We often think of Easter as an event that gives us hope. It sets our eyes on the future: as Jesus rose from the dead in victory over sin, so one day will we. And this is true; the death and resurrection of Jesus promises a bright, beautiful future for God’s people, and let us say Amen. Without Easter, as Paul reminds us, there is no hope or future (1 Corinthians 15:17).
But Easter isn’t just about our future: it’s about our present as well. I want to argue that living the Christian life means living and living through Easter every single day. For one, Easter sets the pattern for the Christian life; for two, Easter is the means to the power by which we live the Christian life.
The Pattern of Easter
As we all know, sin lives on in us after our conversion. It doesn’t rule us; but it haunts us, and it can win occasional battles in our hearts. We live an ongoing struggle against our sin. How are we supposed to understand that struggle, and what are we supposed to do about it?
Paul actually shows us that the answer to those questions is found in the pattern of Easter. From Romans 6:
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. … For the death [Jesus] died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (4-7, 10-11)
Look closely: we’re united to Jesus in His death and resurrection. Just as Jesus “died to sin” (died under its penalty) and left sin in the grave behind Him, so we too “died to sin” when we were united to Him by faith. It no longer rules us; it shouldn’t define us. When faced with anger, or envy, or lust, we can say, “Stop! I died to you, just as Jesus did.” Jesus’ death shows us we don’t have to follow the lead of temptation.
And just as Jesus was raised again in victory over sin – “the life He lives, He lives to God” – so in our union with Him, we have the pattern of “living to God” instead of to sin. If we’re not careful, we can make the Christian life mostly about what we’re dying to. I’m not cursing, I’m not greedy, I’m not lazy … so I’m okay, I guess. Dying to sin is important; but that’s only half of the Easter pattern.
The picture isn’t complete until we see what we’re living to as well as what we’re dying to. We live unto God like Jesus did: we cultivate worship and love and Christian virtue. We seek to live as Jesus did, in relationship with the Father and holy love toward the world The pattern of Easter is bigger than saying “no” to sin; it’s living a “yes” to God’s glory, His character, and His mission. Over time, those things replace our former love for sin and help us die to it more willingly. That comes from Easter. An Easter-shaped Christian will be confessing and repenting of sin; but she will also be increasingly filled with God’s glory, a Christ-like love for others, and the character-fruit of the Holy Spirit. She will savor of heaven.
And if that sounds difficult, it’s not; it’s impossible, apart from another blessing of Easter. I was pretty virtuous before I became a Christian; but do you know what else I was? Self-righteous. Bitter. Fearful. I was “good” rather than “bad” in the eyes of the world, but that “goodness” was just a different side of the same sinful coin.
I was missing that because my life was void of the power of Easter. From Romans 8:
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (11-13)
This passage tells us that the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives also in Christians. The death-conquering Spirit of the resurrection becomes, in us, the sin-conquering Spirit of godliness. How can we put to death the deeds of the body? By the power of the Spirit.
The power of Easter is the life-giving Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. Only by the Spirit can we hope to live into the pattern that Easter sets. From the day we move from spiritual death to life, the Holy Spirit moves into our hearts and empowers us to die to sin and live to God. His life-giving presence is our hope for transformation in this lifetime as it is our hope for resurrection in the next; by His strength, we can live the Easter life.