For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. - Colossians 3:3)
We ignore all kinds of things. Depression. Pornography. Alcoholism. Divorce. Abortion. Put them in the corner, and pretend they don't exist. Maybe more than any of these, we avoid thinking about death. No one deals with it well. It makes us angry. It makes us worry. It has a way of making us feel alone. We'll throw around the sarcastic lingo, "I would rather die... than give a speech... than be nice to my family... than give up my pride..." but whether we admit it or not, we wouldn't. We appear calm and collected, but we keep a secret. We're afraid of death. "I shouldn't be afraid. I'm a Christian," we tell ourselves, "Why am I scared of dying? It seems like everyone else has their fear under control. I believe. I trust God, but the fear always comes back."
Death plays us all for weak, lonely, and foolish people, headed for a host of stomach problems, heart disease, and high blood pressure. No matter how hard we look, no medication, diet, workout routine, or stress free living will prevent the inevitable. You know what, let's just not talk about it... We've got to check how many likes are on our posts... A cigarette would be nice. A couple beers will calm the nerves, maybe a few hours of video games, or an afternoon of shopping for new clothes. Don't tell us that we're going to die. Despite our masks of hopefulness and contentment, we can't handle that.
We've got Christianity wrong, probably because it's not what we were told. It's not about knowing God exists, and that he probably loves you. It's not about believing and doing your best to be like Jesus. It's not about getting your life together, submitting to God's will, and getting a gold star. It's not about eating healthy, staying fit, and having a positive "spiritual" outlook on life. This is self-centered, self-powered, and conditional spirituality: if you do this, then you will get that. If you don't do that, then you won't get this. The lie tells you: you can do it. What you do defines you. You can do it... except when you can't. That's the scheme.
Actually, we like it this way. Even though we are set up for failure, it feels safe. Our success is measurable, usually by the amount of things on our schedule. We know what to expect, and so we believe it... Until the cancer diagnosis. God, I was taking care of my body. Until the relapse. God, I had six months. Until the next fight. God, we were finally talking to each other again. Until the foreplay and fooling around go too far. God, we were trying to wait. In that moment, when you're sitting in the doctor's office, pounding your fists against the steering wheel, or crying in your room, the lie has devoured you. It doesn't matter how much you've tried to do. You want to be strong, but you can't seem to get a grip.
"...You can do it," the lie tells you. It has many different voices, but it always attacks the same thing: God's word of promise. So the whispers come at you... You're a disappointment to everyone. You're irresponsibly unhealthy. You're a sex addict. You're guilty. You've got no self control. You're a cheat. You're an alcoholic. You're alone. You're unloveable. You can't stop yourself from dying, and eventually you'll get what you deserve.
You aren't afraid anymore. It might be from the world fighting against you or the standard of perfection that you can't get out of your head, something is different now. With all the strength you can muster, you breathe in defeat, "I just want to make this all go away, but I can't. I have nothing left." You actually hope for death. It's not "I would rather die," anymore. Now you can only think, "I wish I was dead."
Christians will offer some well meaning and sweet smelling advice, "God has a plan. Trust in God. Do you believe? Have you confessed? You need to get some help..." Not to mention the voices of the world, "Where is your God now? You have some God..." To you, the smell of those words make you nauseous because... putting perfume on death doesn't do anything. You need something else.
None of this is Christian spirituality. Dear Christian, you have already died because Jesus has bled and died for you, and you share in his death. It's not a death that you need to search for in the depths of your heart. It's not a death that you need to rationalize with your conditional scheming mind. It's not a death that you muster up the strength to accept. This death happened outside of you. That's the way God works. He gives gifts through real concrete things, and he gives them to you.
In your Baptism, you died, and God made a promise to you, "Already you are clean because of the word I have spoken to you" (John 15:3). You are washed, cleansed, and forgiven because you have been buried with Christ in the water and the word, "We were therefore buried with him by baptism into death..." (Romans 6:4).
No spirituality in the world can rescue you, but the promise of God stands firm. You are already clean. You are baptized. You are united with Jesus in his death. Everything has been buried. Your sin. Your pain. Your regret. Your guilt. All of it. Jesus has taken it from you. He put it on himself, and he has given you everything that is his. His righteousness. His purity. His holiness. His peace. You are clean, and you are new, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). You are not what has already been buried. You are raised with Christ and united with him in a resurrection like his. That's what is promised to you in your Baptism.
I know it doesn't feel this way. Unfortunately, new creation isn't what the Sunday school books told us. For many churches, new creation is just code for self-made and self-powered spirituality, "... Now, you can do it."
The life of a Christian is not moral improvement and virtuous living. It's actually the end these things. New creation is the promise, "I am making all things new" (Revelation 21:5), and it has been given to you. New creation is forgiveness. Christian life is Baptism. New creation is Baptism. This means that when you are sitting in church, the flesh and blood of the home wrecker, the addict, the broken, and the terminal that you see aren't the Sunday school new creations. They're the dead ones, the bodies of death (Romans 7:24). Each day, they cling to God's Baptismal promise: because of the death of Jesus, the sin they can't forget has been buried, and He can't remember it. On the outside it doesn't look like it, but their sin has been separated from them. Just. Like. You. That's new creation.
Christianity is not a conditional spirituality. It's 100% receptive. You receive every blessing as a gift from God. In the body of Christ, you are the walking dead carrying the promise of forgiveness and life - a promise delivered and sealed in the waters of Baptism. Your life is hidden in these waters and words. It's hidden from the world, a world that usually thinks you want to force Christian morality on everyone. It's even hidden from yourself, you who fight to believe that the benefits of the cross are for you.
Jesus is coming again. You may fall asleep first, but you will not die. "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" (Colossians 3:3-4). You will appear with him and everything that is already yours won't be hidden from your eyes any more. Everything that has been buried won't trouble you anymore. Until then, the blood of Jesus covers you. Dear Christian, don't despair. None of Satan's lies will defeat you. You are baptized into Christ.
??Chris Vecera is the Director of Youth Ministry at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Aliso Viejo CA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Created: May 30th, 2015