Think about this with me: imagine Zig Ziglar (whom I like and respect, btw) was taken to court and was told, “Zig, your books and tapes have helped some people, but they have actually hurt a lot of people by giving them false hope. Those people have filed a class-action suit against you, and we can’t calculate the damages because they run so high — so the court is handing down this decision: either shut down your fraudulent scam company and take all your books off the market, or receive the death penalty as punishment for more than $100 trillion in damages.”
You think Zig would take the death penalty? Personally, I don’t think Zig would take the death penalty. I think he’d make a fine speech and then shut his company down because frankly his company is not worth dying for. There’s not that much at stake.
In that, I think we have to come to grips with something in the Gospel: it is not about how we achieve anything. It’s not a how-to manual — except maybe a how-to make the world hate you and to receive persecution for loving God. If you think the Gospel is about how you get anything, I think you are overlooking what the problem is.
The problem is that your “getting” causes you to get condemnation because you inherently want the wrong things. Instead of wanting God and His blessings, for example, you want to be “like God” — that seems like a good thing to you, to know the difference between good and evil and be God’s peer rather than His created servant — and you then disobey God in order to somehow become “like” Him.
The Gospel is not how you “get” anything. It is how you are therefore gotten out of sin. See: it is right to say in one respect that this means we are saved out of death. But in a very real way, it also means we are saved into death.
We are saved into Christ’s death, which looks pretty good, right? He died so we don’t have to die in punishment for what we have done. That’s the great exchange.
But here’s the kicker, according to Paul:
Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
To die is gain.
Somehow, we have to be willing to die for the Gospel.
That’s an interesting place for a guy who is preaching Good News to wind up, isn’t it? That death is frankly something which a Christian can look forward to? Because he also says to Timothy:
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
…Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him,
we will also live with him;
if we endure,
we will also reign with him;
if we deny him,
he also will deny us;
if we are faithless,
he remains faithfulfor he cannot deny himself.
Paul says that the Gospel is worth enduring hard things, even up to an including death — because death is not a defeat after Christ’s resurrection.
In that, it’s right to die a little in order to tell people the truth. In the little part of 2 Timothy I dropped out, Paul says he does these things for the sake of the elect, which is his way of saying, for those to whom it will matter.
You know: not to make sure everyone reaches their full potential, or that they find ways to develop and unleash personal and organizational creativity, uniqueness, innovation and diversity. The Gospel is there so that death doesn’t swallow us up while we are creating environments that expand imagination, unleash creativity, and maximize the creative potential in every individual and organization.
It’s actually cruel and stupid to make people feel really good about what they are doing right now if what they are doing right now is creatively dancing in an ornate auditorium that has a very wide entrance and a singular exit in Hell.