Brothers and Sisters,
What is your only comfort in life and death?
That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.
We are and forever will be alive with Christ. That knowledge gives us a sense of purpose in the present and security for the future. We can face our inevitable demise with confidence. And when we lose brothers and sisters, we can grieve with hope because we know that they are now with Jesus and will be with Him when He comes again (1 Thess 4:13-18).
In our modern culture, life is very often considered to be the highest good. Massive spending on healthcare and robust public health policies are geared toward preserving life at all costs. Post-Christian morality is ordered around the idea that the worst thing you can do to a person is harm or deprive them of life (as well as liberty and the pursuit of happiness).
When we engage as neighbors and citizens in the public square, we ought to affirm this concern for life and advocate for its consistent application to all: born and unborn, black and white, citizen and foreigner. Scripture compels us to be pro-life in the deepest, most holistic sense of the term (Gen 9:6; Ex 20:13; John 10:10; etc.).
But there’s more to life than life, and we must push back when the world influences us to think, speak, and act as though our life in the flesh was to be valued above all else.
We have not always been good at this.
In his 2013 book, The Art of Dying, Rob Moll argued that Christians have gotten so pro-life that we’ve forgotten how to die. According to one study he shared, Christians were found to be three times more likely to opt for aggressive medical treatment at the end of life. Moll’s take on this is convicting: “our churches are not teaching us to die well” (32).
We can only die well when, with Paul, we believe that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). Still, my point today isn’t so much to help us think about our death—though, we ought to do that regularly (I once wrote a chapter titled, “You’re Going to Die”).
Instead, I hope to encourage us all to connect the dots between the life we have in Christ and the life we live this side of glory. Remember: Paul’s deep assurance about his life in Christ and its claim on him is what enabled him to stay and minister to the Philippians with joy.
Notice what Heidelberg says about the Spirit’s work in us: He “assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.” The promise of eternal life is not meant to make us complacent about our life in the here and now. It’s in light of our assured future that we’re called to live now, by God’s grace and the Spirit’s power, in ways that anticipate the glory to come (Ti 2:11-15; 2 Pet 3:11-13; cf. Matt 24:36-51).
When we live in light of eternity, fear loses its hold on us—not just the fear of bodily harm (i.e., losing our life) but all those “psychological” fears that plague us: fear of rejection, failure, embarrassment, and so on. Why? Because God is irrevocably committed to making us fully alive in Christ. That is the “end” of our story. Every chapter between now and then, no matter how tense or painful, unfolds a glorious narrative that concludes with us kneeling before God’s throne and listening to the sweet words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Because we are promised life in the hereafter, we are free to live fully for Christ in the present. My prayer for all of us this week is that we would continually ask God to show us what that looks like and that He would give us the courage to do so with boldness and joy.
Your Brother in Christ,