Easter is a day where the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is front and center in our prayers, songs, and preaching. This can give a false impression that during the rest of the year we should be emphasizing something else because this is only worth emphasizing once a year. That couldn’t be further from the truth! What else could be more important to Christian faith than the death and bodily resurrection of Jesus? As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins…we should be pitied more than anyone.”
The cross and empty tomb are central to the historical truth claims of Christianity, but there are other important implications. Not only is it central to the historical truth of our faith, it is central to how our faith works itself out in our daily lives. Paul says in Philippians 3:10 that “My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death”. He says earlier that “I consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ.” Strong words there, but it is a shocking reminder that we shouldn’t get past the reality of union with Christ and how it changes our desires. Sweet communion and union with the risen Lord does something to us. It changes our desires, it reorients our lives, renews our identity, and gives us new resurrection life now. Look at how it changed Paul from being a Christ-hater to arguably the most famous Christ-follower! The question is worth asking, “How does my union with Christ change my desires?”.
Every day we must “put on” this reality, live into it, and “take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires” (Eph 4:22). Our old self has deceitful desires that lead to sins like lust, gluttony, materialism, pride, and sinful anger, but those are the easy ones to see! What about the good self image you desire after? Is your desire just to “be good and look good” as opposed to knowing Christ? Is Jesus not enough for you when you’re failing in the eyes of others?
It’s important to remember that our deceitful desires are actually good desires that are corrupted by our proud, self-sufficient grasping after them. Sin is not original to creation. It is a warping, an overinflation, and an inward focus on a good thing that was meant to be satisfied in God alone. The enemy deceives us into thinking that we can provide for ourselves and protect ourselves (think Adam and Eve), and we believe those lies and strive after things in our own strength. What was once good worship of God has become idolatry.
So what do we do? Well, in a fallen world we know that our deep desires will never be satisfied. But, bringing these desires to God in an open hand of faith is never a waste of time. We bring them to God, knowing that he placed them in us, but also acknowledging that in this fallen world we will only begin to see how we will be fulfilled in God. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis is famous for saying
“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.”
Once we identify our deep longing and good desire that will only be fulfilled by God, we can begin to put to death the old deceitful patterns of grasping after them, and put on the new self that rests in God by faith. This is in the same pattern of Jesus’ death and resurrection, moving from death to life, and this is what it looks like to live into our new reality of union with Christ.