If we were to listen in on a local AA meeting anywhere we might hear something like this: “Hi, my name is Bob, and my problem is that I like the version of myself better when I’m drunk than when I’m sober.” Or, “Hi, my name is Andy, and my problem is trying to forget the rush I’d get every time I . . . .” But what if the next guy said, “Hey, my name is Tim, and my problem is Tim.” Let’s go there.
My biggest problem isn’t from a bottle or a needle. It’s native to me and is, in fact, sin or if you prefer, original sin – an evil present within us that is also somehow beyond us, coming from Adam. Its entry point is my flesh, i.e., that principle of rebellion within me, which is hostile to anything and everything but its own, demanding to be the center, and is the enemy of God and of myself (compare Romans 7:25 – “So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin”). Now here’s the rub: on the one hand, the promise of total transformation is future: “The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (I Corinthians 15:52). But on the other hand, Christ will not redeem our ‘flesh’ or our sin, and this unredeemed corruption that we yet bear in our physical bodies is resident in our flesh. This would be a gloomy picture if all that could be done was to wait for our death and resurrection on the last day.
But that is not where Christ has left us. He invites us to make his death our own. It’s not a ‘virtual’ death like on some video game, but a ‘real’ death that has the capacity to free us from the flesh. Paul said he wanted above all things to “know him (i.e., Jesus), and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Phil. 3:10). Look closely at that last part: the awesome fellowship with Jesus’ sufferings happens by “being made conformable unto his death” or taking on that same form.
What is making Paul able to be conformable, to take on to himself, to be in union with Jesus’ death? What is the power behind this sharing of the likeness of his death that so delivers me from the flesh, so I don’t have to wait till I’m physically dead to be free? It is only Christianity, i.e., it is the power of the Holy Spirit (compare Rom. 8:13 – “But if you through the Spirit do mortify [make dead] the deeds of the body, you shall live”). If I am willing to be conformed to his death, I share the same fellowship of destiny with Jesus. And his Cross is my cross, his death is my death, his tomb my tomb, and his Resurrection is my resurrection. It’s all happening at once. It’s all ongoing. I need his death every day. I need his Resurrection every day. These realities are promises connected to eschatology, to the age to come, but are also ours right now through the Holy Spirit. Got some things you wish you could be dead to? Take on Jesus’ death as your own and he’ll share his Resurrection with you also. Awesome.