life and death

"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry."
Col. 3:5

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
I Peter 1:3

Life is all about a series of births and deaths. I say births and deaths because it simply isn't so simple as just one of each. And I'm not talking about other people. I'm talking about in just one person's life. It is all about the things you birth and the things you put to death.

Every day is an opportunity to put something to death--an old fading friendship, a propensity to procrastination, that sin that keeps cropping up, that struggling relationship. And every day we have the opportunity to birth new things in our lives--a relationship with that co-worker you've always wanted to talk to, eating more vegetables, beginning your writing habit. But many days pass with little change. Is it because we do not realize the power we have in our own lives?

A lot of talk is made about how little power we have over our lives--how at any moment something can happen that we have absolutely no control over and everything is completely different in a matter of moments. This is true to some extent, and to that we should always keep to our humility. But at the same time the New Testament doesn't quite see it that way. Our life can be taken at any moment sure, but ultimately the Lord is in control. We might cry foul but it was almost more like a non-issue with the early church. Death was a joy. Men sang in prisons. Martyrs raised their eyes to heaven singing in the midst of flames or the Colosseum.

The fact is we have far more control over our lives than we think. We have the power, we have the authority to control our lives. Control sounds negative, but it is rather more like the power to escape being controlled by the evil both around and within us. Are you struggling with despair and fear? Bring about a birth of life and hope into yourself. Are you struggling with a sin? Put to death therefore...

It all sounds so simple. In the past I always wanted to know "but how?" The scriptures just state the imperative, but do they realize how hard it is? How am I supposed to do this? I need a companion book that tells me how to do all the things that are just simply stated in the bible. Two things come to mind.

1. We do not receive because we do not ask. Do you want hope in your life? Begin by asking God for it, and not just in passing. Continue to bring it in prayer and you will be like the man knocking on the door late at night. He will get up and answer because of your persistence. I know it's not that easy, and not all that we ask for do we receive (wait, isn't that contrary to some verse?)--and it will take time. If you're asking for something good from God like hope or joy, he will begin to give it.

2. We give far too much power to our emotions. We say we cannot do something because it is far too difficult. In other words, our emotions complete control us. I'm not saying our emotions are bad--just that they seem to have the final say. In black and white matters we may not be so bold, but in pretty much anything else any idea of what we "should" do is decided by what feels right. Or the feeling is too overwhelming to try and do anything different with it. Many of us live under this oppression without really realizing the full extent of its presence or error.

Those are just two simple things, and they are not the "how." There is no eternal how because there is no formula. That second point especially is a very cultural one, specific (though not exclusive) to our time and place. To some extent we all have to figure out how, and that is done in the present in community, with others. But we must be willing to try, and not let ourselves be ruled by the blowing of the winds. And by winds I mean feelings.

Birth and death. What are you birthing in your life? What are you putting to death? There are so many possibilities for both of those.

But there is another little wrinkle in this pair:

"For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"
II Cor. 2:14-17

Resurrection. Because of who Christ was and is we believe in resurrection. And not just after death, but in the constant and continuing restitution of all that has gone wrong in this cruel world. The temptation in life, especially after a little seasoning, is to give up to the overwhelming death rate we experience in our own lives. We fight for life and new births, but we cannot keep up. We stick to what we know will survive and we stay there.

But we can challenge death. We can believe that resurrection is possible. Not all death is bad of course, but whether it is or not it doesn't have the power. We have the power, because it has been given to us through the authority of Christ. We can look at our lives and what has died. And we can not only look forward but actively seek resurrection of that death in our lives. It may not always rise again to look just like it did. That area/relationship/desire might and really should be quite transformed. It is precisely this transformation that makes not only all things new, but also renewed and full of life--life to the full. Oh and by the way in case you missed it, it is love that makes any and all of this possible. Christ's love and his love in us. It is the only way to true death, resurrection, and life.

"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."
John 12:24

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