Life and death
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. (2 Corinthians 4:10-12)
I live in a body that was the reason Christ died. That should give me cause to pause and think first about what it tells me I want to do. Unfortunately we have to live with what’s dead. We know that for a fact, because our bodies are physically dying every day. For those of us who are older, that fact is somewhat dramatically lived out. All I need to do is stand up right now, and I will feel this body of death in my knees. Guaranteed. I’ve got one Rice Krispies knee with so much twisted cartilage, it snaps, crackles and pops all day long. And if my physical body is like that, what about its drives, impulses and needs? Aren’t those things that died with Christ, and yet I still have to carry them around?
But wait a minute. Isn’t there something else? This body of death isn’t all there is of me. There is a new life, living inside — alive, vibrant, youthful, teeming with strength and vitality — holy smokes, it’s the Spirit of God! It is never old, never going to die, and it’s going right on with me into eternity. That’s you and me — something new and alive carrying around something old and dying, and something old and dying carrying around something new and alive. Remember? The new covenant is all about contrast.
Without Christ, all we have is the old covenant, and all we can do is try to make the old thing better. All the old covenant has to work with is the body of death, which, for all intents and purposes, is already dead! So … we have to carry it around, but we’re not identified with it; we’re tied in with the Spirit. So there’s always going to be both these things going on at the same time. That’s why the Spirit of God will be revealed, because we, and those around us, can see it working right along with that body of death.
You can see this best with those who are in recovery. Addictions never leave. You carry them around with you for the rest of your life. It’s just that there is something new that you are now identified with. That old thing doesn’t define you anymore. You are living out the new thing that God is working in you, and when anyone sees you, they see the contrast. Life and death … death and life … both at the same time. The new covenant is all about contrast. I used the recovery picture only because we can see it more easily that way, but in reality we’re all in recovery from sin. My body of death is still addicted to sin — that will never change — and I have to carry it around all the time, but it doesn’t have to define me or control me anymore.
And finally, Paul says it a little differently the second time. He says we’re being delivered over to death. What does that mean? The first death is one we carry around, and we need to know about that so we listen to our new life instead. But this one is something that happens to us. For Paul, it was imprisonment, beatings, shipwrecks — things he went through so the life of Christ could be poured out to others. For us, this can be anything that forces us to count on the Spirit of God because we have no other choice. It can’t be just big things that happen to us once-in-a-while, because he says this is always happening, so it must also be everyday things that force us to not rely on ourselves, but on God. And this is almost always for someone else’s benefit. That’s why he says “death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” These experiences reduce us to nothing but the Spirit so there will be no doubt where the power is coming from, and that, in itself, becomes life-giving to others.
Without Christ, death leaves us with nothing. With Christ, death leaves us with nothing but life.
Day 20 Challenge:
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (The “Life of Jesus” always rests upon the “Death of Jesus.” In our daily experiences, we must have the “Death of Jesus” to have the “Life of Jesus.”)
For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. (What we want, of course, is the “life of Jesus.” However, the power of God is the miracle of others seeing in us, in the midst of our pressures and trials, the character and the life of Jesus transcending through us.)
What does Paul mean by the “death of Jesus”? Are we to nail ourselves to a cross?
What was Jesus like on the cross? Was He powerful, impressive, and significant?
Was Jesus willing to experience physical weakness and rejection?
Was Jesus willing to lose everything He had built? Was He willing to trust God to bring it back and make it significant?
Do we see any similarities in ourselves as we carry around in our bodies the death of Jesus?
Are we willing to give up all the things that make us look important to other people?
Are we willing to be insignificant, if necessary?
Do we trust God to use us however He wills?
So how do we get to the “Life of Jesus?”
Do we struggle, still, with wanting the power of God and to get credit for it too? How do we manifest this struggle? Personally, if God has done anything through me, I want the world to know. If anything amazing happens in our midst, I might want everyone to know that I spent hours in prayer over it or I counseled so-and-so in such-and-such a helpful way.
Do you ever want to move in and get the credit too? If so, in what ways do you struggle with wanting the “life of Jesus,” but we also the satisfaction of your own self?
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