Daily Devotional: John 3:12
The depth of God’s tapestry of life is astounding. God built this world of ours with such dimension and sophistication that we are taught things about him at every turn, sometimes not even realizing what we’re seeing is a picture or a lesson that helps us understand or appreciate God all the more. If that doesn’t seem obvious to you, think of the way he uses physical realities and laws in the world around us to illustrate spiritual realities and truths from the world beyond. In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus tells us about constructing a house on sand. In Mark 4:3-9, Jesus talks about agricultural environments and seeds. In Luke 15:4-7, Jesus explains the common practices of shepherds. In John 15:1-5, Jesus tells us about vines and fruit. In 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, Paul teaches us about leaven in bread. In James 3:4, we learn what steers a mighty boat. Over and over and over again, our ordinary world points to the deeper truths God has built into life.
So, for a moment, let’s step back and consider life itself. When we look around us, we see things that are alive and things that are not. A bumblebee clambers over lilacs, intensely collecting pollen and nectar. Below it, a dusty rock sits half-exposed in the dirt. The bee moves and is alive with purpose. The rock is lifeless, a tiny part of a giant foundation. Both the living bee and the dead rock seem right; our instincts tell us that’s how it should be—busy bees, lifeless rocks.
Like bees, it seems right that people should be alive. There is a light in their eyes that reveals intelligence, feeling and potential. Their bodies move and react in both functional and expressive ways. They rise and plan and talk and cry and laugh. And not only are people amazing in themselves, they do all sorts of amazing things. Men and women work hard to accomplish and create all kinds of things. Husbands and wives come together to share lives. Fathers love and protect their families. Mothers nurse and nurture the young. Kids play and learn. Life is very good.
But have you seen a person who has died? Someone who no longer has that light of life in their eyes, who no longer sees or breathes or moves or has purpose? It’s very sobering. Instinctively, we know this is not right. People are supposed to be alive. What happened? What does it mean to be dead? Death is the ultimate physical illustration of a spiritual truth.
When we ask ourselves, “What does it mean to be dead?” it should quickly lead us to the other side of the coin: “Well, why isn’t everything dead? What does it mean to be alive?”
The Bible reveals a new dimension to life and death that isn’t obvious: as human beings, we have been created by God to have both bodies and souls. This is a profound truth, because the Bible also tells us that our bodies can be alive while our souls are dead, and our souls can be alive when our bodies are dead. Consider the words of Paul in Ephesians 2:4-7:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Our souls were born dead in our trespasses, but God has made a way our souls can be born again. Through the grace of the gospel, we are made alive together with Christ. Being alive body and soul is being alive with meaning that will never end, with purpose that will never die.
When we face death, let’s remember that we’re not simply looking at a machine who’s plug has been pulled. We are not merely automatons at the mercy of our biology. Death points to a deep, spiritual truth. The spiritual truth of life in Christ.
“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” —John 3:12