A Disciple is a Participant in Resurrection Life
One of the sacred privileges of being a disciple of Jesus and a part of the Body of Christ is that we are participants in and recipients of the benefits of the gospel. For instance, I am an only child, and my mother was an only child. I remember growing up that our family very seldom had family reunions as my other friends did. On those rare occasions when we formally did get together, we had to invite friends to come and join us since there were so few of us! However, in contrast, when I embraced the truth of the gospel and began my journey of following Jesus, I gradually realized that I had countless “siblings,” brothers and sisters in Christ, who were fellow participants in the Kingdom of God here on Earth.
The apostle Paul wrote about the richness of this connection with other believers and used the word “koinonia” to describe this relationship. He understood that as disciples, we are not simply passive spectators but active participants in the work and ministry of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:23; Phil. 1:5). For instance, Paul points out that when we are aware of a need among our new family, we have a responsibility to actively engage in meeting that need as we are able (2 Cor. 8:4; 9:13).
On the flipside, Paul reminds us as God’s beloved children of light; we are not to participate any longer in the deeds of darkness (Eph. 5:1-11). Paul uses the vivid images of baptism, death, and resurrection to describe our new participation with Jesus. He says that we have died to our former sinful-focused way of life, and we were buried just as we go beneath the waters of baptism. Eugene Peterson describes Paul’s words in Romans 6:3-5 in this manner in The Message:
When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land! That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country. (Romans 6:3-5)
So, what does this new resurrection life look like for you and me in our new “grace-sovereign country?” A complete and extreme makeover of our life from the inside out! I believe it means we now have a brand-new calling, identity, and purpose.
Several years ago, my precious wife surprised me with a present that I have cherished since I first saw it. It’s a sculpture of a man, just over 10 inches tall, who is shedding and peeling off his old skin to unveil the new man God has created him to become.
He is emerging into the creature God has created him to become. He is experiencing a new birth, or birth from above (John 1:12-13; 3:3). As I have studied this statue over the years, it has been a constant reminder of what Jesus has done for me and for all of us who have pledged our allegiance to follow Jesus. God has given me a new life by his abundant love and grace, no longer bound to the shackles of sin, but now I am free to follow Jesus in allegiance to His authority in my life and in obedience to His teachings.
In his letter to the followers of King Jesus in Colossae, Paul makes it crystal clear what this new life means to this emerging new family of believers and how they are to live out their lives in a world still encased with the domination of sin and darkness. Again, let’s hear Paul’s words as recorded in The Message:
So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it.
Paul describes our new life in Christ as a “resurrection life.” Most Bible translations record this verse, “Since you have been raised together with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” In other words, through our new birth from above, we now have a new calling, identity, and purpose. Let me take a moment to clarify what I believe this involves.
Our calling is to become aware of our identity from God’s perspective. No less than three times throughout the New Testament, Paul refers to disciples of Jesus as “eikons” of Jesus (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; Col. 3:10). The English word is usually translated “image” or “likeness.” Watch this. This unique word identifies only one other being in all of Scripture. Do you want to take a guess who that might be? None other than Jesus Himself! In 2 Cor. 4:4 and Col. 1:15, Jesus is referred to as the “Eikon” of God, the Father. In other words, Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. And for those of us who are in Christ, we are called to be the visual image of Jesus here on Earth!
Therefore, as God’s children, as followers and disciples of Jesus, we have specific priorities and responsibilities as participants in this new “resurrected life” in Christ. We are to continually seek after and set our minds on the things above, where Jesus is seated at the right hand of God. The New Living Translation reveals this command as “Set your sights on the realities of heaven” (Col.3:1).
Paul’s imperative awakens us to the reality that we are called to saturate our priorities and our life with the realities of heaven. Not to exclude day-to-day life here on Earth, but to influence our lives here where God has planted each of us. Living a resurrected life means living by a different set of values and a different scorecard than proposed by the world we live in! We are to saturate our world with God’s Kingdom values, not those established and cherished by fallen humanity.
This reality brings me to another image that has helped me grasp this spiritual reality in recent years. In the last church I served as a pastor, one of our single young men owned a Corvette Stingray. I had ridden in a Stingray in my younger years, but I was now looking forward to experiencing a ride as an older adult. So, after one of our Saturday evening services, we were going to get something to eat, and I would get to ride in one of my favorite vehicles. As we approached the car, my friend stuck out his hand with the keys and said to me, “Why don’t you drive us to dinner?” I can still remember the shock and excitement when I took the keys from him and opened the door to the driver’s seat. When I turned on the engine and began to leave the parking lot, I saw something I had never seen before as I looked through the windshield. The speedometer somehow magically appeared on the windshield just below my field of vision. Some of you know what this little jewel of an accessory is called. That’s right, “Heads Up Display.”
What a vivid image of how followers of Jesus are to participate in our new resurrection life in Jesus! As we navigate our journey through life here on Earth, we are to continually look through the realities of heaven, where Jesus is reigning, ruling, and interceding for us. What are some of these Kingdom realities and values? Let me list just a few as I plagiarize from Paul’s letter to the Colossian believers:
Put to death, destroy the power that the old ways of life have over you: sexual immorality, lustful passion, evil desires, and all forms of greed (3:5).
Stop your anger, rage, wickedness, slander, abusive language, and lying (3:8,9)
Why should we stop these old ways of living? Because in Christ, we are to strip off the old ways of life and put on the new life that is being renewed according to the image (“Eikon”) of the One who created us (3:9-10)!
And since we are chosen and dearly loved by God, we are to put on our new clothes (or skin) that consist of:
Affection, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and above all, love (3:12-14)
Paul wants his new extended family to live out their calling as visible images of Jesus, their risen King. How? By shedding their lives of their old futile ways of living and, as they navigate their lives in a fallen sin-filled world, they are to keep their eyes focused on the realities of who Christ has called them to be and what He has called them to do:
“and everything you do in word or deed, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus” (3:17)!
See you at the Family Reunion!
This post originally appeared at https://thebonhoefferproject.com/weeklycolumn/resurrection