Previous posts in the Live Alive series can be found here.
In preparation for this series, I made a long list of things mark the life of a person who is living alive in Christ. The list is a wonderful collection of characteristics and behaviors of a faithful believer. But if I rush to sharing those with you too quickly, you might get the impression - as I did for years and years of my young Christian life - that Jesus saves you from your sins, then you spend the rest of your life tying really hard to pull yourself together and be a "good Christian." Let me tell you, that is NOT what the Bible teaches, NOT what living alive is, and NOT the life God calls us to pursue.
I am a card-carrying member of the RPC: Recovering Pharisees Club. One of the select many who think they can behave themselves into the Kingdom of God but find that it is so very hard to keep one's inside desires in check, even if their outward behavior appears pious. Living like that is exhausting, and hopeless. I know; I've tried. So here's the truth bomb:
Living alive the way the Lord intends begins, continues, and ends in complete and utter dependence on Him.
Look around you. Anything that is alive is utterly dependent. A tree doesn't exist on its own. It thrives only with roots drawing in nutrients and water, air to "breathe", and the sun shining down from above. Take even one of those things away and the tree will cease to flourish. The same goes for animals; they need food, water, air, and shelter. All of those things they must seek and use to live. We human-folk are no different. We need water, food, and shelter, too. With those things we will keep existing. But we all know there is a big difference between being alive and being ALIVE. You can tell the difference between a plant, animal, or friend that is just getting by versus one that is prospering.
In this series' theme verses in Ephesians, when the word alive is used it is in the passive reflexive, meaning that the being brought to life was something done for us not by us, i.e. we were made alive through no doing of our own.* It is translated: when we were dead God made us alive together with Christ. God alone has does the work of saving! We are dependent on Him to come alive. No amount of good behavior, penance, groveling, or right family connections can bring a dead man back to life..
The Bible also tells us not only are we helpless to save ourselves, but we cannot live for God without His constant assistance. God the Father sent the Son; the Son sends the Holy Spirit. Now, the Spirit doesn't get much press because He's even more mysterious than the other two members of the Godhead, but the Spirit is the secret ingredient that will save us from pursing a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps life that will suck the life right out of us. God makes us alive with Christ and then gives us His Spirit!
Friends, as His image-bearers the Lord wants us to thrive, flourish, and prosper in Him! And He has given us all we need to do so by placing His Spirit in us when we repent and believe the Good News. We begin to live alive by acknowledging our daily need for Him and remembering He has provided for us.
The Holy Spirit is our guarantee:
In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee (or down payment) of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:13-14
The Holy Spirit is our Helper:
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Advocate or Counselor), to be with you forever ... But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:15-16, 26
Knowing, remembering, meditating on the truth that God has given us His Spirit gives us hope to press on in faith and the ability and strength to live alive until Jesus comes back. Like a tree fully supplied with nutrients, water, air, and sunshine, we have the Holy Spirit with us always to help us flourish, even in the most trying of circumstances. The alternative - trying to live independently of the Lord - will prevent us from ever knowing the alive life He has for us.
I am reminded of the words of Jesus a little further along in the book of John:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5
The most humbling thing for me in considering what an alive life would look like, is that I need to let go of my independence, and throw myself COMPLETELY into the arms of my Creator, Savior, and Helper God. With all of His promises and power, with all He's already done for me, it seems so silly that it is hard. But I have decades of independent habits to overcome and my sinful nature is always close at hand (check out Romans 7). That is why the Spirit is so important! We cannot live alive without Him.
See ya tomorrow!
*Special thanks for this to my pastors, Rick and Joe, for their knowledge of Greek and their willingness to answer my Bible language questions. One of them also directed me to https://www.blueletterbible.org/ - such a cool resource. Thanks, Joe!