Until we look at Death in the mirror, we will never really live.
Death is the great enemy of every introspective heart. It seems ... unnatural (it is, and we weren't originally created for it). It is The Great Intrusion. Deep in every heart screams a protest: "Death is not right!" Until that protest is confronted, each of us runs a marathon ... with ankle weights.
"But Dan, I don't really want to think about death." Really? I get it. But maybe we haven't read enough to get us out of this maze? The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21,
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."
Gain? Really? I'm willing to bet when you think about death, "gain" isn't the first word that pops to your mind. Frankly, that's the problem, isn't it? If we were convinced there was gain ahead, we might be rather excited about the prospect of death. Which begs the question: "How can anybody look at death and decide it is gain?!" Of course, this is quite impossible ... unless they know something about death that isn't common knowledge.
What might that be? If you've read anything I've written before, you know the answer is Jesus. For the person bound to Jesus, the one fallen to their knees in brokenness and repentance, – Jesus is their password to eternal life. For them, the light bulb has flickered on. The death of death has come by the death of Jesus. The apostle Paul knew this. And so, released from all fear of death, Paul became virtually indestructible. Why? Because, in a sense, he knew he was already "dead" and therefore, forever alive with Jesus. The fear of Death had become powerless to him because he was 'already dead' that way, and was now unchangeably alive.
"I desire to depart (i.e. die) and be with Christ, which is better by far." Philippians 1:23
Did you know it's really difficult to successfully threaten a dead man? They don't seem to care. How do you kill a man who's already dead? This was Paul. This can be us.
Paul says the death of Jesus has become the believer's primary death. When Jesus died, they died. (Huh?). Paul says so in Colossians 2:20 and 3:3
"Since you died with Christ..." 2:20
"For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." 3:3
Let's see if I got this straight: I've already died with Jesus, yet I will still die one day. But when that day comes, and my eyes are shut, I won't really be "dead." I'll be more alive at that moment than I've ever been alive on my best days. Hmm. It's impossible to ponder this without a dawning, beaming smile.
Dwight L. Moody
Someone who understood this was a man named Dwight L. Moody. Moody was a famous man in his day (mid-late 1800s). He had a life of purpose; he was well-known throughout the Western world; he had a loving family; he read and wrote a great deal (despite not having much formal education). Yet for all those blessings, he said:
"Someday you shall read in the (news)papers that D.L. Moody, of East Northfield, is dead. Don't you believe a word of it! At that moment, I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone up higher, that is all. Gone out of this old, 'clay tenement' (body) into a house that is immortal, a body that death cannot touch, that sin cannot taint, ... a body like Jesus' own glorious body. I was born of the flesh in 1837. I was born of the Spirit in 1855. That which is born of the flesh may die, but that which is born of the Spirit will live forever."
"Don't you believe a word of it."
Death is dead in the death of Christ. For the believer, all is life from now until forever. Death is hardly a speed bump. In fact, it's more like a launch.
For the one who's hitched his wagon to Jesus, death is a charade, a mirage. Real life is ahead! The best, the very best, is yet to come! Yeehaa!