© 2008 by Deidre Campbell-Jones
April Theme: Life
Life: Romans 6:23
Death: Romans 6:23
I wrote this on Good Friday. For most that meant they got holiday during the week before Easter. You know, sometimes there’s a holiday that always falls on a weekend, and so you get a day off in the work week to commemorate it. But commemorating or celebrating Good Friday rarely means more than a chance to sleep in and perhaps catch up on some things you can’t ordinarily do during the week.
Today - Sunday is "Easter". The Easter bunny comes and brings brightly colored eggs, chocolate and jelly beans. And a lot of people, who don’t ordinarily go to church, will dress up in pretty pastel clothes and sit through an Easter program, then, have an Easter egg hunt and a wonderful dinner. Now that is the life! Truly, it is a wonderful life for anyone to live. But of course, it is not the only life we are meant to live.
One Friday morning, Jesus told two of his disciples to go to a certain place of which he would tell them. There they would find a young donkey colt – one that had never been ridden before. He told them to untie the colt and bring it to him. And if the owners asked why they were untying it – to tell them, their master had need of it.
Now on that particular Friday when he rode that donkey into town, the people all cheered for him. This was the Lord who had done so many miracles amongst them – he had brought healing, forgiveness and new life. He had fed them physically and spiritually and had raised some from the dead – both physically and spiritually as well.
The following Thursday evening at sundown was the feast of Passover Seder – Jesus had been sharing Passover with the disciples. Mind you, they were most all Jewish and they celebrated the Jewish feasts together. Well, Judas excused himself and Jesus told him, “what you must do, do quickly.” Judas went to speak with the Chief Priests and the Captains to determine how he should betray Jesus. While he was gone, Jesus took three of His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray with Him for what He knew was about to take place. Jesus knew it was nearly time for Him to die. This is what He had been born to do. This was His only and one true test of obedience and Jesus did not want to do it. He did not go eagerly into death. He even asked our Father, His Father – Abba – take this cup from me, but nevertheless, not my will, but yours.
Death before Christ died was a very different matter than we know it today. There was a pain to death – a sting; the bible calls it, during the separation of life from the body. Death was definitely a thing to be avoided, a thing to be feared. And, this is my own personal speculation, but I also believe that before Christ’s death on the cross there was a living death of the soul that all mankind experienced everyday and with no relief from the time of the fall of man and the entering of sin in the Garden of Eden, until just after the prayers of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane when He was crucified for the sins of all mankind. It wasn’t until after Christ’s death that life became significant. That is because, Jesus did not stay dead and buried in that tomb! He went down to hell, snatched the keys of death from satan and rose up again on the third day! The enemy of life had controlled death and he thought he had won for all eternity by crucifying Christ. But what satan meant for evil, God meant for good – our eternal good.
Christ’s resurrection from death unto life, is the very reason why we too, can die to our sin and be resurrected into new life through Christ. "Easter" Sunday is for the Easter bunny, but this Sunday is Resurrection Sunday – the day we as believers celebrate the resurrected life of Christ and all that means for us.
You see before I became “born again” in 1985 and accepted Christ into my life as my Lord and Savior, I lived a flat, angst-ridden, confused, death of a life. I had no connection to life. I felt like an alien on this planet searching for something familiar, something to call my own, someone to love, someone to be and something to do. I was searching for me. I was empty inside and I tried all kinds of different things to fill it. And I searched for all kinds of different people to fill it. Inherently it seems, I knew that emptiness was supposed to be filled through a loving, intimate relationship, and I just couldn’t find the person to fill that void. I was basically dead to the world but I didn’t know it.
It wasn’t until I became “saved” that I experienced this new life and realized the difference between my old life. There was life inside me – living and breathing and experiencing the life outside me. There was life within my soul that I never knew wasn’t there in the first place. Now mind you, I know this separation from God was a death to my soul because there were times after having accepted Christ into my life that I pulled away and experienced that death again.
There was the time during my first marriage when it had gotten so bad and I was so depressed that there was no joy, no life and no Christ within me. I had backslidden in my depression because I blamed God for the state of that marriage. I pulled away from God in my anger and the void was palpable. They noticed it on my job; friends noticed it and I described it as a black hole in space sucking in my very soul into nothingness. I was a walking zombie – the living dead.
Later, when I got divorced, I experienced this soul death again, out of guilt for leaving that marriage. Christians don’t divorce, the believer is not supposed to leave and so surely I was outside of God’s will and I separated myself from Him out of guilt. Once again, I became the same un-dead, living that flat, listless, search-filled, meaningless, struggling life I had even before accepting Christ. There was one other time I died to Christ and that was after going on disability and being let go from AT&T. The depression that time was so deep – not out of anger, and not out of guilt but out of pure un-worthiness. I felt inept, incapable, unworthy and hopeless. My separation was long, ugly and daily I wished I could just be put in the ground and saved from the misery. I am sure this death-filled kind of life was a matter of everyday existence for all mankind before Christ came.
Jesus said "I have come so that you would have live, and have it more abundantly." Oh, death – where is thy sting?
You see, Christ’s death was for all of us. His death on the cross was not just for those who would one day believe. His death was so that all mankind would have life and have a death with no sting. It is the acceptance of Christ’s death and the belief in Him that gives us life. And it is through living that life with Him and in Him that we experience that life more abundantly each day that we become closer to Him.
Christ’s death is significant even for those who do not believe. Non-believers reap the rewards of Christ’s death and God’s love just the same as believers do. For God so loved the world… not just those who would believe. Christ’s death on the cross was His gift to ALL mankind. The life we choose to live after being presented with the truth of that death is what determines how abundantly we will live within God’s gift.
In the Old Testament it says that we walk between the valleys of life and death. Choose life. You see, before Christ died for us – we had no choice but to die – we were already dead. We lived in death, we died a painful death and death was eternal. The wages of sin is death. Then Jesus came and he told the Pharisees that they were white-washed sepulchers. They were the ones who were supposed to be knowledgeable about God and the laws of man. They were the High Priests but they were dead inside like a tomb that was made to look good on the outside. That is how we live as non-believers. We try to clean it all up on the outside, be kind, don’t lie, don’t steal don’t cheat, and maybe we even came close to following the 10 Commandments. Those were the laws God gave man, because they had no Life on the inside. And without Christ, we still have no life on the inside.
"I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father accept by me” For many it is a hard scripture to hear – they feel condemned, separated, excluded and left out. They rebel and deny that the only way to experience God is through Christ. But that is because they do not know that they don’t have life. Yes, the first part of Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death.” But the second part says, “but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus, our Lord.”
Just this past Tuesday, the Bishop of my church reminded us that a person can have life and not be alive. A patient in the hospital that is on life-support has a heart that beats, and lungs that breath all with assistance – but there is no life in that body that is alive. God’s grace to us while we are unbelievers is His life-support system. We are alive with no live, we are walking comas, zombies of the heart searching for a way to live. Christ is the way, and that’s the truth.
Sin means “separation from God.” The sins we commit are the actions of life that keep us separated from God. When God separated a part of Himself as flesh, that flesh became sin. That flesh is Jesus and Jesus became sin for us – He knew no sin, He committed no sins – He became sin: the perfect sacrifice.
And when He made that sacrifice of death, He did it for all of us, whether we would believe in Him or not. Christ died for us while we were yet sinners - while we were still separated from Him - and He still died for us even if we remain sinners even unto our deaths.
Once I wrote a song that said, “Life is a gift, not a choice – yet many a choice has been made, to take that life away.” It was a song pertaining to the pro-choice, pro-life debate. It was written shortly after I first came to Christ and I feel, in one regard, it is inaccurate according to the truths I now know about life.
The conception of life in the physical is a gift. The life we receive through Christ’s death and resurrection is also a gift. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, so that whosoever should believe shall not perish but would have everlasting life.” John 3:16. But accepting that gift and accepting that life is a choice. We can choose everlasting life or we can choose to stay dead in our sin.
Making that choice begins with belief. There are no list of rights and wrongs – just simple belief. Do you believe that Jesus is the only begotten son of God? Do you believe that He was born of a virgin? Do you believe that He died on the cross for the transgression of our sins? Do you believe that He was raised again on the third day so that we could have life everlasting? Do you believe in Life?
p.s. Do you want to know why Jesus is called the “only begotten son of God” if He was God? Email me and ask… I’ll tell you why.