Those of you who have read this blog over the past three or four months know that one of the topics I wrote a fair amount on was death. Death to self, dying for others. Those posts came out of some recent experiences, and as I was thinking about them the other day, I was concerned that I may have come across as a bit morose. Over the last couple of months, I have learned a few things. Believe it or not, I am still very much a work in progress and am continually learning.
The biggest thing that I am learning is the difference between what so many of us see as living, and what Scripture tells us about life. Many people (Christians included) see life as all about getting as much stuff as you can. That stuff can be money and possessions, or career satisfaction and success. It can be friends and followers, or family. It can be any number of things. The prosperity gospel preachers tell us that if we just have faith, God will give us a life filled with health and wealth, and devoid of problems. Some preachers preach that if we just love everyone, our lives will be filled with friends. Many evangelicals preach that if we follow a number of steps (based on the Bible of course) we will have great marriages, successful children, and a joyous life. Even those who look on horrified at all those things teach that if we keep all the rules our life will be wonderful.
In John 10:10, Jesus states that he came so we could have an abundant life. There are many places in Scripture where a life of following Jesus is presented as the ultimate way to live. Jesus says in Luke 17:33 that those who lose their lives for his sake will find life. In Luke 18, Jesus states that those who give up family, etc. to follow him will receive those things back, and then some. Jesus does call us to come and die. He also says that dying is the way to real, abundant life. The problem comes when we expect that abundant life to include lots of friends, success in our endeavors, good health, enough money to do anything we want, or anything else we think will make us happy. We are like those described by C.S. Lewis in Weight of Glory, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
We tend to see life in terms of what we can see and touch, when the life Jesus offers us rises far above the mundane things of this life. We are far too easily pleased. We set our sights on things that will pass away and miss the eternal pleasures the Father has for us right now. I wonder how many of those who believe God is in the business of giving them whatever they want believe that they will have those things in the new heavens and new earth. I hope none of us really believe that the things of this earth are the things that count. We do act like it many times.
As Christ calls us to die, let us remember that he also calls us to live. Live in him.