Alive Without Him - Death
Crucified with Him - Life
40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.
42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.
43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
This is not some metaphoric narrative or some religious fable. This was one of many miracles performed by the Incarnate Son of God. But even though it testifies as to Who Jesus was, it also presents ample application for the church of today. But before our Lord performed this incredible miracle, He informed Martha as to who He was.
Jn.11:25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
And instead of embracing that with a passion that exhibits a life lived completely apart from all the trappings of culture, and instead of a devotion to Him which makes us brilliant living epistles, the church has packaged that statement and invented the pagan holiday called “Easter”. Furthermore, the western church in true utilitarian fashion has viewed the resurrection as either a doctrinal tenant or a metaphor that describes the way a person’s life can achieve a higher level of earthly success. We have taken the power and glory of His resurrection and turned it into our own religious observance with which to be entertained and enjoyed along with meals and eggs and hats.
This resurrection of which we speak should not only find a prominent and uncompromised place in our doctrinal beliefs, but it should, it must, find a living expression in our lives. It should daily pulsate within our hearts and spirits. We should be on a living course that changes us on a consistent basis. There should be something new, something different, something very remarkable about us when we are observed by the fallen culture. By the miracle of the ministry of the Spirit, what we believe should be released through words, attitudes, and deeds. Love and mercy and grace and patience and joy and faith and peace and gentleness and meekness, all should join in as a lifestyle choir which is presented through a cantata of humility.
The true gospel can be compromised when it is presented upon a plate of self righteousness or even moral requirements. However when that same true gospel is presented in words that are observably tethered to Spirit empowered New Testament works, then can we can “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.” What is needed today is not more clever proclamation of the gospel, but more demonstration of the Person of Christ. Not at the expense of proclamation, but as a powerful platform.
In 1997 a space project named Cassini–Huygens was launched. It was designed to go to the planet Saturn, and in a bold leap of technology, it would remain in Saturn’s orbit. The power to propel such a craft far enough could not be generated simply by getting it out of Earth’s atmosphere. It had to rely on several gravitational propulsions to increase it speed. Twice it came close to Venus whose gravitational field thrust it forward, once it passed Earth again, and finally Jupiter gave it the final thrust that propelled it into a successful meeting with Saturn. The success of the project was aided in no small way by other planets which were not part of its mission.
The gospel itself is designed, so to speak, to reach lost sinners and offer them the gift of eternal
life and the forgiveness of sins through the finished work of Jesus Christ. But God has commanded that His followers be sacrificial conduits for that mission. And we are not just to print tracts and push them out of an airplane. We are to be living epistles, sanctified and empowered by God’s Spirit. We, in effect, are to aid in the proclamation of the everlasting gospel, and just like those planets, our lives should be a positive and powerful force that serves that gospel endeavor. Those planets were not the source of the gravitational power, God was and is. But they were used to help generate power.
And so it with us. To suggest that God is just a puppeteer that does whatever he wants and does not need or use surrendered believers is to ignore the New Testament and centuries of human instrumentation in the proclamation of the gospel. And when we ask, “Does God need us” is to ask the wrong question. In the end God needs nothing and no one. But also in the end God desires to use us and He has ordained it that through preaching and sharing the gospel goes forth, and through committed vessels that same gospel is propelled with the anointing of the Spirit.
The resurrection is a literal event that substantiated the cross and sealed the everlasting gospel. It is not just to be studied in history class. It is to be lived in such a way that although people do not fully understand, they cannot deny that there is something very different about us. We are the children of the resurrection. The Corn of Wheat has died and has been buried. But that Corn lives again and has broken through the ground and now is bearing fruit around the world. The only way we can experience His resurrection is to…well, is to…is to die. It may seem so macabre, but in the Spirit it is the fountain of life everlasting.
He who gives us eternal life has commanded us to die to ourselves and live unto Him. What a great calling! What a wonderful responsibility! But it is impossible to emulate Christ on our terms. And there can be no resurrection without a crucifixion. We are not just to allow the flesh, the old man, to take a less prominent seat in our lives. He is very clever and will only feign to relinquish his power within us. He must die. He must be crucified.
And how do we die to ourselves? The first step is an unvarnished and surrendered reading of the Scriptures and the New Testament specifically. Without a diligent and passionate consumption of God’s Word all we have is another religion with a set of rules, a belief system, and a redundant outward structure of practices and observances. Instead of a community of Spirit filled followers whose lives ferociously affect others around them, we have a group of professing believers whose most prominent feature is that they drag their body to a building a few times a week.
The commitment to God’s Word must be adamant and inflexible. It must be approached with a tender and passionate heart which longs to seek the person of Christ and His will. Like Jacob, it will not be denied. The heart which follows Christ lives, moves, and has its being within the pages of God’s Word which are spirit themselves. The clatter of this present world is an enemy of such a pursuit. Even much of church activity may seek to dilute such a journey.
Can you remember the first time you read God’s Word after you became a born again believer? I can. It was almost magical. I could not understand some of the Scriptures, so I decided to begin reading the words in red. Of course I was a babe in Christ, but as I read His Words they began to burn inside me. I saw things that I never dreamed were there, and I understood things about which I was ignorant only weeks before. I would get excited sometimes, awestruck sometimes, tearful sometimes, but the Word was changing me. After I was saved I used to read God’s Word while smoking a cigarette! Oh how patient and loving is our Father!
But only God’s Word, ministered by God’s Spirit, can change a human heart. And through this lifelong process the Spirit leads us into all truth and uses His glorious scalpel to cut away that which does not resemble our Master. Painful yet full of glory, so many professing believers have all but abandoned God’s Word except for a few meager and convenient “devotional times” which are neatly hidden within a well rounded western lifestyle. They may warm the heart but they cannot perform the spiritual surgery necessary to allow one to say, “I am crucified with Christ nevertheless I live, but not I, but Christ lives within me…”.
Crucifixion is a painful and torturous death. Every part of your being screams for relief. And your flesh will scream for relief, and if that bears no results your flesh will begin to act religious in an attempt to dilute and compromise your spiritual passion. This determined devotion to experience the fellowship of His sufferings is much more than a little deeper kind of ecclesiastical commitment. This is war. And this war can be won on Thursday night and lost on Friday morning. This war will rage every day of your earthly life. It is relentless and horrific and costly. All this, that is, unless you have surrendered to your flesh, the world, and the evil one.
But there are innumerable rewards to those who actively engage in this war. Some are tangible, some are ethereal, and some are experienced within the heart and soul and have no words with which to share them. It is no hyperbole to say that five minutes in His tangible and experiential presence is worth a life time. He is more precious than all the world, and the sacred privilege of His presence is offered to all His children and desired by Him. His presence changes you. I do not mean just a music fueled night at the church. I mean a serious and penetrating encounter with the Crucified and Risen Christ which unmasks us and breaks us and ultimately remakes us in His likeness.
Music often helps the mind to shut out the influences of this world, but music alone is not what we seek. We must seek Him through the glorious pages of His divine revelation. And through them and through prayer we may experience the ministry of the Holy Spirit taking a sinner-saint and carefully removing the dross and molding that life into redemptive gold. The glory of that process is without measure, and to understand its sacred purpose is to understand just how hollow and lifeless all the ecclesiastical machinations of the western church have become.
The purpose driven life is not to do things for God, it is to be like God. And that takes more than a tacit commitment to a local church, or a participation in a missions project, or going through all the motions prescribed by the average western pastor. You were made for His good pleasure and not for your own. But have no fear, His good pleasure is life and your pleasure is death. Many of us have tried all the pleasure this world has to offer and we have found them hollow and filled with depression and guilt. However to be actively seeking and finding Him is a life giving experience that cannot be shared except with those on the same path.
And with each new particle of revelation that brings us into His glorious presence we find a fresh empowering experience of His resurrection! I wish I had words sufficient enough to convey in substance just what that means and how it changes you. Like a man born blind attempting to explain the color blue, I am without any real earthly reference point when it comes to His presence and the Spirit’ life changing ministry. How can you experience pain and glory simultaneously? Let God change you every single day. And when your hands and feet are spiritually nailed to that cross, and when you surrender to His death, only then will you open your eyes and see the inside walls of the tomb once owned by Joseph of Arimathea. Arise, for this is the day of resurrection and new life! You were crucified and buried with Him and now you feel a fresh pulsating life coursing through your being. Fear not for it is not you who now lives, but in an eternal mystery He has resurrected inside your being and your life has become His.
Yes, I am using imagery but I sincerely believe my imagery only scratches the surface and touches the hem of the garment as it pertains to the power of the resurrection within a believer’s life. Doctrinal statements are kindergarten. Metaphors are jangling keys in a baby’s face. All us preachers attempt to wax eloquent about many things, but when it comes to His sufferings and death and the eternal glory of His resurrection we may as well be rendered dumb. And how in God’s dear name can the Spirit take that resurrection and its power and infuse it into a life so resistant, so rebellious, and so unlike the Risen Christ?
It is a miracle of colossal proportions, and this miracle comes through the power of grace. But dear brothers and sisters, it is not without cost. He paid for its availability to whosoever would believe upon Him. Now He beckons whosoever will to come and dine with Him. Not a quick lunch or a drive thru package meal. Not a Lean Cuisine or a Nutra Shake. Not peanut butter or ham spread. This meal has been prepared before the foundations of the world were spoken into being. It awaits all those who have been grafted in to His family purely by faith. The glory and scope of this meal is unfathomable to the finite limitations of the human mind.
I often wonder about the implications of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. I mean how will we eat while we are granted a complete and unobstructed view of the Risen Lamb of God? Who among us can let food distract us when His face shines upon us? It is such a mystery, albeit full of glory. However, this coming feast held by and in the presence of the Creator Himself offers a little taste before hand. Oh yes, in an act of indescribable grace God has allowed diligent seekers to taste of Him and see that He is good.
Perhaps that unlocks some of the mystery. Perhaps when we sit at the Marriage feast of the Lamb, and as He sits at the table’s head, perhaps, just perhaps the feast will be Him Himself. Perhaps this feast will be the culmination and the complete revelation of the Lord’s Supper observed now by His followers. Perhaps while we gaze upon Him with awe and worship, perhaps we then will be partaking of Him. I do not know, but this I do know.
Die today and live tomorrow. Live today and die tomorrow.
Sell all that you have and purchase the Pearl of Great Price.
It redemptive value is eternal!