‘Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die‘
This phrase originally found in Isaiah, and also used by Paul in the book of 1 Corinthians sounds, in some ways, remarkably similar to the hedonistic lifestyle lived in our culture under the banner of ‘YOLO’, or stated more historically as ‘Carpe Diem’. It is the elevation of personal desire, the pursuit of instant gratification. It is the quest for illusive concepts like freedom, ‘being true to yourself’, ‘fulfilment’. It is radically individualistic , inherently self-centred and deeply exhausting. And at its heart is the denial of the eternal nature of human beings, of divine accountability and judgement, and the denial that we owe all to God, by whom we possess all that we have.
And yet, whilst I instantly recoil from those denials, if I am honest with myself, I still live much of my daily life either explicitly or implicitly playing along with this lifestyle, tapping my foot to the chorus of ‘Let us eat…’.
I crave comfort, I am impatient, I feel that I deserve happiness, I indulge in sinful passions, I pretend that I don’t need God, and often privilege my own perceived needs over the genuine needs of others.
My actions often deny my claim to believe in the life everlasting.
Therefore, I need to constantly come back to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 – ‘Now I would remind you brothers, of the gospel’.
Verses 3-8 say ‘For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. The he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.’
There are two crucial, earth-shattering events which this passage draws me towards- The cross of Christ and the resurrection of Christ.
The cross of Christ is the very demonstration of divine accountability, in which God in Christ takes upon himself the judgement, the condemnation and death that my sin deserves. It is the judgement of God brought forward. This demonstration of Gods justice upon the cross is the guarantee of a future day of judgement, ‘where we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ’ (2 Cor 5:10), and also the guarantee that those who have trusted in Jesus will stand forgiven, as the judge is the one who was judged in our place, the one who died for us.
You may read the previous paragraph and wonder where the practical advice is for avoiding the ‘YOLO’ lifestyle. However, often the bible wants to change our thinking before it changes specific behaviour.
And so here is some ways in which these realities might cause us to think differently, which, if we let this thinking into our hearts, will lead to radically changed lives.
There is a future day when I will stand before the one who died for me and give an account of how I have lived in light of his forgiveness. This is the most sobering of thoughts. And if I can bear to let in linger in my mind long enough, it starts to change my priorities. Knowing that I will stand before the one to whom nothing is hidden shatters my pretence of Godliness, forces me to admit my faults, to ask for forgiveness. But I don’t obey out of fear that Jesus might reject me- rather I obey because I love the one to whom I will give an account, because he first loved me, because he has already secured my salvation by his death. I long to please him because he was willing to endure death on the cross for me. So the cross reminds me of both Divine accountability and Divine love.
But it also reminds me of Divine belonging. I am not my own. I have been bought with the precious blood of Christ. I am not just saved from something, but for something- a life lived in the service of the one who died for me, to whom I owe all, and to whom I belong.
This turns upside down my view of myself and my life. The first question I should ask myself when I get out of bed is not ‘what do I want/need to do today?’ but ‘How can I live for Jesus today?’ I should strive not for my personal happiness, but to please Jesus (which wonderfully does lead to great joy). I should not look for freedom to live as I like, but freedom from that which inhibits my relationship with Jesus. I don’t have to desperately try to be ‘true to myself’, but rather to be like Jesus. And the great thing is that when I am living to become like Jesus I actually become more and more that which I am intended to be, I become more and more myself. These thoughts are only the beginnings of how this reality should change my life.
Having seen how the cross challenges the ‘Let us eat’ mentality, lets move to the resurrection.
The physical, historical resurrection of Jesus from the dead shows us Gods vindication of Jesus and his work. We can be confident of our own vindication, because we are ‘in Christ’, and so will share in his resurrection. Jesus is described in this chapter as the ‘firstfruits’- the guarantee of the rest of the harvest. The resurrection is a demonstration of Gods awesome power. It shows that death has been defeated, and that those who trust in Jesus will live forever in resurrected and redeemed bodies. Jesus has not simply been raised from the dead, but also above all things as ruler and king.
And again, dwelling on these realities challenges the tempting ‘Let us eat’ mentality.
I will one day be raised to live eternally in a redeemed body in a redeemed creation. This means that I don’t need to try and live my ‘best life now’. I don’t need to desperately try to rack up as many experiences as possible. I don’t have to incessantly worry if I am really ‘doing life’ or not. And even more than this, it means that I can (as Paul says later in the chapter) “die every day” – I can die to myself, to my sinful desires, knowing that I will experience abundant life eternally. Therefore knowing that I have eternal life means I can die now.
The resurrection also means that what I do with my body matters. My body is not simply a shell for my spirit, but rather an eternal part of who I am. Our current bodies are indeed compared to a seed of what they shall be when they are redeemed, but we will live for eternity in a redeemed version of our current bodies. Therefore, while acknowledging that in many ways it is still broken, I should be seeking to care for my body, to look after it, and most importantly to live in holiness in it.
The resurrection, then, further challenges the ‘Let us eat’ mentality.
So what do we need in a world that cries ‘Let us eat’?
We need to be reminded of the gospel.