DEATH - THE DOOR OF THE KINGDOM
When we are born, we begin to die. When we are born again, we begin to live into eternal life.
Death has been the perennial enemy of mankind from the beginning of self consciousness. Death was the enemy that took a living person into oblivion. Life might be miserable, but "a living dog is better than a dead lion. The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing". Eccles 9:4-5
All of that was changed with the Cross. The Cross was not simply a matter of getting excused for the things that we have done or left undone. It is a passage through death into a resurrection as part of a New Creation. It is no longer seeking to live forever. It is a matter of being crucified with Christ. "He who would save his life shall lose it, but He who loses his life for my sake and the Gospel's will save it." Mk 8:35
The resurrection does not precede death. Entry into the Kingdom of God comes with the death of our self, and being raised up as His presence in the world. It begins now as we give Him our will. It is complete when we lay aside this body, and we see Him face to face. We will know even as we are known.
DEATH IS ESSENTIAL TO HEALING
Healing is the transforming power of God's love manifest in the restoration of our lives to wholeness. It entails the death of the egocentric control we are taught to wield in the name of self actualization. It is a turning of the control over to God. It is death of the kingdom of self to live in the Kingdom of God. It is a coming to know God as Abba, which I have heard from one of my friends translates "Sweet Daddy." He is the One to whom we come as children that we might belong to Him in His love.
Healing entails the death of the emotions that underlie the deadly sins. We are to give up Pride, Envy, Anger, Sloth, Avarice, Gluttony and Lust to receive the Fruit of Holy Spirit. We are to receive Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Gentleness, Kindness, Faithfulness, Humility and Self Control. I prefer integrity to self control, because the term does not mean that the ego is in control. Rather it means that the ego is under the control of Holy Spirit.
Healing occurs as fear is cast out by love and new life comes with our growing up into the love of Christ. Healing occurs as we are willing to give up our condemnation of our neighbors, and become willing to forgive them as God, for Christ's sake forgives us. Life in God's Kingdom begins when we release the world and its bondage to receive the love of God in His Kingdom. In His presence our lives are marked by peace.
Healing begins when the virus that makes us sick dies, and new life is supplied by God. It begins with the death of the cancer cells, and the resurrection of new cells in the body. It is not so much a matter of fixing as making new and whole that we might be enabled to serve God as He elects to use us.
Healing of the mind comes as we are willing to give up and let go our own goals and visions, and seek God's will and purpose in our lives. It begins when we embrace the death of our self actualization, and walk in His will now. It occurs as we begin to think Kingdom of God rather than finitude of man.
Healing begins as we see the death of our own judgment and embrace the judgment of God. It means recognizing that we are members of a Body in which alone we will find life in its fullness. It begins when we are willing to die to our boundaries and allow God to set the boundaries of His Kingdom. It begins when the clamor for justice or injustice gives way to putting on love as a mark of the Kingdom - a love that reaches across the gulf of injustice to see God's will done in its particular and unique expression of His love among His family.
We tend to see death as the final end of things as did the Old Creation people of God. We must become aware of death's utter transformation in the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus who has opened the backside of death to create a Kingdom.
CHOOSING TO DIE IS NOT SUICIDE
We are not called by God to take our own life. That is the ultimate act of rebellion against God. It is the ultimate effort on our part to maintain our control of our lives. It says to God, "If I can't have it my way, I won't have it." It leaves no space for letting God have access to our lives that His will may be done on earth as in heaven.
When I choose to die, it means that I make a serious effort to put myself at God's disposal. It means that I must learn to pray to open the communication lines with God. I must be willing to Listen! Hear! Obey! It is not a matter of getting God to do it our way. It is a matter of seeking to do it His way.
Death of the ego stems from our realization that God is likely a little wiser than we are, that He loves us more than we do, and that He alone knows why we are here on earth. That is not a prohibition about arguing with God. It is a realization of the futility of winning. If I win: I lose. If He wins: I win. He is the one who not only knows what I need, but He knows what I want because He knows what I was created to be.
We are set free when we are able to see, as Paul wrote in his last letter, "My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better." Phil 1:23 That is where we know the infinite love of God for us, and we enter into His presence when we die.
Paul had an obvious change of mind from the time he wrote I Cor 15 and I Thess 4, where he embraced the concept of judgment and resurrection the Pharisees held. Perhaps we get a clue from II Cor 12:2-5, "I know a man once who was caught up to the third heaven, whether in the body or out of the body, I don't know." When he wrote the Philippians, he could have added, "been there, done that." Paul's experience gives us new perspective, not only on death, but on life. If death is better , why do we remain here in this mess?
LIVING BEYOND DEATH
There is another aspect of living and dying that we have to look at if we are to get the whole picture. Most of the people I know have a job, goals, a desire for a good life that they will be able to enjoy when they get enough money, health, peace in the family, etc.
The Christian has to see it as another sort of vision. If I am going to live, I must not only give up control of my life. I must also give up control of my death. The people I have known with near death experiences did not want to come back to the life they had left. When they reached the presence of Jesus, they wanted to stay and enjoy His love forever. They came back because they gave up control of their death, and He had something that He wanted them to do here.
We are here to be His presence in the world for which He died. We are the flesh that He puts on to speak, to touch, to be with those whom He loves. We are here for that one purpose. We are either to give love so that others might know His love, or we are to receive love from someone who has a need to give love.
That situation gives understanding to Paul's statement that for the sake of the people of God, he would stay. He would make himself available to God that God might make him His presence to the people. It changes life so that it is no longer my life. It is God's life in me. I have been crucified with Christ so that it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me
That has been death's purpose since the first Easter. It is a door shaped like a Cross through which we walk into life that is beyond death, and which we cannot truly know until we have given control of both our life and our death into the hands of God.
Life is not the same beyond the Cross. It is eternal, and it is lived in the unfolding revelation of God's love to us, and through us to those for whom He has died.
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