That’s a pretty provocative title, isn’t it?
Too bad I can’t take credit for it. John Prince used it for the title of his knockout sermon on Daniel 2:12-23 on September 12.
The text in question tells the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s edict as the penalty for his seers’ inability to tell him what his dream was. Since he had concluded that they were all charlatans, he decides to execute them all–including Daniel and his buds. Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard was sent to carry out the edict.
Imagine, John says in his telling of the story, Arioch coming to Daniel and telling him, “I am here to kill you.“
And imagine, John observes, how unlike our own typical response to such a message is Daniel’s: he just asks for a little more time so he and his friends can pray. One of John’s big takeaways from the text? Daniel’s predicament was not something that God had to get him out of; it was something God got him into, at every point along the way. So when Daniel was praying, that’s part of what God wanted to happen. And when Daniel praised God, his prayer itself was an expression of wisdom. Nebuchadnezzar was not sovereign; he was just temporarily controlling the reins of power. God was sovereign–always has been, always will be.
I have been taken all week by John’s phrasing of the message. “I am here to kill you.” How arresting. And this afternoon when John was talking about the urgency of Harambee’s purpose, I was struck again by the message: “I am here to kill you.”
After all, that’s a message John has heard personally–when he learned he had kidney cancer three years ago, a cancer that kind of kicked John’s spiritual butt. But that kidney’s message, “I am here to kill you,” actually turned John free. With the kidney and cancer gone, he’s been cut loose from the fog of pain. His mind is clear. His sense of purpose is keen. Perhaps you’ve felt that clarity in John’s preaching.
Marty’s heard the message, too, and come out the other side. Abbie has heard it, and lives with it weekly. So has Jenn. In her case, the continuous struggle has made her entire existence about people rather than stuff, and “doing.”
But really, we all have it coming. At some point, we are all going to hear, “I am here to kill you.” What are we going to do with that?
They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Theologically, Star Wars had it closer to right: what kills you makes you “more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” Tolkien also knew it when he sent Gandalf into the abyss at Khazad-dum. It’s the central lesson of the cross, after all, and it’s built into the DNA of the Kingdom of God.
This is something I reminded Mike Gunn of years ago. Every church, if it’s built on Christ, is born to die. It fulfills its purpose, and then moves on after having empowered its people to keep moving the Great Commission forward. And we don’t get to determine what that purpose is. God does. Because he’s sovereign.
Jesus didn’t just die to fulfill prophecy. He didn’t just die to be obedient to his Father. He didn’t just die to satisfy the arcane details of a system of blood sacrifice spawned 1200 years prior. He certainly did not die in service to a metaphor.
Jesus died to empower his people. He was quite explicit about that. “It is best for you that I go away,” he told his disciples on the night that he was betrayed, “because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. … There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.”
Death–figurative and literal–is part of the plan because new life comes from death. And on the verge of destruction, God is always whispering, “I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” Something “immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine.”
Remember that the next time you hear the words, “I am here to kill you.” Feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up, and start looking for God.
He who loses his life will find it. Die to sin. Die to self. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Get on board with the ministry of reconciliation.
“Every man dies,” Mel Gibson’s William Wallace says. “Not all men really live.”
God’s got a big adventure in store for every one of us, and it’s a helluva lot more interesting than any paltry plans we could dream up. If you’re going to die anyway, you might as well start today. God’s here to kill you, and make you better.