“Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.” Romans 6:8
This morning I’m preparing to start heading out on a 20 hour trek. Why? Because of life, new life. Yesterday morning I became a grandma for the first time. So, I’m going to go the distance to travel from Virginia to Texas to get to hold that beautiful little boy and see his beautiful mom and dad. Life is wonderful, not because it always has wonderful moments like this, but just because of who I have in it.
It’s not that I have little Liam that makes life wonderful. It’s not having a wonderful husband that makes it wonderful. It’s not having wonderful kids that makes it wonderful or wonderful friends. I wouldn’t trade my family or my friends for anything. But what makes life wonderful is the Wonderful Lord and Savior who is living in me and with me.
But that doesn’t mean that everything in my life has been “honky dory.” I’ve had some hard times. Our family has had a number of times when my husband was unemployed, we’ve had or are having financial difficulties, I’ve gone through two miscarriages, and had my share of rough days. But know what? Lord, what You said through Paul here, is true and it’s the most beautiful truth.
Think about it. Life becomes even more precious because of the knowledge of death. To know that I no longer have to pay the penalty for sin makes my life so much more appreciated. Only it’s not just life here, but life in You, which never ends. See, You say that if I have died to my self, and died to sin, that I’m free from sin and it’s penalty.
See, to Liam, my grandbaby, maybe the womb felt like the most wonderful place for a while. But when the pregnancy comes to full term, I have a feeling it starts to feel somewhat uncomfortable and confining. Yet the leaving part and changing his environment, well, it’s probably uncomfortable for him too. But if he doesn’t leave, if he doesn’t go through that discomfort, if he were to remain in the womb forever, he wouldn’t live. He wasn’t created to live there forever. He needs to be set free from the womb at the right time. For Liam it was yesterday morning at 5:22 AM. Now, he’s beginning to live the life he was intended to live. Now he can fulfill his purpose in the world.
But Liam, like each of us, has a bigger purpose than just living in the world. And like it takes leaving the womb to see what real living is in the world, each of us is called to die to self, to leave our way behind, and come out of the darkness and enter the light and the life with Christ. Many of us choose to remain where we don’t belong and we live like still births. How sad. Imagine my pain as a mom or dad to lose my child before I ever got to see him or her live, before I ever got to hold them in my arms. Imagine God’s desire through Jesus to hold us within Him, yet to know that by our own choice, we have refused to come to Him.
Believing, “pisteuo,” is all about living. But it’s not about seeking the greatest thrill that brings the most adrenaline. It’s not just about living life to the fullest or experiencing the most. It’s about living in You, Jesus, and inviting You to live inside me. It’s about understanding that You, Jesus, are Life. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes unto the Father but by me.” (John 14:6) To experience You is to experience real life, real living.
Only, if I’m too busy with myself and my own ways, I won’t take time to experience You. Part of believing is dying. I must die in order to live. I must die to my self. I must leave this womb of my self and my own ways and my self protection and be born into Your ways, Your protection, You. I must give up my own dominion, my own rule over myself, and come under Your dominion, Your rule of me. I must choose to place myself under Your dominion.
Now this is the thing. What do you, Jesus, have dominion over? If You are King, what are You King of? Well, Scripture says that all the kindoms of the earth are under Your dominion. And it tells me that Your dominion endures throughout ALL generations. That means forever and ever. You have dominion over everything, every ruler, every authority, every power, and every dominion ever. Paul said You are the “only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only has immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man has seen nor can see: to whom is honour and power everlasting. Amen.” But if I die to my self and leave the womb of my self, You bring me into this life, this dominion in You.
But a baby doesn’t really get to make the choice of when or if it will come out of the womb. But You, Lord, give us the choice to live for our selves or to die to our selves. It’s my choice to choose to live in You. But it’s Your power that places me in You and draws me to You. You give me the power and the desire to die to self and live unto You. And it’s all by the power of Your death and resurrection. Because You paid the price for me on the cross, I can come to You. But I must choose to be crucified with You. But that’s the most liberating choice I can ever make. Because to die with You, is to live in You and for You to live in me. And then my new life that I live on this earth, I live by faith in You, who loved me, and gave Yourself for me. You didn’t die in vain. You died to give me life in You!
Here’s the truth. When I act in faith in You and place my trust and life in You, I am crucified with You. I choose to get up on the cross and die to my self with You. I don’t have to do it physically in the same way as You but I must set my life aside inside You and what You have done for me. I must die with You, NEVERTHELESS I live. Because now that I’ve come to the end of my self ruling me, now You live in me and rule me and keep me and love me. Now I don’t live by my strength, but by faith from and in You, the Son of God, who LOVES ME SO ABUNDANTLY AND SO STRONGLY AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME! And Your power in me has changed even my desires so that my actions follow Yours now. This is such awesome news. This is awesome truth!
That truth is from Galatians. And Paul points out emphatically starting in Chapter 2 verse 21 that You, Jesus did not die in vain. But that word, “dorean” means a lot more than we think. It’s all about what You, the Giver, have done. It’s all about Your benevolence to us. It’s Hebrew equivalent is “hinnam” and it is also used in 7 other New Testament verses. Often, it’s translated as “freely.” So You, Jesus, acted in such a way that there is no way, no matter what we do, that we could ever earn what You have done and given us. God loved You so much that He gave ALL things into Your hands (John 3:35) That’s everything I think is mine, absolutely everything, including my life. How could I earn any of it? What could I do to deserve it from You. But Matthew 10:8 says “freely you have received, freely give.” When I come to You, I received what I could never earn, but what totally fills and satisfies and delights– YOU! And just as You gave Yourself to me, so I am to give You and myself to others.
This is grace in action. See, sin always leads to death. It’s why You had to be crucified. It’s why we experience death in the first place. But grace changes everything. Grace takes the dysfunctionality of sin that effects us all, shakes it up, and spits it out. Sin doesn’t come by choice; it’s inevitable. But grace is a gift. It’s different. You invite us to take of grace just because. We didn’t earn it like we earned the penalty of sin. It’s Your free invitation to us. It absolutely reflects Your character. But only the called who respond will receive it. See, we don’t even realize we aren’t living.
This is so incredibly important. It means that grace arrives not because we bid it to but because You, God, send it forth. It comes with the power of the One Who sends it. Therefore, grace has the ability to destroy sin. But that isn’t all. Grace has the ability to give so much more than we would ever think about asking for. Think of this life that God, yes, You, GOD, have offered us. Skip Moen states, “Consider the impossibly wonderful generosity of God who provided grace without condition or restraint.” See, the gift isn’t just this thing or stuff called grace; the gift is YOU, LORD!. He continues to say, “Once we see that adjustment, then the rest of the sentence snaps into focus. We are to reflect the heart of the One Who gives unconditionally to us.”
Dying with Christ and living with Him is all about “divine transparency.” Does my life “reflect the heart of the One Who gives unconditionally to us”? Because that’s what this is all about. Have I handed myself over to the Father to be made just like Him? Does God’s character and the character of Christ flow through me and out to others? What do You, Lord, see when You look at me? Is my life my own or is it hid with Christ so that Christ flows from me? Is Your goodness and Your character and Your generosity flowing from me? Or am I still living under the restrictions of sin in my own strength, which isn’t any strength at all? Is my heart alive or is it dead? Because the only real life is in You. Only real living can be found and received in You. And You are just waiting to grant me that glorious life in You filled with Your power and love and generosity and strength, and yes, even suffering, but never alone and always with power and love and generosity and strength.
So, who am I living with today? Am I living with You, Lord, or without You? Am I still cramped in the womb of sin? Is that really where I want to remain? There is this whole wonderful world of You, just waiting for me to enter and be filled with new life. Is my temporary comfort worth losing an eternity of living in the joy and wonder of You? Lord, forbid that I should choose to live in sin and lead others to follow that example. Lord, I am so full of joy that You invited me into Your grace, into You, into life. May my life in You draw others to trust in You and may their desire be to be born into Your life. New life is beautiful but new life in You is beyond words.