Listening to my pastor on Easter Sunday, my mind and spirit are set in motion. So much energy is in the auditorium as families are gathered, music fills the space, and all attention is on the resurrection of Jesus. In this day of The Passion, with so much focus on the cross and crucifixion of Christ, it is a fresh angle to look at the hope of victory over death and the ultimate purpose of Jesus being fulfilled on His first journey to earth. Which brings me to my point concerning circles.
My mind and spirit are caught up in the idea of how we, as humans, are so prone to run ourselves in circles until we’re stuck in a rut. Whether it’s in the chase of habitual sin or the striving for material gain, this race is a losing one. Nothing can actually bring the fulfillment it promises. The writer of Ecclesiastes hits the nail on the head when he says, “Everything is meaningless, utterly meaningless!”
How true this is, in the light of our experience of existence. How many times do we find ourselves doing the thing we know we shouldn’t, doing the thing we know won’t actually bring satisfaction? It’s like beating your head against a wall or consciously running down a dead end street. Why, against all reason and proper thought, do we behave this way? We are infested with a sickness. Again, the Scriptures contain ancient wisdom when Paul writes, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.”
Two songs come to mind here: “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones, and “Bring Me To Life” by Evanescence. These two songs, adopted by two independent generations, prove the point that this is an age-old dilemma we’re faced with. “Satisfaction” drives the message home of a man who “can’t get no” fulfillment. Frustration and the want of something else are what are left. “Bring Me To Life,” a modern anthem, powerfully relays the primal cry of the heart that is stuck and in need of rescue. The backing vocal repeats, “I can’t wake up!” and the chorus echoes, “Wake me up inside!” What do we want and what do we need?
Jesus offers an answer in His resurrection. If He, going before us, can conquer the emptiness and nothingness of the grave, we have hope. This hope is the beginning of a thousand new beginnings. With this door opened to us through faith, we can see a new life. Freedom from the endless circles is within reach. Meaninglessness is not the only option.
For a world surrounded by the devastation of war, the ruthlessness of drugs and addiction, and the mirage of temporal delights, the resurrection power of Jesus stands as a welcome beacon of light in the darkness. Through this very tangible power, we can live the life God calls us to and experience the joy of true living. No more bondage, no more biting the bitter hook of deception offered to us a hundred times before. We can decline and take hold of the promise.
But the sweeter, deeper revelation of God’s love is yet to come. Frail and weak, humans will continue to chase after the phantom pleasures the world has to offer, even after coming into relationship with Jesus. Even though we are to be “set apart” and to run from every kind of evil, we will fail time and time again. Our strength to live this supernatural life comes from the Holy Spirit, who is freely offered. However, like mindless lemmings, we fall over the edge of the waterfall with the rest of the ungodly, who Paul calls, “hopelessly confused.” Paul, the “super Christian” himself, had a “thorn in his flesh,” which kept Him dependent on the grace of God.
John Piper refers to this miracle as “future grace.” Regardless of the advice to live according to the “leading of the Spirit,” the gracious Father gives us more mercy. He already knows that we cannot live up to His standards, and He has accounted for it. The blood of His Son is enough, now and forever. Our transformation, from “dead in our sins” zombies to Spirit-charged sons and daughters of the Lord, will come as we continue to return to relationship with Jesus and to lean fully on the finished work of the cross. In the midst of this process, our failures fade in the light of the great love of God for us. He sees us as we will be, not as we are. We are not valued for what we do or don’t do, but for who we are in Him. Therefore, our identity is wrapped up in Jesus and we all know that the Father is crazy about His Son. True joy and security are the result when we realize what Paul did when he wrote, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”