What do we think of the resurrection of  Christ? That is, what do we really think, not what we might feel we are supposed to think. The burning question is what does the resurrection of Jesus mean to us personally?

At the very least it ought to be accepted as a fact, which was more than some of the disciples initially managed. We recall from the reading of Mark 16  that Jesus “upbraided them”, that is, he gave them a stern rebuke because of their unbelief. How shall  they successfully preach a risen Lord if they did not believe it themselves? But the resurrection must mean considerably more to us than that. The fact of the resurrection, we are reminded by the Apostle Paul, means that our faith is not vain, we have hope of salvation. Now that is very good news indeed and ought to be the cause of rejoicing and  thankfulness; but the resurrection must mean even  more to us than that. In that Christ is the firstfruits, we understand that we shall see loved ones again as  Martha said of Lazarus, “I know that he shall rise  again in the resurrection at the last day.” The Apostle  Paul invited us to comfort one another in our grief  with this thought. All those things are true enough  and each in their own way of great importance and  yet we have still not considered the real spiritual  significance of the resurrection.

Consider Paul’s words, “Knowing that Christ  being raised from the dead dieth no more; death  hath no more dominion over him. For in that he  died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he  liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God  through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in  the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as  instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield  yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from  the dead, and your members as instruments of  righteousness unto God” (Rom 6:9–13).

Dead and alive

From this we can see that here are two critical  concepts which Paul draws from the resurrection  of Christ and applies personally to each and every  one of us. We must be dead to sin – alive to God.

This is what resurrection is really about and  it is this that we wish to explore a little by way of  exhortation. The concept of being dead to sin is  expressed twice by the apostle in Romans 6. When  speaking of what we should feel about the old man  in verse 11 (“Likewise reckon ye also yourselves  to be dead indeed unto sin”), Paul uses the Greek  word nekros (“dead”) from which comes our English  prefix necro- that which has to do with death. So  what we should feel about the old man and sin is  that it is dead and gone. We all wish that were the  case but the fact of the matter is, when we consider  the Greek word in verse 2 which is the word for  dying, we are reminded that it is a process. Are we  trying to kill the impulses of the flesh at one time  and then perhaps at other times performing CPR  on our lusts?

That this is a process is confirmed by the apostle  in Colossians 3 where he treats the same subject as  in Romans 6. In Colossians 3:5 the injunction is to  mortify (nekroo) our earthly members. That is, they  ought indeed to be dead. We must all give assent to  that, yet how frequently are we reminded that the  process has not been completed yet. Verse 3 says,  for ye are ‘dying’ and “your life is hid with Christ”.  Unfortunately, despite how much we might have  desired it, there was no immediate and complete  death of the old man at our baptism. As Brother  Carter said in commenting on Romans 7, “There is,  indeed, a repudiation of the old, but who does not  know that it still exists and asserts its power? Who  would not wish that it were eliminated entirely?”

Jesus had to spiritually put to death the flesh and  live a risen life. This laid the basis for him physically  dying to sin and being raised to immortality. For us the spiritual is now. God will not change our vile  body if we embrace it. If we declare our body to be  vile indeed, if we denounce the things of the flesh,  if we strive to kill off our fleshly lusts then we may  rest confidently in the knowledge that God will  complete and perfect what we can but attempt.  This is no concession to lust. We may not, we must  not feel that since sin is inevitable therefore we  shall capitulate. Surrender to sin is unthinkable.  Let us, dear brothers and sisters, be strengthened  to continue the fight to kill off sin. Let us help each  other in our struggle.

This is no easy task. Daily it is becoming more difficult. We find ourselves living in a world where  sin is celebrated, or worse, the average person does not even recognize what sin is and they ‘could not  care less’. If the apostle was correct when he warned that “bad company corrupts good morals” then we  are facing an uphill battle living in a 21st century  Sodom. Ask yourself, is my soul vexed from day to  day in seeing and hearing the unlawful deeds of the wicked about us? Lot’s was; and the Apostle Peter  commends him for it. Our country is governed by a  coalition headed by a fornicator and a homosexual.  Does that vex us? We may be certain they will  promote and hasten moral decay and we should be  doubly on our guard.

We are all aware of the parable of the man  who had a devil and removed it. Unfortunately he  replaced it with nothing and the devil on his return  brought seven friends as vile as he, and the final state  of the man was worse than in the beginning. The  sins of the old man are like the devil which plagued  the householder. We must get rid of them, but in  so doing we must fill our house with better things.  This is where the second part of our exhortation  comes into focus – living to God.

Living a risen life

It is not enough to be dead to sin, we must be alive  to God. I think it would be fair to say that we do  not give as much weight to this concept as we  might. Living a risen life because Christ is risen  is a critical concept of our journey towards God’s  kingdom. Look again at Colossians 3:1, “If ye then  be risen with Christ, seek those things which are  above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of  God” (quoted incidentally from Mark 16:19). The  resurrection must mean a refocus for each of us. Paul  is not speaking passively either; he says “seek” in  verse 1 and “set your affection” in verse 2. We must  be active in desiring the things of God and Christ;  in choosing to think and act like God. It is not easy  though, is it? You may be thinking, how am I to  achieve it? Godly thoughts do not come naturally.  It is not easy to have our mind in the heavens when  our feet are planted firmly on the earth.

Jesus offered some practical advice in the  Sermon on the Mount, “For where your treasure is,  there will your heart be also.” If we stockpile and  occupy ourselves with earthly things (our treasure)  then our heart will be about those things. But if we  make our business and our focus the things of the  service of Christ we will grow to love him. Our heart  will follow our stockpile of stuff. We might have  thought that we will stockpile treasure according to  the wishes of our heart, and while that is no doubt  true, it is not what our Lord said. Jesus meant us to  realise that our stuff will direct our heart. Of what  does our stockpile of treasure consist? If it consists  of the things of this present life, the things of the  earth, then inevitably, inexorably our heart will be  drawn away as happened to Demas who ended up  ‘loving this present world’.

However if we lay up treasure in heaven, not only  is it not affected by the GFC or the downturn in  the American credit rating, it provides impetus for our heart to “love his appearing”. It is worthwhile  each of us asking these vital questions – What is  my treasure? And where is my heart?

Acceptance of the resurrection of Jesus implies  acceptance of the commands he gives us. We meet  every week in response to one such command, and  we preach diligently by virtue of another. A risen  Jesus Christ is as he said, always with us, and takes  note of our response to him. Considering that the  risen Lord Jesus knows and sees and cares, are we happy with the things we have thought, done  and said this week? There is much exhortation we  can draw from the resurrection of Jesus. As we remember our risen Lord, let us be inspired to imitate him, to serve him and to love his appearing.