Known Man Dead, Dead Man Alive

Article by Michael Bolland

How often does this side of the fall feel like a chaotic, disordered cocktail of nuanced flavors of deadness and sin choking out our livelihood? Our experiences in this environment can never quench our thirst, and the worst part is often the shame from our own unique contributions to this broken world. The temptation is to hide and tell yourself, “My sin is better left to wither in darkness, left unacknowledged, unseen, and untouched.” The problem is that our sin grows in darkness and evil thrives unchecked, and to remain unknown is to spiral further downward into deadness.

Being known—in a loving manner and with the gospel as an anchor—is the nourishment a parched dead man needs. And the livelihood that rises from the newly watered soil of our souls is an increasing resemblance to the Son of God whose death and resurrection we are united to through faith. The Welsh poet, George Herbert, puts it much more succinctly: “Death used to be an executioner, but the gospel has now made him only a gardener.” As we die to ourselves through allowing ourselves to be known, whether before God or before brothers and sisters in Christ, we are participating in the redemptive pattern that Jesus intended to infiltrate our deadly environment with.

When I can sense God’s gentle nudge of seeing me in sin, or when others begin to notice my sinful patterns, my internal response is to squirm for something impressive to replace or hide what is supposed to be brought into the light. I need to remind myself that to do this, at best, is to remain as bad as I am because it leaves my sin in the dark. Pastor Bob Thune’s words are sufficient encouragement if you are like me in this way: “Don’t be content to be impressive; just be known.”

To be known, in a gospel sense, is to unite to Christ’s death and crucifixion, however, it is also to have faith that we are united to Christ’s resurrection and glorious livelihood. A known man is seen in his deadness, yet through the gospel a known dead man becomes alive. This is the only way we experience godly growth. John Townsend puts it well when he says, “We need to experience all of our souls, whether good, bad, or broken; otherwise, what is not brought into the light of God’s love and relationship cannot be matured, healed, and integrated into the rest of our character.”

“For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.” (Romans 6:5-9—NASB)


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