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

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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.

 

 

 

The Cross in the Manger

If there had been no manger, there could not have been the Cross. And without the Cross – well, my war with God would still be raging.

When we think about Christmas visions of a cooing baby lying blissfully in a manger filled with clean, perfectly placed straw fills our mind’s eye. Rarely, if ever, do we consider the reason for the manger. We rarely think about the reason for the incarnation of Christ that way? Why is that? Though we seldom think of the Cross when looking at the Manger, we should.

Before Jesus came to the earth to die for sins, I was dead. I was helpless against the power of temptation and sin.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Ephesian 2:1-2 NASB

There was nothing I could do to stop myself. I sinned because it was my nature to sin. That sin was only a small symptom of the rotting of my soul. You see I was in total rebellion against God. Oh yeah, I was there. A war against God I knew – I KNEW – I could and would win. If you’ve seen the movie Forrest Gump I was Lieutenant Dan on Forrest’s boat in the middle of a hurricane yelling – and challenging – God to an all-out fight. Yep, that was me.

I could hide the bitterness and anger that filled my soul for a while, but it would come out eventually. My long war with God was indicative of my destination. I was headed to hell in the proverbial hand basket. I was heading to hell not because I had neglected to meet Jesus as my Savior. No, I was headed to hell because I was a slave to sin, powerless against it. I was going to hell because I was in utter rebellion against God. I deserved my one-way ticket to hell.

But something strange happened on my journey to Satan’s kingdom.

 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 thekind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight Ephesians 1:4-8 NASB

 

Jesus interrupted my life and had mercy on me. He saved me. He remade me. He extended grace to a graceless man. He extended love to a loveless man. I did not find God. He found me. Make no mistake, salvation is all God’s work and none my work. And I am so thankful for that.

Since that day when God irrupted in my life things have changed and continue to change. When I was outside of His grace, I could not help but sin. But now, I can resist temptation and sin. Oh I still give in – and that is to my shame – but I don’t always give in to sin. When I was outside of grace I could do nothing to please Him. Now, a recipient of His grace, I can please Him. I am able to obey now, rather than just rebel. I can serve Him rather than fight Him. My long war with God is over. And I was the winner. I am brand new!

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.     2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB

No I didn’t win because my will or strength bested God’s will or strength. No, I won because He defeated me. Sounds kind of weird I know but it is true. I’ve never been more joyful as I am a defeated human who is victorious in life…because of Christ.

So why consider the Cross – Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection – when looking at a manger? Well that baby in that straw – which probably not too clean – in the manger was born for one reason: to die for a sinner such as I. I can’t help but be humbled at the thought of Jesus as a baby – the only truly innocent baby ever born – born into this sinful world yet untouched by its filth. His mission was to seek and save those who were lost. He came to heal the rotting soul of man…my rotting soul, my lost self. He came for me. For. Me.

So this is why I think of the Cross when looking at the Manger, The wonder of the incarnation is fully expressed in the brutality of the Cross. If there had been no manger, there could not have been the Cross. And without the Cross – well, my war with God would still be raging.

The incarnation is wonderfully awesome because in being humble enough to become human with the purpose of providing the only sacrifice able to wash sins away, Jesus demonstrated HIs great love for me.

What about you? Are you in Christ?

Do you consider the Cross when you see a cute baby all snuggled and comfy in a nice, clean manger? Have you thought about your war against God? Your rebellion? Your inability to resist sin?

Christmas isn’t about a fat guy traveling around the world in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. It isn’t about trees, presents to each other, grandma’s house or anything else. Christmas is less about the manger and more about the Cross.Christmas is about the wonderful incarnation of God the Son, who soul mission was to die for a sinner such as I,  and a sinner such as you.