There are many ironies throughout the Bible and perhaps the greatest ones have to do with death. It is ironic that he who will be the greatest must become the servant (Matthew 23:11); he who will be rich in the kingdom must dispense of his wealth and become poor (Luke 18:22); and he who will be conqueror and enter the kingdom must embrace humility as a little child (Matthew 18:4). Yet these ironies have not risen to the awesome heights as do the ones dealing with mortality.
It is true that for many people in the world, life is not great, and even for those well off, they think something is missing; something out of their reach but important. Yet whatever your status in life the desire to live is overwhelming. Even people whose bodies are racked with wasting, painful diseases try every medication and procedure to stay alive for just a little longer.
I know of an old woman who is well advanced in age and just glad that she would soon be dead and gone, yet whenever she had a little heart problem would rush to the doctor and get medication and ask everybody to pray for her healing. Whatever they may say, the inherent impulse to extend one's life is mighty indeed.
Jesus Christ, being mindful of man's relish for living, spoke in ironic terms to his audience like this:
"Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it." (Luke 17:33)
Jesus knew that it was rational and commendable for a man to try to save his life for that life is sacred and entrusted to him for some good reasons, some of which he may not even understand. But to try to save it by sheltering under falsehoods and worldly conformity would have the opposite effect to that intended; for that was a guaranteed way to lose it. But if a man was willing to lose his life, sacrifice all the pleasures and comforts that are deemed by the world as "living", lay down his life for the Gospel's sake and replace self-centeredness with Christ-centeredness then not only will he find real life now but secure for himself the ultimate; immortal and eternal life with its endless joys and pleasures.
In truth it is our lustful, yearning bodies; yielding to temptations, that abuse our members to do wrong and until we put them to death, i.e. kill them, we remain excluded from the glories of heaven. The Apostle Paul told us just this when he said, "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:" (Colossians 3:5-6)
However you look at it there seems to be no escape from some killing and death in order to live. It seems that the very thing you are trying to avoid (death) is the very thing you must fully embrace if you want to live.
The Apostle Paul in explaining this irony to the church at Colosse, remember that this church was mired in doctrinal disputes and heresies and a ragtag bunch of oriental philosophies and Judaistic speculation, pointed out to them their elevated status in Christ, "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:3) This death was not natural, moral or legal but followed on from a state of grace in Christ where perspective has been changed and the interaction with the world transformed. This is well put by John Gill in his Bible Commentary:
"...and therefore as dead men have nothing to do with the world, and the things of it, so believers being dead with Christ, should have no regard to the rudiments of the world, the ceremonies of the law, and the ordinances of men; to worldly lusts, and to the things that are in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; but should be dead as to their desires after, affections for, and subjection to these things."
The huge question here is this. How does one reach such a state of grace in Christ, a state where one is dead but still very much alive and dynamic in the faith?
First it is necessary to recognise that this state of grace in Christ is an essential precursor to all the blessing and benefits that flow from being redeemed. Whatever we want from God, whatever he deems beneficial for us; whatever we receive through prayer and supplication comes because of this vital relationship.
When we recognise that this state of grace in Christ is essential we have to earnestly desire it, and do everything possible to secure it. The truth is that some believers go a long way to acquiring it but because they hold on to some things, sometimes little things, they never manage to fully acquire it. It is precisely for this very reason that the writer of Hebrews (Apostle Paul?) gave the church this timely admonition, "...let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." (Hebrews 12:1)
Believers are known to have fallen short of their true place in the state of grace in Christ because they have allowed hurt feelings, petty grudges, an unforgiving spirit and a lot of extraneous matters to intrude and contaminate their souls.
Next we have to appreciate that no matter how hard we try, we come up against our limits.
There are some things we just can't do, not because we don't want to do them, not because we are not convinced of their benefits but because they so grate against our natural inclination and preferences that we defer from taking action.
The Apostle Paul was no different and being the most erudite of the apostles put into words what they all experienced, "I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." (Romans 7:21-23)
The Apostle Paul then went on to berate his carnal nature, he bemoaned the fact that it led him to a state of helplessness, and spiritual weakness; and he concluded, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:21-23) Paul was alluding here to spiritual death but also to the custom in his day where a murderer was fastened to his victim's body and remained so until the rotting corpse polluted him to a painful and prolonged death.
This leads naturally to my third point which is this.
Although the Bible admonishes you to mortify [put to death] the members of your body, you can do so only by the express agency of God himself.
The Holy Spirit, God as the third person of the Trinity, always comes to our help when we reach and need to go beyond our limits.
This happens when we reach our limits in prayer:
"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." (Romans 8:26)
This happens when we reach our limits in physical strength:
"Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts." (Zechariah 4:6)
This needs to happen, God himself needs to act, if we are to transcend the grasp and pull of the natural man and Paul alluded to it here in his conversation with the Romans, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." (Romans 7:25)
So we come full circle for it is God that came searching and found us; it is God who will sanctify and keep us, and it is God and God alone that will come to our rescue, and sever the tendrils of the monster of self that sorely afflicts us. In truth we reach our true state of grace in Christ when, in total dedication and unswerving commitment to God, the body, soul and spirit all unite in the symphony of adoration and beseech, "Kill Me Dear Lord That I Might Live", and he does just that.
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013