resurrection
The Easter narrative should be our favorite passage in the Bible. To read it, you can turn to Matt 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 or John 20: every author of the Gospel has a slightly different flavor. The main point, however, is always the same: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was raised from the dead! As a historical event, the Resurrection happened. As a spiritual event, the Resurrection holds incredible & boundless significance for how we live our lives as followers of Jesus Christ.
In the 24th chapter of his Gospel account, Luke details how two angels stood in the tomb as Mary and the other women looked for the body of Jesus Christ. Then they make one of the most significant statements in human history: “He is not here, but is risen!” (Lk 24:6; emphasis mine). So if you come to church on Easter Sunday looking for a dead, lifeless experience, think again. God is the God of the living, and His Son has been raised from the grave. That is reason to celebrate!
We must understand the significance of the Resurrection intellectually. Without the Resurrection, we have nothing. Without the Resurrection, Jesus Christ was just an anointed prophet who died a horrible death. But with the Resurrection, He is the Son of God: exactly Who He says He Is. The Bible says that Jesus ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. What’s more, we are seated in Him in heavenly places – even now! As sons and daughters of God, we now have a divine position which always supercedes our condition. With the Resurrection, death is defeated, because Jesus conquered the grave!
This is something that is definitely worth getting excited about. I have met many people who have a fascination with death. I’ve gone through periods in my own life where I think about death a little too much. Death is the one obstacle none of us can avoid: it is waiting for all of us at the end of our lives. Yet Jesus Christ promises that what was once an obstacle has become a springboard into eternal life with God Himself!
Intellect vs. Experience
It’s one thing to understand Who Jesus Is intellectually, but it’s another thing completely to experience the reality of His existence. Without experiencing the revelation that the Resurrection is real through an encounter with God’s Holy Spirit, we can never fully understand Who Jesus Is. If we don’t understand who Jesus Is, we can never understand who we are meant to be. After all, we are made in His image.
There is a difference between knowledge and experience. Knowledge can come out of experience, but experience can never come out of knowledge. It’s not enough to know Who Jesus Is; we must experience the reality of His indwelling presence inside each and every person who calls on His Name for salvation.
When I was growing up, I decided one year that I wanted to play lacrosse. My dad bought me a gigantic textbook on how to play the game. It had every detail you could ever imagine when it came to playing, coaching and understanding the sport. There were more statistics and studies than anyone could ever use. I read that book from cover to cover. But when I picked up a lacrosse stick, nothing had changed. I still couldn’t play lacrosse! I had gained knowledge, but I still lacked experience. To get better, I had to pick up the stick and practice. What I really sought could never be learned through intellectual assent alone; it had to be experienced.
When it comes to Christian life, a lack of experience leads to nominalism. Much of the church today suffers from this condition: we display a form of godliness but deny its power. We know about the Resurrection but we don’t experience its’ transformative power in our daily lives. Without an encounter with God, we become nominal Christians!
Living A Transformed Life
But one encounter with Jesus Christ will change your whole life. In fact, if you really encounter God’s Son Jesus Christ, it will be impossible to live an unchanged life. That does not mean that we should throw all caution to the wind. It does mean, however, that joy will seem to come much more naturally because God’s Holy Spirit resides inside of us.
After Jesus had been raised from the dead but before He ascended into heaven, He visited His disciples, who had gathered to wait for Him. John tells the story this way:
“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” – Jn 20:21-23
The disciples encountered the Risen Christ, and what was the end result? He breathed on them and they were filled with the Holy Spirit! This is what happens at the moment of salvation for every Christian: you’re filled with the Holy Spirit and all of a sudden you know – experientially – something that can never be adequately described by knowledge alone.
Raising and Being Raised
If you’re not experiencing the power of the resurrection in your own life every day, you’re being robbed of your potential. To help us understand what we might be missing, it’s important to realize that there is a difference between raising and being raised. Luke illustrates this in his account of the Resurrection as he describes the angels’ interaction with Mary and the other women at the tomb:
He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” – Lk 24:6,7
When Luke recounts Jesus’ promise to ‘rise’ again, he uses the Greek word anistemi, which means to ‘raise up oneself, as out of a chair.’ Anistemi is something a person can only do for him or herself. It requires self-effort. Jesus was able to raise Himself from the dead because He is the Son of God. You and I, however, would never be able to raise ourselves from death. Anistemi is something only Jesus could do for Himself.
Luke uses a different word when He says that Jesus is ‘risen’ (v 6). This is the Greek egeiro, which means ‘to be raised up by an outside party.’ Jesus promised that He would raise Himself up, but now He is risen! The Holy Spirit pulled Him up out of the grave, and gave Him complete and total victory over death. And guess what? That same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus Christ from the dead is now in you:
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. – Rom 8:11
When we die, everyone who calls on the Name of Jesus Christ will be raised (egeiro) in the exact same manner as Jesus Christ Himself. Here and now, before we die, we should expect to live and operate with the same power as Jesus Christ Himself: not because of who we are, but because of Who resides in us.
There is nothing you can do to earn your salvation. None of us can raise ourselves from the dead, or produce Christ-like abilities in our lives out of our own self-effort. Any salvation based on earning salvation through our own abilities and characteristics is flawed. Only Jesus Christ can earn salvation, because only He is the Son of God. He earned redemption on our behalf so that we could be raised by God’s Holy Spirit. Anistemi is a word which can never apply to our salvation, but egeiro is something we should expect God to work in us here and now.
Through the Resurrection, we witness the power of the Gospel firsthand. God is not asking us to raise ourselves; He is telling us to be raised. He is not asking us to be religious, and work as hard as we can to earn our salvation; He is asking us to enjoy a relationship with Him. Jesus has already beaten death and won the victory on our behalf!
Go & Do Likewise
A relationship has to be established before trust can exist. Jesus already proved He trusts us by sending His Holy Spirit to dwell inside of each and every single believer. So do you trust Him? Jesus wants to partner with you as you go out and become a minister of the Gospel in every area of your life. This is what all of us were designed to do!
The same Holy Spirit who gave Jesus power to fulfill His earthly calling gives you power to fulfill yours. It’s not just for you to enjoy; it’s also for the benefit of others. Jesus has called all believers out into partnership with Him. He called all of us to preach the Gospel in the Great Commission, and then promised that He would support us with all of heaven’s resources:
So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen. Mark 16:19-20
As we go out and preach the Good News, Jesus will confirm His Word through signs and wonders that accompany our speech. When we step out in faith, the Lord will support us by confirming everything we say.
– by Pastor Mike White
© Michael D. White and CityLight Church, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael White and CityLight Church with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.