According to AMC’s website, “The Walking Dead” is “the most watched drama in cable history.” I’ve never seen an episode, even though the show is about to wrap up its third season.
No big deal, though. You and I see the walking dead every single day! Thankfully, not zombies, but a different kind of walking dead. And if you’ll stick with me to the end of this post, I think you’ll see why I admit that I was one of the walking dead until I was nineteen years old.
Two Kinds of Death
Let’s begin by examining what death actually is. Death is not the cessation of existence. It is never that. You will never cease to exist. You have a soul/spirit, and souls—once created—never cease to exist. As my former pastor, Donald Tabb, used to say, “Everybody is going to live forever somewhere; it’s just a matter of your ‘forwarding address.’”
So I was born. I kicked and screamed and cried—proof that my body was alive. And I had (and still do have a spirit). Like I said souls/spirits—once created—never cease to exist. So in what sense was I one of the walking dead until I was nineteen?
I’ve already said what death is not. (It’s not ceasing to exist.) So here’s what death is: separation. When a person’s body gets old and worn out, it dies. It ceases to function and carry out metabolism, etc. The body stays there in a box or in an urn, but the spirit is no longer home in the body. So you see, physical death is the separation of the soul from the body. That’s a problem, but it’s not the biggest problem.
The biggest problem is not physical separation of a body and its soul. The biggest problem is the separation of a soul from its Maker. And that is the situation into which every human being is born ever since the time of Adam and Eve. We are born physically alive, but spiritually dead. Our bodies and spirits are united (physically alive), but our spirits are separated from God (spiritually dead).
Romans 6:23 says, “For the payoff of sin is death [i.e. separation from God].” And Ephesians 2:1 says, “…although you were dead [separated from God] in your transgressions and sins…” To clarify things a little more, Isaiah 59:2 says, “But your iniquities [i.e. sins]have separated you from your God. (NIV)” So there I was at age eighteen—physically very much alive, but spiritually separated from God and dead.
Now being born spiritually dead is pretty bad. Separation from God is never good—for tons of reasons (which we can discuss in other posts). The worst thing that can happen, however, is for physical death to overtake a person if they are still spiritually dead. The result of that is that the person remains separated from God forever because of sin.
But Here’s the Really Good News
A person born physically alive, but spiritually dead can become spiritually alive, also. The sin that separates us from God can be dealt with and taken out of the way. With sin removed, we are no longer separated from God [i.e. no longer spiritually dead]! Even better, with sin’s penalty totally paid, we can never die spiritually—ever!!!
By Grace, Not Works
How can this happen? This is what is meant by being “born again.” (John 3:3). God loves you, and He wants to be connected with you in a Father-child relationship. He doesn’t want to be separated from us by our sin. So it says in Ephesians 2:4-5, “God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you are saved!”
The explanation continues in Ephesians 2:8-9, which says, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.”
“And if it is by grace, it is no longer by works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:6)
So what is “grace”? Grace is God’s favor toward us, which we do not deserve. It is a byproduct of God’s great love for us. Grace is very, very costly. It cost God the death of His Son Jesus Christ. Christ had to become separated from God the Father on the cross to pay the penalty for your sin and mine. [He had no sin of His own. (2 Corinthians 5:21)] That’s why on the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”
Jesus took temporary separation from God the Father for us so that we can be united with the Father by faith.
You and I cannot pay the penalty for our own sin because that would mean eternal separation from the Father for us. All we can do is agree with God and accept His free gift—Jesus paying the sin debt for us. Again, Romans 6:23 says, “For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
You can’t earn life. I can’t either. The apostle Paul wrote, “I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law [i.e. by doing everything “right”], then Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:21)
Think of it this way. A dead corpse cannot resuscitate itself, can it? Neither can those who are still dead in their transgressions and sins resuscitate themselves spiritually.
But Christ the Life-giver can give us life because He is “the one who loves us and has set us free from our sins at the cost of His own blood.” (Revelation 1:5)
So why be dead when we can be alive? Jesus said, “I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.” ( John 10:10) Why not accept His costly, gracious gift and live?