One of my favorite psalms begins, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:1–2). The phrase “forget not all his benefits” is an invitation to meditate on and celebrate all of the benefits of knowing God’s mercy and forgiveness. It’s a summons to call to mind what is true for those who know the covenant faithfulness of God, a God who doesn’t deal with us according to our sins but based on his abundant mercy. The psalmist calls us to remember all of his benefits.
The Blessing of Eastertide
In a similar way, the season of Eastertide is a summons to “forget not all the benefits” of knowing the resurrected Christ. Eastertide is a festal season on the liturgical calendar that traditionally marks the days between the resurrection and the ascension. It is a season when the Church focuses its energy on celebrating the resurrection and considers what it means to live in light of the resurrection.
However, for so many of us who are in ministry, Easter feels like a finish line on our spring calendar, the end of a sprint to get to the big celebration that we crash into and, far too often, barely enjoy before moving on to our regularly scheduled programming. We have a great Easter celebration with family, friends, and neighbors but fail to let the celebratory spirit carry us into the season of Eastertide and into the rest of our lives.
That is actually the call and invitation of the hymn, “Because He Lives.”
And because He lives
I can face tomorrow
Because He lives
All fear is gone
Because I know
He holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because He lives
Make no mistake. This is no sweet, sentimental declaration. It is a song that rejoices in the present and future comfort of the resurrection. This song is an invitation into the profound realities secured by Christ on our behalf in his resurrection. This song isn’t just about the sweet by and by. It’s how the resurrection shapes how we live confidently in the present moment and beyond. This song is filled with an Eastertide invitation to “forget not all his benefits.”
As I thought about the resurrection this year, I asked the question, “What is now true because he lives?” As we consider the wonderful beauty of the resurrection, a few realities are opened to us now and into the future in Christ simply because he got up out of that grave. Because he lives, we have a gospel to preach about a reigning King who offers forgiveness of sin, brings us into union with himself, walks with us in temptation and suffering, and offers us a secure future filled with resurrection hope.
We Have a Gospel to Preach
The first gift of the resurrection is that we have good news to cling to and to preach. Paul is really clear about this in 1 Corinthians 15. If Jesus was not raised, then all of our faith and preaching is in vain. However, because he has been raised from the dead, we have good news worth proclaiming to every square inch of creation. It is the resurrection that makes the gospel a message worth preaching!
If you think back to the gospel narratives, the disciples were heartbroken in the days following the crucifixion. Christ’s death without his resurrection was devastating news. However, after seeing the resurrected Christ in the flesh and being filled with power from the Spirit, they had good news to preach. Throughout the sermons in Acts, there is repeated emphasis on the resurrection because the good news they were to bear witness to is not just that Jesus died but that he was raised (Acts 1:22).
Without the resurrection of Jesus, we have a tragic martyr story or a humble example of servanthood at best. At worst, we have a sad, confusing story about a lunatic with a martyr complex who “fought the power” and lost. But the resurrection proves he is who said he is. The resurrection of Jesus is the most powerful demonstration that his kingdom has broken in and that God’s work of reconciling the world to himself is underway (2 Cor. 5:19). We have good news to preach of a resurrected and reigning King!
Throughout the history of God’s people, as they witness the nations and cultures raging (Psalm 2:1), the temptation is to try to secure our safety through some sort of political stability. We look for someone to represent us, fight for us, and make us feel safe during turbulent times (1 Samuel 8:5; Isaiah 30:1–2; 31:1–3). But God’s answer to the nations raging and our desire for safety and stability is, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill” (Psalm 2:6).
We see that answer on display most powerfully in the resurrection. The resurrection puts us on notice that the promised king is ruling and reigning in power! In Ephesians 1:20–22, the apostle Paul says that God “raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church.”
“God will only and forever look at us through the righteous standing and cleansing blood of his Son, the risen Lord Jesus.”—Brian Key
In other words, the resurrected One is completely unrivaled in his authority over the nations and every spiritual authority that would stand against him. Nations may rage, and cultures may display absolute rebellion against his lordship, but none of it is outside of his control, and he is active right now, bringing everything that has been devastated and distorted by sin into submission to himself (1 Cor. 15:24–27). That should give confidence to his people and break any allegiance we have to any promises offered by any other “kings” and “kingdoms” that are vying for our trust.
But a king who brings justice and sets the world right is only good news if we are made right with God. The good news of the resurrection is not just that we have a risen and reigning king. We also have a justifying and forgiving King!
Raised for our Justification
In recent decades, as we have focused more on gospel-centered preaching, there has been a renewed emphasis on the work of Christ on the cross. However, as we have pointed people to the cross, we have far too often neglected the reality and necessity of the resurrection. We often say, “he lived the life you should have lived, and died the death that you deserved to die so that you could be made right with God.” That statement, while true, truncates the gospel message. Justification by faith isn’t available to us just because he died, but because he died and was raised.
Paul says in Romans 4:25 that Jesus was “delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Christ’s perfectly obedient life, sacrificial death, and resurrection are all critical elements of his accomplishment of our redemption. It is faith in the totality of that work that enables us to be declared righteous before the Father. The resurrection is God’s final declaration that the work of Christ has been fulfilled. Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones explains this beautifully, saying,
If the Lord Jesus Christ had not literally risen physically from the grave, we could never be certain that he had ever really finished the work. . . . When God raised his Son from the dead, he was proclaiming to the whole world . . . he has done everything. He has fulfilled every demand. Here he is risen–therefore I am satisfied with him.
It is only in the light of the Resurrection that I finally have an assurance of my sins forgiven. It is only in the light of the Resurrection that I ultimately know that I stand in the presence of God absolved from guilt and shame and every condemnation.
If it is not a fact that Christ literally rose from the grave, then you are still guilty before God. Your punishment has not been borne, your sins have not been dealt with, you are yet in your sins. It matters that much: without the Resurrection you have no standing at all.1
Because he got up, “he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25 emphasis added). Now, by faith in his life, death, and resurrection, we are declared righteous before the Father. And as if the news couldn’t be any better, in his eternal advocacy on our behalf before the Father (1 John 2:1), God will only and forever look at us through the righteous standing and cleansing blood of his Son, the risen Lord Jesus.
Because he lives, we have a gospel to preach about a reigning King who offers forgiveness of sin to all who would believe in him. Thanks be to God!
But the benefits extend even further than that, even into eternity. He is a living, reigning, justifying King who also brings us into union with himself, walks with us in suffering, and offers us a secure future filled with resurrection hope. We will explore these benefits in the next post of the two-part series.
- Martin Lloyd-Jones, The Assurance of Our Salvation (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), 492. ↩