Knowing the Power of His Resurrection

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.—Philippians 3:7–11

Religion Without Power

I was watching a documentary recently on PBS and there was a minister who was asked, “Do you believe Jesus was raised from the dead?” And he responded, “The purpose and the personality and the power that was in Jesus continues, so that today he is a risen and living presence and possibility.” What was he saying? He was suggesting that the purpose of Jesus lives on but that he is still physically dead.

But if Jesus’ example lives on while he is really dead, you can only know him as an example. You can’t talk to him, and he can’t talk to you. If Jesus is not really living, he is not a living force who can come in and intervene in your life. You will have a form of religion without any power.

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross

Nancy Guthrie

This collection of 25 readings, compiled by Nancy Guthrie, features writings and sermons from classic and contemporary theologians and Bible teachers, each encouraging thoughtful contemplation of the cross and resurrection during the Easter season.

But on the other hand, it is also possible to be orthodox about your belief in the resurrection of Jesus, but if you’ve never had a profound experience of that resurrection, your own spiritual resurrection, then you have a form of religion without power as well.

On one hand, the resurrection is a fact to be believed. On the other hand, it is an experience to connect with. If you have one without the other—if you believe in the resurrection as historical fact but never experience the resurrection personally, or if you think of the resurrection as a spiritual experience but don’t believe it was a fact—you come out with a form of religion with no power.

My question is: Do you know them both? Do you believe in the resurrection as a historical event, and have you also had that profound personal experience of spiritual resurrection? Christianity refuses to be stuck in either category. It is not all about rationality, nor is it all about mysticism. It’s both. On one hand, Christianity is about beliefs, proposition, and ethics. But that’s not enough. You have to experience him to know him. There has to be a real connection. And on the other hand, Christianity is not only a mystical religion. It’s not like Eastern religions with no rational content.

Christianity has hard edges to it. It says, “This is true, and this is false. This will get you saved. This will get you damned. This actually happened.” Christianity says that if you want to experience God, you have to believe the truth. You have to believe that he really lived, that he really died, that he was really raised. And if you see that truth and believe in it, it leads to an experience, which leads to more understanding of the truth, and the truth leads to more experience.

A Passion

This week I saw a dog—a big dog—who wanted something to eat. The dog was on a leash attached to a collar that had a choke chain on it. The chain would bite into his neck to keep him from pulling on the leash. And yet he strained against the leash, because he saw food that he wanted. He wanted the food more than he didn’t want to experience the pain. He had one ambition—to get the meat. The pain was secondary. So he strained against the leash and let it bite in.

This is the kind of passion and ambition Paul describes in Philippians 3 when he says that he has counted all things as loss so that he can gain Christ. Paul says even though he loved all those things, he has a great ambition. He wants to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.

To be a Christian is not just to believe in a set of propositions. It is that, but it’s much more. It is to say, “I count everything as loss or rubbish in comparison to my number one ambition, which is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering.” Paul is saying that if you understand the doctrine of the resurrection you don’t just believe, you have a passion.

When I talk about having a passion for Christ, it might make you afraid that I mean you need to be a fanatic. Maybe you think, I had an aunt like that. All she did was talk about religion and the Bible and made everybody sick of it. That’s not what we’re talking about when we talk about a passion for Christ.

It’s like my glasses. I don’t spend all my time looking at and talking about my glasses. But I do spend all my time seeing everything through my glasses. And if my relationship between me and my glasses gets off, if they get too far down on my nose or get too dirty, it affects my perception of everything.

Likewise, a person with a passion for Christ is not necessarily always talking about Christ, but is looking at everything through Christ.

So how does a person with a passion for Christ deal with worry? You go to Jesus. You look at your concerns through the perspective of Christ. How do you deal with bitterness? You look at how Christ has forgiven you. How do you deal with fear? You take it to Jesus. How do you decide how much money to spend in a year on what items? You go to Jesus. You look at his teachings. You think about things through his values.

For the person with a passion for Christ, Christ is like your glasses. You’re not necessarily always seeing Christ, but you’re seeing everything through him.

Do you strain with all of your might to see things the way Christ sees them? Do you strain to please him in everything? Do you strain to understand everything through him? Do you have that passion, or do you just believe the propositions?

Knowing vs. Resembling

I was reading the other day about a man who lived one hundred years ago who wrote a friend:

Recently as I’ve been having great times in prayer, usually once a week and sometimes once a day, a pressure of his great love comes down upon my heart, in such measure as makes my whole being groan beneath the joy. He hath unlocked every apartment of my being and filled and flooded them with his presence. The inner spot is being touched, and all my flintiness is being melted.

For the person with a passion for Christ, Christ is like your glasses. You’re not necessarily always seeing Christ, but you’re seeing everything through him.

It’s one thing to believe that Jesus loves you in a general way. It’s another thing to have his love come down. That’s what it means to know Christ. Have you experienced that, or do you just say your prayers? Has his love come down and touched the inner spot?

Religious people are very busy in their religion doing lots of religious activities, and then they expect their lives to go the way they want them to go. And if they find their career or their love life isn’t going very well, they say, “What good is all this religion? I’m doing all these things, where’s God?”

But what a Christian says is, “If trouble in my love life has helped me to know Christ, if a lack of success in my career helps me know him better, then great. I count it all as rubbish because the surpassing thing is to know him.”

Paul not only has a passion to know Christ; he says he wants to know the power of his resurrection. The difference between knowing Christ and knowing the power of his resurrection is the difference between knowing a person and resembling a person.

To know Christ is to interact with him personally. But the power of his resurrection is the very life energy that took his dead body and raised it up to life again. So for me to know the power of his resurrection is to have the same power that came into Jesus and raised him up to come into my dead soul and raise me up. This is not about relationship but about supernatural character growth. When Paul says, “I want to know him,” it means, “I want to be with him,” but when he says, “I want to know the power of his resurrection,” it means, “I want to be just like him.” Look at the deadness in your life.

Look at the anger. How is that going to be turned into forgiveness? Look at the insecurity. How is that going to be turned into confidence? Look at the self-centeredness. How is that going to be turned into compassion and generosity? How? The answer is that the dead stuff gets taken over by the Spirit of God.

Resurrection Power at Work

Many people believe the propositions. They believe the historical facts about Jesus, but their real agenda is personal success. So they go to Christ when they want to and need to. Paul says that a Christian is someone who has turned that all around so that personal success is defined by knowing him and the power of his resurrection, and everything else becomes second.

The minute you decide to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord, the power of the Holy Spirit comes into your life. It’s the power of the resurrection—the same thing that raised Jesus from the dead.

A minister was in Italy, and there he saw the grave of a man who had died centuries before who was an unbeliever and completely against Christianity, but a little afraid of it too. So the man had a huge stone slab put over his grave so he would not have to be raised from the dead in case there is a resurrection from the dead. He had insignias put all over the slab saying, “I do not want to be raised form the dead. I don’t believe in it.” Evidently, when he was buried, an acorn must have fallen into the grave. So a hundred years later the acorn had grown up through the grave and split that slab. It was now a tall towering oak tree. The minister looked at it and asked, “If an acorn, which has power of biological life in it, can split a slab of that magnitude, what can the acorn of God’s resurrection power do in a person’s life?”

Think of the things you see as immovable slabs in your life—your bitterness, your insecurity, your fears, your self-doubts. Those things can be split and rolled off. The more you know him, the more you grow into the power of the resurrection. The more time you spend with him, seek him, read his Word, the more you pray—the more it stirs up the resurrection power that is within you through the Holy Spirit.

There is one more thing Paul says here that he wants: “I want to know the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.” Some would say this doesn’t make sense. To know the power of his resurrection and share in his sufferings, what does it mean?

It’s perfectly logical. If you go out into the world resembling Jesus by his resurrection power within you—if you turn the other cheek, if you love people who are unlovable, if you always tell the truth—what will happen? You will find his sufferings reenacted in your life. People are going to be unhappy with you. You’ll be taken advantage of. People will be offended. If they were offended by Jesus, why wouldn’t they be offended by you if you resemble Jesus?

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die . . .” (John 11:25–26). He was saying: The one who unites with me by faith becomes spiritually alive and is transformed from one degree of splendor to the next, and the process goes on and on forever and even physical death can’t stop it. Death actually moves this process on to perfection. When the body dies, our spirits burst into flame in his presence, and we burn bright with his energy, power, and goodness—all of his glory flowing in and out of us. That’s what we’re in for. We’ll be like him, and his resurrection power will be complete in us.

This article is by Tim Keller and is adapted from Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter edited by Nancy Guthrie.

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