"The report of my death is an exaggeration". Mark Twain
In the gloriously politically incorrect years of the early 1960's we neighborhood boys were always seen on Saturdays running though back yards holding toy rifles and pistols. Those of us who didn't have one would make one out of a board or some other improvised object with imagination making up the deficit. We played cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, army, war all things that your friendly neighborhood social worker would now have us on medication for doing. I'm so thankful I got to be a kid before these times when the nanny state tucks us into bed with cold statutory hands.
There were unspoken rules (always the strongest kind) when we played these games. The main one was that when you were shot you had to "take your deads". You couldn't say "oh, you got me in the shoulder" and keep running. Some guys were predictable for doing that and you hated for them to play. Those of us who took our deads generally collected in a little group somewhere, lying on the ground talking, looking at the sky with a piece of grass dangling from our lips and getting cold drinks from a nearby water hose until enough guys were officially and unmistakably dead for a new battle to begin. The guys who never took their deads always prolonged the game unnecessarily and often would not relent until everybody scolded them as a group. They hung on to their "lives" to the point of making the game a labor instead of fun. Those of us who took our deads had time to relax and contemplate new and improved plans for our next incarnations in a renewed battle. We no longer carried the weight of staying alive. We were free.
Every time someone declares themselves a Christian they are, whether they understand it or not, declaring their deaths. But as I think about the church scene it doesn't appear that many of us have actually taken our deads. Let me bring it home. In the 29 years I've called myself a Christian I confess that the majority of that time has been squandered trying to identify with victory in Jesus without also identifying with His death. It simply can't be done. In the meantime, along with many other Christians, I've settled for a moral life with Jesus icing on top as a sad substitute for a full crucifixion. And I can't even say my moral life is the best. Ignoring this truth means I've also ignored real life and victory in Christ since, as Paul says...
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Gal.2:20
None of us can say we don't really know this. We're just negligent of being established in it.
Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. 2 Pet.1:12
What put me in remembrance was a recent mercy God showed me in which He relieved me of a financial fear that had been worrying me for months. It was such a relief that I felt if I didn't appreciate it like a cool breeze on a burning hot day that the ungratefulness would certainly cause me to lose out on the full strength I could receive by really absorbing this into my spirit. In other words I needed to lay this thing to heart. Failing to lay things to heart means not understanding the reasons why they happen.
The righteous perishes, and no man lays it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. Isa. 57:1
Just as God showed me a particular mercy it has been mercy all along that I've not been consumed in the midst of my foolishness (Lam.3:22). When I took the time to listen I knew that the Spirit's voice had never ceased to patiently whisper that "nothing significant changes until you take your deads".
Truly, I say to you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit. Jn.12:24
In 1897 renowned writer Mark Twain's cousin died. A reporter was dispatched in the mistaken understanding that Twain himself had died. That's the source of his famous quote that the report of his death was an exaggeration. Yes, reports of my death were also exaggerated every time I called myself a Christian and tried to live by my own strength. If you know this doesn't apply to you then I'm happy for you. You don't need to read any of this. And few though they may be I know there are Christians who take their deads. But I suspect that the reports of many of our deaths are greatly exaggerated. To consider this stirs up guilt and other disturbing feelings. We try to avoid that. But that's part of not taking our deads. Instead of avoiding it we should just take the Spirit's bullet. Then we can get a cold drink of living water, look at the sky and contemplate renewed lives in which we no longer carry the spirit crushing burden of being secret gods; moral secret gods, to be sure, but still ruled by the first Adam instead of the second. In the end we'll end up with the same prize as the unbeliever though we worked harder for it. How dumb is that?
The main reason the life of Christ is not controlling our lives and redeeming enemy territory through us more is because we never really identified with His death before we tried to participate in His life. The kind of life our current society endorses is one full of worry and anxiety. Nobody, even the rich, really lives according to it if they value sanity. If they live well at all it's because they find ways to mark out their own territory within the madness; ways to soften its influence. But only the dead in Christ can truly take the punches this world throws and roll with them. Why? Because if we're dead we don't feel the punches in the despairing way of those still alive. Our lives are hidden. If we walk in that reality then Christ takes the force of the hits.
For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. Col.3:3
But walking in it is always the trick, isn't it? Well, it's not really a trick. It only seems like one the more we try to walk in it while still alive. So what am I doing here? Am I, because I've been enabled to see a truth and receive some grace now trying to tell everybody else what they're supposed to do? I hope it doesn't sound that way. I hate it when people do that. Even being granted mercy and eyes to see a truth does not guarantee I will not be back in the same carnal frame of mind next week. Unless I keep this garden weeded the weeds will grow back.
So I am relating this as a member of the body of Christ in hope that not only will others find something they can identify with but that the Holy Spirit might be pleased to apply it as He sees fit. If He decides to recycle it through His pipeline then it will become
the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. Jam.3:17
Bruce Newman, married 29 years, age 51. Love to find ways to weave the word of God with any subject since all things are upheld by Him.
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