“Because I Live, You Shall Live Also” John 14:19
We celebrate Easter because Jesus rose from the dead and because He conquered death. But Jesus didn’t just conquer death for Himself, He conquered death for us. He did it for you and me! He tells us, “Because I live you will live also.” We receive new life that lasts forever from Him. What a gift!
Our new eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it begins when we first believe. Christ gives the gift of the Holy Spirit to every person who believes in Him. Scripture says that the Holy Spirit seals us into eternal life and is our guarantee and our ‘down payment’ on this new life. “Now it is God who makes us to stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, sets His seal of ownership on us, and puts His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
So you see, through Jesus so much has already been done for us. Scripture says that this eternal life is given as a free gift to each person who believes in Christ. But we do have choices to make in what we do with our gift. We can either learn to live in this amazing new life, or we can continue in our old life habits of sin. The Lord will call us to change through the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, but He will never force us to change. Since we have free will, it’s our choice.
When we believe in Christ and receive new life, we are instructed to “put to death” our old sinful ways. “Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, …not on earthly things…Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:1a,2,5) “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed…” (Colossians 2:8-10)
A friend of mine, who is a Christian, had a problem with these scriptures telling her to “put off” anger and un-loving feelings. She wanted to obey the Lord but her feelings of anger kept hanging around. As a child she had enjoyed a close loving relationship with her mother. But since she had become an adult, her mother had continually criticized her and put her down. Her mother did not seem to like the person that she had become as an adult. She twisted and turned in the wind trying to please her mother and regain her mother’s love, but her mother continued lashing out at her with unkind remarks and encouraging her grown son to do the same.
“How can I “put off” my feelings of anger toward my mother?” she asked the Lord. “Help me feel the way You want me to feel Lord. Give me the ability to love my mother and not always be so frustrated and angry with her.” She prayed. And then the Lord who promises always to be near and help us in our troubles spoke to my friend in that still small voice.
She tells us that first the Lord asked her to give her relationship with her mother to Him and to stop worrying about it. So she stopped and with tears let go of her troubled relationship with her mother and gave it to God. Then the Lord seemed to show her that her mother was not capable of being the loving mother that she wanted: that her mother had problems of her own that kept her from having a close relationship with her. God spoke to her heart and assured her that He would be a “Mother” to her and give her what her mother was unable to give. And then the Lord impressed on her heart that she should love her mother for the good things in the relationship that she still enjoyed and not take the many criticisms to heart.
My friend insists that her prayers were answered and that she was able to “put off” her anger toward her mother even though the criticisms continued. “God gave me the strength and power to not be angry,” she reported joyfully. “I quit counting on my mother to be what I had wanted her to be to me. I gave that up to the Lord. And God gave me the strength to love her and not let her criticisms upset me. God gave me that freedom. I could have never done that in my own strength,” she reported with a smile.
After we have been commanded to “put to death” the sinful desires in our lives and “take off” our old selves, then we are instructed to “clothe ourselves” with or “put on” our new selves. Here is what God asks us to “clothe ourselves” with or “put on”. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all of these virtues put on love…Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… and be thankful and let the word of Christ dwell in you richly …” (Colossians 3:12-14b,15-16a)
Jesus has given us eternal life and He leaves instructions along with His gift. We are instructed to take off pride and put on humility, take off anger and malice and put on love and forgiveness, take off greed and selfishness and put on compassion and generosity. That’s a lot of “taking off” and “putting on” He is asking of us. But the good news is that we don’t have to do all of that by ourselves. God through the Holy Spirit will give us the power to “put on” the new life and “take off” the old one. (John 14:26, John 1:12, John 16:13 and 1 Cor. 2:10) All we have to do is be willing to follow!