One man was on a mission to turn the tide of oppressive injustice in his country. The other was determined to seize the world for his own corrupt ambitions. An article I recently read contrasted the last days of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, martyred for his active faith in Christ, and Adolf Hitler, arguably the most evil man who lived in the last 100 years. Bonhoeffer was a German pastor who spoke out against the Nazis’ twisted rule and joined a resistance movement to remove Hitler from power permanently. He was eventually executed for his part in the plan. Here’s an excerpt from that article:
Bonhoeffer believed the Easter story. He actually believed the extraordinary story of God's coming to Earth and dying and then rising from the dead to defeat death forever. He believed that because this was true, he need never fear death. All he needed to worry about was doing the right thing and trusting God with the results. And that he did. (“The Man Who Defeated Adolf Hitler” by Eric Metaxas - http://fxn.ws/eubeam)
Regrettably, many of us assume this kind of bold faith is only available to a small handful of extra-holy folks sprinkled sparingly over the course of history. Is it really reserved only for those special people like venerated saints or powerhouse theologians such as Bonhoeffer? Are they the only ones who could relinquish their rights or even lay down their lives for others?
I’m not buying it. I don’t believe God plays favorites the way we do (Acts 10:34). I believe a big hindrance to our living His way is our revulsion at the idea of dying to ourselves and our selfish wants. We have to lay down all the things we insist on as our rights and yield completely to His will in obedience. Partial obedience is not good enough. As uncomfortable as this sounds, the act of dying to ourselves actually results in a resurrection of our hearts to glorify Him and Him alone. This is not possible in our own strength, but it’s completely doable in His.
I hear someone saying unkind things about me, words that cut deeply. I could retaliate by saying things about the person that may be factual…but definitely not uplifting. However, I yield to the Spirit of Christ that lives in me and choose to forgive that person without opening my mouth in defense at all. I see someone getting all the recognition for something I did. I could say, “That’s not fair!” or I can allow God to develop humility in me and honor me when He sees fit. Submitting to the Lord’s way by His Spirit doesn’t make me “holier than thou”. It allows me to live holy.
Another part of our problem is due to our acute attacks of spiritual amnesia. Distractions, busyness, misplaced affections all contribute to this. Just as important as it is to corporately commemorate His death, burial, and resurrection annually, we must individually recognize it to be true daily. As faithfully as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter, we must also be faithful to recognize it daily, personally reminding ourselves that the very same resurrection power is at work in us continually - every moment. This is what causes that changing of the way we think that is necessary to know His perfect will (Romans 12:2).
Right now, several days after publicly celebrating His resurrection, I feel a desperate need to be reminded again of His triumph at work in me. I am grateful to know that when I’m eager to hear His voice, I can open my Bible and find the truth there. Because I suspect I’m not the only one who is experiencing this longing, I am going to start a list here of Scriptures that are reminders of our victorious existence as His children by faith and His grace. I would love for you to add Scriptures in the comments section that will benefit anyone who happens to read this post. Who knows? You may want to wander back here at times to refresh your memory too. As always, you are very welcome to just share a comment about anything mentioned here.
“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” ~John 14:15-20
For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, He died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. ~ Romans 6:4-11
I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. ~ Ephesians 1:16-20
Now this is good news we can all shout from the rooftops!