Am I dead? Or am I alive?

Have you ever been reading somewhere and come to a place that just rivets your attention? You can't get past it, and keep coming back, over and over?

That happens to me now and then. This time, I have been reading in Paul's small letter to the Colossians. I find it amazing that there can be so much to digest in so short a letter. If I read Colossians every day for a year, I think I would still not fully understand all there is in it.

In this particular instance, I am struck by two words, each of which occurs two times: since and therefore.

Specifically, in chapters 2 and 3, Paul writes, "Since you have died with Christ..." and "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ...." And then, "Put to death, therefore, whatever..." and, "Therefore, as God's chosen people..."

As I go through my daily routine, it's easy to become caught up in the circumstances of the moment, to lose perspective and begin to understand things as if my life were a free-standing entity. But our lives - certainly if we claim to be born again, to be followers of Jesus - are not merely stand-alone collections of time and circumstances.

So Paul once again rocks my boat, telling me that I am dead. Dead. It's a word that should stop us with the radical finality of it. I died with Jesus when he was nailed to the cross. It's ironic that I have been at the same time among his executioners and among the chief beneficiaries of his death: I died with him.

What does that mean? Is it just some "spiritual" gobbledygook that Paul is throwing out? He's pretty good at that, you know. Or is there some practical, in-my-face truth that I need to understand? I think it's the latter.

For decades, I lived for myself, to satisfy my desires and do things my way. After all, who else was there to look out for me? And in it all, two important "things" happened. First, I made a self-centered, absolute wreck of my life. Second, I was in bondage to my own whims, and never knew it. I thought I was trucking along, doing pretty well, and was unaware of the deeply destructive damage I was doing both to myself and to others in my life. I was a terrible task-master.

But no more. I died. I am no longer alive. At least, the old me, the me that was intent on having its own way and "doing my thing," no matter what, is no more. Dead. A stinking, rotting corpse that needs to be buried.

But I can't live like that. I can't be dead and alive, and besides, it's not enough to only eliminate a negative. That leaves a vacuum, which can't continue. So Paul continues: "Since ... you have been raised with Christ...."

Hallelujah! I'm not dead any more! When Jesus died I died with him. The old me, the me that made me ashamed, is gone. Gone! And when Jesus was raised from the dead to a new and glorious life, I was raised with him! How cool is that? How boat-rocking is that?

He continues, after simply stating this profound truth, as though it's evident to everyone: "...set your hearts on things above.... Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. ...for your life is now hidden with Christ in God."

So this profound truth - I died and am made alive - should result in a change in the way I think, a change in my perspective on life. I no longer think of me and my wants and desires, but rather I see things from a larger and higher perspective. I see things from the perspective of God. How do I fit into God's plan? How does that truth affect the decisions I make on this day in this place?

Paul continues on with a couple "therefores." In them, he explains some of how these two profound truths play out in my thoughts and actions. What do I do differently, being alive with Christ, and with my life "hidden in God"? I won't address them here, because they are not my point. You can read them for yourself, in the second and third chapters of Colossians.

My interest here is more fundamental: How does it change my attitudes and thoughts, knowing that I died and am alive again? My attitudes and thoughts produce my actions. What is different in my mind with this astonishing truth?

It makes this chasing after my own wants and so-called needs into a nonsensical game, a game with no winner and terrible consequences. Why would anyone want to give his life for a little cartoonish parody of the real, rich life to which God has called his people? But we routinely do just that.

Do I trust that I am safe in him? Can I relax and enjoy him and being called by him, and not fuss and worry about not getting my way in life? These are no small matters.

So, once again, Paul has messed with my mind. If I had a boat - alas, I only wish I had one at present - it would be rocking to the verge of capsizing.

A lot to think about. I'll write more as I understand more.

8 Comments

G'day Larry;
I have recently thought of this question myself. Not so much about alive or dead spiritually. But about myself. The journey we travel in this physical lifeis our own. Although we don't walk alone we do the work we need to for our own benifet. There is a selfish part we play in our lives. Because our journey is personal. But without getting ourselves right how can we help others? I remember in recruit course in the Australian Navy. My Chief instructor said that to take charge of the squad you must first take charge of yourself.

It is a fine line between being self centered and looking after yourself. One is ALL ME and the other is LOOKING AFTER MYSELF SO I CAN HELP LOOK AFTER OTHERS. This si something I have pondered on alot. I am always coming up with different things. But in the end I can say I endevour to help myself because if I don't, how can I help others?

I know the death part. I feel my whole world I had settled in has once again been blowen up and me with it. This death has new life with it. I can see that but it still hurts like crazy to have everything blowen apart. But what GOD is doing with me at least, is keeping the good and moving me onto new experiences and chances to learn new lessons and the build on the positive I have gained already. This transitional period I am currently in is very difficult and stressfull. I have no idea where I am going. I am just having BLIND FAITH. It always works. I know that from experience. But why is it that it always is still difficult to go through? I have had to do it before quite alot of times. It never seems to get any easier. This is a death experience. But I know new life is coming to me and it will be better for me in the long run. I have had the betrail. Now is the nailing up part. IT HURTS LIKE HELL!!
But hopefully soon will be the new life. Rising up and defeating the odds and prooveing I will not lay down and die.

My/our experiences are nothing compared to what JESUS went through. His was the ultimate experience and HE is proofe that all will be well in the end. Mine is very minor but feels big. But the true sting has been subdued by JESUS already.

It is not wrong to feel the way I do. It is a normal human reaction. But faith in GOD is what counts and I know all will be well like you know all is better for you now. It is a personal experience that I am personaly learning from. But it will benifet many who I come accross.
GOD BLESS;
Ian.....

Hey Ian,

Good to hear from you again. Your comments are thought-provoking, and I want to respond to some.

It seems pretty clear that you are going through some very tough times. That's not uncommon for those who seek to follow Jesus closely. However, after many such times, I am convinced of two things: it's at those times that we can grow the most, and it's especially at those times that we need each other. We need a community of faith around us to hold us up, to pray for us, to hug us, and to help us remember that we are not alone in the world. It's well and true to say God is with me wherever I go, but also true is that God created us to need each other. So I encourage you to make it a priority to find a fellowship of believers and become a part of them.

I appreciate your comments about taking charge of oneself first. Pastor Bill Hybels says the first task of a leader is to lead him- or herself. That's also one of the most difficult tasks of a leader.

The difficulty I have with leading myself is when I get the idea that I can do that in my own ability and strength. I cannot. I have shown that over and over. The God who calls us to become like Jesus also sends his Spirit into us to bring that about. The task of self-leadership is fundamentally one: Respond to the urging of the Spirit to remain as closely attached to Jesus as possible. As we are focused on him, everything else becomes possible and life makes sense.

So, two things for you: Find a fellowship of other followers of Jesus, and learn to focus on Jesus and let the Holy Spirit do the work.

G'day Larry;

I understand what you write mate. I am not into self leadership. What I really meant was more to do with self dicipline. And for a fellowship, it depends where I end up living. I have tried to get accomadation in my home town here. But being on a disability pension, no landlord wants anything to do with me!! I have been advised to look out in the surounding area. I will have to move to another town. I have very good Christian friends who live in a town where I once lived about 5 years ago. It is 70 kilometres away (about 45 minutes driving). They have a good fellowship from what I have been told. They are my friends from the motorcycle club (BIKER MATES). The chance of getting accomadation there is remote too but better than here. I have any amount of help for paying bond and rent assistence but landlords have a problem with DSP people. I can only keep trying. It is the weekend now so I have to try again next week. I feel that I will end up in Traralgon where my friends live. My home town is Sale. If you have an idea where Melbourne is in Australia, then look East from there along the main highway 1 and you will see Traralgon and further on you will see Sale.

I am off the subject with the geography lesson!!
The point is, if I end up in Traralgon I will have good Christian frinds who have a good fellowship and I will be welcome. But at least I have good mates there.

Thanks for your reply Larry.
GOD BLESS;
Ian.....

hello im 14 and often think about life and death. it is the one thing in life we as human can be sure of. but i have also been told i have a gift the gift of the dead. this makes me belive that i have been reborn to this world to help.

Hello Heather,

Thanks for your comment. I'm curious, however, about just what you mean by the "gift of the dead," and who told you you have it. Also, it seems that your comment assumes reincarnation. Am I correct? Care to discuss it?

Larry,
Thank you so much for taking the time to post this. The spirit rocked your
boat and you turned around and rocked mine ;) beautiful, isn't it? I've been
feeling this but you said it so darn perfectly that I nearly wept. I often feel
like a homesick kid at camp, just wanting to go home. I think you probably
do too.
Treena Fessler
Spokane, WA

Not sure if I should be commenting for this, but I enjoyed reading this post :) Sometimes I think blogs should all come equipped with "Like" buttons.

I started to wake up to life day! I have been so caught up in my own petty
shame and self loathing that i could not see what was directly before me. I
am hurting now, but its never hurt so good! Thanks for your comments.

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  • Zach said:
      I started to wake up to life day! I have been so caught up in my own p...
  • Brent @ hvac training said:
      Not sure if I should be commenting for this, but I enjoyed reading thi...
  • Treena said:
      Larry, Thank you so much for taking the time to post this. The spirit...
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      Hello Heather, Thanks for your comment. I'm curious, however, about j...
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      hello im 14 and often think about life and death. it is the one thing ...
  • Ian McDonald said:
      G'day Larry; I understand what you write mate. I am not into self lea...
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      Hey Ian, Good to hear from you again. Your comments are thought-provo...
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      G'day Larry; I have recently thought of this question myself. Not so m...

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