I’ve spent a great deal of my life wrapped up in things I shouldn’t be.
I tend to function as one of those, “all or nothing” kinda guys. Plus, if I go “all in” I tend to research a lot, have strong opinion, take control of situations, etc. So I get myself entangled deeply in whatever I’m involved in.
This can be good if what I’m doing is “good” work. It can be really bad if it’s not.
It’s a perfect recipe for identifying myself by my works and accomplishments, the way I’m using my time, rather than my character and who I am as my Creator defines me.
So before I knew Jesus well, I spent a lot of time wrapped up in things that I shouldn’t be.
A lot of time!
Friendships and being liked? Check! Academics? Check! Sports? Check! Music? Cars and other hobbies? Work and hoarding money? Church activities? Mission trips? Learning theology? Impressing ladies? Impressing guys with my ability to “catch” ladies? Having “yolo”-type fun as often as I could with friends? Winning state championships? Getting good scholarships and the best school? Planning my future life? Buying cool gadgets, gear, vehicles and other belongings? Entertainment? Having good style with clothes?
Check! Check! Check-freakin-check! It goes on and on and on!
I didn’t do any of it “just a little bit”; I’m an all-in guy.
Okay, well, my teachers swore I was “just-a-little-bitting” my academics actually, but hey I put a lot of strategic thought into what I could get away with skimping on in order to do everything else but still receive a few academic dollars. So, that still counts as going all out, right?
The point is, if you’re anything like me at all, you can probably relate to getting wrapped up in a number of things. Right? Sometimes, like my in list above, they are seemingly good things like mission trips to help poor countries, and sometimes they’re straight crap like impressing the bros with the latest girl you hooked up with.
Sometimes they’re irrelevant things like sports teams, tv shows, or clothing style.
We can become strongly identified with anything!
Life, Death, and Constantly Worshipping
As Jesus began to squeeze down on my heart and mind and reveal to me the difference between the things I was chasing for my satisfaction versus life in him, I began to understand the difference between life and death.
I remember not being able to state it that plainly, but I remember saying often, “I’ve been living with myself as the center of the story – even claiming God was “number one in my life” – but now I see I’m just a small character in HIS story about Himself.”
It was kinda like I had been an empty, walking zombie with some pseudo version of “living”, but I hadn’t yet been alive.
Funny thing is, I had read and heard God say that about us hundreds of times in verses like Matthew 15:7-9 and Ephesians 2:1-3. I just never assumed it might apply to me as well.
God made it clear to us over and over through his communication with us throughout history, we are actually living dead apart from him. Even knowing of him is not knowing him and being made alive in him.
Jesus even spelled it out to the degree of saying, we must be “born again”! The change of knowing and following him versus not is the difference between a new birth and walking dead.
So being separated from our source of life, the person of God, whom we were made to live through, it’s no surprise that our dead selves get all wrapped up in so many things that they shouldn’t be.
We’re looking for a source of life again!
The great theologian, John Calvin said,
“Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.”
As beings made to worship, we’re constantly hunting for the best things to worship and trying to make ourselves worth worshipping. Yet, it takes us backwards, more into our death instead of into life like we hope.
Remember Jesus saying about himself, “I am the life”? (John 14:6)
Unwrap The Grave Clothes!
A week ago was Resurrection Sunday (or “Easter” in some circles rolls eyes – don’t get me started), and our pastor used a passage I had never considered much in relation to the day.
He spoke on Jesus’ raising of Lazarus as recorded in John 11. His point was the analogy of what we celebrate on Resurrection Sunday – our longings for the eternal enjoyment being made possible by Jesus. We will, because of Jesus’ life, sacrificial death, and resurrection to defeat sin, death, and separation from God, be able to fully enjoy God and each other forever!
As they longed for the temporary restoration of Lazarus, Jesus showed them his power over eternal matters and that he could, would, and does display God’s glory.
However, it’s a tiny sentence by Jesus at the end that really stood out to me this time.
The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
I have been fixated on Jesus’ short, matter-of-fact statement all week.
“Why did he even say it? Isn’t it a given?
Nope. No it’s not.
I wrap myself up in grave clothes every day!
My wife does, my friends do, my church does. We all do!
We watch people come out of the grave, made alive by Jesus, and whether in shock, disbelief, ignorance or all of the above, we let them remain wrapped in grave clothes, half expecting theme to crawl back into their tombs!
Yet Jesus continually, every day, with a full understanding of God’s love and what he has done for us, says,
“Take off the grave clothes. You are alive and free now.”
What Jesus has done for us is definitely eternal, but that sense of eternity extends even to now in this moment! We are alive, now! Death holds no power over us, now!
So it’s been a great question for me to meditate on all week, and at the risk of sounding like a Capitol One commercial, I ask you:
What are your grave clothes you’re wrapped up in?
- What do you keep wrapping up your self in to return to the stink of the tomb? Deathly habits and addictions? Deathly situations? Deathly company and environments?
- What “cloth” is around your face, blinding you from the true pleasures of Christ and his people? Deathly beliefs about yourself, others, or God? Deathly fixations on something else, not eternal, not God honoring?
- Who could you help get out of grave clothes? Cause let’s face it: it’s impossible to unwrap ourselves on our own!
We need to unwrap the grave clothes and stay out of them!
We need to seek our life, the life, in Jesus only.
I mean, get used to it… We are living free, forever, now!