For many people Easter is simply a convenient weekend marking the end of winter and the coming of Spring. For the Christian, Easter is a special time to remember the significance of the resurrection of Jesus. His resurrection is not only a guarantee of our resurrection, and of our receiving a new glorified body, but it should also be a challenge to holy living on a day by day basis in this present age. We read in Romans 6:4 that “like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
Jesus says, as recorded in Revelation 1:18, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore.” Sometimes professing Christians behave as if the Christ whom we are to follow is a powerless, dead, broken, and defeated Christ who has no power to help us. But the resurrection proclaims that Jesus is a living Christ, and He is available to help us in every circumstance of life.
The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 3:10-11, expressed the hope and desire of every dedicated believer, when he said: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection . . . if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” The desire of Paul’s heart (when we check the context of those words carefully) was not only that some day he might be brought to a physical resurrection, but also that the resurrection-life of Jesus might manifest itself through him day by day in a new kind of life. (He says in the next verse, “I am not already perfect, but I follow after.”) The Scriptures reveal that those who are risen to a new life in Christ Jesus bear certain distinguishing marks. We will look at some of those marks in the pages that follow.
1. A Supreme Love For Jesus
Jesus spoke some sobering words, recorded in Luke 14:25-26. Luke tells how Jesus said to the multitudes, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” It is clear that we must never let anything, even close family ties, prevent us from taking a clear stand for Christ. We dare not disown Christ, nor disobey Him, even if we experience opposition from family members.
Normally, children should love father and mother, but we are not to love parents more than we love Jesus. Jesus is saying that—compared with our love for Him—all other love (even love for close family members) is as hate.
In the early history of the United States, Nathan Hale studied at the university in order to become a preacher, but when the Revolutionary War came along he joined the Revolutionary Army and volunteered to become a spy to try and bring back some secret information about the invading British troops. He dressed like a British schoolmaster, infiltrated the British ranks, obtained the information about their plans for attack—but when he was on his way back to report to General George Washington, he was recognized and seized and hanged. There are several historic monuments in the Northeast dedicated to Nathan Hale, and on each monument are engraved his last words: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
Nathan Hale’s words portray patriotism. They are an expression of true love for one’s country. Our love for Jesus should be like that! Charles Wesley wrote the words of the hymn, “O for a thousand tongues to sing, My great Redeemer’s praise; The glories of my God and King, The triumphs of His grace!”
One who walks in newness of life has a supreme love for Jesus. The believer wants to do what Jesus says, and to live the kind of life that Jesus lived, and to be patient like Jesus was, and to have compassion like Jesus had. The goal to be like Jesus is a mark of the resurrected life.
2. An Honest Denial of Self
Matthew records additional sobering words from the lips of Jesus. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:2425).
A second characteristic of a faithful Christian is the denial of self. We often speak of “self-denial” as doing without something, or giving up something—but true self-denial is much deeper. To “deny self” is to confess with the Apostle Paul (in Romans 7:18), “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.” To “deny self” is to completely disown the rebellious self which lies at the center of each human heart. The hard, unyielding self which wants its own way, stands up for its own rights, and seeks its own glory—must be crucified. The first of the Beatitudes which Jesus taught (Matthew 5:1-12) is to be “poor in spirit” — that is, to sense utter poverty regarding our own goodness and worth and merit. To “deny self’ means death to the attitude which says “I want what I want when I want it, and no one had better stand in the way.”
If you are insisting on your own way—with your spouse in the home, your superior at work, your roommate at school; if there is anger and resentment and jealousy in your heart; if you get upset when your wishes are crossed and your advice is disregarded—these are evidences of a self-nature which is not surrendered to God’s control.
Matthew 16:24 continues by saying that a true disciple “takes up his cross” and “follows” Christ. Taking up one’s cross is a reference to the shame and rejection and persecution and even martyrdom (if necessary) that we may have to bear for the sake of the Lord Jesus. The “cross” is not a reference to common trials and hardships that we face in life. One’s “cross” is not an unsaved husband, a nagging wife, a sick child, etc. To “take up one’s cross” speaks of the reproach we must bear because we have chosen to take sides with Jesus.
The Christian life is glorious and wonderful. I cannot imagine how miserable and lost and hopeless I would be if I were not a Christian. But the Christian life is not a bed of roses. One who walks in newness of life will acknowledge his own undone condition, and will resolve to bear ridicule and reproach for the cause of Christ.
3. A Refusal To Cling To Material Things
The child of God is one who has deliberately chosen to avoid living primarily for the things of this world. Jesus was met one day by a rich young ruler. The young man knelt down before the Lord, and inquired about what he must do to obtain eternal life. (When Jesus told him to keep the commandments, the young man said, “I’ve been a good boy all my life”—but his heart was still hungry and empty). Then Jesus looked deep into the soul of the young man, and in essence said, “Your heart is in the world; you are worried about money and material possessions; you have to give up those things.”
Mark 10:21-22 tells the account: “Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest; go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying and went away grieved, for he had great possessions.” The word translated “grieved” is a strong word which indicates that there was a terrible civil war raging in the young man’s heart, and it was showing on his countenance. He was sad; he was dismayed; there was turbulence within. He was tied to the things of this world. He had received an invitation to give them up, but he lost the battle. He went away grieved (unsettled within), for he had great possessions.
One who walks in “newness of life” is not enticed by the lure for things. He is satisfied with a simple lifestyle and with ordinary conveniences. The advertisements in newspapers and the luxury images in the shopping malls will not ensnare those whose hearts are set on things above. It is not wrong to enjoy good things, but we must not “trust in uncertain riches” (1 Timothy 6:17).
Instead of desiring more and more unnecessary things, we must resolve to give generously to support the cause of Christ, and in this way lay a good foundation for the world to come. Refusing to cling to material things is another mark of those who walk in newness of life.
4. A Continuance in the Word of God
Those who desire that the resurrection-life of Jesus might be manifest in them have a deep and longing thirst for the Scriptures. We read in John 8:31-32, “Then said Jesus . . . If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
The true disciple of Christ has a longing thirst for the Word of God. He works hard at the task of memorizing Scriptures. R.A. Torrey used to say, “When we pray, we talk to God; when we read the Bible, God talks to us; and perhaps we had better let God do most of the talking.” In other words, Bible reading (God speaking to us) is of prime importance.
One who walks in newness of life longs to spend time reading the Word, or if he has difficulty reading, he tries to hear someone else read the Scriptures. The Word of God is inexhaustible; it never ceases to inspire the searching individual. The message of the Bible is like water to a thirsty soul; it is food for the hungry heart. The Bible is compared to milk (1 Peter 2:2), to bread (Matthew 4:4), and to strong meat (Hebrews 5:14). The Word of God is bread for the inner man. Without it, the soul shrivels up and dies. Nothing will help us more in the great task of walking in newness of life, than to study the Bible carefully—along with a continuing determination to comply with what it teaches. The hymnwriter says, “More about Jesus in His Word, holding communion with my Lord; hearing His voice in every line, making each faithful saying mine.” That will be the longing desire of those who walk in newness of life.
5. A Faith That Will Not Turn Back
Another mark of the true servant of Christ is that he possesses a faith which is determined never to turn back. We read some important words from Jesus, as recorded in Luke 9:62. Jesus said, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” The statement from Jesus is a general proverb which relates to any undertaking. To be successful, and to accomplish anything worthwhile, requires that we look onward, and not backward.
Usually the proverb given in Luke 9:62 is taken to mean that if a farmer takes pride in making a straight furrow, he cannot do it by looking back, but here the meaning is a bit different. The man who puts his hand to the hard task of plowing in seedtime—but looks back to the material comforts of the house (or to the alluring pleasures of the town)—will gather no fruit in harvest. And in the spiritual realm, one who commits his life to living for Jesus, and then longingly looks back to the pleasures of the world, can easily yield to the temptation of giving up and taking the easy road. The Lord expects us to follow the way of self-denial and privation to the very end. Jesus calls us to a radical discipleship. He is not interested in a half-hearted devotion.
It is costly to follow the Lord Jesus; it requires daily struggles with Satan; it takes time and effort to develop a life of holiness; but in the end, it will be worth it all.
Sometimes in the midst of the monotony of everyday living, we find it difficult to persist, to hang in there, to keep on doing what we know is right—but our commitment to the Lord must be so great that no matter how much ridicule and scoffing we might receive, we will never turn back. The little chorus says: “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. Though none go with me, still I will follow; no turning back, no turning back.”
6. A Fervent Love For the People of God
The Apostle John says, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14). Jesus also said that people shall know that we are His disciples when they see that we love one another even as He has loved us (John 13:34-35).
The true Christian loves all persons; he weeps over the worst of sinners; but he has a peculiar love for those who are fellow believers. He feels at home in the company of Christians. After all, we have the same Heavenly Father; we are fighting the same enemy; we are traveling on the same narrow road; we have been redeemed with the same blood of Jesus. Surely it should not be hard for us to “love one another with a pure heart fervently” as the Apostle Peter admonishes in 1 Peter 1:22.
Many years ago in England a young boy named John Fawcett went to hear George Whitefield preach. Fawcett was converted and later he too became a preacher of the Word. For a number of years John Fawcett preached at the Baptist Chapel in the small village of Yorkshire, England. Later, he was asked to serve at a much larger church in the city of London. Fawcett, along with his wife and children, planned to move to the city and pastor Carter’s Chapel in London.
John Fawcett preached his farewell sermon at the small church in Yorkshire in the fall of 1772, and on the following day, the wagons came to move his belongings from the community of Yorkshire to the city of London. After the furniture and books and household items were all packed and ready to go—and he was saying his “goodbyes” to his congregation of people whom he had learned to love—he just couldn’t go. The people of the village were crowding around him, expressing their sorrow at his going. His wife burst into tears and said, “John, how can we do this?” And after listening to their tearful pleadings, he cancelled the decision to move, and decided to stay at Yorkshire. John Fawcett then sat down and wrote one of the most beautiful hymns in the English language: “Blest be the tie that binds, our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds, is like to that above. We share our mutual woes; our mutual burdens bear; and often for each other flows, the sympathizing tear.”
All who can sing those words with real honesty are manifesting a mark of the true people of God.
7. A Firm Belief in Another World
The true Christian is living for and working for and looking for another world. We are looking forward to a City whose builder and maker is God. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in this life only, we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” All of us should want to know the way to Heaven and how to land safely on that happy shore.
We do not find in the Bible complete details describing what Heaven will be like, for “the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9) have not entered into the heart of man. But the last two chapters of the Bible do give us a glimpse of Heaven, and let us have a small foretaste of the glory that is to come for God’s people.
The Apostle John saw the New Jerusalem, with its walls and gates and streets. It will be a large city shaped like a cube or pyramid—1500 miles long and 1500 miles wide and 1500 miles high—with dwelling places at various levels. There will be no housing shortage in Heaven. There will be plenty of room for all who are disciples of Jesus Christ. Heaven will be a beautiful city that sparkles with precious stones instead of asphalt and concrete. The saved will experience fellowship with Christ (Revelation 22:4); rest from their labors (Revelation 14:13); and have everlasting joy (Revelation 21:4). The book of Revelation pictures Heaven as having trees, fountains, fruit, robes, palms, music, light, friendship, love—and the actual presence of God the Father and Jesus the Son.
There are a number of things that will not be in Heaven. There will be no curse, no pain, no night, no death, and no tears. Those who see this world as their home, look upon “leaving it” as a supreme tragedy, but those whose hearts are fixed on doing the will of God, thrill at thoughts about Heaven. Think of stepping on shore and finding it Heaven. Think of taking hold of a hand and finding it God’s hand.
The resurrection of Jesus assures us that He is living today, and it assures us that He is willing to change us, making us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). The Apostle Paul expressed the hope that he might know “the power of Christ’s resurrection.” We have seen some marks that will be evident in the lives of those who have been changed by the power of the risen Christ.