There is nothing quite like the joy with which Christians celebrate Easter. What is it about Easter that causes believers to celebrate with such irrepressible joy, whether in Washington, San Francisco, Seoul or Sydney? For a start, Christ came. He visited planet earth like a meteor from outer space that struck with such an impact that the world has never been the same since. But that was only the beginning. When the worst our world could muster - death - was brought down on Him, He rose from the dead. Yes, He blasted it open, brushed it aside, and now the entire universe will never be the same. Where once it was a claustrophobic death-locked cell, a gaping hole for freedom has been torn by the resurrection. Those two events, the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus, have changed everything. ...

The very same power that raised Jesus from the dead, that made the amino acids rekindle and the corpse sit up, that revitalized dead cells and restored breath to empty lungs, is the same power that is given to us when we receive Christ. Everything about the resurrection speaks of empowered newness. As Eugene Peterson writes, "The Bible is not a script for a funeral service, but it is the record of God always bringing life where we expected to find death. Everywhere it is the story of resurrection."

I'm always amazed that some religious people have such a romance with the past. We hear of The Old-Time Gospel Hour and "Gimme that Old-Time Religion" and so forth. There is no such romance in the New Testament. With the past forgiven and the future opened with a cross-shaped hole blasted through the grave, the stress is on the present as it stretches through the future into eternity.

The resurrection enables us to live differently because we are given something permanently that we did not have before. The agent of our transformation and the One who enlivens us day by day as we grow in God is His Holy Spirit. Because we have been united to Christ in a living, vital way, we receive life and power through the Spirit. ...

Living out the New Way will shape everything about us. It will slowly transform our values, our attitudes, our perception of self and others. The reality of our new life with Christ must begin to seep into our consciousness and penetrate everything we do. ...

What enables us to live this new life, and to benefit from these means of grace, is the power unleashed by Christ's rising from the dead. He did more than die and pay the penalty of sin. He was raised from death itself, and the very power God used to raise Him is the power made available to us. Through the resurrection God now offers us new life. Eternal life is the life of eternity brought forward to start in time. Living the resurrection is living in the old world by the energy of the new world to come. ...

One thing is clear from Christian testimonies. Different things change for people at different times and in different ways. Some people meet God and are changed dramatically. They are so transformed that we can hardly believe the difference when we see them. Others experience change more like a refinement that takes place slowly over time. Only God knows the reasons why that is so, and to pretend otherwise is presumptuous and cruel.

But what of situations where there seems to be no change at all and we are completely in the dark? What kind of realistic hope are we to hold to? There are three things I have found helpful in facing that question. First, there is the question of our basic expectations. We live, as we saw earlier, in the "between times." Over much that we desire and much for which we pray are the two words Not Yet. So we pray and work for change and growth. But remembering that we still live in a broken, fallen world, we do not expect complete change or total transformation. Yet we should expect what Francis Schaeffer used to call "substantial healing" - in other words, a change that is substantial and significant, though always short of the total change we will experience only on the other side of death, when we see God face to face.

Second, there is the question of our part. Have we obeyed everything God has shown us? Have we done everything we know to affect change? We need to be brutally honest with ourselves. There are too many cases of people who love biblical truth yet do not live it. There are too many who say they believe in forgiveness yet seek every escape hatch rather than forgive someone who has wronged them. There are too many who are able to quote Jesus and St. Paul but who do not follow what they say. In short, there are too many Christians with loud protestations of a longing to be changed, yet too few willing to do what it takes.

Third, there is the question of God's part - or more accurately, our response to having no idea what God's part is. How are we to trust when we are completely in the dark? What faith needs is what Os Guinness in his book Doubt calls the principle of "suspended judgment." Is this another word for our old enemies, denial and irrationality? Not at all. Here is how Guinness puts it: "As believers, we cannot always know why, but we can always know why we trust God who knows why." He reminds Christians what this means. "A Christian does not say, `I do not understand you at all, but I will trust you anyway.' Rather, he says, `I do not understand you in this situation, but I understand why I trust you anyway. Therefore I can trust that you understand even though I don't.'" The principle of suspended judgment means that we may be in the dark about some situations, but we are not in the dark about God. ...

Our Christian hope is not for this life only. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "If Christ had not been raised, ... we are to be pitied more than all men" (1 Corinthians 15:17-19). He was addressing the central question of life: what does life mean if the end is death? Writing to the Thessalonians about loved ones who have died, Paul tells us, "We do not ... grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him ... and so we will be with the Lord forever" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 17).

If there is nothing beyond the grave, then life on this side is diminished too. It does not last long enough or amount to enough to be worthwhile in itself. It would provide no redress of injustice, no fulfillment of joy and no reason to forfeit instant gratification. If this is all there is, then our attempts to give ourselves and life significance merely seem like pathetic clutching. But the Bible insists that we have significance, that life means something, because even after death we still are, and more to the point, we are what we have chosen.

The Bible affirms that each person has eternal significance. We will all live eternally. The issue is whether we live eternally in relationship with God or, if we tragically choose, without Him. That is the why the resurrection of Christ is so important. He conquered death and in doing so offers us the possibility of life forever in the presence of God. ...

Christians are people of hope and not despair. Because we know that God, who had the first word, will have the last. He is never thwarted or caught napping by the circumstances of our lives. To have faith in Jesus does not mean we try to pretend that bad things are really good. Rather, we know that God will take our difficulties and weave them into purposes we cannot see as yet. And when he is done, the day will be more glorious for our having gone through the difficulties. We are not unmindful of the difference between what is evil and what is good. We know that if the logic of His love nailed Jesus to the cross, we have no right to go another way.

But our lives can be lived well, with courage and with joy, because we live by the hope of the resurrection. So not matter what life lands in our laps, if we will only trust God and wait and never lose heart, the song we sing one day will be of victory. And then, with battles over, the time will come when faith becomes sight and hope fulfillment and our whole beings are united with the God we love. Joy of all joys, goal of our desire, all that we long for will be ours, for we will be His.

For the moment, though, we are still on the road. The gap between promise and performance is still the tension of our faith. Yet hope in Christ is the most compelling incentive in the world. Hope has its reasons after all.

Excerpted by permission from Hope Has Its Reasons: The Search to Satisfy Our Deepest Longings, copyright 2001 by Rebecca Manley Pippert. Published by InterVarsity Press, www.ivpress.com, 1-800-843-4587.

Rebecca Manley Pippert is a writer and speaker living in Oak Park, Ill. She is best known as the author of Out of the Saltshaker.

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