Just Fans…Or Members of His Team? by Greg Albrecht

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Friend and Partner Letter from April 2014

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:54

Death has been swallowed up in victory is our victory song! Choirs in heaven sing praises to Jesus, our risen Lord. Here on earth we also sing praises to Jesus and we joyfully remind each other that he is risen! Resurrection Sunday is the grand finale climactic tribute to Jesus because of his triumphant, all encompassing, once and for all – once for all – victory over death and the grave. 

The weeks leading up to Easter remind us and prepare us for this grand celebration. The Son of God rose on Easter because, out of his love for us, he entered into the darkness and brutality of his cross. Resurrection Sunday is a celebration of all tears being wiped away. Death has been swallowed up in victory

We don’t play a passive role in the celebration of Jesus’ victory over death and the grave. Because of God’s inclusive love and grace, we’re not just relegated to sitting in the grandstand, watching and cheering for our team. We’re not just fans of Jesus, we are active members of his team – we are friends of Jesus – we are the very children of God. We are Christ-followers, not merely fans! But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57). 

Death has been swallowed up in victory! Yes, we mourn and grieve in the face of death. Jesus himself wept at the tomb of Lazarus. But we do not weep as if death has the final say. As Christ-followers, we are on Jesus’ team, and even though there is still time on the clock in this game of life in which we are engaged, “Team Jesus” is so far ahead of death and the grave we know that we have already won! The heavenly choruses resound, continually and forever, with songs of praise for the Victor – who has vanquished death and the grave. He and he alone is worthy of all praise and all honor. He is risen! Death has been swallowed up in victory.

Of course, as we follow Jesus, the captain of our salvation, we live in our mortal tents of flesh. Death and the grave troubles us, but we do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We are Christ-followers, and we know that the final victory has been won. Paul’s words encourage us: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. – 2 Corinthians 4:7-11  

We will join with hundreds of millions of Christians around this world, celebrating the resurrection of our Lord. But before we celebrate, we enter into the passion of Jesus with him. This annual celebration can remind us, as brothers and sisters in Christ, that just as the road to his resurrection ran through a cemetery, so too does ours.

New life in Christ is only given to those who are willing to surrender any attempt to cling to earthly treasures. Living in Christ (and he in us) means our old spiritual man must die. Jesus used the example of fruit that is produced by a tree or vine as an example of our spiritual life in him by saying that our life depends on remaining in him (John 15:4). 

Because we are still very much involved with the heartaches and pains of our mortality, though we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, we also look forward in hope, awaiting the full and final victory parade, the resurrection of the bodies of all those who are dead in Christ. Though we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, the final victory parade is still future, when death will be fully, once for all, swallowed up in victory

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:54

All of the sermons in the book of Acts and all of the inspirational New Testament passages about our hope beyond this life are based on the resurrection of Jesus. The good news of the gospel is grounded and centered in the resurrection of our Lord. Our faith and our belief rests on and with our risen Lord. Our hope is in Jesus, and nothing else! 

“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”  – 1 Corinthians 15:14

Were we to discover that even though Jesus walked on water, healed the sick and raised the dead, his body is still dead and buried, we of all people would be most miserable. Jesus’ resurrection matters not only because he is now alive, and now part of our lives, but his resurrection is the direct link to our own. 

Because he lives, so we too will live with him, forever and ever. Because he is resurrected, we know that one day we will receive immortal, imperishable and glorified bodies. 

Because of the resurrection of our Lord, death no longer has the last word. Death, the enemy that has defeated every human being, rich and poor, strong or weak, has already been vanquished by Jesus, and God has graciously enabled us to share in this victory in and through Jesus. We know that death has no eternal power over us because of the resurrection of Jesus. We know that we, like him, will be raised from death to immortality.  Meanwhile, before the final victory parade, the game of life to which we are called, continues.

The cross comes before the resurrection. The road to the resurrection runs through the graveyard. Though we are filled with the sure promises of God and though we are assured that the victory has been won, our earthly struggle continues. As Christ-followers, we pick up our earthly crosses and soldier on, knowing that in the end we win, because of the resurrection of our Lord. We encounter temptation, we battle with disease and disability, we face loneliness and we fight despair – but with Paul, we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair (2 Corinthians 4:8). 

My wife Karen forwarded me an inspirational message sent to her by a friend. It was an uplifting message, as far as it went. The message could only go so far, for Jesus was not the foundation of its affirmations. So, ever the editor that I am, I extensively modified and edited the original thoughts in order to share a Christ-centered, uplifting message with you: 

“What Matters When All is Said and Done”

Someday your life will come to an end,

There will be no more sunrises or sunsets – 

Everything you collected and accumulated  will pass to others.

What you owned or what others owed you will not matter.

The degrees you earned, the size of your house

or how much money you saved will not matter.

When all is said and done, it will not matter

whether you were male or female, beautiful or brilliant,

or whether you were black, white, yellow or brown.

Love will matter in the end. 

Love will endure and love will remain.                         

The amazing grace of God, freely given to you, and freely given and passed on by you will matter. So today, while you may be hard pressed on every side and while you may be perplexed, my friends, please know and always remember that Jesus matters – yesterday, today and forever.                               

Jesus has swallowed up death and the grave and he has secured the victory. Death will be swallowed up in victory! When all is said and done, what matters is Christ alone. He is risen – he is alive – and he will never forsake you.                                       

As we remember both the cross of Christ and his resurrection, may the days and weeks of this month of April be a time for fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:2). As we give thanks for the resurrection of our Lord, and the sure hope of our own future resurrection, never forget:

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak…. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:29,31

He is risen! 

Because of him, 

Greg Albrecht

Letters to My Friends

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