by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

May, 2006

A few weeks ago, our thirteen-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Monica, described an experience at her middle school. Her class is currently studying “Life Science” and, in the process, they were able to observe baby chicks being hatched in an incubator. I remember the same thing from when I was in school, and the fascination of watching new life begin, so I could understand her feelings. After a time, the eggs began to move, gently rocking. Then the chicks began pecking their way out of the eggs. But there was one poor chick who was having a hard time. It couldn’t get out of its shell. Its pecking gradually became feeble, and it looked as if the poor chick wouldn’t be able to come out of its shell. Monica and some other students grew increasingly concerned. Finally, with the help of an older girl with longer fingernails, she peeled away the shell and pierced the inner membrane, allowing the chick to emerge. Without Monica’s help, and that of the other girl, the chick would probably have remained trapped in the shell, unable to escape, until its feeble strength was exhausted and its fragile life could no longer continue. Monica was justifiably relieved at having saved the chick’s life and I was proud of her.

In the same way, we were once trapped in a shell of sin, unable to escape. Paul wrote to the Ephesians and the Colossians, “you were dead in your . . . sins” (Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13a). Once, God’s people were living under the Law, powerless to escape from their condemnation. The Law provided no remedy for their sin and death. Or for ours. Paul wrote to the Romans, “The wages of sin is death,” (Rom. 6:23a NIV). Since each of us has sinned (Rom. 3:23), each of us has been condemned. We cannot escape on our own. Our power to escape is as feeble and hopeless as the poor chick’s power to escape from its shell.

But “God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,” (Col. 2:13b NIV). We are no longer trapped by the shell of sin and death. We are no longer under the death sentence required by the consequences of sin. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23 NIV). God loved you and me so much that God could not bear to stand by and allow us to die in sin. Instead, through Christ, God “. . . provided purification for sins,” (Heb. 1:3b NIV) so that we could be saved. Paul wrote that “. . . God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.” (Eph. 2:4b-5 NIV).

Going from death to life isn’t merely a matter of continued existence. Jesus said, “‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’” (John 10:10b NIV). Having life “to the full” or, as the King James Version puts it, having life “more abundantly,” doesn’t mean having material possessions or a wealthy lifestyle, as some televangelists would have us believe. It means having a life that is filled with purpose. It means having a life dedicated to bringing about the will of God. This is the life we can have once we are freed from sin.

But what about those around us who are still trapped in their shells of sin, who are still headed for spiritual death? They don’t have to die. They don’t have to be lost. The same grace we have found is available to everyone. Like Monica with the chick, we can save lives. The apostle James wrote, “Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (Jas. 5:20b NIV). One of the best ways to communicate God’s love and forgiveness is through love and forgiveness of our own. John wrote, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” (1 John 3:14). If we are truly alive in Christ, then love will be the rule in our lives. As we continue to show God’s love, others will know that our message of life is real. We can help peel away the shell of sin that entraps them and help them to experience life “‘to the full.’”

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.” (Eph. 2:1-5 NIV.)

Copyright © 2006 by David Phelps