Living in the Power of the Risen Christ

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In May 1995, Randy Reid, a 34 yr old welder, was working near the top of a newly constructed water tower just outside of Chicago. In order to reach some nearby pipes, he had to temporarily unhook his safety harness. Unfortunately just as he did so, a metal cage slipped and bumped the scaffolding he was standing on. Losing his balance, Randy fell 110 feet to the ground below. Barely missing all kinds rocks & debris at the site, Randy landed on a six-foot soft pile of dirt near the base of the tower. Miraculously, the only injury Randy sustained was a bruised lung. But ironically, as he was being carried to the ambulance, (only 3 feet above the ground), he looked into the faces of the paramedics & pleaded, "Please, don't drop me!"

Having just survived an 11 story fall to the ground, this poor fellow was worried about whether he could trust these trained professionals to take care of him when he was just a few inches off of the pavement.

But isn't that what we are like so often? There are so many fears & anxieties that we carry around in our minds: Will I be able to keep my job? Will my kids surive their teen years? Will I be able to pay all the bills at the end of the month? Will my marriage survive? Will we all be killed by terrorists?

Sometimes we get overwhelmed by our fears, & like Randy Reid, we want to cry out: "Please God, don't drop me." We wonder if God can really carry us thru the storms that blow into our lives from time to time. We hope that He will, but how can we really know?

I believe that it is the resurrection of Christ, that we are celebrating today on Easter Sunday, that helps us to know beyond a shadow of a doubt, not only the reality of God, but also his power to work today in our lives. As the song we so often sing says, "Because he lives, I can face tomorrow, Because he lives, all fear is gone"

In Rom 8:11, Paul assures us that "if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you."

If Easter, says anything to us, it is this: the same Jesus who broke the power of death, & walked out of that empty tomb in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, He is the same Jesus who can transform our lives today: he can turn sorrow into joy, our despair into hope, our defeats into victory. The Resurrection tells us that there is nothing in this whole world, there is nothing in this entire universe, that can prevent God from carrying out his eternal purposes for my life.

And that is the message of the passage of scripture that we just read a few moments ago. Romans 8:28-39. I can't imagine a better passage to read on Easter Sunday, one of the greatest chapters in the NT. What is Paul saying to us here?

1. No circumstance is so bad that God cannot use it for good.

The events of the Easter story are a perfect illustration of this principle. If you had been one of Jesus' disciples on that fateful Good Friday, you would probably have thought the world had come to an end. All of your hopes & dreams would have come crashing down in bitter defeat as you watched Jesus suffer & die on that cross. How on earth could anything good come out of this horrible nightmare? I suspect that's exactly what the disciples were thinking to themselves, as they huddled together in the hours after the crucifixion.

Of course, we all know that the story didn’t end there. God would accomplish a great victory, out of what seemed to be a terrible defeat, by raising Jesus back to life. But during those long, dark hours following Jesus’ crucfixion, the disciples didn't know that. They couldn't imagine what God could possibly do, to bring any kind of good out of this terrible evil. And we often struggle with the same feelings of despair and hopelessness, when tragedy strikes our lives.

But God wants to assure us that through everything that happens to us in this life, there is woven a higher, hidden purpose. Rom 8:28:

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." This is one of the most well-known, & often quoted verses in the whole NT. We often use it to try to explain why some of those things happen, that we can't always understand. But while it may answer some of our questions, it also raises some as well.

For eg, what does Paul mean by "everything"? Does that include Christians being beheaded in Libya and Iraq? Does that include 6 million people going to the gas chambers in the Holocaust? Does that include a 4 yr old child dying of a brain tumor?

We need to be careful, that in casually using this verse to explain away every tragedy or atrocity in the world, we don’t minimize the reality of evil in the world we live in. We should never twist this verse to imply that evil can actually be good, since God can ultimately use it for his purposes.

The reality is that terrible, despicable things do happen every day in this world. And Paul is not trying to hide his head in the sand, & deny that this is the case. Later on, in v35, he speaks of "trouble & hardship, persecution & famine, nakedness, danger & sword?" These are the realities that all of us must face to one degree or another, in the world we live in. That is no different today, than it was in Paul's time. And it will always be the case in this present age that we live in.

But what God does promise us is that He can take that which is evil, & redeem it, by using it to further his ultimate purpose in our lives, just just as he did in allowing his Son to go to the cross. And what is his purpose for our lives? The very next verse, 29, makes that very clear:

"For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters."

The Bible tells us that God chose us even before the creation of the world to be his adopted children, to be like his own Son, Jesus, the first born of many brothers. God has done everything necessary in order for that to happen. Paul assures us in Phil 1:6, that we can be confident that "he who began a good work in our lives will ultimately bring it to completion at the day of JC".

But part of that process is taking place right now as we go thru some of the painful experiences Paul talks about.

So: 1. No circumstance is so bad that God cannot use it for good

2. No obstacle is so big that God cannot overcome it.

8:35, 37: “Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?.. No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

You see when Jesus finally died on the cross on Good Friday, Satan thought that he had won! Imagine the glee he must have felt, seeing God's own son, hanging on a Roman gallows. But then imagine his surprise when Jesus refused to stay dead & buried. When he rose in victory on Easter morning, & broke the power of death itself. That resurrection power is ours this morning.

Think of all the obstacles & challenges in your life right now. Maybe you're dealing with a serious illness, or a financial crisis, a conflict within your family. You may be wondering how you can possibly overcome those things? God assures that none of these things will take always his love for us. “Can anything every separate us from Christ’s love? No, because despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

So No obstacle is so big in your life that God cannot overcome it.

3. No need is so great that God cannot provide for it.

8:32: "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?"

You see every negative circumstance, every obstacle, every need that I encounter in life ultimately forces me to ask myself the question:

Can I really trust God to carry me thru this? Can I turn it over to him and believe that he still has my best interests at heart? Or do I resent him for what he has done? & Have I turned in bitterness against God? Which response I choose will really determine whether God can redeem what has happened, & work for my good thru it.

And so 2 people can go thru exactly the same tragic circumstances, with very different results. One person resents God for what has happened, & is eventually destroyed by their inability to get over it; while the other person, is eventually able to rise above it and grow stronger because of it. Which way we go really depends on how much we will trust him to do what is best for us.

Thru every tragedy & loss that we experience, God is really asking us a question: "Am I still enough for you?" “Even tho you have lost this part of your life, Am I still sufficient for you?

And Paul's ultimate assurance to us is that nothing that happens in our life can separate us from that which is really in the final anlaysis most important: God's love for us. Romans 8:38

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love.”

Nothing can ultimately defeat us, because nothing can separate us from God's love. He emphasizes this so strongly here, because our natural reaction when we're going thru a crisis, is to feel like God is far away from us. When a person is drowning, they tend to panic, & they often can't even see the hand reaching out to rescue them.

So Paul affirns over and over again, that absolutely nothing- not even death itself, can separate us from God & his love.

And so it is Easter & the resurrection of Jesus that show us that from God's perspective, the end is already assured. That God knows what he is doing! And that which God began at the cross & the empty tomb, will ultimately be brought to its final conclusion. God assures us that all of history is moving toward one great climactic event, when there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. Even the trials & the tribulations that we experience now as we wait for that time, are not in vain. God can use those experiences to shape us into the likeness of Christ, if we will allow ourselves to be molded & shaped by him in these things

On this Easter Sunday, God wants us to learn what it means to walk in the power of the Risen Christ:

1. No circumstance is so bad that God cannot use it for good.

2. No obstacle is so big that God cannot overcome it.

3. No need is so great that God cannot provide for it.

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