(Guest Post from our friend, Jeanne Hedrick) With Coronavirus all around us, it’s hard to turn our minds towards anything else. Consumed by worries we never thought possible before – keeping a safe distance from others, washing our hands after every possible contact with the virus, and wearing gloves and masks when we do have to go out – we are shell shocked by all the changes. How can we adequately approach the Easter season and honor the Lord in the midst of all this turmoil?
As different as our circumstances are, the reality of Easter hasn’t changed. It’s still vitally important to remember what Jesus did for us, to revisit the scene where mankind’s history was forever changed. Like other years, we are speechless as we think about the shame, humiliation, and torture of the cross, but we’re also strangely drawn by the love and courage it displays.
Perhaps the songwriter Isaac Watts comes closest to capturing what our response should be:
When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
In our Christian lives, it takes a while to grasp … fully understand … the deepest truths of our faith. As I mentioned in an earlier devotional, I didn’t focus much on the cross when I gave my life to Jesus. Don’t get me wrong … I knew what happened on the cross had set me free from sin and death. I was glad Jesus loved me enough to lay down His life so I might be forgiven and adopted into God’s family. I was profoundly grateful for His work on the cross, but I didn’t yet understand the implications it held for my life going forward.
In the world, our daily interactions are generally marked by careful measurements. As we shop for items or interact with other people, we calculate how much we will be required to give in order to get what we want in exchange. We weigh the investment to determine if it’s worth what we will receive. Sadly, the same holds true in our spiritual lives too. Like the Pharisees, we tend to give what’s easy to part with … a tenth of our mint, dill, and cumin … and to hold back on more sacrificial acts … extending justice and mercy to others, and loving God more than ourselves. (See Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42). After all, we don’t want to get “carried away” or become too extravagant, even in our worship of God!
We want to keep as much of our life as we can and still enjoy all the benefits of our salvation.
This is why the cross of Christ is so convicting, and so challenging. There we don’t see Jesus giving a little of himself to save us. He didn’t give what was easy. He gave himself utterly and completely, holding nothing back. As it says in Isaiah 50, “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting” (v. 6). The writer of Hebrews ties Jesus to this prophecy from Psalm 40: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me … Then I said, ‘Here am I – it is written about me in the scroll – I have come to do your will, O God’” (Hebrews 10:5, 7).
In His sacrifice, Jesus reveals the kind of life He intends for us as well.
As followers of Jesus our greatest desire should be to do God’s will, not our own. To give our lives to Him wholeheartedly and completely, with no fear of giving “too much” for what we will receive in return. The apostle Paul understood this calling better than most of us. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Throughout his letters Paul urges believers to live up to their high calling, to lay down their lives in the same way Jesus did. If we are stingy and miserly in our approach to God’s kingdom, we will see little fruit for our labor. But if we decide to be lavish and generous … offering all for Him to use … we will bring blessing upon the world in new and unprecedented ways.
Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of missionary Jim Elliot who was killed in Ecuador in 1956, beautifully expresses God’s purposes for His people.
I have spent my life plumbing the depths of what it means to be a Christian. I am, as of this morning, still learning. One thing I learned a long time ago is that we have to receive the life of Christ ourselves before we can live it. We have to live it before we can give it to others. Receive, live, give. The theologians call this ‘incarnation,' and it applies as much to us as Christians as it does to our Lord Himself. … We incarnate Christ by taking up our crosses and following Him, doing exactly as Jesus did when He was obedient to the Father.
Holding back – measuring, calculating, living as misers in a kingdom of abundance – makes no sense. Following Jesus is an all or nothing proposition. We begin by receiving everything from Him and we end by giving it all back. Just like Jesus, we submit to God’s better plan and we trust Him with the results of our lives.
As we ponder the significance of Easter and test our lives in the light of the cross, we are brought back to the final verse in Isaac Watts’ beautiful hymn:
Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
But … you may protest … what about the resurrection? Doesn’t it move us beyond the cross, to a place where we live in His triumphant victory over death, a place where we find joy and peace? Yes, Paul says, the message of Easter includes all of that, with an important caveat. “Since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again … The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God” (Romans 6:9-10). Through the power of the resurrection, we (like Jesus) continue to live … TO GOD. As the apostle Peter put it, “Since Christ suffered … you won't spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2, NLT).
Our lives no longer belong to us – they belong to Him. Utterly, completely, without measure. The lessons of Easter today are the same as they've always been: Receive, live, give. Love so amazing, so divine … deserves everything I have to offer. He is worthy!
Contact Jeanne at firstname.lastname@example.org