Everything has changed

Everything has changed.’ That’s what it says on the back of our lovely cherry red Risen Church T-shirts.

That’s a big claim isn’t it. Not somethings have changed. But everything. And, not everything will change but has changed. It’s a claim like the Optus’ ad campaign when iPhones first arrived on the scene, ‘Be prepared to be happy’. That’s a big claim. It’s the kind of claim that gets you into trouble because it so big. As they say in sales, ‘under promise and over deliver’. This claim seems to make the opposite mistake. It seems to over promise and have no hope of delivery.

Why would Christians make such a big claim? It all pivots on the resurrection of Jesus. Christians understand that Jesus has risen from the dead and this event in the history of the world changed everything. The very first Christians believed, taught, shared and proclaimed, to everyone they could that Jesus was the ruling saviour of the universe. This fact was undisputable for them because of his resurrection from the dead and the ascension to rule with God that followed.[1]

God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. Acts 2:32-33

There they are, the two parts: raised to life from the dead (resurrection) and being lifted up to rule with God (ascension).

A sentence or two later the apostle Peter delivers the punchline of the talk. And it hit home.

  "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah."  37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Acts 2:36-37

Throughout the rest of the book of Acts the first believers continue to explain Jesus as the resurrected ruler of everyone and everything. It was their central message.  

So how does the resurrection change everything? What has changed if it really happened?

1.     Now is the time of forgiveness

The resurrection tells us that forgiveness is now available. Now is the time to turn back to God by turning to Jesus.

Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-- for all whom the Lord our God will call." Acts 2:38-39

Since Jesus is now ruling then the promises of God to bring a saving Messiah have been fulfilled. And so now is the time to come to the Messiah, Jesus, to be saved from sin.

2.     Now is the time of transformation

The verse above (verse 3) contains another promise. The promise of transformation. All those who repent, that is change their mind about God, will receive forgiveness and will receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s great change agent in every heart that receives him. Here is what God had promised.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. Ezekial 36:26-29

Because of the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit can now be given to Jesus’ people. All those who come to Jesus for forgiveness and submit to his rule will be changed from the inside out. Jesus’ people will want to and will be able to live differently, pleasing God.

If you’ve ever tried to change yourself from the inside out, if you’ve ever had something in your thinking or your desires that you hated but you could not get rid of, if you’ve ever longed to treat people differently but could not seem to – celebrate. For change is now possible through Jesus. Now is the time of transformation.  

And the changes just keep coming:

3.     Christians will be changed even more

The apostle Paul argues that Jesus has conquered death. And so those that die trusting him will not stay dead. They will be raised from the dead when Jesus returns. And when they are raised they will not be the same – they will be changed to be perfect, ready for the immortal and eternal life they will live.

I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians 15:50-54

4.     Death has been defeated

We touched on this above but it is such a critical idea we must explore it further. Jesus’ resurrection means that he has broken the power of death. In the ancient world ‘death was a one way street.’[2] You didn’t come back from the dead. No one came back to this life.

And even if you could come back to life, no one wanted to. Wherever you went after his life, if you went anywhere, was understood to be better than this world. You wouldn’t want to come back to this life, with your body into this physical stuff.

The resurrection was a unique teaching in the ancient world. The early Christians were making, ‘the claim that something had happened to Jesus which had happened to nobody else.’ The claim was that death was no longer a one way street. Jesus had come back to life.

And so now, the claim was made that there was a new life to come, a physical life in a physical creation. It would come after death to everyone who trusted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. This is because Jesus had defeated sin. Sin is the reason every person dies. If Jesus has defeated sin by his death he has therefore conquered death. Jesus now offers life beyond death. No a disembodied life, but a resurrected life in a new creation.

This leads us to the next change:

5.     Christians are filled and fuelled with hope

If there is a life to come and a world to come Christians can be filled with hope. Hope is something that is fuelled by looking forward to the future. It is a future leaning orientation. It looks forward to and expects change. Christians have hope because they know what the future holds for them. And this future can never be taken away because it is not created by them but is a reality because of Jesus.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5

This future hope, this certain hope, changes now. It means a Christian can rejoice – that is celebrate – even during difficulty and hardship. They have a guaranteed future because of Jesus.

This means that a Christian can live sacrificially now. They can give up their rights, their time, their goods, their money and their very lives. This world is not all there is. A Christian can hold everything in this world loosely, ready to give it away, ready for the world to come.

This life to come is because:

6.     Everything will change

By everything I mean everything in the physical universe. Jesus’ resurrection was a physical resurrection. He came back in his body. Not as a ghost or a spirit. He shows his crucified but now resurrected body to his disciples.

Jesus said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." 28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" John 20:27-28

The resurrection of Jesus’ body shows that God is faithful to the body of Jesus. Or put another way, in the resurrection God rescues all of Jesus including his physical body. This shows God is committed to and loves all he made including the physical realm. Everything good that has been created by a good God will be rescued and changed. God is faithful to all he has made. The resurrection of Jesus in a body is proof of God’s faithfulness to our physical world.

7.     Everything has changed

By everything I mean everything ever. The physical universe won’t just change but all spiritual reality will be changed. Jesus’ resurrection means that sin, evil, Satan, sadness, grief, wickedness and everything that ruins us and the world will be defeated and its existence ended. This is the inevitable reality that follows from Jesus’ resurrection rule. In the future, there will be no more pain and tears and grief because of Jesus’ resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:22-28; Revelation 21:1-5). And knowing this changes now.

God has not over promised and under delivered

Consider the scope and the depth of the changes because of the resurrection of Jesus. The standing of people before God - they can now be forgiven. God’s Holy Spirit is being poured out on his people. Death and its consequences have been overthrown. Every Christian has a real hope and lives with hope looking forward to a different future in which every tear and heartache will be no more. The entire physical creation will be transformed to be what it ought to be for the world to come because of God’s faithfulness. And the perishable will be imperishable ready for eternity with God. God has not over promised and under delivered. He has promised and he has delivered in Jesus.[3] The resurrection of Jesus changed every thing.  

[1] Ascension means lifted up. But it’s helpful to know the Bible often uses physical space to explain spiritual realities. God is Spirit and is not the same as our physical realm. Being lifted up doesn’t mean that Jesus is now physically squeezed in just above the earth and just below the moon. The ascension is Jesus exalted in status and role, now ruling with God the Father rather than being on earth as a humble servant.

[2] Quotes in this section are from NT Wright – The Resurrection of the Son of God (pages 81 through to 83).

[3] I happy conceded that I have not proven the historical reliability of the resurrection. To consider the resurrection as a historical event or not you might like to watch ‘The resurrection argument that changed a generation of scholars’ by Gary Habermas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay_Db4RwZ_M