Afraid to Die?

We are free from condemnation because we are in Christ. As a Christian, that means my future is secure, regardless of what I do. There is not a sin I can commit – as a Christian – that will cause Christ to reject me. If there is such a sin, then the cross lacks power to keep me saved. 

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As long a I can remember I have feared death. I’ve always thought that if I did something too risky I would die. I have feared that my entire life. Not knowing what happens after death has always bothered me. I would like to see it happen before it happened to me. But with death, there is no way to watch the process before experiencing it.

Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. – 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 NASB

When I accepted Christ in 1984, I thought this fear of death would leave me. But it didn’t. I still feared death and dying. I would avoid situations certain situations because I thought they were too dangerous. This resulted in avoiding ministry opportunities that presented themselves to me because of my fear. This fear lasted until recently. I’m convinced that my fear of death wasn’t real – and it wasn’t imagined. I misunderstood my fear. I never really feared death. At least I haven’t feared it since receiving Christ.

I feared life.

You read that correctly.

I. Feared. Life.

And living.

Now you may wonder what I mean by that.

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:31-36 NASB (bold mine for emphasis)

Simply put, I feared living the life that was purchased for me on the cross.

I have always struggled with being accepted. There are reasons for this struggle which I won’t share here, but there are very real reasons I struggle with being accepted. I suppose that is the root cause of my fear of life. I always wondered if I would do something that would cause Christ to be disappointed in me and reject me.

I erected rules and regulations to keep my behavior in check. I thought that if I crafted a narrow enough path of conduct then I would be fine. Even I wouldn’t be able to be stupid enough to cause a problem. My guardrails would be enough to keep me safe. The guardrails that I meant to hem my behavior in order to reflect my commitment to Christ became walls that kept me from becoming who I was meant to be by HIm. To say I got things messed ups is an understatement.

Even though I felt that I was doing well, I wasn’t. In my zeal to live within my guardrails, I forgot about freedom. I’m not talking about the idea that I could do anything and be OK. There are rules to the Christian life. I’m talking about the freedom that comes with knowing that I am secure in Christ and being able to live boldly and righteously.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. – Romans 8:1 NASB

In my zeal I had forgotten to soak in one of the  most critical verses for a Christian. Romans 8:1 is extremely important for every Christian. We are free from condemnation because we are in Christ. As a Christian, that means my future is secure, regardless of what I do. There is not a sin I can commit – as a Christian – that will cause Christ to reject me. If there is such a sin, then the cross lacks power to keep me saved.

Righteousness is credited to me by and through Christ. He decides to see me through His righteousness.  At the time of salvation, I am declared righteous by God because of the sacrifice Christ made for me. This declaration is a legal one that is forever settled. One day I will be righteous – one day when I will no longer sin. That day will happen in glory, when I have been perfected in Christ.

But that day isn’t today. I still struggle with sin – and fear – each and every day. I sin, repent, and then sin again. I am frustrated by this but I now understand that this is how life goes until the day I am made perfect.

Though I still fear life – I still worry about doing stupid stuff – I don’t fear being rejected. God has seen fit to remind me of His undying love for me. The fact that He has declared me righteous means that can’t be changed by my actions. I need to rest in this.

What about you? Are you a Christian who fears life? Do you worry that you may do something that will cause Christ to ultimately reject you? If you are, I hope you are encouraged by what I have shared here. More than that, I want you to be encouraged by God’s unchanging word

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39 NASB

 

I Wasn’t Worth It

cross transparentI’m not worth the cost of the cross. Neither are you.
I’m corrupt, evil, selfish nasty person. And so are you.
There is nothing good in me. And neither in you.
I’m beyond reproach. I am a rebellious person. And so are you.

 

Every one in a while I hear a song on the radio that gets me a bit irritated. no, it isn’t Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, Ted Nugent, Motley Crue, or other band like them. No, this song is on Christian radio. And I hate it.

There is a line in this song that says something like “you were worth dying for…” in reference to the sacrifice that Christ mad en the cross for us. That little line frosts me. I hate. It is so very wrong. It cheapens the sacrifice Christ made and implies that we somehow deserve Christ’s sacrifice because we are worth it. UGH!

For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;
And all of us wither like a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. Isaiah 64:6 NASB

I’m not worth the cost of the cross. Neither are you.
I’m corrupt, evil, selfish nasty person. And so are you.
There is nothing good in me. And neither in you.
I’m beyond reproach. I am a rebellious person. And so are you.

There is none righteous, not even oneThere is none who understandsThere is none who seeks for GodAll have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does goodThere is not even oneTheir throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceivingThe poison of asps is under their lipsWhose mouth is full of cursing and bitternessTheir feet are swift to shed bloodDestruction and misery are in their pathsAnd the path of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes. Romans 3:10 – 18 NASB

 

I am worthy and deserve only death and eternal separation from God.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 NASB

And so do yo.

But that is exactly the point.

God loved me and chose me, not because of who I am, but because of who He is. He chose to glorify Himself through the demonstration of His mercy on me – and you. He chose me – and you – inspire of ourselves, not because of ourselves. Do you see the difference? I was not worth dying for – and neither were you – but Christ chose to die for me because of His great love and His desire to glorify God’s compassion by showering me and you with that compassion.

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:4-6 NASB

If I somehow deserved it, then I cheapen the sacrifice. After all, if I deserved it, I should expect it, right?? This kind of thinking – that Christ saw something in us that was worthy of His sacrifice – is just plain wrong.

To understand the wonder of the cross and the depth of His love for us, we must realize the depth of our depravity. We must realize that there is nothing in us that would draw Christ to us. He simply chose us because of HIs love for us.

When we understand this, then we can understand our great dependence on Him for everything we are in Him. This realization should never leads to a position of pride but should lead us to our knees in humble gratitude for the grace He has showered on us.

Revel in the grace that He has bestowed on us. Rejoice in the forgiveness we have received. Rest in the safety of His salvation.

Brighter Lights, Clearer Flaws

Where we walk will affect more than feelings. It will affect who we are.

 

I remember years ago I had finished a woodworking project. I had worked diligently on it, trying to make it appear perfect. When I applied the stain and the stuff to protect it, I thought I was finished and it would look great. I was wrong. When I placed it in my apartment at the time it a few days later, it was terrible. There were bubbles and what looked like particles of sawdust in the finish. There were problems with the wood itself that made my project look hideous. It was ruined, I thought. I wondered why I had not seen these flaws before.

My workshop was just a poorly lit area. There wasn’t a lot of light in the place. It had a one lightbulb in it. I thought I had plenty of light. But when I brought it into the well-lit living room, all the flaws I had not seen in the dark workshop were revealed. And when I started to inspect the project more closely with a flashlight, the flaws seemed to multiply.

I then realized then what has become a theological mantra for me. It has become a go-to counsel for Christians struggling with their sin. This truth is why we seem to sin more the closer we get to Christ.

What does a poorly lit workshop have to do with a maturing Christian’s struggles with sin?

Christians, Sin, and Light

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:5-10 NASB

Too often we think that a we progress in our walk with Christ that we will reach a point of sinless perfection in this lifetime. Wesley called this perfection in love. He believed that a Christian could possibly reach sinless perfection in the present age. I don’t happen to share that position. But I do believe we can sin less even if we do not become sinless in this lifetime.

But what does this have to do with maturing Christian’s struggling with their sin?

As we mature in Christ, we do not necessarily sin more. We are more sensitive and aware of that sin. This is where we find our struggle with sin.

As we grow closer to Christ, we draw nearer to the God who is Light Himself. As a result, our flaws are more evident to us, but probably not as prevalent. They seem be multiplying , but in reality they are only seen better because the lighting is so much better.

If we really believe the verses I quoted above, as we become more sensitive and aware of our sin, we can be and will be cleansed of it as we walk in the light. We can never really know where we stumble if we always walk in the darkness. We need to shine a light to see where we need to change. The issue isn’t that we are sinning more in spite of our closer walk with Christ. The issue is that we are more aware of our sin when we see things more clearly.

Darkness or Light?

The relative darkness of my workshop hid the many errors in it. I couldn’t see them clearly and so I thought I had done a really good job with the sanding, constructing, and finishing it. I felt pretty good about my work of art. But the bright lights of my living room revealed many flaws, I became discourage and frustrated. I almost felt like just leaving the very flawed project in the dark where it looked better than in the light where it was much more useful. Ultimately I wanted to use the thing, so I added lights to my workshop and reworked it. I sanded, refinished the thing, improved my technique a bit in woodworking, and had a better project in the end. I didn’t want my handiwork being useless in the dark.

A Necessary Choice

fromdarknesstolight

If we persist to walk in darkness, we will never become more like Christ. We may think we look better than others. And that thought probably makes us feel better about ourselves.

However, if we walk in the Light, our flaws are much more evident and the truth of our sin and incompleteness is evident. This fact probably makes us feel much less good about ourselves. But the Light reveals our flaws so that they can be corrected. We are God’s handiwork. He is working on us everyday. Part of that work is to reveal our weaknesses – reveal our sins. In that revelation, though, we can repent and go through the rework process known as progressive sanctification so that we become more like Him.

Decisions, decisions

The decision you and I need to make is this: where am I going to walk? Will it be where I feel better about myself – the dark – or will it be where I actually become better than before – in the Light. This is a tough choice but one we must make. We have not wiggle room. We are either going to walk in Light or in darkness.

Where we walk will affect more than feelings. It will affect who we are.