Our Easter Inside

It was true 2000 years ago and it remains true today: Christ is risen. He was risen when He met Mary at the tomb, risen when He appeared to His disciples, and risen when He walked the road to Emmaus. He was risen yesterday, He is risen today, and He will be risen tomorrow. The sun never sets on Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Still, we set aside Easter each year to remember and celebrate this one most unique day in human history, the day death was defeated and eternal life won for all who will receive it by faith. It is a day with its own imagery— white lilies and empty crosses, brass trumpets and empty tombs, and, somehow, marshmallow peeps and chocolate eggs.

Yet Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection are not His only, but ours also. The apostle Paul teaches us, “For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.”1 Did you notice the past tense? It is finished for you and for me: we have been raised already and forever. How can this be, since we still live and breathe on this earth? Again, Paul explains, “In Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.”2 We are united with Him who will never die. Jesus lives in us through His Spirit; His resurrection glory is our resurrection glory.3

So enjoy the baskets of jelly beans, bunnies, peeps, and eggs; enjoy them in freedom. Far greater still, embrace and celebrate your resurrection unto eternal life, and “since . . .  you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  . . .  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.4 We live in Christ who will never die, and He lives in us forever. This is our Easter inside.

When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)

Father, how powerful You are to conquer death. How wise You are to secure us in Christ. How amazing Your love for us. I entrust my life to Your Son, Jesus Christ, who took my sin upon Himself and in exchange gave me eternal life with Him in You. Thank you for Easter. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 Colossians 2:12 NLT
2 Colossians 2:9-10 NLT
3 Colossians 1:27
4 Colossians 3:1-3


Grace Works

An international student friend was trying to comprehend a relationship with God based on His love and grace instead of earning His approval through good deeds. Peggy asked her, “When you first arrived from your country and we picked you up at the airport, what if we had told you that we did it only because we were being paid to?” “I still would have appreciated the ride,” our friend replied, “but it wouldn’t have been the same.” Truth is, even believers in Christ wrestle with grace and works at times: we know we cannot earn salvation (so as to obligate God to pay us our due), but that we are freed from the penalty of our sins only in entrusting ourselves entirely to Jesus’ willing sacrifice for us. Yet Jesus himself said, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”1 This may sound as though we must earn God’s love, so how do we reconcile grace and works?

We gain life not by trusting in ourselves, but by entrusting ourselves to Jesus. “A person is not justified by the works of the law,” wrote Paul, “but by faith in Jesus Christ.”2 As we believe, “the Spirit gives birth to [our] spirit.”3 Exclaimed Jesus to the crowd, “Whoever believes in me . . . rivers of living water will flow from within them.”4 “By this,” explained John, “he meant the Spirit . . .”5 For God had foretold through the prophet Ezekiel, “I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”6 Indeed, the Spirit’s presence in our life produces “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”7 The Spirit will never lead us in the ways of the world, but always in the good and right ways of God. We keep God’s commandments of love not to earn our way into His presence, but because He has graciously established His presence in us.

Which brings us to works. Paul wrote that we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do,”8 which is to say our birth in Christ is not the end in itself, rather the beginning of a new, purposeful life. For God’s love is proactive love: He has warm, tender feelings of love, certainly, but God’s love acts and speaks. In Him there is no gap between loving feelings and loving deeds; there is no feeling without doing. “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds,” argued James.9

What then do we do? Draw close to God, conversing with Him in prayer and receiving from Him through His Word. Listen to the voice of the Spirit, which speaks to our heart. Watch for God working in people around us, and accept His invitation to join Him. Act and speak. For grace works.

Father, thank You for saving me in Your grace. Lead me to the works You have prepared for me, and strengthen me in Your Spirit to do them. Be glorified through this life. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 John 15:10
2 Galatians 2:16
3 John 3:6
4 John 7:38
5 John 7:40
6 Ezekiel 36:27
7 Galatians 5:22-23
8 Ephesians 2:10
9 James 2:18


Loud and Clear

“Can you hear me now?” It was the “the Verizon guy’s” advertising tagline as he crisscrossed the country to test the company’s network coverage. Seemingly every square yard or so, he would stop and ask his unseen correspondent if he could be heard. Verizon at the time could not engage in a price war with its more well-heeled competitors, so it devoted itself to connectivity and launched this highly successful ad campaign. Its market share took off and the telecommunications conglomerate soared.

There are moments and seasons in life when we are the ones being tested and tried. At times, it seems our signal with God is weak, or that we have lost connection altogether. “Hello? Hello? You’re breaking up!” or so it seems to us. We question our faith; we question God’s faithfulness. We feel out of touch, and we despair. “Can you hear me now, God? I can’t hear you. Please don’t hang up.” In these times, however, God truly is with us and very much at work in us, using the challenges of a fallen world to test our faith and commanding them ultimately to work for our own good. For testing reveals that which is going well and exposes that which is not; trials show us where we are safe and alert us to where we are exposed. Then with clearer understanding, we savor God’s correction, embrace His ways and seek His guidance. As King David penned to lyrics: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”1

It was James, the brother of Jesus, who instructed the early church, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”2 The apostle went on to add, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”3 God never neglects us in our testing or abandons us in our trials; He sees us through them and ultimately removes us from them—stronger, wiser, humbler. Our spirits soar. “Can you hear me now?” “Yes, Lord, we hear you, loud and clear. Thank You.”

For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. —Psalm 66:10

Father, hard lessons are the best lessons, the ones that stick. So we thank You for testing and trials; though they are never fun, they are always helpful and, in the end, gratifying. So have Your way in us. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Psalm 139:23-24
2 James 1:2-4
3 James 1:12