This morning, it was my turn to lead our weekly devotions at work, and I tried (through my scratchy allergy voice) to talk to about how Christ’s resurrection is not only a crucial historical event that means a great deal for the believer’s future, but that it also impacts the believer’s everyday life in the present. This same theme came up later on as I was praying with a student over the phone and I said something about how we live in Christ’s resurrection power. So you can imagine my delight this evening when I was reading Brennan Manning’s Abba’s Child and I came across chapter six, “Present Risenness.” Manning says everything I was trying to say today, and more. I hope you’ll forgive me for quoting at length from the chapter.
Standing on a London street corner, G. K. Chesterton was approached by a newspaper reporter. “Sir, I understand that you recently became a Christian. May I ask you one question?”
“Certainly,” replied Chesterton.
“If the risen Christ suddenly appeared at this very moment and stood behind you, what would you do?”
Chesterton looked the reporter squarely in the eye and said, “He is.”
Is this a mere figure of speech, wishful thinking, a piece of pious rhetoric? No, this truth is the most real fact about our life; it is our life. The Jesus who walked the roads of Judea and Galilee is the One who stands beside us. The Christ of history is the Christ of faith.
Biblical theology’s preoccupation with the resurrection is not simply apologetic–i.e., it is no longer viewed as the proof par excellence of the truth of Christianity. Faith means receiving the gospel message as dynamis, reshaping us in the image and likeness of God. The gospel reshapes the hearer through the power of Jesus’ victory over death. The gospel proclaims a hidden power in the world–the living presence of the risen Christ. It liberates men and women from the slavery that obscures in them the image and likeness of God.
What gives the teaching of Jesus its power? What distinguishes it from the Koran, the teachings of Buddha, the wisdom of Confucius? The risen Christ does. For example, if Jesus did not rise we can safely praise the Sermon on the Mount as a magnificent ethic. If He did, praise doesn’t matter. The sermon becomes a portrait of our ultimate destiny. The transforming force of the Word resides in the risen Lord who stands by it and thereby gives it final and present meaning.
I will say it again: The dynamic power of the gospel flows from the resurrection. The New Testament writers repeated this: “All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10).
When through faith we fully accept that Jesus is who He claims to be, we experience the risen Christ. . . .
. . . In other words, the resurrection needs to be experienced as present risenness. If we take seriously the word of the risen Christ, “Know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time” (Matthew 28:20), we should expect that He will be actively present in our lives. If our faith is alive and luminous, we will be alert to moments, events, and occasions when the power of resurrection is brought to bear on our lives. Self-absorbed and inattentive, we fail to notice the subtle ways in which Jesus is snagging our attention.
I’ll stop here, but you should really read the whole book. It can be hard for a Christian writer or speaker to convey a message that is kind, tender, and joyful without sliding off into doctrinal squishiness or compromise. Brennan Manning walks that middle road with great care and wonderful effect.