Archive for March, 2010

For Holy Week in anticipation of the celebration of Jesus’s Resurrection this Lord’s Day, we’ve been asking the question, “What does it mean that resurrection power is at work in us?”  Now this post is a bit long, so feel free to skip this lengthy post and come back Friday or Saturday for more on why this resurrection power matters—or jump in with us and swim in Scripture a little.

We’ve looked at the movement from death to resurrection life in Ephesians 2:1-10 and have started to dig into the OT to find out how God used this sort of power in the past.  In the previous post, we noted that God’s power bringing life to the lifeless ties into creation in Genesis.  In this post we’ll look at an important passage on resurrection from the OT, Ezekiel 37.

In Ezekiel 37:1-10, the prophet sees Israel as a valley of corpses whose flesh has completely eroded, so that nothing is left but dry bones bleached by the sun.  Israel is dead-in-Exile, under the curse of their sin and trespasses.

But despite their condition, God puts Spirit/breath back in them and restores them to life in their land (37:12, 14), just as God gave life (Spirit/breath) to Adam and Eve and put them in the Land of Eden.  He also promises to cleanse them so that they will serve him as his people, living in his presence in holiness and obedience (37:23-24), just as Adam and Eve were to serve God in his presence.  In Ephesians 2:1-3, humans are dead, under the weight of their sin and trespasses.  But God himself restores people to life and to obedience:  a life of good works that he himself created.

Just as it was gratuitous grace (to be intentionally redundant) on God’s part with Israel in Ezekiel 37, so it is here:  WHILE WE WERE SINNERS—not after we’d gotten part of our act together—we were raised with Christ.  The resurrection, no less than Jesus’ work on the cross, is an act of sheer grace on God’s part.

There are at least three ways in which Ephesians 2 (and the rest of the NT) expand on Ezekiel’s vision. 

(1)    Ezekiel mentions and then shortly moves into a vision of a NEW TEMPLE (Ezek 37:27-28, chapters 40-48), God’s presence with his people in his world that is so much bigger in scale than the original Temple in Jerusalem.  This same movement from resurrection and restoration to a “new temple” occurs in Ephesians 2, but instead of a building, God’s family is the place where he dwells and reigns; we’re his temple, house, and body.  In Revelation 21 and 22, the New Jerusalem needs no Temple, because God’s presence fills everything, and everything is holy.

(2)    Ezekiel 37:15-22 shows the house of Israel coming back together in unity; Ephesians 2:11-3:6 emphasizes global unity as God knits Gentiles and Jews together into one Temple, one Body:  “the mystery of the gospel” (3:4-6). 

(3)    Ezekiel 37 also speaks of a Davidic king ruling over Israel, and in Ephesians 2 we are reigning with David’s Son, “seated with” the Messiah, King Jesus (2:6).

Going back to our original quest:  What is “resurrection power” in Ephesians 1:19-22?  Paul identifies resurrection power as ascension and enthronement power, not just resurrection power.  So the ultimate goal of the working of God’s “resurrection power” is the ultimate goal of God’s plan for the sons and daughters he has brought to life:  “They will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5).

In the next post, we’ll talk about why “resurrection power” matters.  Have a blessed Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, knowing that Sunday’s Comin’


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What We Have to Love

Anyone who loves the dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter even though the devotion to the former is faultless and their intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial.

That’s a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (cited by deYoung and Kluck, Why We Love the Church).

I sometimes say that I love community; I occasionally talk about how important it is to do community; I say the Apostle’s Creed, including that part about believing in the church…but it’s really, really tough to actually do community.

You know what I love?  I love books.  They’re smarter than you guys, for the most part.  They know when to stop, leave, and go home.  I can pick them up in the middle of the night when I’m up with sick kids.  They talk back, sometimes, but I always get to have the last word.  They often smell better than some of you, and unlike most of you, they don’t complain when I write on them and loan them out.  They’ll probably be around longer than most of you guys–and they never move to other states, unless I’m through with them and ship them out myself.

But Jesus didn’t die for books, and books will never lay down life for me.  And Jesus didn’t command me to love books; he commanded me to love you.  And I can’t do that in an ideal community–whether marriage, family, small group of church.  I can only do this in a mess-creating, sin-filled, forgiveness-needing sort of community.  (See Ray Ortlund‘s great post that discusses this.)

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Hey people, here are some really awesome FREE things to do this week in Memphis. 

(1) The cherry blossoms are going crazy, in full swing right now and FREE to be seen on Cherry Rd. between Southern and Park Ave.

(2) Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken are playing a FREE Easter-and-Resurrection themed concert, free at Levitt Shell in Overton Park.  Bring a picnic, chairs, blankets, but leave yer shots of grape juice at home.  Thanks to our friends at the not-so Independent Presbyterian Church for forking it over for that.  If it rains, the concert will move indoors to Independent Pres.  If our family goes, we may try to park in the zoo, coming in from the north (N. Parkway down Maclean) to see if that helps us beat traffic. HE IS RISEN.

(3) Most importantly, GAAWP’s Mitchell Moore is cooking up a sermon at the Lenten Lunch at 2pc.  Click here for more info, including the menu.  Please note that Mitchell is not cooking food, although he may bring some home-grown boiled eggs to the party.

(4)  Sunrise service at Botanic Gardens in Memphis on Cherry Rd. at 6:30 AM.  It’s very, very early in the morning.   But those cherry trees look almost resurrection grade that time of the morning, with the first light of dawn rushing past Clark Tower and reminding us that the Morning to End All Night is coming, and has already broken in…

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Resurrection Power (3)

In this blog series for Holy Week, we’re tackling the question, “What does it mean that ‘resurrection power’ (Ephesians 1:19-20) is at work in us?” We saw in part two that Paul described our condition in unbelief as that of Zombies, the walking dead-in-sins-and-trespasses (2:1-3).  The restoration Paul describes should remind us of the way God has worked elsewhere in Scripture, and we’ll take a look at that in the next few posts.

Let’s review the scenario in Ephesians:  We were dead and lifeless; God made us alive.  He saved us by grace (2:5, 8), not by works (2:9), which is not surprising since we were corpses.  When we are made alive in Christ, we reign and rule with him (2:6) and we do good works that he created for us to do (2:10).  The ultimate goal seems to be that we are recreated, brought back to life, to work.  God’s resurrection power ultimately comes out in “good works” created by God himself, done by his people.

There are some interesting parallels with Genesis.  What was not alive was made alive.  In both passages we are made alive so that we can work.  In both passages we are made alive in order to reign and rule (“have dominion”).  In Genesis God created for his own purposes, leaving us no room to boast in our identity, accomplishments or abilities (1 Cor 4:7).  In salvation he recreates in such a way that similarly removes all boasting (Eph 2:9).  But in both cases, there’s plenty to marvel at what God has done—in recreation no less than in the glory of creation.  And in both Ephesians 2 and the original creation story in Genesis, creation-to-reign-and-to-work is immediately followed by “created to be in community” with those who aren’t like you (see Eph 2:11ff).

If this alignment of creation and recreation is right, then the resurrection power at work in us is a lot like the powerful work God did at creation.  Part Four to follow…

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From Augustine (cited by Calvin and D. A. Carson, and probably a whole bunch of other folk):

Professional orators say that the first precept for the school of eloquence is DELIVERY.  The second precept of eloquence is DELIVERY.  The third precept of eloquence is DELIVERY.   If someone asks for the first, second, and third precept of the Christian Religion, my first, second, and third answer would be:  HUMILITY.

If Augustine’s right, how do I get more humility?

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In the first post in this series, I asked what Paul meant when he says that “resurrection power” is at work in our lives.  In this post, we’ll start to get some answers by looking at the wider context, especially the opening paragraph of chapter 2.

Ephesians 2:1-10 is helpful in answering our question because it unfolds in a resurrection pattern.  The paragraph opens by describing Zombies, the walking “dead-in-their-trespasses-and-sins”:  “And you were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you walked . . .”  Cue the makeup and the Zombie soundtrack, cuz it starts to get ugly.

The Zombies are walking according to the world’s system and values, the Ruler of the powers of the air (2:2), which manifests itself in feeding fleshly desires and Zombastic mindset (2:3).  To understate the case, that’s kinda different from the spirit at work in us (1:13, 17) and the faith and love being shown by the saints in chapter 1.  The Zombie-folk are “children of wrath” and “sons of disobedience” (2:2)—a very different kind of sonship from those who are “adopted [by God] in Christ Jesus” (1:5). 

Now in most horror flicks, it’s normal folks who wind up becoming zombies, the “walking dead”.  Apparently (I’m no expert, but google makes us all quick studies, doesn’t it), zombies are frequently created these days by viruses, from mutant animals or aliens, as in Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.  Contract the virus, and you’re toast…but not before you get really, really hungry for humanity.

But in Paul’s world, you’re born a Zombie:  “you were by nature children of wrath” (2:3).  And paradoxically, it’s life that’s contagious.  Exposure to and identification with the living Jesus creates life:  “You’ve been made alive in Christ” (2:5).  That sounds like resurrection, and it sounds good.  More on what that means in part three.

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“[I pray] that you may know . . . how awesomely great is his power in us who believe, the working of his great power that he worked in the Messiah, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in heavenly places . . .”

What on earth does it mean that we have resurrection power at work in believers?  Paul says in Ephesians 1:19-20 that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us.  Prepping for Sunday School a few weeks ago, this pregnant concept stood out to me like the bebo on a third trimester belly.  I even sent out a text to some friends to see if anyone could help me break it down (like you can really break down anything Paul says in 160 characters or less).  I think it’s a good theme to explore this Easter week, although it may drag out beyond Easter, since I’m getting paid by the word here at the GAAWP blog.

I reckon that for many of us, it’s often tough to believe that “resurrection power” is at work in us.  Not surprisingly, then, we see that Paul is actually praying that the Ephesians will know/believe this power.  Apparently, resurrection power isn’t always as obvious as we’d think.  (Just ask the chaps walking to Emmaus in Luke 24.)  Maybe we should start our study of this concept by praying:

“God, give me the grace and faith to believe that what you say about me and what’s happening in me is true…no matter how amazing it is.”

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