Easter - What The Resurrection Means For Us
It’s Easter, so you know we’re zeroing in on the resurrection, don’t ya? By way of backdrop, Jesus is crucified and was buried in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent and wealthy individual who also was a member of the Sanhedrin, the religious overlords of Judea working under the watchful eye of the Roman occupiers. That gets us up to our text for today out of John, chapter 20.
John 20:1-18 - Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"—and that he had said these things to her.
I am not going to spend time on proof for the resurrection, although plenty of proof exists—not the least of which is that the church of Jesus Christ is still churning just fine 2,000 years later. Oh, one more. Of all those during Jesus’ time who claimed to be the Messiah, Jesus is the only one anyone who isn’t an academic focused on trivia even remembers here in 2016. I’ll stop there or I’ll never get to what I want to do, which is to answer a simple question: What does the resurrection mean for us today? And I’ll just point out two specific things.
1. The resurrection tells us that we can be forgiven.
I came across a great little article in a British newspaper about a guy who was heading across London for a job interview on the Tube, London’s subway system. This fellow got so frustrated trying to get off his subway car at the exit that he started cursing at another passenger to get out of his way. It turns out that this the object of his venom was also getting off at at the same stop, and the cursing man continued the barrage on the platform as he hurried off. Cursing man gets to his interview, and who do you think was scheduled to interview him for the job? Oh, yeah, that other passenger. And cursing man didn’t even realize that was who was interviewing him until halfway through the interview. At that point, he’s thinking, “Man, no way I’m getting this job.” And he was right. You don’t treat your prospective boss that way and expect anything good to happen.
Let’s take that back to the resurrection of Jesus. How would those disciples have felt discovering Jesus had come back to life? Maybe some excitement? Possibly. Maybe some trepidation? Assuredly. After all, virtually all of them had deserted, denied, and doubted Jesus. But here He is—alive. They had to be thinking there was no way they were still in good with Jesus. Peter even cussed Jesus out when he was accused of having been a follower of Jesus.
But here’s where John’s account gets very cool. Did you hear what Jesus tells Mary? Go to my brothers. Jesus had never referred to his disciples as brothers until right then. He refers to God the Father as “Your Father,” another thing Jesus had never said up to now. See, something changed because of that cross and that resurrection, something that made them Jesus’ brothers and God their father. Something had won for them forgiveness for all that deserting and denying and doubting. It’s almost as if the resurrection declared that the cross had worked.
And it’s important to note that Jesus doesn’t tell Mary to go tell the disciples that He’s giving them a second chance. I know we like to believe God is a God of second chances, but this text suggests otherwise. He’s not a God of do-overs. God, in the death and resurrection of Jesus, declares not a do-over, but it’s all done. Jesus got it all done for us.
You might not know it, but you and I should be delighted we don’t get a do-over. Why? Well, you know you, don’t you? If you had your slate wiped completely clean for your do-over, how long do you think it would take before you fell prey to your favorite sin? Yep, not long. We’d still be toast. So, it’s wonderful that the cross and resurrection secured for us through Jesus the total payment for all our sins, past, present, and future. Well, not for everyone in the world, because not everyone in the world takes Jesus up on the offer to declare Him savior and king. But for those who do, for those who follow Him, it’s no do-over. It’s done!
2. The resurrection tells us that we can be changed.
We can be changed, but this is not something we manufacture. The details on this change are pretty important. The Holy Spirit enters our lives when we accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, and He begins to work in our lives. I think there’s a perfect illustration of that in our passage today. To highlight that for you, we need to go back quickly to John, chapter 19, for a second:
John 19: 41-42 - Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
So, Jesus is buried in a tomb located in a garden. This might explain why Mary Magdalene, when Jesus first appeared to her, mistook him for the gardener. Now, these facts God decided should be included in this passage, so my question is “Why?” There must have been a purpose for their inclusion. I think as we dig just a bit, we might discover that Mary wasn’t all that mistaken in thinking Jesus was the gardener. Let’s take a closer look.
Remember that, at creation, God placed Adam and Eve in a garden. The Garden of Eden. And God’s instructions to Adam was to tend the garden and expand that garden, bringing the order in the garden to the surrounding territory, making an ever-broadening garden suitable for Adam’s offspring to live as they fanned out across the globe. That was the original plan. But, as we know, sin enters the picture, and everything is screwed up. Sin brings death and chaos and weeds, and work isn’t fun anymore. It’s work, and it’s hard slogging. But God makes a promise that He will bring about a new world where Satan is vanquished, and sin and all its pain will be wiped away. God promised to do this through the seed of the woman, Eve. You can read about that in Genesis 3. And Jesus is that seed.
So, here we are in John 20, with Jesus, on the first day of a new creation, standing in the garden as the gardener of that new creation. Jesus, with a resurrected body, shows us what we will be receiving one day, and He’s bringing life where there was death. He’s alive and victorious, with Satan, death, sin, injustice, cruelty, and tears all ultimately doomed. Their days are numbered because there’s a new gardener in town. And all that that first Adam in the Garden of Eden lost for us, Jesus is regaining for us. The world will be made new, and our lives can be made new.
I shared a testimony from Joni Ericsson-Tada, a woman paralyzed at age 17 in a diving accident. She recalls being at a conference when the speaker asked everyone to kneel. And, of course, she was in a wheelchair and couldn’t. As she sat there, she was reminded that in heaven she will be free to jump up and dance and do aerobics. Right now, she was burdened with shriveled, bent fingers, atrophied muscles, gnarled knees, and no feeling from the shoulders down. The resurrection of Jesus gave her hope that one day that spinal cord injury will be no more.
But the promise of change isn’t just some far off, dream world in the future. The promise of change has been unleashed into our present. The bible tells us that if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation, that even now the old is gone and all things are being made new. Jesus promised that when He returned to heaven, the Holy Spirit would be sent to Christians, bringing with Him the resurrection power of Jesus capable of transforming us from the inside out. Anyone who has ever said, “Well, I can’t change, this is just the way I am,” is a person who does not understand the power of that resurrection. And they haven’t checked out the lives of Jesus’ friends. Take Mary Magdalene, for example. When we first meet her, she’s possessed by seven demons. But Jesus drove them out, and Mary becomes the first person Jesus reveals Himself to after He rises from the dead. She becomes the first evangelist for Jesus. Who would have thought it possible?
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to one of the churches he planted, and he named all the sins that had previously held those in that church in bondage. But he also declared that that was who they “used to be.” Used to be because now Jesus had changed them. They were no longer what they used to be. And for us, we need to get it that the church should be full of “used to be's.” People who used to be angry, people who used to be greedy, people who used to be addicted to porn, people who used to be adulterers, people who used to be self-righteous and looked down on others they felt morally superior to, people who used to be racists, people who used to be substance abusers, people who were so insecure they would just give themselves away to anyone to feel loved. That’s what the church should be—folks who used to be something who are something different now. Changed, transformed by this Jesus, this gardener of our souls. Jesus, who uproots old things, plants and cultivates in our lives brand-new, healthy things, causing our lives to flourish, bringing life to what was barren.
This is the message of Easter—you and I can be forgiven, and we can be changed.
SOTM, The Narrow Gate
Jesus is beginning to wrap up his Sermon on the Mount. As He does, He is going to force out of us a response and to ask ourselves some hard questions. What am I really doing with my life? What am I living for? What road am I on and where will it lead me? In part 1 of the close of His message, Jesus says this:
Matthew 7:12-14 - So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
We’re all headed somewhere, and the somewhere is either destruction or life. And it turns out that most people are pouring onto the wide path through a broad gates that ends with a rotten final destination. The other gate is narrow, and the road is difficult, but it ends with life. Jesus is that gate and road, and those who chose that route are citizens of the Jesus’ kingdom He’s been talking about for three chapters. So, how does Jesus describe the gate and path that lead to life?
It is narrow.
No one wants to be considered narrow-minded, right? But Jesus tells us that His way is only entered through a narrow gate. I listened to a Tim Keller message on this same passage, and Keller argues that excelling at anything in life requires some narrowing. You don’t become a great musician without narrowing—you have to devote time to practice and learn. You can’t excel in school by partying all the time and never studying. You can’t take a two-week vacation every month and excel at personal finance (unless you won the lottery, of course). Parents, you can help your kids narrow their focus by getting them to church, ensuring they fold into the youth group, taking the time to check out who Jesus is for themselves. Maybe there’s something more than simply padding their resumes for college, something that might allow them to avoid all the stupid, painful, and damaging mistakes the world’s teens are making in high school and college. To avoid all that, some intentional narrowing has to occur.
And Jesus says that He is the road that leads to life, and it only comes through Him. That makes people uncomfortable, I get it. Our world loves the “live and let live” philosophy. You believe that you want, I’ll believe what I want, and it’s all ok. Here’s the problem—that doesn’t work in the realm of facts, does it? You can’t claim that Herndon is the capital of Virginia just because you’re not comfortable with Richmond. Facts are facts. Math class? Yeah, facts. 2+2=4, and it doesn’t matter one bit whether you prefer a different answer. And Jesus’ claims are in the realm of facts—He was God who literally came to earth and demonstrated that fact through the things He did in this life; he was literally crucified, literally buried, and literally rose from the dead. He literally claimed that life was possible through no one else but Him. And those claims have withstood millennia of scrutiny and evaluation.
So, is Jesus way narrow? Yes. He’s the only way. But also, no. His way is available to everyone who will take it. It’s not exclusive to just some people, but to everyone who will take that path.
It is difficult.
Jesus’ illustration seems to suggest that we are walking through life and come upon this fork in the road with two gates and two roads. In reality, we find out in scripture that you and I enter this world already having gone through the broad gate and are on the wide road. We are born sinners, naturally inclined to rebel against God. That’s why this broad road is so easy—we’re born on it and nothing has to change for us to stay there. Our problem is that we think we’re in charge of our fates and our souls. But we know from our Counterintelligence series last fall that this world system in which we find ourselves is under the domain of Satan, and he’s doing everything he can to keep us ignorant of that and to keep us from trusting in Jesus.
Jesus’ path is hard because it requires us to fight against the natural desire to have our own way and to live only for ourselves, choosing instead to submit to Jesus’ instructions on how to live. Hasn’t Jesus been inviting us to that this whole series? Someone smacks you on the cheek. What do you want to do? Yeah, retaliate. Jesus says, “Yeah, that’s your way. But I want you to side with me against your natural instincts, and forgive that person, offer them your other cheek.” You make a promise, the keeping of which could cost you. What do you want to do? Yeah, break that promise. Jesus says “Yeah, I get it. That’s your way. Choose instead to die to yourself on that and keep that promise no matter the cost.” So, this path is full of joy, full of God’s presence, but it’s constantly dying to ourselves, renouncing the right to be the lord of our own lives, trusting that there’s something better for us with Jesus as the Lord. Frankly, this is what it means to become a Christian.
I love it that Jesus doesn’t attempt to do a bait-and-switch thing just to get people to sign on the dotted line. He’s very clear about the cost, even as He promises us life to the full and overwhelming joy and perfect peace at our soul level. It’s not the way a great salesman would go about closing the deal, but it is how a God who loves us does business.
Few find it.
The way is narrow, it’s hard, and few will choose to take it. I was struck by the Pew Survey published last year that showed millions of Americans have moved from having some religious affiliation to having none. That group of “NONES” now constitutes twenty-three percent of Americans. Is Christianity dying? Not really. What we are seeing as Christianity becomes less popular, less necessary to be considered normal, are people who never were Christians finally coming out of the closet as atheists or agnostics or whatever. See, Christianity isn’t normal anymore in America, so no one has to claim to be a Christ follower to be considered “in”. I quoted an article written by Russel Moore, who argued that we shouldn’t fret, that it’s actually a good thing. He claims we don’t have more atheists in America, we just have more honest ones. And Moore says we shouldn’t worry that Christianity is on the defensive in America because Christianity was on the defensive in the Roman Empire, too, and it still had the “ oomph" to turn the world upside down. What we should expect is that true Christians will be revealed, because when the pressure is on, the pretenders will quickly fall aside.
My contention as a pastor here in Northern Virginia is that this trend in America actually bodes well for The Surge, a church that exists in large part to reach out to those who don’t do church. Matt Chandler, at the Village Church near Dallas, says this: It’s far easier to share the good news of Jesus with someone who knows he isn’t a Christian than it is to share it with someone who isn’t a Christian but thinks he is. So, let’s live lives that testify to the greatness of our God and pray to recapture what it really means to be a Christ follower. Let’s be a safe place for the “NONES” to struggle, to ask questions, to doubt, to test drive and kick the tires, to push back, and to wrestle with the claims of Jesus.
I noted that, in apparent contradiction to the hard road Jesus describes here in chapter 7, Jesus only four chapters later says this:
Matthew 11:28-30 - Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
If you’re like me, you have this question: Ok, Jesus, which is it? Hard or easy? Having pondered this, I come to the conclusion that both are true. It’s hard to give up lordship of you to Jesus, because it’s against our natural inclinations. It’s hard to take it on the chin. Hard to trust that much. On the other hand, having done so, things get easier. I’m no longer in charge, I don’t have to wear the challenging mantle of leadership. I’m not putting on my yoke, after all. I’m putting on Jesus’ yoke. It’s his work, it’s following Him. I get to rest in Him, relying on His strength and power flowing through me by His Spirit. My soul will be at rest. I know what road I’m on, I know where it’s headed, and I know the outcome.
Maybe this illustration will help you somewhat. Imagine you have a favorite football team, and a huge game is coming up. Sadly, you can’t watch it because you have other commitments. But you do have a DVR, and you record it. Or, for you sports haters, imagine you have the season finale of your favorite TV drama, and you there’s a chance your favorite character might die in this episode. Again, you can’t watch it, so you DVR it. Now, imagine the stress of having had to watch that game or that show when it aired, not knowing the outcome. Every incomplete pass, every penalty, every setback would have you churning. Likewise, every plot twist and turn in that finale would have you on pins and needles as your hero battled to survive. Now, imagine this. You’re all set to watch the DVR-recorded program, but someone blows the ending for you on Facebook. So, you know your team wins or that your favorite character emerges victorious and healthy. How easy is it to watch that show now? Really easy, right? You know that no matter what happens along the path, no matter how hard, no matter the pain, you can rest, assured it all ends well. That’s why the road might be hard, but the journey is also easy. Hope you see that this is what Jesus is talking about.
Now, the last thing.
You and I have to intentionally enter the narrow gate and the hard road.
You know the Metro in DC, don’t you? You enter the subway through a turnstile, and you enter through that turnstile one person at a time. Mom doesn’t bring you through, and neither does Dad. Each of us will have to make an intentional decision for or against Christ. If you’re pondering this, just start where Jesus would have you start. Begin with “Who is Jesus?” “Is He who He claims to be?” “Did He really die?” “Was He really buried?” “Did He really rise from the dead?” Force yourself to come to a place of absolute conviction about Him, one way or the other.
And if you decide that Jesus is God, who became a man, who lived a perfect life intended to parlay that perfection into a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, including yours and mine, then go through the turnstile. Enter. And entering isn’t proving yourself to God, it’s not bargaining with God, it’s not earning anything from God. You enter by faith, persuaded by the facts. Jesus will gladly be your savior, forgiving your sins and removing all the guilt and shame and punishment. It’ll be like you never sinned. But He also demands you get it that He is now Lord, that you have agreed to become a citizen of His kingdom, where He is the King. And in that Kingdom, what the King says, goes. And you’re ok with that because you are convinced that this Jesus loves you more than you could ever imagine and that following Him will lead you to joy, life lived to the full, purpose, and meaning, and, ultimately, to life eternal in that final reckoning.
Few there are among the masses of humanity that find it. Why not be one of the few?
As I rocked a very sick four-year-old who was sobbing from pain and fear, I asked myself—sobbing also after the bargaining-with-God stage—what would Jesus do? My first thought: Jesus would just zap the child healthy. My second thought: I am not Jesus. So I sought desperately, what else would Jesus do?
From available evidence I concluded this: Every day of his time with humans, Jesus surprised somebody.
Who am I then to think I can always project, “what would Jesus do?” The effort usually is worthwhile, but today might be my day to be surprised. So I look also to God's word, to God's Spirit, and to the astonishing people who do what Jesus would do. The scriptures call them holy ones. Saints do not receive prayers; they provoke prayers. They show me what to pray for and how to pray. I cannot learn how to do miracles from a saint, but I can learn how to live. I think for example of the persevering single parent who works two jobs and still finds time to take her kids to soccer practice and to church.
One such role model for millions is Fred Rogers. In the following clip, Mr. Rogers reprises with neighborhood policeman François a moment they first enjoyed in 1969, when situating black and white feet in the same pool was rather more contentious. Mr. Rogers invites, Mr. Rogers listens, and Mr. Rogers always gently models the many ways to say I love you. At the end of the clip, Mr. Rogers does what Jesus did. Click the picture:
There's more. Catching just the last seconds of the StoryCorps National Public Radio interview (below) enthralled me and led to my sharing here.
When I mentioned Mr. Rogers to some sophisticated 14-year-olds, they disdainfully imitated his. slow. simple. style. I mentioned that some of them a few years ago could not have gone swimming around here. I whipped out the pool video with Officer Clemmons singing. They responded, “wow”, “brave” “so cool”.
Who are your role models? Are you vigilant for role models? Do you, while you can, thank and encourage role models? Do you imitate them? For example, I aim to be worthy of trust, but I also aim with love every day to surprise somebody. If you find that I haven't loved or surprised somebody for several days, please check my pulse. Given the cloud of role models that surrounds us, the following perspective from Torquato Tasso is not that hard to implement. He wrote:
“Any time not spent on love is wasted.”
We closed out our movie series this week with a look at the movie, Selma. The best thing I can recommend for you is to buy or rent the movie and watch it, and then get to www.thesurge.cc and see the video of the message, or subscribe to The Surge podcast on iTunes and listen to the message. Some useful nuggets are in those—including the special music at the end that’s powerful—that won’t show up in this blog, just to keep this fairly short.
What we did with Selma is use it to highlight four specific attributes Martin Luther King, Jr. exhibited that Jesus has told us in the Sermon on the Mount would be evident in Christians, those genuine citizens of the kingdom of God.
Getting Over Ourselves
King and his wife, Coretta, had some great plans for their future together: finish his doctoral work, get a job as a pastor in a small church in a quiet college town, raise their kids, and, maybe, do a little guest speaking here and there in other churches. They moved to Montgomery, Alabama, to be closer to where her parents lived, rather than near Atlanta, where King’s family resided. But it was in Montgomery where Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person that King’s plans got redirected. Asked to lead the effort of a group of women who wanted to protest Parks’ arrest, King was thrust into the civil rights movement, and the rest is history.
True citizens of God’s kingdom submit their own interest to those of their God and King, Jesus. We’re to do that as Christians, just like King and Coretta did. God called them, and He’s called us to a purpose larger than just living for ourselves and socking away treasures here on earth. It’s Philippians 2:3-4 that tells us we should count others as more significant than ourselves. It’s modeling Jesus’ behavior, who decided being perfectly content to be God in heaven, while very cool, was less important than making it possible for people on earth to come to be with Him. So, he abandoned that throne and came to earth to live and die for us.
No one, least of all Jesus, ever said that following Him was going to be a cakewalk. He’s told us in the Sermon on the Mount that we should expect resistance, even from the powerful. We see King in Selma facing down President Johnson on at least two occasions, urging the President to move to protect blacks under fire in this country. And he politely, but resolutely, refuses to be sidetracked.
It’s like the account of Peter in Acts, chapter 3. Peter heals a man lame from birth—he had never walked. But now he’s bouncing all over the place on legs suffering no apparent atrophy. It amazes everyone because they all knew this fellow. Peter uses the presence of a crowd to jump into a sermon, and many people accept Jesus right there on the spot. This angers the religious bigwigs, who thought a crucifixion would end all this Jesus nonsense. They throw Peter and John into prison, where they have to fear for their lives, expecting that what happened to Jesus was about to happen to them. The next day, they are dragged out and sat in the middle of those bigwigs, who demand to know on whose authority they are carrying on so. Maybe a good time to be a little polite and shy, eh? Not Peter. “We want you to know, and we want everyone in all Israel to know, that it’s on the authority of Jesus of Nazareth, whom you killed, but whom God raised from the dead.” The leaders are so flummoxed by the courage that they could only mutter something like, “Well, stop talking about Jesus.” Peter shot back, “You do what you gotta do, but we’re not going to stop proclaiming Jesus.” And they walked out. Crazy courageous.
Ok, that Peter story was pretty cool. But having that kind of courage doesn’t mean everyone is going to back down all the time. We’re to risk it all, to be willing to lose it all, to remember that this really isn’t home for us. And sometimes, it might mean that we are going to take it on the chin. King was assaulted in a hotel there in Selma, but that was just the beginning of the attacks. President Johnson unleashes the FBI to put pressure on King, and they try to drive a wedge between King and his wife. Communications between black leaders are intercepted. The police descend on a peaceful, nighttime protest, beating many and killing a young man named Jimmy Lee Jackson. The first attempt to cross the bridge from Selma to Montgomery ends with the police on horseback charging the crowd, and beating everyone back across the bridge. Fortunately, the national news media recorded it all.
Being a serious citizen of the kingdom may mean that we reach the end of our strength and endurance, and that serves to remind us that we’re not to engage in this spiritual warfare alone. We are not doing this in our own power, but God’s. We are going to need God’s presence, his guidance, and his provision all along the path He’s called us to. We see King tired and hopeless at points in the film, yet we also see him seeking God’s wisdom and direction. And we see God provide encouragement and strength. On the second attempt to cross the bridge, the police suddenly back off, and King is unsure what that means. Is it a trap? In front of thousands of followers, he simply kneels there on the bridge and prays. He then rises, and leads everyone off the bridge. A couple of days later, the judge overturns the Alabama governor’s decision, and grants King permission carry out the march to Montgomery.
We shared how the Apostle Paul, on a missionary journey to the city of Corinth, was beset by fear. God sends him encouragement in the form of Silas and Timothy. But God also responds to the prayers of Paul through a vision, telling him not to fear, to keep on speaking because no one in that city would harm him.
Life to the Full
King was assassinated three years after the events depicted in the movie, at age 39. in his eulogy for Jimmy Lee Jackson, he said this: Our lives are not fully lived if we are not willing to die for those we love and for what we believe. That sounds a lot like Jesus’ words in John 15: Love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. The day before King was killed, he preached a sermon that reflected his contentment with his life, with what he had done in service to people and to his God, and that he was not worried one bit about what might happen to him. He could say that because he knew he had run the race God had for him, and whether he lived to be 90 years old, or 39, it was just fine.
Here are the words to the special song we did at the conclusion of the service. Up To The Mountain was written by Patty Griffin as a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., and she drew the lyrics from Dr. King’s final, almost prophetic, sermon.
Up To The Mountain
I went up to the mountain because you asked me to
Up over the clouds to where the sky was blue
I could see all around me everywhere
I could see all around me everywhere
Sometimes I feel like I’ve never been nothing but tired
And I’ll be walking till the day I expire
Sometimes I lay down, no more can I do
But then I go on again because you ask me to
Some days I look down, afraid I will fall
And though the sun shines, I see nothing at all
Then I hear your sweet voice, oh, come and then go
Come and then go
Telling me softly you love me so
The peaceful valley just over the mountain
The peaceful valley few come to know
I may never get there ever in this lifetime
But sooner or later it’s there I will go
Sooner or later It’s there I will go
Inside Out is the story of a happy, go lucky girl from Minnesota whose life gets turned on its head when her dad’s job moves them to San Francisco.
What we see throughout the movie is the interaction of her emotions.
Specifically the emotions of…
God is a God of Joy. Joy is the central emotion of God. God is consumed with Joy. God wants us to experience joy. He wants our joy to be complete.
A child’s emotions are based on extremes. They are either happy, or angry, or sad, or afraid. A child’s emotions tend to be on or off. When emotions are good, behavior is good. When emotions are bad, behavior is bad. And this is not limited to children. We do this as adults too.
At the end of the movie, Joy gives a voice to her other emotions. Her emotions integrate and collaborate. Her emotions work together. Her joy is no longer driven by her circumstances. She is no longer driven by pleasure. She grows in emotional intelligence.
As our emotions integrate, we come into complete joy. The complete joy that Jesus talks about.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
So how does our joy become complete?
1. For joy to be complete, you must first understand that you are a beloved son / a beloved daughter.
Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many people.
Parents: If you want your children’s joy to be complete, you must create a safe and secure environment for them by helping them understand they are a beloved son/ daughter.
If we want to experience the fullness of Joy, we must realize we are beloved sons / daughters of God. We must realize that all good and perfect gifts come from God because we are his beloved sons / daughters.
This unconditional love sets the stage for integration of our emotions.
God wants you to have JOY.
God also wants you to have PLEASURE.
In that order.
When we find our joy in God. When we rest in the joy that comes by living as beloved sons and daughters we are able to enjoy the good gifts that God gives us and enjoy his pleasure.
However, we often destroy our own joy with we reverse the priority of Joy and Pleasure.
When we pursue our own pleasure over the joy that comes by living as the beloved sons / daughters of God, we sin.
2. To understand this and have our joy be complete, we need to see that sin always separates.
We have all heard others say, “I can’t live with myself.” Perhaps you have said this yourself. Where does this come from? It comes from the regret of sin. Sin separates us within. It separates our emotions.
3. To have our joy be complete, we have to live in the values of Jesus.
When we live in obedience to what Jesus teaches us, life works. When we live according to the values of heaven. Our joy will be complete. Jesus doesn’t invite us to obey him to abuse us or constrain us. Jesus teaches us how to live to set us free. Jesus teaches the values of heaven so that our JOY can be complete!
You are a beloved child.
Life in the values of the gospel that Jesus teaches, brings fullness of joy.
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At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.