Pressing On

In my article last week we discovered that we are to be in, but not of the world. This means that while we live in the world, we do not adopt the world’s values, methods, or morals (or lack thereof). We are simply sojourners, passing through this age on our journey to eternity. If all this is true, what are we to do while here?

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:12-14 NASB

Philippians 3 is full of wonderful truths and challenges to us – things, if we really understand them, will cause use to grow. Lets take a few moments and consider a few points Paul makes in these few verses.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect…

Paul begins this section with a wonderful statement of humility and understanding of the human condition following conversion: a redeemed but imperfect follower of Christ.

When we read Pauls works, we quickly realize that he is a man who is acutely aware of his faults, his sin, and his struggles. We also become aware of his desire to be in closer union with Christ, having his life lost in His. Here in Philippians 3, Paul flatly states that he has not yet achieved the intimacy in Christ he desires or that he is already perfect. There are Christians who believe that after conversion, a person can achieve perfection. Paul performs an effective refutation of that view. Paul is setting up the rest of his argument by plainly stating that he isn’t where he wants to be.

I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus… 

Paul moves on to say that in spite of his imperfection, in spite of his failures, and in spite of his lack of intimacy with Christ; he continues to go forward. The phrase I press on could better be communicated with the phrase I strive. Paul is striving – pushing forward – to become more like Christ. Think of  person straining to climb a hill, refusing to give up. Paul keeps moving forward in spite of the barriers – in spite of the difficulties. All that matters is that he fulfills his destiny in Christ after Christ laid hold on him.

run uphillforgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

In this passage, Paul details how he will gain greater intimacy with Christ. Paul begins by stating he forgets all that lies behind. Paul chooses to neglect it, to forget it. But to what does he refer? It could be his life persecuting the church before he was saved. But I’m not sure he is doing that. I think he is probably forgetting the persecution he and the church have endured. The reason is simple: if we focus on the wrongs we have experienced, the persecution we have endured, we could very easily be paralyzed by fear or anger. Or both.

This section hits me particularly hard. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I was a church planting pastor whose church plant was split and destroyed by someone who I regarded at that time as a friend. Following the death of my little church, I was hurt, bitter, and angry. For quite a while I chose not to forget those things. And that paralyzed me.

Have you had a similar experience? Have you been hurt to such an extent that you found forgetting about the experience very difficult? Regardless of how difficult neglecting to remember the hurts of the past are, we must do that if we want to progress to greater intimacy with Christ and greater Christ-likeness.

Paul states that he reaches out, or presses on towards his goal. That is his entire focus – being like Christ with the greatest intimacy possible with Christ. We could very easily see this as a race where Paul is working hard to run through the finish line. That finish line is part of the goal. I really think Paul’s goal is the Bema Seat – the judgment seat of Christ where all Christians shall appear. Paul longs to be seen as one who has pursued Christ in spite of the hardships, difficulties, and persecution. Paul loved Christ with his entire being.  Paul had a short memory of wrongs done to him not because they were not important or wrong, but because his focus was on being like Christ. Boy, we could learn a thing or two in America about this.

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Often times we scream and yell about our rights and liberties in the US. We stomp our feet in protest to what we perceive is persecution. We whine and complain about every little thing done that hinders us.

I think we need to read Paul a bit more.

Imagine what the Church in America would look like if we focused on the goal of being Christlike and not so much on our freedoms, liberties, and rights. I wonder…I really, really wonder.

Instead of wondering what the Church would look like by embracing Paul’s soul focus on intimacy and Christlikeness, maybe I – and you – should wonder what I would look like if I did this. What would we look like if our soul-focus was to be Christlike.  Hmmm.

I think its time we found out.

In, not Of

To be IN but not OF the world is an important concept we must understand and practice. It isn’t always easy to do but it isn’t complicated. It is just difficult to put into practice.

 

Have you ever worried about the way the influence the world may be having on your family? Or you? Does thinking about this make you want to run away to an island somewhere or an isolated mountaintop? The news is bad all the time it seems. We have people all over the world fighting with each other, folks cutting off the heads of people, and Christians being compared to terrorists…geez, it is getting bad. But the answer isn’t running away. Jesus wouldn’t want us to do that.

In His High Priestly prayer, Jesus prays in John 17

But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. John 17:13-19 NASB (emphasis mine)

So how does that affect us today? Are we to be in the world but free from the evil one? And if so, how does THAT work.

When we look at the world around us with all the chaos that is happening, the easy thing to do is isolate ones self from it. You know, run away to an island or mountaintop. I’ve thought about it. But I always come back to Jesus’ prayer in John 17. I am to be IN the world, but not OF the world. That is a tough thing to do.

Isolation

bubbleThere is a mindset that looks at the world and the Christian and chooses to isolate. These professing believers are what I call Protestant monks – they think their isolation preserves them for God.

For this group of believers, isolating themselves from the influences of the world includes isolation from the world. They have effectively removed themselves from the world. This affects every facet of life and every stage of life. They may refer to the public school system as Babylon and those who have their children attend as misguided and selfish.

These folks also typically prefer to own a business and play around with the IRS. They may not like to pay taxes since taxes support Babylon and Christians shouldn’t do that. They genuinely believe that they are doing the right thing. They withdraw from every area of life, sit in their holy huddle, and summarily judge anyone who believes differently than themselves.

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“We should not be in love with the world or its priorities. But we should

be so in love with our Savior that we embrace our mission

in this world – to glorify God by preaching the

Gospel – in word and deed.”

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The sad fact is that their isolation only rejects what God has for them and preserves their reputation as being holier-than-thou types who look down their collective nose at anyone not as holy as they are. This should never be.

Distinct from the World – In not Of

distinct

To be IN but not OF is an important concept we must understand and practice. It isn’t always easy to do but it isn’t complicated. It is just difficult to put into practice.

This approach is a bit trickier than the isolation approach. To be in but not of the world recognizes seemingly contradictory positions: we are distinct from the world yet we are in it. Think of it as being distinct from the world but not isolated from it. Christians should be different – perhaps even stand out – in a crowd. But the important thing here is that we should be in the crowd. Lets take a look at Jesus.

With whom did He dine? Sinners and tax collectors.

To whom did He grant forgiveness? Prostitutes, thrives and murderers.

With whom did He die? Convicted felons.

Clearly Jesus was in but not of the world. He definitely was a distinct individual. And it is this approach I think He was praying in John 17.

To be distinct but in the world means we don’t adopt the ways of the world. We should never be confused with a non-believer. But the reason we should be distinct is as important as being distinct.

Our distinctiveness should never be based solely on our words – though we should definitely speak boldly about Christ. No, our distinctiveness must also include our actions. The manner in which we live must reinforce what we say we believe.

We should not be in love with the world or its priorities. But we should be so in love with our Savior that we embrace our mission in this world – to glorify God by preaching the Gospel in word and deed. Are we doing that well? Are we doing that at all?

Current events (in America at least) seems to indicate that we have becomes a bit too cozy with the world. We no longer forcefully speak out about morality in our leaders. Its even worse than that – we openly embrace and defend someone who is about as immoral (perhaps amoral) as possible. But this person says the right things…he blows our dog whistle and we run to him, fawning over him.

He does so much that is right is the new mantra. So many Christians overlook behavior that is definitely not Christlike, behavior that would require a raining down of condemnations if the person was anyone but our guy. This is sad and disappointing.  Perhaps these Christians should reexamine their relationship to the world.

To live in, but not of, the world is difficult – thats the point of Jesus’ prayer. Regardless of the difficulty, may we all reevaluate how we are doing in this area and improve where necessary.

 

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.

 

 

The Big Question

All the riches of heaven are mine. I am a co-heir with Christ. My future is secure. I need not worry about anything or anyone. God is asking me, “What do you want, Patrick?” God is asking you the same question. 

 

What would you do if God appeared to you and said “Ask me for anything at all. No lists, no restrictions. Ask for anything at all and I will give it to you.” Wow, talk about a tempting question! I wonder what my answer would be. What would be yours?

Would we ask for riches, stuff, glory, honor, or position? Would we ask for all those things? What would anyone ask given that situation?

We have a record of at least one man who was asked this question. We also have record of his answer, which may surprise you. Lets take a look at 1 Kings 3 and discover the real definition of being rich. Join me, won’t you?

In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.” 1 Kings 3:5 NASB

Solomon was asked the question of the century – maybe of all time!  From verse 6 until verse 8 Solomon recounts how God had blessed him. Solomon speaks about how God has  blessed him. He recounted how God placed his father (David)on the drone and then how God placed David’s son (Solomon) on the throne. Solomon remembers how good God had already been to him. Finally, in verse 7 Solomon says “yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.” Solomon demonstrates maturity in this statement: he is self-aware and knows that he doesn’t know enough. Now look at how he answers in verse 9

So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours? 1 Kings 3:9 NASB

What an amazing answer to such an open-ended question. Solomon didn’t ask for riches, power, or position. He asked for an understanding heart. Some understand this as Solomon asking for wisdom so he will be able to judge His people well. Truly this was a selfless act on Solomon’s part. What is incredible about this passage is when one reads this in Hebrew.

In Hebrew, Solomon asks for a Lev Shomeah –  a hearing heart.

He could have asked for anything and he asks to have a heart that hears. And it wan’t for his own fame or fortune he asked for this. Solomon asked for this kind of heart so that he could govern God’s people correctly. How refreshing this is, especially in today’s me first society.

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Often I wonder if I have a hearing heart. I wonder if I care enough to want a hearing heart. Ouch.

Life is much easier if we choose not to listen with our heart. If we just listen with the ears we have, its easy to dismiss the problems of others. It gets easier to dismiss the hurts other have is we hear only with our ears.

Hearing with my heart is difficult. It makes life much more complicated. I must struggle more if I hear with my heart.

I must actually care.

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All the riches of heaven are mine. I am a co-heir with Christ. My future is secure. I need not worry about anything or anyone. God is asking me, “What do you want, Patrick?” God is asking you the same question.

How you and I answer reveals much more than our desires of life. It reveals our motivations, our commitment, our Christlikeness.

When we answer this question, we need to think carefully about the answer we give. If we answer like Solomon, there are serious consequences. We place our heart eat risk of deep hurt because we will listen with it. If we decide to answer a different way, it too has serious consequences for our continued sanctification.

We cannot refuse to answer the question – What do YOU want?

 

As for me, despite the consequences, I want to choose…I must choose to have a hearing heart. So God with a trembling soul and a weak heart, I humbly ask that you give me, Your servant, a hearing heart so I can minister to Your chosen rightly, for who can do that unless empowered by You.

 

וְנָתַתָּ֨ לְעַבְדְּךָ֜ לֵ֤ב שֹׁמֵ֨עַ֙ לִשְׁפֹּ֣ט אֶֽת־עַמְּךָ֔ לְהָבִ֖ין בֵּֽין־טֹ֣וב לְרָ֑ע כִּ֣י מִ֤י יוּכַל֙ לִשְׁפֹּ֔ט אֶת־עַמְּךָ֥ הַכָּבֵ֖ד הַזֶּֽה׃

I’m already dead

graveard

Only when I am free from the fear of dying can I really live and glorify God.

 

In August 1982 I began training to become a Marine. Having been raised in a family where being a Marine is a way of life, I thought becoming one would be easy. My dad had been a Drill Instructor in the Marine Corps, fought in Korea and Vietnam. His brother fought in Korea as a Marine. My older three brother had either served or were serving in the Marine Corps at the time of my enlistment. We are a Marine family. Becoming a Marine was anything but easy. Even though I thought I was prepared, I quickly realized that I was not. I graduated from recruit training and became a Marine. I learned quite a bit in boot camp. One thing I learned has direct application to my life as a Christian. Allow me to explain.

During one part of boot camp, we were simulating war time conditions. I had just completed what was called the infiltration course. I crawled over, under, and through various obstacles while explosions occurred near to me. There was the sound of gunfire and chaos all around. After my platoon had finished, one of our Drill Instructors decided we needed to have some extra instruction.

This Drill Instructor was a Recon Marine. Think a really mean and tough Marine. Anyway, he spoke to us about how to be successful in war. First, he said, a Marine is successful only if the mission is successful. An individual Marine’s part in the mission is inconsequential – the mission is what matters. Second, he said that for a Marine to be successful, he must lose his fear in battle. Third, he told us how to lose our fear in battle. He said “When you are going into combat, accept the fact that you are already dead. When you accept that you are already dead, your fear of death disappears and you can function with freedom, not worried about what is going to happen to you. Your only concern will be the success of the mission.”

Live as if I am already dead. Interesting.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20 NASB

cross transparent
This is the way we should be living as Christians. Accept the fact that we are already dead – already crucified with Christ – and live with genuine freedom. This is not easy to do. I know I have struggled – and continue to struggle – with this idea.

I worry about how I might do something that will prematurely end my life. But that is supremely wrong. This life I live, as Paul states in Galatians 2, is not my life but it is Christ’s life. He paid for me, He owns me. I am already dead, my body just hasn’t found out yet. If I ever get this truth through my head and my heart, I may fulfill my mission on earth.

But what is my mission? My mission in life is as simple as this: I am to glorify God in all I do, say, the way I live and, yes, in the way I die.

Far too often I live my life not as freely as I should but somehow unfree. Before I was married I hesitated to long for the appearing of Christ because I wanted to experience marriage. I wanted to love someone else and be loved by someone else. I really wanted that. Sadly, I wanted that more than I wanted to see Christ return in glory.

Since I’ve been married, I’ve wanted to see all my children receive Christ as Savior. I’ve want to see them grow up, get married, have children. I’ve want them to serve Christ but I want them to do it safely. I seem so bound to this life sometimes that I hate myself.

But in reflecting on the lessons learned in the Marine Corps Boot Camp back in 1982, I am reminded that I need to accept that I am already dead. Only when I am free from the fear of dying can I really live and glorify God.

Am I really willing to do accept that? Do I really desire to live only to glorify God, or do I desire something else in my life? How about you?

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I am not advocating that we Christians need to live recklessly. I’m not saying that we need to do crazy things in service to Christ. I’m not saying that we need to hasten our death in order to glorify God. I’m not saying that we should not have savings accounts, a 401k, or take prudent steps for work and life. But what I ma saying is the those things must be secondary things – not the primary things – that define life and success for us.

So what happens when we accept that we are already dead? What would I look like if I truly lived out Galatians 2:20?

We begin to live righteously

We need to live where our supreme ambition is to glorify God, not to glorify ourselves. Our primary investment of our time, talent, and treasure should be in the accomplishment of our mission – to bring glory to God – rather than to invest in Bitcoin or increase the size of our nest egg.

We live life out loud

We should never shrink from standing for what is right, regardless of the cost. We should never stoop tot he level of the unsaved just to get ahead. We should never try to get away with something because we think everybody does it. To live in freedom – to live righteously – is to live a life restrained from pleasing ourselves and retrained to please God. Man, I’ve got a ways to go. How about you?

We pursue God with abandon – righteous abandon

We run after God in every aspect of life. We no longer live by the checkbox but by the grace He has given us. We integrate our lives – we no longer have a spiritual life, but simply a life that is spiritual. We refuse to compromise on the essentials and give grace on the non-essentials of our faith. We love freely and freely accept love.

We become true disciples of Jesus Christ

When we accept that we are already dead, we become true disciples of Christ. We are able to listen to His voice better because we listen to other voices less. We act on what He commands because we fear the repercussions less. We are willing to both live and die for Him – for his glory – because we are already dead.

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As this year progresses, I want to remind myself of the lesson of Galatians 2:20 and from my Drill Instructor. I’m crucified already. I don’t live. Christ lives in me. He bought me, He owns me. I want to live with righteous abandon in servicing Him, never worrying about what I might miss. I want to live freely in the battle before me. After all, I’m already dead.

Now that I have accepted I’m already dead, I can finally live.