Our New Life Story
by Linda Rex
May 14, 2023, 6th Sunday in Easter/Resurrection—Do you have a story to tell? The story I have in mind is the story of your death and resurrection in Jesus Christ. Have you ever thought about that time in your life when you were facing the end of your old life and Jesus offered you a new one? Is this what he is doing for you right now?
In our New Testament passage for this Sunday, 1 Peter 3:13-22, the apostle Peter talked about how important it is for us to know our story and to tell it. It’s important to understand that, even though we may not yet fully realize it, we died with Christ in his crucifixion and rose with him in his resurrection. Jesus, who was just, died for the unjust; he, the sinless one, died for all of us sinners. He rose from the grave, bringing our human flesh with him into the presence of his Father, enabling us to participate in his own close fellowship with his Abba in the Spirit.
Peter explains that our acknowledgement of this reality, our surrender to the will and purposes of God, is expressed through baptism. Just as Noah and his family left behind their old life to enter into the ark and be “baptized” by the waters of the flood and then to enter into a new life following the flood, we express our story, the transition in our own life, through baptism.
Part of our expression of our story through baptism is our coming to recognize and admit the truth of our existence—that we are heading the wrong direction, away from God, and Jesus has turned us around and brought us home. We confess that indeed, we are sinners in need of forgiveness and reconciliation, and we receive the forgiveness and reconciliation offered to us in Jesus Christ.
We commit ourselves to following our Lord Jesus Christ, no matter the cost to ourselves. It is important to realize that there is a cost—there is no guarantee that we will never suffer. And Jesus is Lord of all—that means he gets to tell us what it means to be truly human. He’s the one who establishes our true identity as beloved children of our Father. Part of our growing up in Christ and living out the truth of who we are in Jesus involves following our Savior all the way, even into death and resurrection, for he told his followers to lay down their lives, pick up their cross and follow him. There will be sorrow and there will be joy—it is a relationship and a journey, and we find our endurance in Jesus’ other gift.
Before he left his disciples, Jesus told them that he was not going to leave them as orphans, that he would come to them in the person of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-21). The Spirit is our closest companion, kinsman, and true soul mate, for the Spirit dwells within, enabling us to know that we are in Christ, who is in his Father and in us. There is this amazing relational thing going on we are placed into and are able to experience because of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit bears witness with our spirit, enabling us to know we are God’s children and to hear his guidance and direction throughout our lives.
When we suffer because we are trying to follow Christ and do the right thing, Peter tells us to remember Jesus’ suffering for our sakes. Remember that he did nothing wrong, he only did what was good, loving, and holy, and he suffered and died at the hands of human beings. But this event was not a shock to God—no, it was always God’s will that every one of us be included in God’s life and love as his adopted children. So, even in Jesus’ life, suffering was part of God’s will for him, not because the Father inflicted suffering upon him, but because the Father and Jesus knew in the Spirit what we would do when the Son of God came to earth. And they embraced suffering, rather than avoiding it. They took the suffering of Jesus and turned it into our salvation.
And you and I are a part of that story. We have our own story to tell—and someday, when the time is right, we will be given the opportunity to tell our story. And in telling our story, perhaps someone else will find themselves in the midst of God’s story too. So why not give it some thought right now? What is your story?
Thank you, dear God—Father, Son, and Spirit—for all you have done so that I might be included in your life and love. Immerse me anew in Christ, that I may glorify our Father, and live in obedience to his will, no matter the cost to myself. And Holy Spirit, give me opportunities to tell my story, and the boldness, wisdom, and faith to do so when the time is right, through Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
“Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. ‘And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled,’ but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.” 1 Peter 3:13–22 NASB
[Printable copy: https://newhope4me.files.wordpress.com/2023/05/olitour-new-life-story.pdf ]
[More devotionals may be found at https://lifeinthetrinity.blog ]
[Subscribe to Our Life in the Trinity YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/@ourlifeinthetrinity ]
[Would you like to participate in a Zoom scripture study? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org ]
O God, Restore Us!
By Linda Rex
December 19, 2021, ADVENT | Love— As I put out my nativity set in my living room each year, I hide the baby Jesus away for the miracle of Christmas morning. The shepherd watches from a safe distance, and the wise men with their camel are hidden back on a shelf temporarily until closer to that day. On that sacred evening we celebrate on Christmas Eve, I bring out the baby Jesus and pause with wonder at the miracle of this special event. The shepherd draws near to worship and the wise men on their journey come closer, seeking this chosen One.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be in relationship with this God who would go to such incredible effort to draw every human being to himself in the miracle of the incarnation. I personally know the anguish and struggle that go with giving birth to a firstborn son, and the incredible joy and wonder which result when holding him in my arms for the first time. How could this marvelous bundle of possibilities have ended up in my arms? What does God have in mind for his life? How much more amazing must it have been for Mary to consider the wonder of being chosen to bear the Messiah!
But there is an undercurrent to this marvelous story which I believe is important to understand, and it goes along with this theme of being in relationship with God. And it is this: Jesus came because it was the will of God that he do so. He came because it is the nature of God to love and care for those he has created and brought into relationship with himself. The divine Son came willingly, and obediently, as an expression of God’s covenant love and faithfulness. The Son of God knew the Father in the Spirit, and trusted fully in his love—so he freely offered himself in obedience to the will of his Father.
My heart is heavy right now with all I see going on in my world. We are experiencing the consequences of our continual choices to do things our own way—to decide for ourselves how we will live and how we will treat one another and this world we all live on. I am broken by the way we live and the consequences of our choices. And it breaks my heart to think about what our children and grandchildren will be having to deal with when my generation has passed from the scene. What a price we pay for doing things our own way!
I often hear this time of year that the reason Jesus came was to die on the cross. In one way, I agree with this, but in another, I feel as though it truncates what Jesus actually came to do. The author of Hebrews wrote, “Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, ‘Sacrifice and offering you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in whole burnt offerings and’ sacrifices ‘for sin you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, “Behold, I have come (in the scroll of the book it is written of me) to do your will, O God.” ’ … By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:5–7, 10 NASB)
I believe the Scriptures teach us that Jesus came to bring us into right relationship with God and subsequently with one another. Doing so required so much more than simply dying on the cross. It also involved being conceived in the womb of a woman, being a babe in her arms, growing up as a child into adulthood, and learning a trade at the feet of his father. Jesus experienced all of the everyday activities of our human life in a human body, being tempted in every point, but without sin. The forging of our true humanity occurred throughout his life, from birth even to death and on into the resurrection and ascension. In his human existence on this earth, Jesus “learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, … (Heb. 5:8–9 NASB).”
The song “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” comes to mind as I am writing this. In this hymn which expresses our deep longing for our redemption and salvation, I hear echoed our longing for this transformation of our human existence:
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
O come, Thou Wisdom from on high
And order all things, far and nigh
To us the path of knowledge show
And cause us in her ways to go
O come, Desire of nations bind
All peoples in one heart and mind
Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel
(Latin Hymn, Translated by John M. Neale and Henry S. Coffin; Adapted from Plainsong by Thomas Helmore)
We also need to attend to the reality that there was a substantial difference between the responses of the two representative females in God’s story: Eve did not believe God, and ate of the tree she was told not to eat of, while Mary believed God’s word to her through the angel Gabriel and told God to do with her as he wished. In Eve, disbelief resulted in disobedience and all of the subsequent result of that as sin and death entered our human existence. In Mary’s belief and obedience, we find the life-giving God enters into our death- and sin-bound human existence in the person of Jesus Christ and restores our true humanity in his life, death, resurrection and ascension—making possible our right relationship with the Triune God now and forever in the gift of his Son and his heavenly Spirit.
What if we willingly surrendered our independence, our preferences, and our expectations to the God who came to us to bring us into right relationship with himself? What if we, like Mary, believed that God was good and loving, that he was faithful and trustworthy, and that he sought what was best for us? What if we actually said to God each day and in each moment, “Do with me as you wish”? What if we indeed brought every thought captive to the will of God in Christ (2 Cor. 10:5)?
The good news is that this is the very reason Jesus came. Jesus took our stubborn willfulness and turned us back toward obedience to the Father—even to the point of death on the cross. Jesus bore the suffering and agony of our rejection and resistance to God upon himself, took it to the grave, and emerged offering us new life in himself. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Cor. 5:16–17 NASB).”
What a lovely reason for the season! All that is left for us is to respond to Christ’s gift in faith, being filled with the Spirit and pouring out our gratitude in praise like Elizabeth, Mary, and Zacharias—all participants in this miraculous event. What we could not and would not do, Jesus did in our place and on our behalf. Such great love expressed to us by God above! We humbly receive with open hands and hearts, and respond with gratitude, saying, “Lord, let it be to me according to your word.” Your life, Jesus, for my life. Thank you, Lord!
“O God of hosts, restore us and cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.” Psalm 80:7 NASB
“Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.’” Luke 1:39–45 NASB