A Matter of Life and Death
As a Christian, today I am pondering what it means that Jesus was in the tomb during this time 2000 years ago. Dead. Gone. Not resurrected…yet. His whole ministry seemed to carry the undertone of two primary themes: death and life. He repeatedly said you don’t get one until you go through the other:
- “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25 NIV)
- “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24 NIV)
- “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” (Mark 9:31 NIV)
He also called any of His followers to do the same: “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34 NIV) I believe this is because Jesus knew that death has a funny way of pushing us towards truly living life. How many versions of “The Bucket List” do we have built into our culture? Even now I can hear Tim McGraw challenge us to “Live Like You Were Dying.” It is easy to say that most humans do not live the life they always dreamed of living. I believe the reason for this is sin. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in Ephesians 2:
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:1–5 NIV)
Your average Christian “knows” this much. It is by grace that we’ve received life through Christ. But I believe one reason hyper-Calvinism is on the rise once again is that so many people want to stop there with it. We are as good as dead because of sin, literally objects of God’s wrath, but God saves us by His grace. The End. But Paul does not stop there. He goes on to say, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8–10 NIV)
The way we say it around Harris Creek is that “God has not just saved you from something; He has also saved you for something.” But how many of us are willing to own up to these good works. When we avoid the work, we resort back to, “I’m an object of wrath that is incapable of good deeds.” But Scripture does not let followers of Christ off the hook that easily.
Steven Pressfield talks about how we avoid living out our true calling when he says, “How many of us have become drunks and drug addicts, developed tumors and neuroses, succumbed to painkillers, gossip, and compulsive cell-phone use, simply because we don’t do that thing that our hearts, our inner genius, is calling us to?” The truth is it is a lot easier to give into death than it is to possess life.
I have no problem saying that it was not Jesus’ death that made him special. There are countless people that died brutal deaths during the reign of the Roman Empire. There are plenty of false messiahs (and their followers) that have died in vain, all in the name of their cause. What separates Jesus from those who failed to bring true redemption is His blameless life that he lived beforehand. More importantly, it is His resurrection that changed everything, the fact that He brought life from death. And he is doing it still today by offering resurrection to you. But you, too, must pass from death to life as He did by dying to yourself. And if you have already experienced this in your own life, what work are you avoiding that God has prepared in advance for you to do?