Monday, February 16, 2009

What does it mean to be alive?

A song has recently run around and around through my head with a line that, speaking of Jesus, says, There's never been a man more alive. The more this line lapped around my scull, the more interesting it has become. Questions arise: What does it mean to be dead? Are there degrees of deadness? Conversely, are there degrees of aliveness?

Perhaps it is due to my experiences and training, but I typically think of "aliveness" as being a binary state; you are or you are not. However, this song suggests it is a continuum; there are degrees of aliveness. If I think about it a bit, I easily acknowledge there are obviously states, such as comas, where people are obviously not dead, but at the same time, they are missing out on being alive. Can this extend from a few discrete points to a continuous scale?

In Genesis, an un-fallen Adam in an unblemished world enjoyed perfect fellowship with God. They walked together. They talked together. Adam was fully alive. In this condition, God told Adam that on the day he ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he would die.[1]

Adam ate. Did he die? Some say, "No, he didn't so God didn't keep His word." Others, I among them, posit that Adam did die spiritually as evidenced by his newfound need to hide from God. Relationship was broken. The only reason he did not immediately die physically was due to God's intervention in sacrificing animals to cover both him and Eve.[2] Undoubtedly, they did start down the road to physical death that day. We can see from this there is physical death where biological processes stop and there is spiritual death where relationship with God stops.

If death is separation, conversely, we can define life as closeness to God. This is easier for me to understand as a continuum.

Jesus said he came to give life in abundance or to the fullness, until if overflows.[3] His use of the superlatives in this statement also supports the conjecture that there are degrees of life.Life Death continuum

So, taking this concept as a given, that there are degrees of aliveness, and given we probably want to maximize our capacity for being alive, the question arises, how do we become more alive?

I suggest this relates directly to the process of sanctification.[4] When we first come to God, we are spiritual infants needing milk, the basic elements of the gospel. As we grow and mature, we can eat solid food.[5] We accomplish this by first deepening our relationship with God through prayer, bible study and fellowship with other believers. Secondly, through application of the things we hear, we become doers of the word. In the doing, we exercise our spiritual muscles and grow in maturity. Throughout this cycle of first learning and then applying, we come to be more like Jesus until, in the end we will be like him because we see Him fully, just as He is.[6]

In closing, I think William Romaine said it well:

For as the sinful nature is deadened, the new man is renewed, day-by-day. The one grows more alive by the mortification of the other. The subduing of unbelief, pride, and self-seeking, is the strengthening of faith, humility, and glorifying God. This command, therefore, is frequently given to believers–Put off the old man–put on the new–mortify your members which are upon the earth–crucify the flesh, with its affections and lusts.[7]

1. Genesis 2:16-17
2. Genesis 3:21
3. John 10:10
4. Sanctification is simply the process of becoming more set apart for God to use us. To increase our freedom from sin. To be productive in holiness.
5. Ephesians 4:11-15, Hebrews 5:11-14, 1 Corinthians 3:1-3
6. 1 John 3:2, Romans 8:29, 2 Peter 1:4, 2 Corinthians 3:18
7. From chapter nine of The Walk of Faith. He follows this statement with references to Romans 6:11-13, Ephesians 4:22-25 and Colossians 3:1-5.