Sound Doctrine

Death and the dry bones

I’ve always loved the Highlander. It tells the story of an immortal hero who fights against other immortals with the victor gaining the power of the loser. They can’t die in the sense that we imagine. Unless they lose their head they will continue to live forever. I often think that we strive desperately for immortality; to escape death; to live without worry of what comes next. I wonder if this present life is worth holding onto.

The pain of loss and the inevitability of it are devastating. Our response is critical to this reality. Unfortunately, our reaction is often to avoid the topic. To selectively avoid the inevitable future and embrace our planned future. We busy ourselves planning our best life now and ignoring what we know will happen. We are going to die. But the striving to live keeps us moving forward. The drive for knowledge compels us to look beyond what we think is possible…towards immortality.

If we gather enough information, can we avoid dying? Can we take in so much information that we become immune to the void of death? The wisest man to ever live, Solomon, sought out this answer. At the end of his journey, this is what he found:

I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. Ecclesiastes 1:12-14

Solomon sought out all there is to know and came away from it knowing that life is an “unhappy business”. He asks what we gain by all of our work and doing. He calls it chasing after the wind. Perhaps this is what we try to do when we seek to extend our life on earth. We chase after a changing and unpredictable future; fight against a current stronger than ourselves. We try to hold on to what God has said will pass away.

 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Luke 21:33-35

Even the Highlander feels the sting of death. He watches the people he loves age and dies. His life can become meaningless as the relationships he holds dear crumble with time. Why cling so desperately to what will pass away? Are we so afraid of death that we hold onto a miserable life? One day we will die. And all that matters now is finding the truth of what happens afterward. We need to know if this is all worthless. If our life is wind-chasing.

What we live for now either carries on in this world or is saved for the next. We know the substance of this life. We can use our senses to tangibly interact with our surroundings. Reality is then shaped by the observable. Meaning is ascribed to the things we can control. Leaving a legacy is paramount to our eternal existence. While we may not live on ourselves, the memory of our accomplishments does. It is utterly selfish.

The Christian life is one of sacrifice and selflessness if we indeed carry it out appropriately. The goal of a Christian can and should be to walk selflessly on earth for a reward in eternity. It is fundamentally opposed to a culture built on leaving a legacy. Where one view is selfish, seeking it’s rewards now; the other seeks to benefit others at the cost of tangible rewards. The reward of the Christian life is salvation. It is an acknowledgment that we are hopelessly lost and an acceptance that this life will end. Christ is the way, the only way, to eternal life. A life outside of death and outside of pain. Through Christ, death has been defeated.

I will admit that sounds like a platitude. A soapbox to stand on. It’s so easy to say that we have the answer, but walking in it is much more difficult. While it may seem that our world is devolving, it shouldn’t surprise us. We all want a life of purpose. We want happiness, even at the cost of someone else’s. The challenge for believers is not to claim persecution, but to accept that we are exiles in this present time. We are not home yet. When we can acknowledge that our home doesn’t exist in this present form. When we can walk as exiles then we can begin to serve others. Where the world seeks to be like the Highlander, Christ followers seek an existence that is intangible. One that comes by faith. That is the difference.

“For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:53-57

 

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