The resurrected king is resurrecting me?

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Lately on Sundays, we as a church have been singing Resurrecting by Elevation Worship during morning worship. I really like this song, and ever since I first heard it my thoughts have taken a new (and personally unexpected) direction.

Repeated in the song are the following lyrics:

By Your spirit I will rise/ From the ashes of defeat/
The resurrected king/ Is resurrecting me/

In Your name I come alive/ To declare your victory/
The resurrected king/ Is resurrecting me

What does it mean to say that the “resurrected King is resurrecting me”? The “resurrected King” part is easy for me to grasp. I believe Jesus lived, was crucified, died, and rose again.  I’ve known this since I was little. Death could not hold Christ. He died to save humanity, overcame death, and will return at some point in the future.

The new and unexpected turn for me is the idea that Jesus, this resurrected King, is resurrecting me.  The time implied by ‘resurrecting’ is now. The lyric isn’t “the resurrected king will resurrect me.” Jesus is doing it now. How can this be? I’m not dead, right?  How can I be being resurrected? This is the thought that I keep coming back to: I’m not dead, right? How could I be dead?  And if I’m not dead how could God be resurrecting me?  But something about the song keeps nagging me.  I can’t shake it. I can’t dismiss it as just a catchy tune or a fun song.  I think there’s something more, so at the risk of over-theologizing and proof-texting, let’s take a quick look!

In order for God to be resurrecting me, I would need to be dead or dying. So the first question is: Is it possible for me to be dead and alive? Short answer, no. I can’t be both dead and breathing.  But, I can be ‘dying’, and if we expand our definition of ‘death’ beyond physical death, we can be ‘dead’ [in some way] and breathing. (Sidenote: I never thought I would be surmising how I could be both ‘dead’ and alive…)

If we take Romans 3:23 (“…all have sinned…”) and 6:23 (“For the wages of sin is death…”) then we should expect our death (that is, if we remain in our sin). (Redemption and life everlasting are ours in Christ, but that’s topic for another day).  When do we get paid for our sins? The time is unspecified but if we get paid/are getting paid now then we are ‘dying’, and when we are paid in full ‘death’ will be our paycheck. It’s the long walk that all humanity shares. We in our sin are dying. But Jesus himself also says we should daily take up our cross and follow him (Luke 9:23). This is also the language of death, of Christ’s own death, that we would take up our crosses and die daily. So, it seems that we are dying twofold: We are dying because we sin, and we are dying because we emulate Christ.  But this can’t refer to physical death.  We can’t physically die every day and comeback to life every morning. So what does it mean? How do these pieces fit together?

I think that Colossians 3 is helpful here.  In Colossians 3:3, Paul writes “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Let it sink in: You. Have. Died.  He goes onto explain beginning in v5 what this means—We are told to put to death our lust, our immorality, our anger, our impurity, our obscenities, etc, etc. In short, because we have died and our life is with God we are to put away that which is unholy. Our ‘deadness’ is a deadness to unholiness, to impurity, to sin.

As we die to our unholiness, to our fleshly tendencies, it is here, I believe, where we find resurrection. God has made the way of life for us. If we are dying in our sin, so much more are we alive in Christ who saves and redeems us.  God makes known to us the path of life (Psalm 16:11; see also John 6:48).  And as we take up our cross daily, and in our death cast off our impurity, we are made anew—resurrected—daily. We are resurrected to a fullness of joy, to peace, to patience, to love, to kindness, to mercy and grace. We are everyday resurrected into the loving arms of our Savior.  God’s mercies are new every morning.

To me, saying ‘the resurrected King is resurrecting me’ is to say that Jesus makes the way of life for us every single day. It acknowledges that we are sinners in need of salvation from sin and death. It acknowledges that we who believe in Jesus Christ are called to cast off our impurity and strive every day to live holy lives. It cries out that God loves us and every day tirelessly pursues a relationship with us. It is a testament that our God is bigger than death and ‘deadness’—that we are not beyond redemption. (And it foreshadows a time not yet when we are resurrected from our physical deaths into eternal relationship with God.) We are every day experiencing God’s love because we die and live in Jesus Christ.

My thoughts are still budding on this, but I’ll keep thinking on it! I hope you will, too!

-Daniel Debelak

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Years of Mercy

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I saw a sign driving recently that read, “Year of Mercy.” It stopped me because of the association I have with the word mercy. I love the implications of the mercy as a loyal love. Pope Francis declared last Easter that 2016 would be a year of mercy. Quoting theologian Cardinal Kasper, he said that mercy itself “is the best thing we can feel: it changes the world. A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient.”

Mercy implies a love that continues to be given even when the receiver of that love does not deserve it. For mercy to even exist, it assumes that the one receiving love has either not been loyal or has little to give in return. We would not need mercy if it were not for our disloyalty and insufficiency. While grace is the reason we thrive, mercy is why God allows us to even live.

Mercy keeps our heart beating and lungs breathing when both should have stopped the first time we disobeyed God. Yet the fascinating thing about mercy is after experiencing the mercy of God toward us, He expects us to show mercy to others. Scripture tells us that the expression of mercy is the demonstration of the Christian’s victory in Christ over the judgment we deserve. James 2:13 reads, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” This verse provides us with a choice and it should be a relatively easy one. When one chooses not to show mercy, judgment is not withheld. Yet mercy triumphs over judgment. It is confident in its superiority over judgment so much so that it always assumes mercy is the right choice.

However, if we are being honest with ourselves there are instances that even in the light of the mercy we have received it is hard to extend mercy to those who have hurt us or disappointed us. This, I believe, is why God gave us the OT book of Hosea. God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute and to have children, the first of which they named Lo-ruhama which means “she has not received mercy” (Hos 1:6). God gives the child that name to demonstrate how the unfaithfulness of Israel is warrant for God to withhold mercy. Yet, God who is rich in love ultimately desires to show mercy to His people and relent in His judgment. His priority is always mercy over judgment. But God does not give what His people refuse to receive and likewise give. Following this model, may 2016 and the years to come be times in which we receive and give mercy with open arms.

-James Passaro