I’m in Michigan this morning. Technically you can hopscotch between Michigan and Indiana with ease, but to be geographically precise, I’m in Michigan. I woke up with a hinky back from sleeping in a strange bed, and I realize I’m getting older. We’re going to visit some friends this morning, I’m supposed to preach a sermon, and I’ve got nothing. That’s usually the way it goes, though, so I’m not worried or troubled. Ready vessels are filled in opportune moments. It’s never the preacher’s job to manufacture a sermon. His only job is to be a ready vessel.
It’s strange how the older we get we think about things differently. We see everything from odd angles, and I’m starting to catch myself doing it more and more. At some point along this journey, people stop planning vacations and start planning for retirement. They stop wondering whether what they’re wearing is fashionable and start considering whether it’s warm enough. It’s just the way of things, and if we try to cling to youth longer than we ought, we miss out on all the things graying hair and achy joints have to teach us.
Whenever I’m away from my kids, I think about them. My wife too, but I’ve been with my wife longer than we’ve had our kids, so I tend to think about them more. As is my mind’s custom to wander, I replayed some of the memories we made this past week, from jumping into the giant leaf pile in the backyard to my little one playing her own modified version of the trust game. Instead of turning her back, she closes her eyes and falls on her face hoping I’ll catch her before her nose and the floor connect.
Then something else came to light as my synapses began to fire after an average night’s sleep. Just as you can’t trust halfway, you can’t die halfway, either. The closest you can come to death without actually being dead is a coma, but once you’re comatose, you no longer have control over yourself, your choices, or your actions. You are limited in every way.
One might say this is analogous to the church’s current condition, wherein it’s not truly dead, but save for taking a ragged breath now and then, it is utterly, tragically useless. I know this might sting a bit, but God’s army isn’t marching through the land; it’s on a ventilator. What’s worse is that its condition is self-inflicted.
The Book is clear that everyone stands at a crossroads and must choose one of two divergent paths. If you live according to the flesh, you will die, plain and simple, no ambiguity. If, however, by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
I get that the following is not something the Jesus take the wheel crowd wants to hear, but the Spirit gives you the power to put to death the deeds of the body; it doesn’t do it for you. You’re not hiring a hitman. You have to do the work yourself.
As I said, you can’t die halfway. Anything less than true death for the deeds of the body means that you are not fully alive, not fully living for Him, and not fully surrendered. Sin is a paralytic. It keeps people from growing in their faith, and unless you live in a big city and have never wandered out to the country, we all know what a stagnant pool of water starts to look like after some time.
The longer you are rooted in one spot, the harder it becomes to break out of that place and move forward. That’s why the devil is content with part of you for now. He knows that given a long enough time horizon, he’ll have all of you. I get that many people like walking the razor’s edge barefoot, but it never ends well for them. It’s a zero-sum game. You’re either dead to the flesh, having put to death the deeds of the body, or you’re not. There is no in-between.
Do you want to live, or do you want to die? It’s a binary choice, as most of the critical decisions you will make throughout your life are. Everything else is filler, opinion, rationalization, or some slick guy trying to sell you his six-week course on how to love yourself the way you are.
You are not Schrödinger’s cat, and this is not an experiment. You cannot be both alive and dead. You are either alive or dead. To be dead to sin is to be alive in Christ. To be bound by sin is to reject the life-giving grace that Jesus offers. The choice is yours.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea, Jr.