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Can New Life get a Shout Out?

I had a dilemma while thinking about music during Easter season. I was trying to find contemporary songs that were focused on the resurrection.

There were almost none.

Now, I know there are some. I talked to a guy that knows a lot more contemporary songs than I do, having been worshipping in a church that sings very few songs written after 1980. He was able to list a few. There’s Mighty to Save. Marvelous Light gives a shout out to the resurrection in the pre-chorus, and there’s even the more creative Gungor song, Beautiful Things. Phil Wickham’s True Love Died ends with a powerful statement of resurrection.

The songs, though, are few and far between. If you think of the worship of the last decade, the percentage of songs that focus on the resurrection is dismal.

On the other hand, there are hundreds of songs that focus on the cross. There are hundreds of songs that speak of the forgiveness that was purchased there. And there should be. The cross is enormously important. On the cross, Jesus died the death I deserved and paid for my sin.

There’s a problem, though. It may seem like a small deal that I can’t find songs about the resurrection. But it speaks of an enormous problem.

Christians aren’t realizing what the center of their life is found.

We love the cross. We love forgiveness. We love mercy. We write a lot of songs about them. And the cross is all we think about. It is all we pray about. It is all we sing about.

We ignore the resurrection, which is the entire foundation of our lives.

I want to make something clear.

The cross is not the center of the Christian life.

It isn’t. Thousands of people were crucified in history. That isn’t to say the cross isn’t enormously important. Forgiveness for our sin is found there. Jesus died the death we deserved on our behalf.

The center of the Christian life is found in the empty tomb. Jesus paid for our sins on the cross. It is in rising that Jesus conquered death and gave us new life.

Jesus came to do much more than offer a sacrifice for our sins. He came to give us the life found in the resurrection.

With the way Christians have dismissed the resurrection from their thought, reflection and devotion, it is a wonder that we don’t hold people under water at their baptism. Yes, we died with Christ. But we rose with him too.

I am going to offer reflections on the resurrection. I did this a couple years ago, but we need more of this. It is my belief that our persistent ignoring of the resurrection in our lives has incredibly damaging effects.

Join me on the journey.

Christ is risen. We will too.

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6 Responses

  1. Hi James,

    In many contexts when Christians talk about ‘the cross’, aren’t they often referring to not only Christ’s death, but his resurrection as well? I understand the distinction that you’re making; Christ’s death on the cross is to pay for our sins and buy our forgiveness, while the resurrection is his conquering of death allowing for the possibility of new life. I just think many Christians often talk about ‘the cross’ as shorthand for that entire spectrum of salvific work, with the resurrection implicitly included. Of course, just because I think they often aren’t excluding it per se, doesn’t mean that they are giving the proper emphasis.

    • Agreed. Often ‘the cross’ is spoken of in a way that includes the resurrection. However, I think that because it is not often made as explicit as you just did, this truth is often missed completely and Christianity is made a religion that is more about forgiveness than New Life.

      Thanks for chiming in.

      • You know, Nathan, now that I have chewed on this a little longer, I will say this more emphatically. Although you’re right to point out that ‘the cross’ can refer to the whole work of redemption, I think it doesn’t in the mind of the average, evangelical Christian at church. I think most of them mean only the cross when they say it, and when they speak of the ‘finished work of the cross’ they mean the forgiveness purchased by his death, not new life through his resurrection. I think that is why we see the lack of emphasis in our worship.

  2. Have to disagree with you on this one bro. The cross and Christ crucified is the center for me. I think it is the most profound display of God’s holiness, justice and love than any other thing, including the Resurrection. I think there is a reason why Paul said of the apostles, “we preach Christ crucified,” and not “we preach Christ resurrected.” Of course he did preach Christ resurrected but the cross and Christ’s substitutionary atoning death for sin was at the center of his preaching, not the resurrection. I do agree though that the Resurrection is underemphasized in most evangelical circles. Thanks for making me think.

    • If I have seemed to pit the crucifixion against the resurrection, I have over spoken. You are the second brother to understand my words that way, so I need to clarify. The cross event (i.e. the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ) is the center of the gospel. The resurrection is not possible without the crucifixion and both are necessary. As I have stated throughout my blogs, forgiveness and union with Christ are necessary aspects of salvation, and I probably overstated my case here. Both forgiveness and new life are necessary. The crucifixion is about the former, resurrection the latter.

      However, I will reiterate, that when Paul exhorts Christians on how to live, he makes the resurrection the foundation for their lives (Eph 2.10, Romans 6.11, 1 cor 15).

      When we think about our core identity post conversion, we aren’t to view ourselves as guilty sinners forgiven by the cross, but a people granted new life, being united with Christ in his death, burial, resurrection and ascension (Eph 2.5-7).

      The resurrection, then, is the central reality by which I live. I embody the new life that Jesus purchased for me on the cross, being united with him in my death to sin and my resurrection unto life.

      Hope that clarifies my thoughts. Love you, man.

      • Thanks James. I always appreciate your thoughts even when I think we disagree and in this case I think we’re in agreement.

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