God never tried to give His people a spirit of entitlement but rather a spirit of longing. To think that we are worthy of any of God’s goodness on our own is to equate ourselves to Him. We are not worthy. We are blessed. We have not earned. We have received. If we feel entitled to something, we can take pride in it. If we receive something as a gift, we can take joy in it! Rather than walking around feeling like we have somehow earned God’s favor and blessing, we should be constantly longing for more of it.
Think of it as a love pursuit. If after marriage a husband and wife feel like they have earned each other and have done all that is necessary then how dull that relationship will become! But if every day they feel blessed to have each other and every day they long for more of each other, then how truly intimate and satisfying there love will be! After thousands of years of being forgotten over and over again, God still pursues us. He wants us. God has done so much for us. If His Creation were not somehow meant to be a display of His love for us, then why would He have given us our senses? Why paint such a beautiful, intimate universe and share it with someone whom you do not love? Surely it wasn’t just so we could clap our hands and He could receive our approval! Why would an infinite God want the approval of such tiny beings? None of it makes sense unless…He loves us. No matter what path of ideas or line of thought you follow to get to God, the ultimate conclusion you will come to is that He wants to give us His attention and affection just as He desires the same of us.
This world is not enough. I long for God.
A couple of weeks ago, an 80-year-old man leaned over to me and said, “So many of you young people in the Church fear death. I don’t get it. You know where you’re going just like I know where I’m going. And I’m ready for death. It’s welcome to come for me at any time.” He was very matter-of-fact with every word he said and it made me really like him. His faith in Jesus was real and true and Doubt wasn’t getting a word in edgewise with him.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. – 1 John 1:5-7
To live your days fearing death is to walk in darkness. In darkness you cannot see where you will end up if you keep on walking. What lies ahead of you is foreign and offers no helping hand when it comes to finding your bearings. This is not so for the people who walk in the light and practice the truth. Perfect love casts out fear [1 John 4:18] and all who are known by God are loved by God Who loves us perfectly.
I know that what I am basing my life upon frees me from any doubt that says Death can take anything of real value away from me.The resurrection of Jesus Christ is proof that no weapon forged by man, no scheme of evil, no amount of sin, and no amount of injustice or even Death itself can hold back God’s love for me. If nothing could stop Him 2,000 years ago, it surely will not stop Him now. I rest assured in this truth.
“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” writes Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:19. I can give everything back to God with joy because this life is only temporary. Even if I were to give up everything I have here on earth, I would really be giving up very little compared to the things God has for me when I leave this world. I do not blindly trust in Christ. That would mean I have nothing to look at to guide me. This is not so! I have God’s Word to look at constantly. Within it I find promises to cling to and examples (like Paul) whom I can follow. I stake every breath I am given upon the love and mercy God has shown me. My faith in God, in the resurrection of Christ, and the promise that I will share in the same resurrection should be the thing with which I set my bearings. This is not a suggestive way to live. This is an imperative way for every person who claims to follow Christ. It must be done or following Christ cannot happen.
My hope in the life with Christ that will follow after my time on earth has passed is one more strength that I draw from in order to live a dead man’s life.
The call from Jesus is a call to holy rebellion. To kill the desires that the world claims will make you most alive is nothing short of rebellion. To lean not on your own understanding is to rebel against yourself. In Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23 Jesus makes this pointed statement, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” If I am not rebelling against the standards of the world that contradict the standards God has set for me, then I am rebelling against God (Romans 8:7). Throughout every word, story, and command of Jesus, there is one underlying theme – “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” These were the words He used to begin His three-year journey of ministry. Repentance is rebellion. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when He told people that He didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword.
Holy rebellion is spiritual and takes place within our hearts until it overflows into our lives. Every bit of it flows from the love of Christ and exudes that love wherever it flows. It is not like the rebellion that we might inwardly desire. It is violently resilient and furiously compassionate.
“A flower, if you bruise it under your feet, rewards you by giving you its perfume. Likewise Christians, tortured by the Communists, rewarded their torturers by love.” – Richard Wurmbrand
Being a living dead man is the best way to stand in the tension of countless battles, beliefs, and arguments in this world. Division is greatly fueled by individual perspectives which are shaped by personal bias. To die to one’s self entails giving up all of one’s corrupt parts. In casting away these things, my bias is one of the first things out the door because it is formed from a very small pair of eyes that have looked upon a broken world filled with broken people. On my own, I am just as jaded as the next person. I cannot peer into the depths of someone else’s soul, though I may catch a glimpse every beautiful once in a while. I cannot see their heart. This makes taking the right side in any issue very hard, especially when it comes to theology and biblical interpretation. In trying to come to a deeper understanding of God’s Word, it is incredibly easy to get lost in the noise of opposing voices and opinions of what God is trying to tell us. There is a tension in all of these things. In Philippians 2:12-13 Paul says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Paul was well aware of the tension found in struggling to find a holy God in the midst of a degenerate world. I am sure he labored much in teaching others about Jesus and God’s will for them in this life. It is no small endeavor to search out the things of God and then try to rehash them for others following you.
Here’s what I have to always keep in mind: Jesus is preeminent over everything else. If my struggle for truth ultimately takes my eyes off of Christ, then I am placing an attribute of Christ in a greater place than Christ Himself! Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John called Jesus the “light of all men”. How aptly spoken! You cannot go wrong in coming to Christ fully depending on Him to steer you in the right direction and help you get through the next leg of the journey.
Truth is like an atom where Jesus is the nucleus and the attributes and actions of God are the electrons. There’s an invisible tension that keeps all of those things spinning in perfect harmony around Jesus. They all work together to make up one, unified Truth. If I focus only on one of those attributes or actions of God, then I am orbiting around an electron instead of the nucleus of Truth. To obsess over that one thing would keep my entire perception of God off-kilter! Instead it is better for me to focus on Christ, the center of all the tension. This is the safest place to be in my faith. God is sovereign over all yet He calls us to make decisions and urges us to take action. God is both in the midst of all Creation and outside of it. Jesus was both fully God and fully man. God calls us to be both dead and alive in this world. God’s Truth is filled with so many paradoxes yet Christ somehow manages to reconcile all of them within Himself. This is the wonder and mystery of God!
4. My life is just a vapor. (Psalm 39:5)
Not everything is meant for my personal understanding. Not everything is within my own reach. Life would teach us all this every day if we would only listen. Living my life as if I am invincible and timeless is a fool’s errand. This is what gives me the resolve I need to lose my life for the sake of Jesus. It’s okay with me if I come in last place in this world. I don’t have to have the coolest things or the most sought after dreams. Despite how I feel sometimes, all of those things are trash. They may be gold-plated, good-looking, tempting little things, but in the end they will get tossed out and burned up. When all is said and done they will mean nothing. And all that I will have is my soul and a record of what I did with the time given to me. That is why it is possible for me to be a dead man walking.
In Colossians 2:11-12, Paul puts it this way, “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.” He’s basically saying, “Something happened to you that goes far deeper than the physical things you can see. It isn’t something a man could do. Only God. God has made it possible for you to put away your old ways that were selfish and sinful. For Christ it was a physical burial, but for you it is a spiritual one. Just as God raised Jesus from the dead, He has raised you from your spiritual burial.”
“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11) Your priorities change when you die to sin. When you realize that your whole life was meant to be lived for more than yourself, you quit living like you did before that stunning realization. You cannot come to those terms alone. It happens when God knocks on your door and tells you the rundown and you put your faith in Him. In the wonderful life of Jesus, I see a model of how I am supposed to live now. Jesus died as a sacrifice for all of us. He died so that we could have the opportunity to join Him in a new and better life. But that was not the end. By God’s divine and ultimate power, Jesus rose from the dead. He rose from the dead to show us that this life was only a foreshadowing of the real life. There is far more to come. Now joining with Jesus first means dying to ourselves. It means casting off the sins that we have loved and the passions that stand in the way of God’s will for our lives. It means walking around in this world as a stranger, a spiritual zombie. But keep in mind that the zombie life is just a vapor.
3. I must set my focus on Christ and His kingdom. (Matthew 6:25-34)
The admirable thing about zombies is their one-track minds. No amount of punishment or obstacle succeeds in turning them away from what they want. Death is the only thing that stops them. If you want to follow Christ well, you will need to do so with the same reckless abandon. You will face militant opposition. There are powers at work that don’t want you seeking God’s kingdom. But why is it so important to have such an intense focus on Jesus?
“He is the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
– Colossians 1:15-17
The reality of Jesus is that He’s calling all the shots. He gets the spotlight. Our purpose in life orbits His own. Fear and doubt are illusions to His disciples because nothing can separate them from His love. When we focus on Him, we can share in that promise and live in that hope. The meaning of life has a name and that name is Jesus.