Practical Christianity is all about life. Generally the only thing about death that attracts people these days are funerals and they are meant to celebrate life. They also help people begin the grief process so they can continue to live despite the void created by the loss of a loved one.
Other than that, death should not be glorified or sought after (however, cases of great sacrifice or necessity are exceptions such as Jesus' death or fighting for loved ones . . .those instances are done to unselfishly preserve life.) It is no secret that death was state-of the-art amusement in ancient Rome. Many "games" in the coliseum perverted the culture by pitting gladiator against gladiator and Christians against lions. Unfortunately, the Roman Empire was not the only civilization that considered death a means of entertainment, torture, or punishment; evidence of death jumps from the pages of many history books.
Death as a "lifestyle" did not die with ancient history; it is alive an well today in the form of terminating pregnancies and legalized physician assisted suicide. In the world of Christianity, death is seen as God's business. But, life is also His business and God invites us to live to the fullest while here on earth.
If Practical Christianity is all about life, why are so many Christians spiritually dead? Why are we grouchy and not accomplishing things for God's kingdom? What prevents us from growing and maturing as believers? Why and what creates a dead spiritual life in so many of us?
The Dead Body of Romans 7:24
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (Romans 7:14-15, 24 NIV)
There you have it . . .we are slaves to sin (our flesh) even though we are saved by Jesus. That sin nature is a part of us as long as we are in these earthly shells. It is a "two-fer" deal: body of flesh and sin nature. I once heard a teaching on the "dead body" mentioned in verse 24. Evidently, in Paul's day people sometimes received punishment by having a dead body attached to their backs. As the corpse decayed, the decay spread to the flesh of the living person providing the piggy-back ride. Paul compared his own spiritual life to a corpse rotting on his back. That is a pretty disgusting illustration, but it gets to the heart of the matter.
Do you have something dead riding on your back? Is it causing your spiritual life to slowly decay? It could be something as simple as gossip, as complicated as adultery, or anything in between.
Although there is no shortage of "dead bodies" waiting to attach themselves to our backs, one of the most overlooked corpses is our mouth. We gossip under the guise of prayer requests, we judge our neighbors and family members while we freely share our "suspicions" with anyone who will listen, and some of us are so chatty no one else can speak in our presence. We verbally beat unbelievers over the head with our holier-than-thou versions of the Christian life often causing them run in the direction opposite of Jesus. Our untamed tongues often ride on our backs happily promoting death.
I had a conversation with a teenager who mixed Buddhism and Christianity. Although I expressed my opinion that a spiritual identity such as that was an oxymoron, we talked for almost an hour about Jesus. As our conversation wound down the teen said, "You know, this is the first time in a long time I've spoken to anyone about Jesus and it didn't end up in a fight." Our conversation breathed life; the ones that turned into fights reeked of death despite the fact they were probably attended by well-meaning Christians. I recently saw my teen friend and asked him if he was still a Buddhist-Christian. He said "yes" but also mentioned that he had been attending church. I encouraged him to continue reading his Bible and I frequently pray that every conversation he has with others about Jesus will breathe life into his search for Truth.
Not every dead body itching to attach itself to our spiritual backs involves the tongue. The tongue is just oneexample. If we associate with people who bring us down or don't share our values, we risk contamination from their ways. When we engage in activities that God tells us to avoid we open ourselves up to sin's corrupted lifestyle. People who treat others badly not only promote death in their own lives, but also in the lives of their victims. The body of death is limited only by our imaginations, actions, and Satan's trickery. Also, the Bible is God's Word and that is life; if we neglect the Word, we bypass life and invite death to hitch a ride on our backs.
Take time to reflect on your life. Is there something ugly attached to your back? If so, can you identify the death oozing from it into your life? Practical Christianity wants to be free of that "body of death." As Paul cries out for someone to rescue him from his body of death in verse 24, he records his Hero in the following verse. . ."Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
Jesus will rescue us from those old dead bodies catching a ride on our backs. For further inspiration on this subject, I encourage you to read all of Romans 7 and 8. We all struggle with sin and the death it cultivates in our everyday lives. But there is life in Jesus; let Him rescue you!