The decision follow (and keep following) Jesus is a frightening gamble when you consider many of the comforts and securities right in front of your eyes. They flaunt themselves daily, and the comparative success in life of their patrons is, generally speaking, undeniable. Being so tantalizing it is, in reality, almost impossible not to follow suit. Money, a ‘good’ community, a high paying job, ‘better’ schools—we almost feel entitled to them after experiencing it for a few generations. Living in a society that is on a whole saturated with such things, it’s difficult not to pursue them.
A dissenting voice cries out amidst our vanity fair, “You have died.” Died? Who? The Jesus-followers to whom Paul writes. Moreover, “your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Those same followers—Christians in Asia Minor. In Paul’s letters, it is obvious that the one who chooses to obey the gospel—to follow Christ—is attached to him. So Paul can tell them, “You were buried with him.” Dead. But also, “you were raised up with him through faith.” Life.
“You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
If it’s true, then it’s everything. Everything of substance, everything of hope—everything we cling to. If it’s not true, it must be brushed aside so that we may cling to our brief existence and the varied delicacies it offers.
Why would someone forego the conveniences noted above, or even more, undergo various losses, mistreatments, or suffer the life of an outsider, for the sake of following Christ? “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” As much as one can depend on the One who guards that life, he or she can rest at ease. Who is able to threaten the power God himself commands? Hidden with Christ. Again, if it’s true, then it’s everything that is hope—what we cling to. Peter addresses believers this way, “sojourners of the Diaspora…chosen by God.” Without homeland and socially rejected, but choice in God’s eyes.
Present injustice and loss can be endured when ultimate justice is certain.
The alternative is much wavering in identity, or even becoming an empty shell, robbed of dignity, and without hope. But if one could hope in God—that God would vindicate his people—injustice and loss can be endured. This is the faith of the psalmists, and even Jesus, who himself hoped in God for vindication.
The same is true of the voluntary relinquishing of present comforts for the sake of obedience. If my life is hidden with Christ…if it’s actually true, then I look only to my eternal inheritance, which as Jesus and all the NT writers affirm, comes with eternal glory—eternal ‘weightiness.’ I need not join a rat race for comfort or security if I already own these things. I also need not fear leaving them behind for the sake of Christ, his mission, and my obedience. Paul says, “Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” If it’s real, then we inherit eternal glory, if not, ‘we of all men are to be most pitied,’ says the apostle. Why? We give up everything of value here for our short, often miserable lives. Much, much more than a crutch is all this following Jesus business….it’s too hard to be just a crutch. It’s living life as if the whole world really is a lie—a truly insane gamble, considering what presents right before our faces every single day. If you left Jesus, would your life be much different?
On Reality and Revelation
We often ponder the end of all things as Jesus’ second “coming,” as if from a distant place. The New Testament employs in addition to this some different, quite significant language for this event: “revealing.” Christ will be “revealed” at the end of all things, as if He is already present and imminent—right in front of you. Because of this Peter can say that in the end Christ will be “revealed” as one who is present, although unseen. The fine line that separates will be removed. God will ‘appear’, suddenly. And those whose lives are likewise ‘hidden’ in him—they will be vindicated, receiving the unfading inheritance promised by Jesus so long ago.
“So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.”
What would you do if God were real today? I mean, really real.
What would I do if God were real today—right in front of me? That can be the dividing line between faith and unbelief.
The Difficulty of it All
I admit that this notion of “dying with Christ” is too often romanticized in my experience. By the romantic sentiments, the weight of the metaphor cancelled. If this excites you, you may be missing the gravity of it. Comprehend the reality that in Christ you die…dead…boom. “You died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Period. You’re dead, so start living like it. The weight of that…of not living life for anything in this world whatsoever because you died…is, well, terrifying. Imagine living life for 60 or 80 long years, hoping only in one thing—vindication by God in the end, and inheriting an eternal possession. To genuinely live life in light of this inheritance all the while bearing loss, ostracism, or even persecution for it, and for as long and far ahead as you can see is…terrifying, because you do not receive the inheritance here and now. As children of Abraham, we remember that he never received the land of promise, even after years and years of sojourning. His life ended with a promise yet to be fulfilled. So I too must decide, do I sojourn as an outsider—joining the faith of Abraham—or attach myself to the world absorb as much as I can before I’m gone?
I know I must do it, but my confidence shrinks back at the thought. I resolve to walk in it, but I admit, I struggle with it. The whole thing is terrifying, and I pray that God help me deeply with all of it or I am sure to fall away. The world is so tempting. If God did not keep me; if the Holy Spirit—God’s gift and surety to his followers in the meantime—did not sustain me, I would fall away. It’s all too tantalizing and tempting…all that the world has to offer. Day after day, those who do not follow God prosper—it’s undeniably before my eyes every day. An insane gamble.
“Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.””
“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.”