As Christians, most of us acknowledge the holiday of Easter as the resurrection of Christ or at least the time that we choose to celebrate it. It was the climax of Jesus' purpose for coming to earth. It was His primary mission and accomplishment on our behalf. So what exactly changed in the death and resurrection? And if it was the culmination of the work of Christ, how does that affect us as believers daily?
Living The Christian Life In Our Own Strength
To the outside world, Christianity is viewed as just another religion. We have our rules, we try to keep them, and the degree to which we succeed is the measure of how good of a Christian we are. If you ask the average non-Christian if they would like to become one, they likely envision a life of trying to be a better person. Going to church more, no longer cussing, being a better citizen, etc. They realize they can't actually do these things, so they think, "what's the point." While it's definitely problematic for an unbeliever to hold this view, there are also many Christians trying to live "the Christian life" in their own strength. Trying to be better, trying to do more for God.
But couldn't you do that in the old testament? Couldn't you attempt to keep the law and offer sacrifices for forgiveness every time you failed? If the resurrection changed things, shouldn't our life and approach look different than the saints in the old testament? It definitely should! Primarily in that we are no longer working in our own ability (our flesh) to fulfill the will of God. For a believer, to try to keep God's law in your own strength will produce the same defeat as it always has for mankind. The law was a means to show us that we were sinners and had no natural ability to keep God's commands. Because of the weakness of human flesh, trying hard to be better can never produce life. Romans 3:20 says it clearly:
"Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law, we become conscious of our sin."
Once people are aware that God has a standard and that they cannot live up to it, they are ready to accept the grace and mercy of God. That mercy was revealed in Christ on the cross. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says:
"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
The Gift Of Righteousness
So an exchange took place on the cross. Our sin for His righteousness. God's holy, sinless Son took my sin and gave me His righteousness. Romans 5:17 actually calls it a "gift of righteousness." In other words, righteousness, the thing many believers are trying to achieve, was already given to them as a gift. This was certainly not the case for believers in the old testament. No gift of righteousness could be given until Christ had paid the price and made the exchange.
God's primary expectation of us is that we rest in the work of His Son. That we realize that we are completely justified in His sight because of the work of Jesus and our simple rest (faith) in that work. Romans 5:1 tells us this.
"Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us."
On this resurrection day, I want to encourage you to remember that everything changed at the cross. It was the place where your judgment took place, in the body and soul of Another. God isn't demanding you to try harder to be good and serve Him more. He is looking at the price Jesus paid and judging you righteous because of your faith in Him. Jesus is resurrected and has now become your new life. We are dependent on Christ in us to fulfill the will of God for our lives. Not our own ability. That is true rest. You have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer you who lives but Christ who lives in you. His resurrection is so important because it was yours as well.
Written By: Travis McDaniel
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