it is a good day to die

6 Mar

Greetings, y’all! Hey, this blog still exists. It’s been on an almost 4-month hiatus because end-of-year holidays happened, and then I got pregnant. I’m now 11 weeks along and finally starting to come out of the brain-fog and nausea that have plagued me for the last 8 weeks. The brain is starting to get jampacked again. Therefore, onward!

During the brain-fog and nausea, I read many books. (In fact, I’ve read 25 books so far this year.) One of those was Jesus Manifesto by Leonard K. Sweet and Frank Viola. The authors themselves quote 1 John 4:16 as the “shorthand creed” of their tome: “‘We believe in the love God has for us.’ It is a love that came not in the form of abstract principle but of an actual person, the Son of God” (p. xxiii). And that’s what this book is about.

I could write an entire series of blog posts on all the passages that struck me, but I want to focus on this one in particular:

“The cross sits at the very center of a body of believers that authentically gathers as a church. They will experience death–dry spells; sufferings with one another; death to their agendas, aspirations, opinions, and preferences; and crisis. But this is how God builds His house. Out of the dying, the Lord’s life is expressed, and we are built together into a home for Jesus Christ. From the mulch of decay, disease, and death, God births His resurrection life.

“Note that Jesus waited four days after Lazarus’ death before He raised him up. Death is hopeless. But four days after death is beyond hopeless.

“But never forget: every crisis you face is a God-given opportunity to rediscover Christ in a bold new way. For that reason, every painful encounter we meet bears the fingerprints of God.

“…But remember this…He is resurrection and He is life. And if you endure, outwaiting your impatience for His timing, Christ will roll the stone away and raise you from the dead.”

–Sweet & Viola,
Jesus Manifesto, p. 151.

I’ve been meeting with a small group of believers for almost two years. Most of us had met each other only one time when we started meeting together. At rough count, we came from 6 different religious backgrounds. Not having a clue what we were doing, we embarked together on a quest to discover each other, to discover Christ, and to discover what it really means to live by the life of an indwelling Christ.

It’s been scary, frustrating, hair-pulling, teeth-clenching, irritating, maddening, shocking, tear-filled, hopes-killing, opinions-blasting, disillusioning, infuriating. I’m not just speaking for myself when I say there’s been a fog of doubt, a haze of confusion, and, yea verily, a cloud of seeming doom.

And you know what?

It’s been glorious.

In this group of weird, frustrating, infuriating, shocking people, I have seen Christ. In this group of maddening, odd-opinioned believers, I see Christ. And in peculiar, broken, irritating me, they have told me they see Christ, too.

How is this possible? It’s because we’re dying. And, in an odd paradox, we’re also already dead.

In Galatians 2:19-20, Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me. And the life which I live in the flesh is in trusting the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Freed-Hardeman Version). We are already dead, because we were nailed to the cross along with Christ. (A lot of stuff died that day.) We died with him.

Now, on this new journey with Christ, we’re dying all over again. We’re suffering the deaths of our expectations, our opinions, and our traditions. We’re experiencing the death of what we want. To make it more personal: Over the past two years, I’ve seen the death of pretty much every preconceived idea I had about this “new venture.” I had expectations, and God hasn’t chosen to meet a danged one of them. The expectations I’ve got left, the ones that haven’t died yet? Well, they’re lookin’ a mite sickly, lemme tell ya.

So…why do I call this “glorious”?

This past Sunday, we discussed the Mosaic tabernacle as a picture of Christ. This, too, would require a whole novel of blog posts to investigate fully. But the one specific thing we talked about was the bronze altar just inside the entrance to the tabernacle. It was the first thing the Israelites encountered when they set foot in the place.

A lot of blood was spilled on that altar. Sacrifice took place on that altar. Sacrifice was the first thing the believers encountered.

Our fledgling group is standing at that altar. The New Testament version of it is the cross, but the message is the same: Enter in, and make your sacrifice. Sacrifice what’s valuable to you. Sacrifice those traditions you’ve clung to all your life. Sacrifice those sacred opinions. Sacrifice those sacrosanct expectations. Forget about what you want: Leave it here to be slaughtered.

Only after death will you be ready to come nearer to God.

As one of my favorite Klingons has often said: It is a good day to die.

Back in November, I talked about my frustration that we weren’t “on fire for Christ” — and my discovery that we smoldering coals are a storehouse of an awful lot of energy. We’re still not, I think, what anyone would call “on fire.” But coals are the powerful remnant after cleansing fire has burned away all the excess.

The last two years have burned me. The months and years to come are going to burn me some more. Together with my sisters and brothers, I hope to see the death of everything that blinds me to Christ. I don’t want to live by my perceptions, my opinions, my hopes, and my expectations anymore. I want Christ to live out his life in me.

And so, to my sisters and brothers, I say this: We’ve been crucified with Christ, and we are dead. Let’s allow Christ to live in us instead.

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