During the twenty years that we lived overseas, I often lost track of upcoming American holidays. Before wide-spread internet connection, I have to admit that the last Monday of May was usually spent with end of the year parties and summer plans.
Yet, I vividly remember my first Memorial Day weekend back in the states in 2007. As our church sang patriotic songs and remembered those who had died for our freedom, I was moved to tears and ashamed that I had so seldom celebrated this national holiday.
First called “Decoration Day”, the Memorial Day-type observance began as a day to decorate the graves of fallen Civil War heroes. Although placing flowers on the tombs began as early as the first year of the Civil War, it wouldn’t be until over 100 years later that the federal government would set aside a specific day to observe the holiday.
As Christians, today should be a very special day for each of us. Of course, we must remember those who have given themselves for our country’s freedom and thank the families of those who are remembering their loss.
But, we have another death to remember. That of our own.
Our old self died when He died (Romans 6:6).
Let’s take some time today to remember this glorious fact and visit our own gravesite.
When God looks at who you were before Christ, He sees a dead man – complete with coffin and tombstone. Your body of sin has be done away with, so that you no longer have to be at sin’s beck and call (Romans 6:7).
Remembering our old man doesn’t create any fond memories within us. That was one life that we can rejoice with its passing. When we were made to die to that old way of life, we were then released to enter into a whole different life that was already blameless and free: the very same Life of Christ (Romans 7:4).
With our gravesite full, we have been released from the rules and regulations of offending God. Christ can’t offend Him – so neither can we. Instead, we can serve God on the other side of the grave – in newness of Spirit – not the tit for tat of the Law-regulated living (Romans 7:6).
Spend a moment at your own burial plot.
As you walk away, know that you will probably need to come back here tomorrow.
Because remembering that we are already dead to sin helps us live like we are already in the heavenlies.
(What’s in your sarcophagus?)
Drawing his neck upward, he wrenched his mouth open in a final, silent cry — the last gesture he would ever make.
The bull’s severed head, pooling now in it’s own blood, stood upright by the stump of his neck in the dusty arena. The nearby ritual of the Malaysian priest was lost to me. All I could see was the gruesome decapitation, as the stub visibly shifted from static, closed lips into a wide-open, voiceless bawl. The lifeless muscles stiffened the mouth into a gaping grimace before my eyes.
Fifteen minutes before, the water buffalo stood alive and strong. Five minutes later, he fell, powerless and without life. I was only a spectator to the sacrifice. But one who would carry the appalling picture of death and rigor mortis into her dreams.
Today, this ghastly scene provides a visual reminder to me of our own death as believers. When Christ was crucified long ago, we died. Whether we feel like it or not. Whether we act like it or not. This is an undeniable fact. “Our old self was crucified with Him” (Romans 6:6). “We have become united with Him in the likeness of His death” (Romans 6:5). “You also were made to die…through the body of Christ” (Romans 7:4). It’s a done deal.
But like a beheaded animal going into rigor mortis, our actions sometimes look very close to the old life that died. The habit-muscles of our flesh sometimes stretch forth within us, animating the anger, jealousy, or addictions of our past. If we keep our eyes focused on ourselves, we become discouraged with the realization that “nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Romans 7:18). Yes, as long as we analyze and critique our own actions, we will continue to fall short of our own evaluation.
Yet, Christ says that these are merely fleshy twitches of our former self. These are only the forth-wrenching of a flesh already dead.“Though self is not dead, you are indeed dead to self” – Andrew Murray.
If you are in Christ, you are a new creation. “The old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). “You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Because of His obedience (not yours), you have been made righteous (Romans 5:19; 2 Corinthians 5:21). His sacrifice put away your sins (Hebrews 9:26) and works within you moment by moment, continually washing you clean (Hebrews 10:10,14).
You are now His child of choice. He gave you the right to be His child (John 1:12) because you now bear His seed (see the Greek word for seed in 1 John 3:9 – “sperma”). You have been severed from a life that loves sin (Romans 6:7).
Granted, there is a lot of messiness in our actions on this side of heaven. “On the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:25). As long as we remain in this body, we will continue to be affected with the seizures of the old man. We often wonder, “Who will set me free from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). We have the first fruits of the Spirit within us and yet “groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for …the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23).
Hallelujah! Christ sees our duality and offers no condemnation (Romans 8:1).Our duplexity merely serves to work out both hope and perseverance within us (Romans 8;24-25).
So, next time you blurt out an unkind word….next time you lash out in anger or impatience…next time you gorge yourself with food you did not need….remember that these are merely the signs of rigor mortis – signals of a finality already achieved. Our response is to recognize and refocus on our true Life, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, Who is the Author and Perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Only in Him can this chaotic life of ours truly hold together (Colossians 1:17).