Imagine a sinking ship in the darkness. Life-boats have been dispatched onto the cruel waves. Survivors huddle together in the cold, and the noise of the ship’s creaking death-descent drowns out all voices. A man has been tardy in the evacuation response and he remains on deck alone. His cries cannot be heard. He has missed the opportunity of rescue. He is lost to his associates and he is lost to any hope. A most tragic wrap-up to life’s journey.
This seems a fitting metaphor for the one who dies without hope in Christ.
Over the years I have often come across an arresting piece of scripture in the first chapter of Ephesians:
6. To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.
It would appear here that the individual has been “lost” in the collective. A process of grace worked out entirely by God has caused the believer to be accepted in the beloved. All sin-debt has been paid. The holiest of blood-lettings has accomplished the transaction.
And that word “beloved” is a tender reference to Christ, who took obedience to the will of His Father all the way to a self-offered death by crucifixion. We have been incorporated into the beloved, osmosed if you will. God never looks upon the believers without seeing the finished work of His delightful Son. The favour that He extends toward Jesus, He now extends toward us. We call upon His name, His authority, His mercy, help, wisdom and guidance. We are told in Romans 8 that we are joint heirs with Jesus.
The challenge in the whole picture is to eradicate, to “lose” self and the desire to have one’s own way. Think of all the unfortunate references to self: self-righteousness, self-vindication, self-absorption, self-seeking, self-serving, self-important, self-indulgent, self-opinionated, self-reliant, self-satisfied.
Jesus in His earth-walk for us showed the path to victory and contentment:
For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. (John 6: 38)
A wonderful book has been written by Roy Hession entitled The Calvary Road (1950). In it he explores this process of self-emptying as the threshold to revival, both personal and corporate. He explores Paul’s words “Not I but Christ”. He gives the image of the proud, erect, stubborn “I”. This is contrasted to a submitted, stooped, attentive “I” turned into a “C”. Indeed our glorious Saviour condescended, stooped and submitted all the way to His Cross. And how glorious were the results. And how amazing the out-flow of resurrection power.