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What does it mean to be truly alive?

This is the question we’re all asking, all the time. There’s something that drives us to ask the question, whether we sit in a cubicle, working at a computer, teaching students, or wiping noses all day. And it’s a question that pretty much everyone is trying to offer an answer (often with some sort of product playing a vital role).

The problem is, though, whatever answers we’re offered typically miss something important. We want to know what it means to be truly alive because we know something is missing, yes. But that missing “something” isn’t simply a “thing.” It is a Person—God, our Creator and the one in whose image we have been made. And we are only ever truly alive when we are in a relationship with him through Christ. I love the way J.C. Ryle, the 19th-century Anglican bishop, explained this. He wrote:

So long as a man does not serve God with body, soul, and spirit, he is not really alive. So long as he puts the first things last and the last first, buries his talent like an unprofitable servant, and brings the Lord no revenue of honor, so long in God’s sight he is dead. He is not filling the place in creation for which he was intended; he is not using his powers and faculties as God meant them to be used. The poet’s words are strictly true— “He only lives, who lives to God, And all are dead beside.”[1. J.C. Ryle, Alive or Dead?]

As clichĂ©d as it may sound, this is why the gospel matters for the here and now. The gospel isn’t a mere “get out of hell free” card for when you die (and truly, to think about it in such a way at all borders on blasphemy anyway). It is a call t0 life and life in abundance (see John 10:10). A life of service—of worship—to the one who has paid all our debts and is making all things new. Frankly, I can’t think of a better way to describe it, can you?

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