My professors at Covenant have some pretty priceless quotes. I have one professor in particular who is incredibly quotable, but often makes me want to pee my pants because A) He is so smart and B) He doesn’t put up with lazy questions. By lazy questions I mean, you BETTER have got your question ready BEFORE you raise your hand, because if he calls on you and you’ve only got a half-formed thought in your head and you start talking in circles for even 4 seconds, he says something like, “Is there a question in there somewhere?” or “Did I miss something? You’re not saying anything.”
So yeah, needless to say…I don’t ask questions. Someone made the mistake of asking a question today, and was saying something about how death isn’t life and honestly I have no idea what else, and my professor cuts him off and says, “Being dead is not being alive…that’s correct.” That shut the student up really very suddenly. I gasped. GASPED. Audibly. Poor guy.
After I got over my panic attack on behalf of “That Guy,” and class progressed, I couldn’t get that out of my head. It seems so obvious- being dead is not being alive. If you’re six feet under, you don’t have a pulse, and you don’t have breath in your lungs, and you don’t need food or water or anything anymore because your body requires nothing.
Still, there’s a different sort of “dead” we can be while not being actually dead, and it can even happen when we’re awake, and technically living.
So it’s here on the eve of my 26th birthday that I am learning, slowly, what a big distance there is between being awake and alive. Being awake takes a few of my faculties, mainly– keeping my eyes open. Being awake doesn’t have to be that different from being dead. I don’t even have to be alert. You might be totally unaware of everything keeping you alive while you’re awake- your heart beating, the air in your lungs, and other things. Being alive on the other hand, is an entirely different story.
For the Christian, being alive means being united to Christ. Anything else is death.
If you’ve ever heard anything about vines and branches in Scripture, it’s probably something about an olive tree or something about John 15. I’m going the John 15 route today, where Jesus is speaking about His desire for the believer to bind themselves to Him using the imagery that He is the vine and we are the branches. We are attached to Him, and we grow from Him. We cannot grow alone. A branch chilling on the ground isn’t going to do anything but get stepped on or burned for a fire.
When God chases after us and makes us His own, we belong to him. However, there is something called “double-grace” that Calvin talks about that I think is crucial here for understanding the difference between what I think of as being “awake” in Christ and being “alive” in Him. The first half of “double-grace” is justification. Through the blood of Christ, we are PUT RIGHT with God. We now have access to the Father because of what the Son has done. Through sanctification, the second part of “double-grace,” we find that Christ promises to change us more into his likeness–but that work is done AS we stay connected. John 15:5 says, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Basically, if you remain in Christ, you will LIVE ABUNDANTLY. If you just look at the vine but don’t connect yourself to it, the vine isn’t really a reality to you. He says, “ABIDE IN ME.” Not, “Stay awake and feel the comfort of knowing a vine is there if you need one.” Instead, He says, “TRULY LIVE! CONNECT YOURSELF TO THE VINE AND GROW!!!”
He has so much more for us than just legal status as his children. Can you imagine if a family signed the papers to adopt a child to be part of their family and then didn’t invite the child to sit with them at dinner? Or perhaps the child gets fed, but instead of discussing the joys of the day, they simply read the legal adoption documents over the child to remind him of his new status?! Of course not. That’s absurd, you say! They rejoice in the legal documents to the extent that they make what they have always known in their hearts to be true– this particular child was meant to be in their family.
Yes, our debt (legally) is FULLY paid by Christ on the cross, but there is so much life beyond the payment. We become connected to Christ himself, we become an extension of Him and of His plan to redeem all things. We aren’t legal fodder to him, but his CHILDREN. We are the King’s children, with a royal identity. As my favorite Scripture passage says,
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:9-10.
Can I get an AMEN HALLELUJAH AMEN HOLLER, please!? There is a huge difference between being AWAKE to who you are in Christ, and being ALIVE in Him. You can be aware and not be connected, and that breaks the heart of Jesus. He died not just to give you legal rights to belong in His family, but to be delighted in, made for a particular purpose in His Kingdom, and celebrated. So refuse to be simply awake to what Christ has done. Be alive in His love. He will always hold up His end of the deal (Bible term: covenant). I mean, have you read the Bible? His people were faithless, somewhat useless, and often downright confused. Still, He loved them. He pursued them with the heart of a Father that says, “You calling yourself my people is not enough. REALLY BE MY PEOPLE.”
When we say we want to be part of God’s family, we don’t just get to put him on like a nice necklace, an add-on to our identities. He becomes our identity. He changes everything as He grows us more into his likeness. We take on His name and His royalty and we hold to him for dear life.
Don’t be a child of God who just wants to see the legal documents and be glad that you have a Dad.
Be so glad that you have a Father that you cling to Him, because out of everyone in the world, He decided it was you that He wanted for His very own, so much so that He gave His very life for you. His love proves far and above a legal document that He wants you alive— not just awake— to Who He is.
Stay awake, but more importantly, stay alive. Stay connected to Jesus. He is the vine, you are the branches. Grow on.
Being awake is not being alive,