One of My Favorite Stories
Within the narrative universe of one of my favorite science fiction franchises lies a potentially unintentional, yet compelling, truth which cuts me deep to my core.
Lay down your pitchforks and imagine with me the tragedy of the Star Wars original trilogy never existing, and in its place, only the prequel trilogy. I’m not writing to start a forums war on whether Lucas wasted his time with Jar Jar Binks and building up the lore of his universe. No, what I’m getting at is to, instead, think of the Skywalker bloodline and remove any knowledge we have of what happens after Anakin’s fall to the dark side.
If you aren’t at all familiar with Star Wars, I implore you to stick around. It’s only two short paragraphs of plot.
Our last memory is of:
The conflicted Anakin, warped into the menacing Darth Vader, by crafty, viper-like Emperor Palpatine
The death of the Jedi Order, which upheld peace and stability
The betrayal of Obi Wan by his padawan
The murder of Padme, carelessly slain by her misguided husband, sworn to protect her
Imagine no resolution to this story. We are left desperate, and quite like Vader, made emotionally distant. Evil has triumphed, and there is nothing but hopeless confusion at how there could be any kind of joyful closure to this tragic scenario.
But, when we stop pretending, we do know the resolution. We know that Anakin’s children grow to be powerful leaders, who desire only what is pure and good. We know Obi Wan teaches Luke in the ways of the force. Finally, and most importantly, we know Vader is redeemed. He breaks wide the clutch of the dark side, and in the end, chooses the light, shattering the Galactic Empire and freeing the oppressed people of the galaxy.
How neatly tied up our story becomes. However, without the completion of the story, we are at a loss.
1 Corinthians 15:12-19
“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 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. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)
In his first letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul was quite aware the people were trusting false teachings and giving into sinful practices freely. The intent of his letter was to unite this Christian church in love. The above passage is Paul deconstructing the resurrection of Christ and emphasizing precisely why it is critical to salvation.
On Easter Sunday
Today, we gather in our churches, as families and communities of believers in the Christian faith. We admit our complete and total depravity and failure to be good people (Rom. 3:23). We profess that Jesus Christ, both fully man and fully God (Col 2:9), came to lovingly rescue us from our gravely flawed and sinful lives. He was pierced, brutally tortured, and slaughtered, in order take all of our sins upon Himself (Isaiah 53:5).
In the ultimate act of selfless redemption, this became the single, most important moment in human history. However, as Paul describes for us, if Jesus Christ was not raised from the dead, then indeed His sacrifice was for nothing. If He failed to conquer death, then we are right to wallow in pity, hoping for some purpose in our lives that will never make itself evident.
But, no. Instead, on Easter Sunday, we come together as the Christian fellowship to celebrate Christ’s amazing revival. Just as we felt hollowed by the ending events of the Star Wars prequels, dwelling on the death of Christ will leave us in a stupor. However, with the inclusion of the original Star Wars trilogy, that perspective changes. The dismal Episode 3 leaves us in momentary disarray, but ultimately, the truth of goodness and the redemption of Anakin in Episode 6 gives us hope, despite the evil that has been done.
In this same way, we refuse to stay locked onto hopelessness, and instead put our full hope and dependency on Jesus Christ and His resurrection. His redemptive act is all the joy and purpose we need.
So, on this very special day of remembrance, I leave you three applications with which to reflect. The resurrection changes absolutely everything. It changes how we think, act, and behave. It gives us reason.
“We refuse to stay locked on to hopelessness, and instead put our full hope and dependency on Jesus Christ and His resurrection.”
As we look at life through the lens of the resurrection, may you be pointed towards Christ and the hope of eternity with Him.
Through the Lens of the Resurrection
1) We must think differently
Yes, our actions are more visible than our thoughts, but the beginning of our actions starts with our motivations. Why do you do good for others? Do you help others because you want to look good (Matt. 5:46)? Even if you do good to better yourself, you will always fall short of perfection in some way.
Remember Ephesians 2:8: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift from God.” No amount of good work can save us.
So with this framework in mind, we must focus our minds on the things of God. Colossians 3:1-2 reminds us, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.“
“This is deeper than avoiding posting a critical thought on a public figure on Facebook who is caught up in a scandal, being drug through the mud for their comment or moral failure.”
Oh, what a beautiful reminder. As we ask the Lord to search our hearts and root out the darkness in them (Psalm 139:23-24) we realize we must purge our thoughts. It is so much more than doing good. We must think good of others. This goes beyond merely resisting the temptation to post a critical, non-constructive thought on Facebook concerning a public figure who has been caught up in a scandal. Yes, we must avoid that, but even more-so, we should pray that the Lord would cleanse our judgmental minds from crucifying that person in the first place.
2) We must hope in our own resurrection
How can we effectively minister to the church and to others without truly hoping in Christ ourselves? Romans 8 encourages our faith in Christ. In verse 1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” In verse 8, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Ah, this is concerning for us, until we read the next verse, “You, however, (Christians) are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of Christ dwells in you…“
Finally, in verses 37-39, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.“
With this, we have the knowledge of Christ’s sacrifice, resurrection, and deep, deep love and commitment to chase and pursue us. This is all despite our broken humanity. I encourage you to read this beautiful chapter of life-giving Scripture in its entirety. We cannot separate ourselves from Christ, no matter our efforts.
One side note to mention: Do not grow weary from bouts of life that leave you doubting God’s goodness and the authenticity of the Scriptures. For you to feel distant from God and even doubt that He exists is a natural part of the Christian walk. I encourage you to seek guidance from your pastor, parents, or other wise people in your life. Satan will use this to beat you down, but the Lord promises His presence for you. James 4:7-8 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you…“
3) We must not lose hope in Christ’s crucifixion
Marriage teaches me daily how selfish and graceless I am. I am impatient with my wife. I desire to go my own way, eat whatever I want, play whatever games I want, and spend my time however I choose to spend it. As this obviously clashes with my wife’s desires, we butt heads, both becoming more selfish and unflinching in our humanity. Now enters the grace of Christ, reminding us how we will run each other into the ground without loving patience for one another.
Despite our hopeful reliance on Christ, we reach a new problem. If my wife is abundantly patient with me, I could walk all over her, only choosing to do things when and where I want, without even asking for her opinions and wisdom. If I am excessively gracious with my wonderful wife, I will let her walk all over me, never trying to correct or turn her towards Christ and His desire for our holy obedience to His commands.
“Now enters the grace of Christ, reminding us how we will run each other into the ground without loving patience for one another.”
So, while patience and grace are imperative in any relationship, we have to learn balance. Too much emphasis on one side will be detrimental.
In the same way, we walk a fine line balancing the crucifixion and the resurrection. On one hand, if we wallow too long on Christ’s death, we will lose hope. We will end up focused on our works, wondering why we can never achieve perfection, or why we continue to sin, hurting ourselves and others. On the other, if we focus solely on the resurrection, we will assume perfection. When we mess up, it doesn’t matter, because we are abounding in grace, right?
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2)
So, no. We can’t go on sinning.
I hope and pray that our dependence is placed upon Christ. I hope that we are focused deeply upon both Christ’s death and resurrection. I hope that the resurrection changes the way we see people and serve others. I hope we do not sit idly, refusing obedience to the Lord. I pray we do not lose hope, but instead rely completely on the work of a lovely, patient Savior.
Spend time with your families and churches this Easter. Pray earnestly for the Lord to move in your heart, pushing you to take heart, as He has already overcome.
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