Summary: We admire those who pursue life goals as long as they can; but our calling is to die to self. It will mean a change of values and of attitudes, but it will give us true life.
I’m pretty sure that we can make a case for living until we die. It would not take a lot of effort to convince one another that we can approach life with gusto, squeezing every ounce of juice out. There’s a strong compulsion in us to extract all the value and the vitality we can get out from life, before it’s too late.
Think of the people we admire. We admire busy people, who get things done. Movers and shakers, folks who drive straight ahead with single-minded vision, accomplishing something. They are our models; they are the ones we admire.
We may criticize them, but we admire even the typical Washington workaholics, who arrive for work early and leave for home late, carrying a brief case of papers to pore over at a hurried dinner. We say, "This guy’s going some place. He’s got drive and energy." We say that he’s going to live until he dies, or at least he’s going to produce until he retires. We admire that.
We admire the folks who fill their calendars with things to do, people to see, and places to go. I asked one of you about accepting membership on a trustee board, and you said, "I can do it as long as it meets in the daytime, because all of my nights are filled with groups and activities." Wow! Retired and yet living vigorously, living until he dies. I admire that, don’t you? Of course you do. Makes you tired, but you admire it!
We admire people who keep on going, even when circumstances make it tough. We think highly of people who don’t let little things like mere health get in their way. If he is sneezing and wheezing, never mind, it’s just a case of the sniffles; give him some orange juice and let him go. He’s going to live until he dies. I f she can barely see to drive, that’s all right; just get out of her way, because nothing is going to stop her from living until she dies. We laugh at folks like that, but we also admire them. They are going to live until they die.
I met a man this week who told me about his daughter. She had broken her foot in a freak accident. It kept her confined to the house a long, long time. How long? Oh, two days, three days tops. Because by that time she’d gone stir crazy, bouncing off the walls with nothing to do. So she hobbled out of her bedroom, sneaked into her father’s car, and scooted off with the right foot propped up and the left foot operating both the accelerator and brakes. She was determined to go, go, go and live, live, live until she died. Which, given the circumstances, might be sooner than she had in mind. And don’t even think about reporting her; she’s a detective on the metropolitan police force!
We admire that kind of spirit and pluck. We think it’s great to live until you die. There’s a lot of support in American culture for that. Our songs belt out, "I’m gonna live ’til I die." Our poets write about "filling each moment with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run." "No couch potatoes here". "Better to wear out than to rust out". We like folks who live until they die, with no moss growing under their feet and no dust settling on their heads. Go for it people. Live until you die.
But have you ever thought about the opposite side of that coin? Have you ever thought about dying until you live? If it is important to live until you die, it is infinitely more important to die until you live.
The Bible tells us we can do that. Christians are folks who have died so that they can live. Believers are people who have discovered that beyond all of the go-go stuff, there is something else. There is a death that brings life. There is a dying that brings fulfillment and blessing. Live until you die is good; but die until you live is even better.
Let’s hear a little about this; I want to ask you to turn in your Bibles to the Letter of Paul to the Colossians. The portion I want to lift up for you is in Chapter 3. Colossians 3:1-4
You may have heard something very peculiar just then. It may sound strange. Paul says, "You have died". "You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."
Christians are people who have died, but who have been raised to life with Christ. And that life is available now. When we come to Easter Sunday, it’s not unusual to talk about eternal life and life after death. And that’s fine. That’s right. But today, as important as it may be to think about life after death, it is more important to know about the life God wants us to have now. The life we can have if we are willing to die right now.