There are billions of intersections in Scripture, places where the lines of two texts cross and offer us critical opportunities for encouragement and growth. The latest intersection the Spirit led me to was wonderfully hopeful (should I expect anything less?).
“Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26)
“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Cor. 3:1–3)
The intersection brings two truths before us: those who believe in Christ are immortaland each of us is a letter from the Trinity. Let’s unpack both.
Unpacking Each Road
Jesus Christ, the Son through whom the entire cosmos came into being (John 1:3), stands before two heartbroken women. Their brother is dead. They are pleading for hope, comfort, a miracle. And while Jesus does perform a miracle in raising Lazarus, we might miss the deeper miracle he offers them (and us). Sure, Jesus can raise Lazarus, but Jesus is life. And if you have him, you don’t ever truly die. You live on in the timeless and illuminating glory of God. Mary and Martha were focused on the life in front of them; Jesus was focused on the life ahead of them. Believe in Jesus, and you are immortal.
Now switch to Paul’s context, where the Spirit gives us a beautifully rich metaphor. Paul says each of his readers is a letter. Each is a letter “from Christ,” meaning that Christ is the central message of their life. And that message is written with Holy Ghost ink. But what Paul says of the Corinthians applies to us as well. This is a trinitarian act that involves you. The Father writes the message of Christ with the ink of the Spirit on your heart. When you walk into the world to buy groceries, stop at the gas station, or hit up the local coffee shop, you are a letter. You are being read, even if you say nothing. That’s worth a pause.
Now, the truth of each passage intersects to bring us that wonderfully hopeful encouragement I mentioned. You are an immortal letter from the Trinity. Let’s set that truth against the common assumptions that follow us throughout each day.
First, we tend to think of ourselves as fading flowers. We wilt in the heat of adversity. We spend our days stretching our roots out for water, looking for some lasting sense of relief. We’re aware that we’ll grow, blossom (if we haven’t already), and diminish. And when someone close to us dies, we mourn deeply, often without hope. “Another flower has passed.”
But the truth from John 11 says, “You’re missing the greatest gift.” Just as Mary and Martha were focused on what was right in front of them, on the immediate resurrection of Lazarus, we get stuck on the immediate. It seems less encouraging somehow to think of Jesus as our eternal life. We want temporal life. Just imagine the reserved disappointment when Mary says, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” I imagine her kicking her sandal in the dust as she speaks, just as I would. “Yea . . . I know he’ll live eternally with you, but . . .” Jesus says, “I am eternal life. If you have me, you’re immortal.” Death is just a door; we go through it to something greater, something better, something unending. Do you and I live with the conviction that we are immortal? Do we trust Jesus’s words here? Or do we long for the immediate, short gain? I’m usually guilty of the latter. As I read this passage, I say, “Spirit, let this truth consume my attention when I face adversity and loss. When death threatens me and those I love, help me to remember that in Christ I am immortal!”
Second, immortality is beyond wonderful for us, but we haven’t gone through death’s door yet. We’re still walking through the world that God is busy redeeming at this very moment. What does this world need from us? Letters. One of the themes in John’s Gospel is the refrain of Jesus being “sent” by the Father. I used to wonder why this action of sending was so often repeated. Why is it so important to know that Jesus was sent? Here’s the answer: All of us, with childlike hope mingled with desperation, want to know that someone is coming for us. We’re not alone. God sent himself for us. He came to get us. He came for you. He came for me.
But God’s gifts always ripple outwards. Abraham was blessed so that he could be a blessing (Gen. 12:1–3). God sent the Son so that we would be sent on his behalf. The letter of God that’s come to us in Christ makes us letters of God for the world to read. The world needs letters. And there’s nothing more sought after than deliverance from death, from the dreaded “ending” that marks everyone. The world needs letters of immortality, with the message that only Christ can offer.
Rehearse the Truth
Knowing the truth and having it affect you are two different things. We know that each of us is an immortal letter, ready to be read by the world. But to have this change our spiritual life and behavior, we need to rehearse it. We need to bring it before us when new experiences strike us. Otherwise, like so many other truths we “know,” it will sit in the background of our awareness. Don’t let that happen with this. You might even use the couplet below to lodge it in your memory for easy recall.
In Christ, I will go on forever.
For now, I’ll be a holy letter.
You and I are immortal letters, penned by the greatest writer of all. Praise God that he’s written us both into his book of life and into his plan for redeeming all things!
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