Turns out the invisible cameraman was there all along, taking pictures of your life from womb to casket. And so in that Day when all is rolled back and your personal history is laid bare on God’s table, the cameraman appears and lines the pictures up. The joys, regrets, secrets, loves, pains, embarrassing traits in action and those moments where you brushed against something Real all find their way into the shuffle.
What will you see?
The finite segment in history we occupy is sobering. My wife and I have a habit of bemoaning our possible, inevitable deaths. We tell each other to be careful driving to work or even to the grocery store “because you might die.” Some have said we’re morbid, but I prefer to think we’re just being realistic.
I’ve had panic attacks (thanks to my lovely imagination) about losing my whole family…because it can happen. I hear the stories. I watch the news. I know the world in which we live. When I was young I had nightmares when I realized my parents could (and inevitably will) die.
Death would make a great candidate for my personal Idol. I could definitely see myself worshipping it (maybe without the black garments and makeup, though). Who could blame me? It’s final, inevitable and it certainly seems to smack Christianity in the face.
Because Jesus died, horribly.
Oh, but didn’t he rise from the dead? Isn’t that what makes Christianity unique?
Well, yes, it’s the critical core of the Christian faith, as Paul said: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor. 15:14). To make things better, we’re even promised a resurrection of our own: “in Christ shall all be made alive (v. 23).
But that doesn’t help me because I see loved ones in caskets. I hear about tragic deaths of two-year olds. And I hear about slow, painful deaths that cause me to beg for justice. I hear there comes a time when we get numb to it, but I can’t believe that. Death hurts too much.
The logician inside me says the resurrection of Jesus isn’t a reasonable thing to put my faith in. Indeed, trusting in death is currently the superior option to trusting in a past resurrection (let alone the one promised to us in the future). If that were not enough, we’re told that the “great heroes of faith” (Heb. 11) died without seeing their faith realized (11:13). What sort of faith do we profess if all we have is hope?
And there’s the crux: “Currently”
That’s the key word, and it determined who made it into the Hall of Faith (Heb. 11) and who didn’t. Hope does not look for a solution in the present; it grounds itself with the evidence in the past so it can look to the future. Therefore, no matter what happens in the present, those who possess true hope can find a foothold (Rom 5:1-11).
But how substantial is the “evidence in the past”? Enough to have hope?
That depends on how much evidence we, individually, require to believe (Luke 22:67; John 4:48; 5:47; 6:36; 7:5; 10:37-38; 12:37; 20:24-29; Acts 17:32-34). Some people expect God to bend over backward to prove his truth when they still wouldn’t believe him even if he did what they asked. They would find another reason to doubt. Skepticism is a useful tool when searching for an answer in the dark, but so is fire, and like fire, skepticism can destroy what we’re trying to discover if we let it go unchecked.
“Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive” (Isa. 6:9)
Quite simply, the evidence for Christ is sufficient for those who have “ears to hear” and “eyes to see.”
Having “eyes” and “ears” is not a claim to superiority, as if believers somehow inherited a “virtue gene.” No! Those who see and hear are those who know how inferior they truly are–how much they don’t measure up. They are the ones who see Christ as the only hope. They know he’s the only chance they have when the pictures lay their lives bare.
If we focus on our current lives to find something on which to put our hope, then we forget that “our [current] bodies are dead because of sin,” and that “the Spirit [dwelling is us] is life” (Rom. 8:10)
So “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (8:11)
How do we know if God’s Spirit dwells in us?
If we hear the word of Christ and believe it (John 6:29; Rom. 10:17; Gal. 3:2).
And what is that word?
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).
“You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:3-4).
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25)
So what eyes do we have? What do we hear when we Jesus says, “Come to me, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28)? Do you collapse into him? Or maybe you don’t need rest?
Are we willing to die before seeing the fruit of faith? Do we treasure Jesus enough to endure anything? Will we lay our life bare, knowing that we’ve always been bare anyway?
Or do we want something else? Maybe we want a clothed life. After all, why not stamp our names on something real, like achievements, status or “progress”?
Best get a move on, right? It’s life or death, after all. Andy Dufresne puts it quite pointedly in The Shawshank Redemption:
“I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really: get busy living or get busy dying.”
So here the cameraman comes to lay my pictures down. The fear of death has nothing on the fear I have towards what they’ll reveal.
What about you? What will you see?