Yesterday, Christians around the world celebrated Easter, the holiday dedicated to remembering and celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection is an essential claim for those who, like the Apostle Paul, think that the Christian faith depends on the truth of this event:
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died (1 Corinthians 15:12-20, NRSV).
Today, I want to discuss one reason that the resurrection is significant for Christians, because I think it is one that we often either ignore, or at least neglect.
The resurrection of Jesus is relevant to followers of Christ in many ways, but one underappreciated way is this: the power that was exercised to raise Jesus from the dead is available to Christians now to transform our character (see Eph. 1:15-23; Rom. 6:1-14).
With this in mind, then, how much change can we hope for over the course of our lives?
According to the Scriptures, we can expect a great deal of progress in becoming like Christ, if we devote ourselves to him and to growing in him. Romans 12:1-2 discusses being “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Many years ago, I did a word study on the Greek term that is translated as “transformed”. This term also shows up in Matthew 17, where it is translated as “transfigured.” Jesus is “transfigured” before Peter, James, and John: “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light” (NIV).
The radical change in the appearance of Jesus before these disciples is analogous to the radical change in character we should expect in our lives as we truly love and follow Jesus. A key reason for this is that we have access to the same power that was active in the resurrection of Christ. If we open ourselves up to this power by being intentional about our moral and spiritual development, then over the course of our lives we should see substantial progress.
It may take many years to see progress, or it may be more drastic. But who among us would not want to grow in virtues such as faith, hope, love, patience, humility, compassion, and wisdom? We can. One reason we can expect growth in virtue and the eradication of vice in our lives is because the power that was made evident on Easter so long ago is available to us today, for these very purposes.
This is the power that can enable us to love others, including our enemies, to die to ourselves, and to pray with Jesus from the heart, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”