Three Principles of Immortality

Toward the end of 1 Corinthians, Paul exhorts his readers, “Therefore, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” These are probably familiar to words to some, but I think its easy to gloss over and say, “Yeah, good advice!” and then move on. It is good to pause there for some deep consideration of what he is calling us to. Or, calling us out to do.

Let’s dive into a little context. You’ve probably heard the old cliche, when you see therefore, you should always ask ‘what’s it there for?’

The preceding verses are, starting with 1 Corinthians 15:54:

When this corruptible body is clothed in incorruptibility, and this mortal body is clothed in immortality, then the saying:

Death has been swallowed up in victory.

Where, death, is your victory?

Where, death, is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

I Corinthians 15:53-56

So now we have the context. Through faith in Jesus Christ, by the grace we now enjoy through His atoning sacrifice, we not only have been cleansed of our mortal sins, but also of our mortality. Our souls may live forever, and we may therefore live as if we will never die. This is not YOLO lifestyle. This does not mean that we should pursue a hedonistic lifestyle as gluttonous pleasure-mongers because we are forgiven and there are no consequences. What this equates to is freedom to live recklessly for Christ.

Steadfastness

C.H. Spurgeon, one of my favorite Baptist preachers and theologians wrote extensively on this verse, and I will be borrowing a lot from him on this subject. He identified four different kinds of steadfastness that we should take from this text.

First, steadfastness should apply to the doctrines of the gospel. We should both seek to rightly understand the scriptures and gospel, and once we have obtained understanding, hold fast so that we are not persuaded to deviate from biblical truth.

Second, we are urged to be steadfast in character. We should be unwavering in our commitment to holiness and the pursuit of truth and righteousness. Though we may stumble and mess up, we should never give up in pursuing the virtues that mark the life of a believer, living a life above reproach, insofar as we are able, both through our effort and by empowerment by the in-dwelling Holy Spirit.

Third, we should be stable in the level of Christian maturity that we have obtained, not moving backward, and continually striving to move forward as we grow in maturity.

Fourth, we should remain steadfast in our Christian work, “persevering and enduring to the end.” Whatever that work is, we are all servants of Christ, and our life is one of service, selflessness, and great love for our neighbors and our enemies. That work should be evident from day one of following Christ.

Immovable

This stuff, up to now, should seem fairly obvious. There’s nothing earth-shattering here. This one may be the most difficult though. The exhortation to be immovable seems to be based upon the presupposition that our steadfastness with be challenged. There are several things that can move us. If we are like trees near the bank of a river, when the current grows and the river swells beyond its banks, what will keep us standing?

“Deep roots” you are probably thinking. I ask myself, how deep do my roots go into the soil? Will they prevent we from being tempted by wealth? Comfort? Reputation? The culture? Approval?

How much discomfort am I willing to endure for the sake of Christ? Could I risk my career? Could I risk my social standing? Can I risk my safety, or the safety of those I love?

On days where faith and a passion for the gospel burn brightly in my heart, there’s nothing I wouldn’t endure. Some days, I’m so distracted, so in love with temporary pleasures and comforts that there’s little I would endure. We have fickle hearts, all of us. Our moods change. I’m not saying that we can’t enjoy creation and take part in benefits of technology. I LOVE a good cup of fine coffee, tacos, fly fishing, fast cars, watching hockey games, and all sorts of things. And God doesn’t call us to not enjoy these things. But it is a trap, and we need to be vigilant. The game is rigged, because the stuff you and I enjoy can prevent us from thinking too deeply about it most of the time, partly because there are so many pressures and things vying for our attention, distracting us from the eternal. This may be why Paul seeks to first point out that we were made for the eternal. Safety, comfort, and passions for things of this world pale in comparison to the eternal glory of our Father.

C.S. Lewis is famously quoted from his book The Weight of Glory:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

There is much more to this life than the American Dream. There is much more to this life than safety. There are more important and worthwhile things to give your life to, and even lose your life for than the dull cliche repetition of work, vacation, retirement, buying more stuff, etc. Being immovable means a deeply held conviction that the cares of this world pale in comparison to the eternal glory and joy that we find in our Creator.

Always Excelling in the Lord’s Work

What is the Lord’s work, you might secretly wonder? I’ll let Spurgeon speak to this:

Some Christians think it enough to excel on Sundays or only for a few years of their lives. The text [of 1 Corinthians] calls this service “the Lord’s work,” and we must always bear this in mind so that, if we are enabled to excel in Christian service, we may never become proud but may remember that it is God’s work in us rather than our own work. And whatever we accomplish is accomplished by God in us rather than by us for God.

Christian service is not a separate compartment of our lives. It’s not “the religious part” of our day to day routines. It is our lives. It is in the mundane work around the home, in welcoming the stranger to our table, puting your arm around a lonely teenager and praying for them, buying groceries for the person in line behind you, giving the other driver who appears to be in a hurry the chance to go ahead of you, writing to that missionary who thinks everyone at home has forgotten them, visiting that old neighbor in the nursing home who never sees their family, inviting your non-believing friend out to coffee, without an agenda, but just to listen to them.

Excelling in the Lord’s work is not just about teaching a Sunday school class, or volunteering as an usher at your church. It is a daily rhythm and posture of servitude, humility, love and selflessness. And the fuel can’t be self-righteousness, but rather the Holy Spirit marked by inexplicable love that expects nothing in return.

There May be No Earthly Reward

I ask myself often, as maybe should be a habit for you as well, “What is it that I want most?” This question carries the weight of eternal significance, because if what we really want, what I really want, is recognition, or a particular platform, or a certain kind of reputation, then my pursuits will either be fruitless, or of no eternal value to me. How do I know this?

But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your comfort.
Woe to you who are now full,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who are now laughing,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you
when all people speak well of you,
for this is the way their ancestors
used to treat the false prophets.

Luke 6:24-26

Yep, the beatitudes. Look, none of this is new revelation. I don’t hold any special insight other than what has been given to me by much wiser, more Spirit-led men and women than myself.

We live in a technology driven world. Until you’ve been out of it for a little while, you don’t realize how advertising and marketing are ever-present, hijacking your higher functions and seemingly deliberately keeping you from focusing on what is truly of value and importance in the world. I want to help snatch as many people from the soul-sucking meaninglessness of entertainment and amusement, because, we are, as Neil Postman put it, amusing ourselves to death.

Not until you create a barrier, purposefully allowing yourself to be bored and contemplative, will you realize that there is a freedom that exists apart from consumerism, comfort, safety, and the American Dream that may be quite uncomfortable at times, but is far sweeter than our mud pies in the slum.

Please leave a comment or send me a message if this inspires you, angers you, is exactly what you’ve been thinking too? I crave a discussion on these things, and I want to hear about your insights, struggles, or even admonishments. Thank you.



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