Yesterday was a special birthday for me. It was only the second time, and turns out to be the last, in my lifetime that my birthday also fell on Easter. Thrice before my birthday fell on palm Sunday (and will again if I live to be 85, once more if to 96). Palm Sunday is another important day, the day we celebrate the adoration and worship of Jesus as the King entering the City of David-a prophetically significant event! But yesterday was Easter–by far my most favorite holiday.
This made my birthday special; the day wasn’t all about me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m am not ungrateful. I am very thankful for the gifts I received and the many birthday wishes-it is a divine grace to have friendship and fellowship with other image bearers (ie. people). But I had the gracious gift from God to be able to worship Jesus and exalt in the resurrection and marvel at Christ Jesus our hope on my birthday.
Jesus, the Messiah, who three days earlier had been crucified, dying a criminals death, innocent of any crimes of his own, but reckoned guilty by the crimes of us all, was raised to life by God, through the Holy Spirit, in a physical body–a physical glorified body. The Bible teaches that Jesus did this for us even while we were His enemies, meaning even while we were actively in rebellion against Him. Each of us is born with a rebellious heart, we hate God and naturally sin against Him–we don’t even need to be taught to sin, though we do learn how to sin even more as we age. The Bible says we are by nature children of God’s wrath. We are the criminals deserving capital punishment!
But God does not separate the physical from the spiritual. It is not that the spiritual is good and the physical is bad. Rather, the ideal of God’s created order is that our physical and spiritual life would be a unified whole. We lost that holism when our forefather, Adam, rejected God’s goodness, choosing the lesser good of pleasing himself than of pleasing God. At that moment, the physical and spiritual was torn to pieces. We could only regain our spiritual life if it were given back to us by God. If we truly want to live organically and holistically, we need spiritual rebirth! Contrary to most human religious efforts, physical cannot beget spiritual.
We truly long for spiritual life! You can see that in the universal human condition. Every person is created in the image of God, and was created to be in relationship with God and to glorify Him in the beauty and magnificence of our very existence and activity. We by being created in His image, reflect God’s attributes, including our souls, and we long for this relationship with God, who is Spirit. But, as the Bible teaches us, and human experience confirms, humanity has gone after other gods! Shortly, we assume, after being created, Adam and his wife, later named Eve, listened to the deceiving voice of Satan, and chose to rebel against God and His very good provision. As a result, God cursed Satan and the whole of creation, and He punished Adam and Eve with death. They would one day physically die, and spiritually, the light that was within them became darkness–they died spiritually. Sin and death had entered the world and corrupted it. So, while humanity still reflects God’s image, this image is tarnished by sin. And what was once a physical-spiritual holism is now broken–a corrupted physical existence in a spiritual vacuum. But God did not leave us without the hope of restoration!
From the beginning of the Bible to the end, God promises restoration. God did not curse the woman like He did the serpent or the created order. Punish her He did, but he left her with a promise amidst the pain. God would send a human offspring to destroy Satan! The Bible progressively reveals who this offspring would be: an offspring of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, then David, a prophet, priest, and king, a suffering servant, anointed by the Holy Spirit, and judge of all the nations of the earth and also the one in whom all nations would be blessed and place their hope. He would be worshiped as almighty God and restore Eden, that is, restore the holistic relationship humanity had with God. In this restoration, the Bible tells us, all things, heaven, earth, humanity, the whole created order, would be made new.
God accomplished this by becoming human. God took on human flesh and lived among us. Jesus is the fullness of deity in human form–100% God and 100% human. Spirit and Physical Body are fully united in Jesus. But we needed cleansing, we needed freedom from rebellion, sin and brokenness. Remember, it was God who cursed and punished His created things. It is only God who could justly satisfy His own wrath against humanity. God punished Himself through the man Jesus in the place of humanity. Our only response–to repent of our sinful rebellion and believe that God would not punish us for our sins since Jesus already paid for them and that God raised Him from the dead so that we also would be raised. In so doing, He redeemed a people for himself. This people shares in the spiritual life of Jesus. Jesus, as the Bible describes, having lived by the Spirit, and who baptizes, that is immerses, His people with the Holy Spirit. In Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, God lives within us. In Jesus, through the resurrection, humanity is whole again and only in this way will humanity flourish.
The Bible defines the Christian life as the life unified with Jesus’s life and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Every day, then, is a day lived in the power and joy of the resurrection.
Do we still struggle with sin? Yes, the curse still rests on this created order and we await the renewal of all things. God has chosen to delay the total new creation only that more people might be saved. He has chosen a number of His elect, He has decided a date of renewal, and this is governed by His great patience and goodness towards humanity. Until then, even the wholeness of a redeemed life still suffers under the effects of sin. We still sin, but this sin is contrary to our new nature, which the Bible tells us is having died to sin and being buried with Christ, then being raised with Him to newness of life, being exalted, glorified and seated with Him in the heavenly places (though for now, our life is hidden with Christ in God–awaiting to be revealed in glory!!!). We are free from sin because of the resurrection! We share in eternal life now because of the resurrection! We know God and the one whom He sent because of the resurrection!
The resurrection is life–everyday life!
Yesterday, my birthday, I was reminded once again that not only do I have a physical life, because of my birth many years ago, but I also have spiritual life because of the resurrection and exaltation of Christ about 2000 years ago.