The Pros and Cons of Death

By Mary Kroeger

Death! How we dislike the thought of that word and the things it robs us of! We shrink from pain that is generally associated with it, and from the decay that accompanies it. The absence of life is not a pretty picture! An undertaker may do his best to make a corpse look lifelike and beautiful, but he cannot bring the beauty of life into it.

We are all acquainted with the death and decay in nature, and most of us are familiar with the death of loved ones and the sufferings associated with it. We learn that everyone and everything that is born into this world has to die at some time or another. Why? Because Adam and Eve brought sin into this world.

We try to stop the sin from multiplying by creating laws. The law deals with sin, condemnation and death. We make laws to prevent the decline of morality, etc. Eventually we realize that the law can only change some behavior. It cannot change the hearts of people and make them obedient.

Both physical and spiritual death came into this world through our first parents when the serpent got them to accept two lies as truth. First of all he got them to believe that God was not true, and secondly, that they could become like God in disobedience and by their right choices. They believed the serpent's lie instead of God's truth. The lie became their truth. Their disobedience brought both spiritual death and physical death into this world. The serpent's mindset of death has been passed on to all their descendants. The scriptures often refer to this mindset as the 'carnal' or 'natural' mind.

In Rom. 8:6 it says that the carnal mind is death, and in 1 Cor. 2:14 we read that the natural mind CANNOT receive the things of the Spirit of God. Therefore it cannot receive the life of God! It has a wrong image of God and cannot obey Him. It believes the serpent's lies, falls prey to the lusts of the eye, enjoys the pride of life and wants the pleasures of this world. (1 John 2:16) These are the negative properties of death.

Now we want to see how God, in His wisdom, uses death to bring us into life. We see that the purpose of God is worked out by Him in successive stages. To us this looks like a slow process but His ways are always perfect. He accomplishes this through our death to sin by the purging out of all evil in our thought life by the consuming spiritual fire that God is. In His wisdom He works it so death becomes the way to life and higher glory. This may look like a paradox to us, but God's ways are higher than ours. We often find it difficult to understand them.

The author of Hebrews reveals this great truth to us in 2:14-15. "Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He that also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him that had the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives." Here we see that it is by death and death only, that He destroys him who has the power of death and that is the devil.

On the cross Jesus died two deaths, but because of faulty translations we are not aware of this fact. In many instances, where it should read 'deaths', it only reads 'death.' We are all acquainted with His physical death, but not everyone is acquainted with His death to sin, or with our need to be dead to sin. (Rom. 6:10 (NIV) "The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God." Although Jesus died to sin throughout His life, the crisis came during the trial and then the torment He suffered on the cross! In the midst of all the torturing pain that Jesus had to endure, the devil tried his utmost to get Jesus Christ to think one wrong thought. In spite of all the devil's evil schemes, he was not successful in getting Jesus to sin. Christ won the victory over sin and death!

How does Christ's victory over sin and death apply to us? It gives us a living hope that in our union with Christ we too can have victory over sin and death. But the process remains the same. It is only through death, namely, our death to sin, that we can be victorious. When we are dead to sin the devil has no point of contact in us (Jn.14:30b "...he has no hold on Me"), and therefore no power over us. It is this death that frees us from the devil's power while we are living on planet earth. This is the death that we welcome. If we fear it we remain in bondage. As long as we want to feed our self-life our bondage to sin remains.

In John 12:24 Jesus said, "Unless a grain of wheat falls in the earth and dies it remains by itself alone, but if it dies it brings forth much fruit." What a statement! Life and fruitfulness continue through death! The continuation of life is through a change that brings eradication of the evil. The seed of the kingdom of God is above all kingdoms; it is the seed of the Son who is above all sons. It does not come to perfection in a moment of time and without intermediate changes, but grows from strength to strength. This is explained in Ps. 84:7. "They go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion." (NIV)

Let's look at 2 Cor. 3:18. "But we all with unveiled faces, beholding in a mirror the glory of the Lord being transformed into the same image from glory to glory just as from the Lord, the Spirit." We need to realize that in the presence of God all things are alive. When we look into a mirror and see an image of ourselves, we see an image that has no substance. But an image of Christ has substance for it has life! It is the exact representation of the invisible God! The very life of Christ flows into us and changes us into His likeness.

Christ has shown us the way to receive His glory. He left the glory that He had with the Father, to enter a virgin's womb and be born as a babe. He then had to pass through the various stages into maturity. After His baptism of repentance from following the Law, He received the Spirit without measure. The heavens opened to him and He heard a voice from heaven saying, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased." After this He only did what the Spirit showed Him to do. In obedience to the Spirit's leading He overcame temptations. At the end of His life there was strong crying, the cross, and the grave! Then the rewards came: the resurrection, ascension, sitting down at the Father's right hand and receiving all power and authority and a name that is above all names! We need to realize that we too have to go through this death to sin to come into true life and receive glory from the Father.

Our death to sin is not a physical death, but a death to all self-effort to make ourselves righteous. It is a death to the lust of the eyes, the desires of the flesh and the pride of life. Many Christians try to die to self, and fail and try again and it becomes very trying! We may as well quit trying because all our trying is self-effort.

Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me." (Gal. 2:20) Christ lives in the believer! His life does not receive corruption so it cannot receive sin. It is dead to sin. It is a life of obedience to the Father's desires! Just as the Father's desires became Christ's desires, so they also have to become our desires! Our union with Christ embraces His death to sin as well as His obedience to the Father's wishes.

Why is this not evident in the life of most Christians? Is it because we don't realize what is ours in Christ? Is this the reason why we remain babes and continue in our carnal thinking? Do we realize that in Christ we are new creations and have a new mind - the mind of Christ?! As we learn to function in our new mind, the love of Christ will flow out to others, and our death to sin will become evident. As our love for Christ grows, our desires change, and the things of this world no longer attract us. We are dead to all their allurements. We only want more of Christ and rejoice in our love relationship with Him!

In chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation we see what happens if we lose our first love. The church in Ephesus lost its first love. Jesus Christ was their first love, and when they lost that, it made room for other things to take first place. All the things God disapproved of in the various churches were the result of having lost their first love. When we no longer remain in a first love relationship with Christ, substitute relationships creep in, and organization replaces the living organism we are in Christ. When life is missing, idols of greed, superiority, honor, control, immorality, etc., creep in. These are worldly desires. They can only be eradicated through repentance, and then once more letting Christ be our first love! This brings about our death to sin. As we grow in the knowledge of the greatness and depth of Christ's love for us and in us, we come into the fullness of life! (Eph. 3:18 & 19)

Now let's take a closer look at some of the things that cause us to turn away from receiving our death to sin. One of them is suffering. This suffering may be physical or emotional. It may be caused by being rejected, abused, insulted, ridiculed, unjustly accused, etc. This may result in imprisonment and even physical death.

The apostle Paul experienced these sufferings, yet look at what he wrote. "Though the outer man perishes, the inner man is renewed day by day." ( 2 Cor.4:16) Sufferings did not get his eyes off the goal and the rewards. He still said, "For me to live is Christ." (Phil. 1:21) "Just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is in abundance through Christ." (2 Cor. 1:5 see also Phil. 3:10) He could even say, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up that which is lacking in Christ's afflictions." (Col. 1:24)

God has a purpose for everything we have to experience in this life, and 'everything' includes all our sufferings. "For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus sake, that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh." (2 Cor. 4:11) Why? So that the life of Jesus may be manifested in us! "Being delivered over to death" refers not only to physical death, but his willingness to suffer and to forgive proves that he was dead to sin. It also showed the life of Christ in him. In the midst of all his trials and the rejection of his message by the Jews, and the resulting persecution and threats of death, he kept loving his persecutors. We see the life of Jesus manifested in Paul while he was living on planet earth! Paul kept his eyes focused on the goal! Nothing could get him off course! He recognized the uselessness and worthlessness of trying to satisfy the self life with its temporary honor, power and glitz! Reaching the goal was well worth any cost to attain it! We too are to manifest the life of Christ as we go through our tribulations and trials!

Many Christians think that Christ died so they should not have troubles, and that they should be delivered from death and out of it. They do not understand that Christ died for us and as us, and that He died two deaths on the cross. We are all acquainted with His physical death, but few understand His death to sin. Although Christ was dead to sin throughout His life, the crisis came on the cross where He was tortured beyond our understanding. In the midst of all that mental, emotional and physical torture He kept His eyes on doing the will of the Father even though He could have called on legions of angels to release Him from the cross. All the schemes of the devil were fruitless in getting Him off course! His death to sin was complete!

This is the death Paul is speaking about! We need to realize that this is a death to all self-effort to attain righteousness and to all selfish desires. That sinful nature must be judged as belonging to the Adam man, the man of sin. We are now in Christ. The sinful nature no longer belongs to us. Therefore we need to die to all deceitful persuasions and lusts of the flesh for they will only mislead us.

Our life in Christ has its source in Christ for it is rooted in Christ! He is the vine, we are the branches! Branches receive their nourishment from the life of the vine that grows them. We receive our nourishment from the life of the vine, Jesus Christ, who grows us. He is the source and sustenance of our life! It is not Christ plus self-effort or anything else. We join Paul in his declaration: "For me to live is Christ."

Our death to sin brings us into fullness of life! Our life in Christ frees us from our bondage to self and the allurements that are dear to the self life. It opens the eyes of our understanding to the invisible realm and reveals the treasures of darkness (the deep things we learn during difficult times) to us, as well as the depths of God's love! The scriptures become life to us in spiritual understanding and we move into a deeper relationship with God in Christ! As we receive a greater understanding of the spiritual realm, we see God's great plan for humanity - the pathway of transformation into the image of Christ!

Since the gospel is mostly trumpeted in natural understanding, many are unaware of the spiritual realities that they are missing. (I too was in that category at one time.) They do not realize that they are new creations in Christ. They only see themselves as 'forgiven sinners'. They do not understand that instruction, judgment, and repentance are needed to deliver fallen creatures from their bondage to sin, and bring them into God's life in the kingdom. We all need a special meeting with Christ who alone can open our eyes to the spiritual wealth that is ours in Him! Christ is the way, the truth and the life! There is no other way to life!

In Romans 6:7 it says that when a man dies he is freed and delivered from the power of sin. For sinful humanity the way of life must be through death. It has to be that way, and it cannot be in any other way because the cross speaks of death. The cross is a reality. Not only is it truth, but also power and wisdom!

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 emphasizes this. According to the Amplified Bible it says:

18 For the story and message of the cross is sheer absurdity and folly to those who are perishing and on their way to perdition, but to us who are being saved it is the [manifestation of] the power of God.
19 For it is written, I will baffle and render useless and destroy the learning of the learned and the philosophy of the philosphers and the cleverness of the clever and the discernment of the discerning. I will frustrate and nullify (them) and bring (them) to nothing. (Is. 29:14)
20 Where is the wise man (the philosopher)? Where is the scribe (the scholar)? Where is the investigator (the logician, the debater) of this present time and age? Has not God shown up the nonsense and the folly of this world's wisdom?
21 For when the world with all its earthly wisdom failed to perceive and recognize and know God by means of its own philosophy, God in His wisdom was pleased through the foolishness of preaching [salvation, procured by Christ and to be had through Him], to save those who believed (who clung to and trusted in and relied on Him).
22 For while Jews [demandingly] ask for signs and miracles and Greeks pursue philosophy and wisdom,
23 We preach Christ (the Messiah) crucified, [preaching which] to the Jews is a scandal and an offensive stumbling block [that springs a snare or trap], and to the Gentiles it is absurd and utterly unphilosophical nonsense.
24 But to those who are called, whether Jew or Greek (Gentile), Christ [is] the Power of God and the Wisdom of God."

The cross is not only a statement of truth, but also of God's power and wisdom. His power meets the craving that is in man's heart for power. God's wisdom is greater than man's wisdom, and it answers every question in regard to the mystery of this life for both the head and the heart. Without this understanding life is a riddle which neither the head nor the heart of the old humanity could ever solve. This applies to both the Jews and the Gentiles - and it includes everyone's special cravings and wants.

Paul explains that the Jews wanted signs, something dramatic to prove that the heart had something sure to lean on. The Greeks, on the other hand, were seeking wisdom. They were in darkness and needed some light. God's answer to both the Jewish and the Gentile world is the cross of Christ! Death! A death that transforms into life! This gives power and wisdom to all who want to be set free from their bondage to sin and death. For by death with Christ we are freed from the bondage of corruption and from all that interferes with the heart's desire for life.

25 [This is] because the foolish thing [that has its source in] God is wiser than men, and the weak thing [that springs] from God is stronger than men.
26 For [simply] consider your own call, brethren; not many [of you were considered to be] wise according to human estimates and standards, not many influential and powerful, not many of high and noble birth.
27 [No] for God selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is foolish to put the wise to shame, and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame.
28 And God also selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is lowborn and insignificant and branded and treated with contempt, even the things that are nothing, that He might depose and bring to nothing the things that are,
29 So that no mortal man should [have pretense for glorying and] boast in the presence of God.
30 But it is from Him that you have your life in Christ Jesus, Whom God made our Wisdom from God, [revealed to us a knowledge of the divine plan of salvation previously hidden, manifesting itself as] our Righteousness [thus making us upright and putting us in right standing with God], and our Consecration [making us pure and holy], and our Redemption [providing our ransom from eternal penalty for sin].
31 So then, as it is written, 'Let him who boasts and proudly rejoices and glories, boast and proudly rejoice and glory in the Lord'."

This was prophesied in the Old Testament. "Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous. And the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed." (Isaiah 29:14 )

God has such a wonderful present and future planned for us, that we can now joyfully proclaim, "Therefore I am ready to persevere and to stand my ground with patience and endure everything …. the same is sure that if we have died with Him we will also live with Him…for He cannot deny Himself." (2 Tim. 2:10-13)

Have you ever noticed how many "therefores" there are in the scriptures? Because the rewards are so great, "therefore" we are willing to obey Christ in everything! Since we were crucified with Him, we have died with Him and we have also been resurrected into life with Him. Now we are joint heirs with Christ.

In Rom. 8:16-17 it says, "If we suffer with Him, we will also reign with Him." Suffering is not fun; it belongs in the death realm. But suffering with Christ is different; it brings us into a union with Christ that enables us to rule with Him! Where and when does this rule begin? It begins in our hearts while we live on planet earth, and together with Christ we rule over all the temptations and the wrong desires the devil tempts us with. Our willingness to suffer with Him proves that we have died to our own desires of self-gratification. Obedience to Christ's directives has become our greatest joy! This enables us to reign with Christ! Those who are willing to suffer with Him will also reign with Him! Praise His great and wonderful name!!

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