It's a reality you can't escape. You know it to be true biologically. All living things die, and you're no exception. Your body will get old. You will get weaker. And eventually you will stop breathing and your life will expire. "All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust" (Ecclesiastes 3:20).
In addition to a biological awareness of death, you know empirically that you will die. Meaning, you know by experience and observation that you’re going to die. None of your ancestors are still around, you've been to funerals, and perhaps you've even been present at the moment of death of a friend or a relative. The closer your relationship with someone who’s died, the more present the reality of death is to you. Perhaps you've even come face to face with dying yourself, and that trauma has given you a heightened awareness of death. Some have come so close to death that they cannot even explain how or why they're still alive.
Yet, while these evidences may point you to death's reality, the surest proof I can give you of its lurking presence is this:
To put it another way: Death is an enemy; you know it is; and you spend your life engaging all manner of tactics and strategies to defeat it. You are in a fierce battle. And, just in case you don't believe me, here are your strategies:
1. Offensive Action
- MEDICINE. We're in a never ending search for weapons in our battle with mortality. We're developing new treatments and cures for diseases which would otherwise end our life, and we speak of people who "beat" cancer and "overcome" the adversity of terminal illness.
- DAREDEVILRY. Some, by putting themselves in harm's way, by flirting with danger, seek to convince themselves that they are in fact stronger than death. This is a danger for healthy young men in particular. After a few close calls, a reckless young man may grow in his pride and become convinced in his heart of his own invincibility.
2. Defensive Action
- SAFETY. If you've ever done physical labor, you know all about OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is an endless fount of rules and restrictions governing workplace safety. We see warning signs on every machine and appliance. We obey stop signs and put on our seat belts for the sake of protecting ourselves from harm.
- DIET & EXERCISE. We take defensive action against our sin by preserving the health of our bodies through controlling what we eat and what we do. Think of all the fear-driven principles we have about what we eat. No processed sugar, no gluten, no red meat, nothing inorganic, no alcohol, and the list goes on, all because we want to protect ourselves from death and preserve our life. And what intense workout rituals do you follow? And why? Because you are fending off death.
- ENTERTAINMENT. YouTube, video games, movies, seasons upon seasons of engrossing TV shows at your fingertips through on-demand streaming video. Sure, these are all filled with death, but it's Hollywood death, far removed from the reality of our day-to-day lives. Through our entertainment choices, we relegate death to the world of fantasy and fiction.
- SELF-INDULGENCE. If we give ourselves over to the indulgence of our flesh through pornography, gluttony, laziness, drunkenness, we medicate ourselves against the pain of death. We think we're escaping, but we're actually running right into death's trap through these things.
4. Make Peace
But here's the truth. Death is your enemy, and no matter how much you fight against it in any of the above ways…
- No medicine will spare you from your final destination.
- No exercise regimen, diet, or safety measures will ultimately keep you from dying.
- No matter how much you distract yourself and forget about death, you will not escape it.
- You may try to make friends with death, but in the end, it will kill you! It is your enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26)!
- Genesis 2:16–17: “The LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."
- Romans 5:12: “Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.…Death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam.”
- Romans 3:23: “For the wages of sin is death.”
But the reality of death as God’s judgment on sin goes much further beyond just a physical death. You see, God created you, like Adam in the Garden of Eden, as a spiritual creature to be in fellowship with God. Like Adam, you have a soul. And just as surely as your body will die, God says your soul is already dead in sin. Though Adam’s physical death would come later, in the day he ate from the forbidden tree he died spiritually. He was cut off, separated from God, cursed to suffer under the burden of painful labor and enmity with God, other men and women, and all of creation.
And all of Adam’s descendants have inherited his disease. You are already spiritually dead.
—Now, you might be thinking: Hold on a minute, just because I’m gonna die doesn’t mean I’m a “sinner.” Sure the Bible connects the two, but who cares?
Well, you might not want to connect your physical death to spiritual death, but if you refuse to, you're only deceiving yourself. You are suffering under the death of sin, and in your heart you are aware of it. How? Well, tnd the surest evidence I can give you of your awareness reality of your spiritual deadness is this
YOU SPEND YOUR LIFE FIGHTING AGAINST SPIRITUAL DEATH (SIN).
Think I'm crazy? Take a look at your life, because you use the exact same tactics against sin that you try to use to defeat your physical death:
1. Offensive Action
- HARSH TREATMENT OF YOUR BODY. You see that you’re a glutton. You know you have no self-control when you eat, and you hate the results. You set up arbitrary standards of self-righteousness and punish yourself through rigorous workout routines, restrictive diets, or perhaps through starving yourself in order to appear and feel more beautiful or righteous or whatever, which is to say, less sinful. Others know the sin in their hearts but seek to atone for it by cutting or even killing themselves.
- DAREDEVILRY. Spiritual daredevilry looks a lot light physical daredevilry. But instead of flirting with physical danger, you flirt with spiritual danger. You give yourself over to immorality which is destructive to your soul, thinking in vain that you can master sin and not be subject to its control over you. You are enslaved to pornography, but you lie to yourself and say that you could stop whenever you want. You think that by indulging your flesh that you will somehow gain mastery over it.
2. Defensive Action
- ENTERTAINMENT. Violent video games may gratify your desire to be engaged in battle, but they don't do anything to help you truly fight your sin. Dramatic movies and TV shows may give you a cathartic experience of emotions, but unless you engage your heart with real people on a spiritual level, you are still enslaved to sin.
- SCHOLARSHIP. Men and women, particularly at the University, are in a constant search for ways to discount and disprove the existence of God and the authority of His revelation of Himself to us in the Bible. We think that if we deny God's existence, then we can deny the existence of this so-called "sin," which we means we can pretend like there's no battle to fight. Voila.
4. Make Peace
- IMMORALITY. You may deceive yourself, and our decadent culture may concur, but your sexual sin is not your friend. Your homosexuality is not fulfilling; it's who you were meant to be. Your hookups are not real love. Your pornography does not make you a man. Each of these things destroys your soul.
- LAZINESS. We live in a culture that lives for the weekend. Our highest end is to reach of life of relaxation and inactivity. And we think that if we can achieve this, that we'll somehow be better human beings.
- PRIDE. Sometimes you deal in an external way with sins that are offensive to other people and that give you a bad reputation. But you keep your pet sins in a treasure box in your heart. The thoughts you think in bed at night, and the things you do while you're alone tell the truth about the state of your soul. You may hold your tongue when you speak to others, and you may even convince them you're a good person, but don't deceive yourself.
In fact, your battle against sin is even more hopeless than your battle against physical death. Our bodies still live, but God tells us that we are, by nature, "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1).
And you know from experience that you can't win. No matter how hard you try to change your wicked behavior and live up to your own standards, you still can’t win. You continue to fall into sin and desperate failure—every time.
- No punishment of yourself for your failures will save you. It will only lead to deeper despair! The Apostle Paul said, "These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence" (Colossians 2:23).
- Though you may look clean on the outside, and though the law may restrict you from giving yourself completely over to your sin, no external constraint can possibly scratch the surface of the sin in your heart.
- No distraction from the state of your soul in any way changes the state of your soul. You may forget about your sin for a moment, but you will suffer for it for eternity.
- And no matter how much you tell yourself your sin will make you happy, in the end, it will kill you!
The only way to ultimately escape death, both physical and spiritual, is to KILL SIN.
Many of us will die from cancer, so let’s take cancer as an illustration.
Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. It’s a violent disease which, if not dealt with, invades and destroys your entire body. And, because cancer is so aggressive, it’s treatment must also be aggressive.
Well, traditional chemotherapy is what scientists call cytotoxic. Now, if someone on the street told you to put something into your body that was cytotoxic, would you do it? I sure wouldn't! It sounds destructive. And that's because it is, but it is necessary. Cytotoxic is simply a word to describe various drugs and treatments which function by attacking cells. Specifically, cytotoxic treatments attack the fastest growing cells in the body, namely cancer cells. However, it also tends to attack other fast growing cells like hair cells and cells in the GI tract, which is why chemo patients suffer pain and suffering as they undergo treatment. Basically, chemotherapy kills you slowly in the hopes of killing the cancer first, so that you might live.
Chemotherapy is a violent treatment for a violent disease. For the sake of preserving life, cancer must be eliminated. Destroyed. Killed.
It’s the same with sin.
Your sin is ingrained in who you are. It’s a cancer that’s metastasized into every part of your being. Your mind is corrupted; your body is corrupted; the desires of your heart are corrupted; your will is corrupted. And the cure for sin, just like cancer, is not an easy fix. You don’t deal with the problem of your sin through simple behavior modification. You’re not able to kill your sin through intense rituals of meditation or breathing exercises or P90X or anything else you can come up with. All of the ways you invent to fight your spiritual death are merely dealing with externals. And it will do you no more good than treating your throat cancer with cough syrup.
In order to kill cancer, you must see a doctor for aggressive treatment.
In order to kill sin, you must see Jesus Christ.
Which is to say, to be equipped to truly kill sin, you must be a Christian, because only Jesus Christ holds the cure to sin and the death that accompanies it.
Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.…If by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17)