Second look: new life
'Go, stand in the temple courts,' he said, 'and tell the people all about this new life.'
Acts 5:20 NIV
Dear ICB family,
In the book of Acts the topic of the death and resurrection of Jesus was at the heart of the apostles' preaching and teaching.
Before ascending to heaven, Jesus told his disciples that they would be witnesses of the fact that the Christ had suffered, that he had risen on the third day, and that now repentance and forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations (Luke 24:45-47).
The event of Jesus' death and resurrection was central to Peter's two sermons given in Acts (Acts 2:14–39; 3:11–26). It was what Peter proclaimed to the priests and Sadducees when hauled in before them (Acts 4:10). It was the climax of Stephen's sermon that got him stoned (Acts 7:51-53). It was the central theme that Philip explained to the Ethiopian eunuch from Isaiah 53. It was how Peter walked through the gospel message with Cornelius and the gentiles gathered with him (Acts 10:39-41). Paul went so far as to say that he "decided to know nothing among [the Corinthians] except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV), and certainly even a casual reading of his letters bear that out.
It is a peculiar message that we offer to the world. Jesus Christ crucified is "a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles" (1 Corinthians 1:23). Of course it is. We proclaim that the doorway to life is death, that new life only begins with the passing away of this old nature, and that the only way for a man to save his life is to lose it.
Half of the good news of the message of new life is that a physical seed planted in the earth "does not come to life unless it dies" (1 Corinthians 15:36). The other half of the good news of the message of new life is that once a seed does die, "what is raised is imperishable. It is sown [and dies] in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown [and dies] in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown [and dies] a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).
God wants nothing less than for you to possess this "new life" that the first apostles boldly proclaimed. However, just like Jesus himself only inherited his resurrected life after he had died, so, too, must we die to experience a new life like his.
And there's just no way around it: Dying hurts. We cringe and recoil at the thought of it. Experiencing divine-like patience requires the death of our impatience. Living free from envy and rivalry and anger requires the putting to death of the assertion of our rights and earthly desires. Walking down the life-giving path called humility requires us to slay our self-centeredness and self-righteousness. Being conformed to the image of the Son first requires the crucifixion of our old nature on a cross not different from his own.
And lest we forget, the call to take up our cross is a daily call (Luke 9:23). Romans 8:13 reminds us that "if you live [habitual, ongoing, present tense] according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death [habitual, ongoing, present tense] the deeds of the body, you will live."
But there's new life awaiting those who willingly stretch out their hands and let the executioner drive his nails. It is the hope of this new life that makes the dying worth it. Every time you die to self, conquer your bitterness, let the ax fall across the neck of your pride, or sever any other sin that binds you, don't weep! That's life getting ready to push its imperishable head through the soil of your heart!
And this is the central message we proclaim, right along with the apostles in Acts and the rest of the New Testament. We call people to new life through the door of death. Oh, that more people might come to walk through that door.
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