Death is something no one wants to talk about. We don’t think about it unless we are forced to, but it’s part of life and reminders are everywhere. A hospital, a cemetery, a funeral home – all are visual reminders of our mortality. Every birthday brings us closer to our own physical end. Even with reminders, we carry on as though it won’t happen for many years.
Paul took a different tack. He looked it in the eye on many occasions and mentions it multiple times in his letters in the New Testament. He even welcomed it, saying it would be better for him to be with Christ, except that he was needed for the church. I believe he was able to do this because he had already experienced a different kind of death – death to self. It’s not something we hear much about, but just as kenosis is foundational to Christianity, so is dying to self. Paul mentions it much more than physical death.
Dallas Willard’s book Life Without Lack devotes a whole chapter to this subject. He asserts that we must understand death to self has nothing to do with death of self. “Death to self is not ultimately a negation, but a rising up into the very life of God (2 Peter 1:4). Thus our lives are saved by his life (Romans 5:10).” He also says you were not put here on earth to get rid of yourself, but to be a self, and to live fully as a self.
In Galatians 2:20, Paul gives us the definition of death to self: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (NIV). “This is the essence of the death-to-self life: that we should no longer live for ourselves, but for him who died for us and rose again” (Ibid.).
Next week: Leaving the Flesh Behind
“‘Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave'” (Revelation 1:17b-18, NLT).
Each year brings its share of death, but it seems this one in particular has been full of violent killings. Death is bad enough by itself, but many worry about what happens to their loved ones afterward. People believe many different things about the afterlife, including the belief there isn’t one, which is a sad way to live and die. Christians believe in heaven but hold various views on what it really is and worry about those who aren’t believers.
The truth is no one need be afraid of what happens after we die, believers or not. Jesus assures us we have nothing to worry about because he is the living one who died but is alive forever and ever. His resurrection means he holds the keys to death and the grave. He has forever locked the door on death and its power over us and he has opened the door to eternal life, which no one can close. Some think he may use the keys to lock out a few or even a lot of folks, but our loving Savior isn’t like that. He will only use the keys to lock out the real enemy, never his loved ones, the whole world, for whom he died.
“For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1, NLT).
No one wants to think about dying, yet the reality and reminders of this part of life are all around us. We know it’s going to happen, but for now, we put it away in a compartment of our brains labelled “later” or “someday” and continue to believe death is only happening to others. Because no one knows exactly what happens after death, we continue to think of that stage of life as a great unknown.
Paul takes away some of the sting of death and answers one big question as he tells us we will have new bodies, made by God himself. These bodies won’t just get a makeover, plastic surgery or a few nips and tucks. They will be spiritual bodies, the same as Jesus had when he appeared to the disciples after walking out of his tomb. God, whom we already know as the great gift giver, is preparing this last, wonderful gift for his children and it will be glorious. His love truly is unending and amazing.
“The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die” (Psalm 116:15, NLT).
We don’t like to think about death, but we are reminded of it every day. Whether it’s the passing of a friend or family member, hearing of a celebrity’s death on the news or merely driving by a cemetery, the fleeting nature of life is constantly before us. Even so, we like to think of our own death as far off in the future.
Even though God is the one who put the life/death cycle in motion, he is not unmoved by death. Jesus wept when his friend died and he compassionately gave life back to him and others. The biggest proof God cares is the cross: Jesus experienced death for us and in doing so, took away its power over us. Because the enemy of death has been conquered, rather than fear or dread it, we can calmly accept it as the door to eternity.