"Now I am on trial because I am looking forward to the fulfillment of God's promise made to our ancestors......I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen - that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead as a Light to the Jews and Gentiles alike." Acts 26; 6, 22-23
Paul was defined by his living hope in the resurrection of Christ. One translation of the above passage says that he was on trial because of that hope. Paul's life was defined by his hope, his trust, and his steadfast belief of Christ's resurrection. As a result, his life bore the fruits of that hope. Does ours? What defines our life? Every day in this fallen world, those who are His are on trial for the hope we say we have in Him. What's the verdict? Does our hope in the resurrection of Christ define us? If it does, there will be visible fruit as a result. If it doesn't, then what does define us?
In his book, "The Insanity Of Obedience," Nik Larson says he had to ask himself this question; "Am I simply a member of the church, or am I a true follower of Jesus Christ?" Do we dare ask that same question of ourselves? Just where do we fit in the Kingdom of God? In China, Larson points out that believers do not gain the trust and confidence of their brethren until they have been imprisoned for their faith. This establishes their credibility. Their faith and trust in Him has been put to the test. Their living hope in His resurrection was put on trial, and they were found "guilty" of fully trusting in that hope. They didn't just have a future hope concerning that resurrection life. They had entered into it in the present. They bore witness of that life in this present one. What does our life bear witness to? What is our credibility both before the church and a watching world? Are we simply members of a fellowship, or are we true followers of Christ? Do we only embrace a Jesus who blesses, who gives out great bread and fish? Or do we embrace Jesus Christ in all of His fullness. His burden, His pain, His cross? Do we embrace His path to our own Calvary? Do we enter into the fullness of His life that He gives us through that cross?
His Word says that He offers us "the power of a life that cannot be destroyed." This is what those Chinese Christians learned in their suffering. All the power of a hostile state could not extinguish the power of His life within them. They were defined not by their suffering, but by their living hope in a living Christ. His life was their life. Is it ours?
On the Damascus Road, Paul, then named Saul, beheld the risen Christ. Nothing was ever the same for him again. He beheld the resurrected Christ, and he received His resurrected life. Is such lacking in our lives? Have we ever truly beheld the risen Christ on the road of our lives?
That question from Larson pierces me. "Am I simply a member of the church, or am I a true follower of Christ." Are we defined by church attendance, tithing, activity, social networking? Are we defined by the Bible studies we attend, the prayer groups we're a part of? Our visibility in the local church? Or are we defined by our living hope in a risen Christ? Does the resurrection power of God abide in and flow through us? Have we seen Jesus? As we stand in the world's docket, on trial for our professed hope in the resurrection, are we a credible witness? Are we guilty of standing in and upon that living hope? Or, are we just church members...."having the form of godliness, but denying its power thereof?"