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).
It was our first Chinese New Year in Taiwan. Everything took us by surprise. The incense, the fireworks, the cleansing of homes, businesses, and cemeteries.
But, most interesting were the banners across every outer door. Calligraphed on strips of red paper, these rhythmic blessings were affixed in triplicate — one over the door frame, and one on each side.
Even after twenty years of living in Asia, I could rarely read every word, as each was stylized, symbolic, and specific. Yet, I knew that each home shared a common desire — invoking prosperity, health, and happiness upon each household.
Chinese Christians joined the tradition as well. Rather than choose an ancient Confucian invocation of favor, they often attached verses of God’s blessings over their home. In time, I found myself appreciating their bold statement of faith. It reminded me of the Israelites, who smeared the saving blood over the lintel and doorposts the night before they left Egypt (Exodus 12:22-23).
I confess to you that my viewpoint of many of our American customs has been tainted by my Chinese experience. At times, I still find myself viewing culture through the lens of an Asian eye. So, it is from the perspective of these experiences that I question the Halloween decorations that line my American neighborhood.
If there is power in the word and strength in the symbol, why would we desire to call down the power of fear and death upon our homes? If there is any chance that decorating for despair would invite doubt and dread to single out our home, why would we risk the possibility? If our struggle is indeed against “the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, (and) against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places,” would we not rather safeguard ourselves by the absence of webs, witches and headstones (Ephesians 6:12)? Is there any correlation between this and the high amount of funerals in October?
While living as a foreigner in Asia, I was especially drawn to any shops that had the outer appearance of American living. Any display window that showcased Western style and design drew me inside. Because I had grown up with an affinity to Southern Living, I wanted my home in Asia to look that way, too.
What if the spirit world is the same way? What if accessories of fear and death are attractive to “spiritual forces of wickedness”? What if they feel a magnetic power to the trappings of the darkness?
I understand so little about unseen, spiritual forces. I do know that this time of year especially showcases horror and fright. Reveal to me Your viewpoint of this season. Is it harmless or is there truly something about this glorification of death?
Irregardless, may I be a light in the darkness, in season and out (2 Timothy 4:2). Allow Your Love to flow so fully through me that You are able to cast out fear wherever I am (1 John 4:18). May satan fall from the heavenlies like lightening as I pray and trust in Your Word (Luke 10:18). Protect Your children and continue to be our Keeper (Isaiah 27:3). This work order is signed by the blood of Jesus and therefore holds the full authority of His Life, Amen.”