Ultimate purpose of being a Christian (2): death

Some follow on thoughts from the last post ..

Response in faith to the gospel, marked by conversion & baptism, is merely the beginning of a process of being conformed to the image of the Son.

This ‘conformity’ involves bringing the Christian into a personal experience of both the death and resurrection of the Son.

Being a cheerful sort of bloke, I’ll stay with death in this post.

Paul can say things like ‘I have been crucified with Christ’ (Gal 2. 19) and all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death‘ (Rom 6:3-4).

Col 3:2 says ‘For you died ...’

In Romans 6:5, he can say that Christians “been united with him in a death like his“.

But if Jesus was physically killed, obviously his followers ‘die’ in a different way …. don’t they? 

Maybe, but maybe not. 

If you are Christian, what did / do you ‘die’ to as part of the process of spiritual transformation?

I say did / do because there is a past tense death, yet also an active imperative to ‘keep dying’. Paul commands believers to ‘Put to death‘ whatever belongs to their old life (Col 3:5).

Put it this way – before new life is possible, there is death to the old. Death is the beginning of the Christian life. Before resurrection is crucifixion.

The call of discipleship is a call first to come and die … and then to keep dying.

Consider Philippians 3:10-11

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

I suspect that most of us are very comfortable about knowing the power of Christ’s resurrection – and rejoicing and giving thanks for new life and hope.

But I wonder if we are as keen to know Christ through ‘becoming like him in his death‘ and by ‘participation in his sufferings?

This sort of knowing is not only a spiritual death, Paul had no problem linking it to very real and physical suffering.  Even to the degree where he can ‘delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties’ (2 Cor.12:10).

Is Paul some kind of masochist?  No, it is because suffering points to how Christ was ‘crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power’ (2 Cor.13:4)

This is rugged uncompromising stuff. It speaks of the offence of the cross to all forms of human self-sufficiency and optimism that ‘I’m OK, You’re OK.’ The death of Christ was absolutely necessary or God becomes a moral monster. Only in Jesus’ death is atonement and forgiveness made possible.

The call to death can be, and frequently is, misunderstood.

Rather than the gateway to a joyful transformed new life (of which more in the next post), some interpret it as a call to an existence of perpetual life-denying misery. There is something truly tragic about joyless, glum, pessimistic, fearful, hopeless and death-fixated Christianity. The worst consequence of all being that it ends up damaging the weak and vulnerable under its control.

We’ve had our fair share on this island – of both Catholic and Protestant forms – and I think some research into the theology that fostered such darkness is crying out to be done.

Comments, as ever, welcome.

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