In communion (the Lords Supper) Jesus gives Himself to us: This is My blood shed for you, and each time we partake we receive those precious gifts afresh by faith. But in water baptism we give ourselves to Him. We offer Him our old sinful self so it can die with Him on the cross and be buried with Him in the grave. And this is where Paul says our new life begins: with our death. It sounds morbid when you hear that word and dont understand what it means, but in the spiritual world there is no getting away from the fact that death precedes life. Something must die before new life can be born. So we shouldnt be surprised that when Paul starts talking about how believers can live beautiful, new lives free from the power of sin that he starts with the subject of death
our death. Jesus teaches this so clearly when He says, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit (Jn 12:24). First and foremost, He was talking about Himself. He was telling us He had to die on the cross so He could bear much fruit
us. But He went on to say that this principle of dying is true for us as well. We must die to this world like He did if we are to become His followers (Jn 12:25, 26). But what does that mean? Does it mean I become grumpy and stop enjoying people and the beauty around me? No, it doesnt. In fact the more I die to this world the more I enjoy people and the beauty around me. Thats when new life really begins.
Reductio Ad Absurdum (Jn 12:20-33)
This truth about dying with Jesus can be confusing. I can find it repulsive and run away from it, or I can misunderstand it and end up killing the wrong things.
This Latin phrase describes a tactic in debate. You take what someone has said and press it to such an extreme that it becomes ridiculous. But it also points to a dangerous human tendency: we can take something that is true and push it beyond the area where it was meant to be applied, until it becomes false. We can take something beautiful to the extreme until it becomes ugly.
If we hear this message about dying to self wrongly we can end up sleeping on a wooden bench in an unheated room in a hairshirt
focused entirely on hating the wrong things, wasting precious days that could have been used to serve Jesus.
What part of me must die? (Ro 6:3-7)
Paul says that water baptism explains this death. In baptism I lay the old, selfish, rebellious life in the grave, and I rise set free from it to live for Him in the power of the Holy Spirit. Listen to how Paul describes his own life as a believer: I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Gal 2:20).
So what dies isnt my spirit or the uniqueness of who God has made me, its the old self. By dying with Christ, the Lord has surgically freed me from compulsive self-love and pride so I can live for a new purpose: to bring His love (action) and truth (gospel) to others.
Jesus said, Where I am there My servant will be also
(Jn 12:26). And if Im supposed to be with Him, where is He? Hes loving God with all His heart, mind, soul and strength; and Hes loving my neighbor as Himself.
Caution: Its possible to practice Christianity with an entirely selfish motive: getting me to heaven, protecting me, blessing me, comforting me in hard times. Yet true Christianity is a radical relocation of self. Jesus calls us to live for a brand new purpose, to daily, moment-by-moment refuse to let the old back into the center.
How do I do this?
Its a willful pushing away and a prayerful plea for a miracle: God, I renounce it, but you must take it.
Is it something I only do once? No, its something I do at major intersections of my life
key decisions about the direction of my life. But its also something I do day-by-day and moment-by-moment, as the selfish impulse tries to lure me to live for my own:
1) Glory: It means, I refuse to receive honor that is due God. It does not mean I refuse to let Him mature and promote me (Ps 18:25-36).
2) Pleasure: It means I refuse to indulge in things that are impure or addicting. It does not mean I reject the lovely gifts God has given us. He delights to bless us.
3) Safety: It means Ill take the hard step in those moments when I need courage to obey Him. It does not mean I will show a wanton disregard for my own physical safety.
4) Fulfillment: It means my heart turns outward and I do what I do in such a way as to draw people to Jesus. It does not mean I neglect my own health and family in a frantic pace of ministry.
Does this mean I must quit my job and go to the mission field? Only if thats what Hes specifically told you to do. What He wants is an attitude transformation so that everything I do going forward I do as His servant, hoping He will receive the benefit.
Dying to self
Dying to self means living for God and living for God means living for others. Every thing I do is transformed because the reason I do everything is different (Php 2:3-8).
If I own a business, or manage a department I see those Im responsible for as people God loves and treat them with respect, honesty and compassion (even if I have to discipline them).
If I work for someone else I do my job well as if Jesus were my boss. I want to please Him. I refuse dishonesty, laziness, gossip, crude or blasphemous language or jokes.
If I deal with the public I try to use our products or services in such a way that they truly help our customers.
As a parent I constantly put aside my own needs to care for my children. I set aside my own ambitions for their careers and watch for the gifts and calling God has placed in them. I pray for them daily.
As a spouse I put aside my singleness and devote myself to my family.
As a student I select courses I believe He wants me to take and study hard to prepare myself for His service.
When offended I take the initiative and seek to be reconciled.
When honored I point to Him.
I gladly stop doing things that might cause a weaker brother or sister to stumble.
I watch constantly for opportunities to show His love to people by serving them kindly.
I put aside fears of what others might think of me, or even do to me to tell people about Jesus when God asks me to.
This kind of dying releases an entirely different kind of life. I now have eyes that see past the present and into the future. I relalize the shortness of my life in this world. I live for the day when Ill see Him face-to-face. I prefer to lay up my treasure in heaven
not here. Listen to how Isaiah describes this death (Is 40:1-11): In effect he says,
Tell them theyre dying. Tell them their lives are so short they mustnt focus their hearts on being fulfilled here. Theyre like wildflowers that bloom for a few weeks and then die. But also tell them, Ive made a promise that Ill fulfill even after they die. And My promise is this, that all will see My glory. I will come and set up My kingdom. I will have rewards in one hand for those who are Mine and just wages in the other for those who lived for this world. I will be tender with those whove waited for Me like a Shepherd with His lambs.
1) What did Jesus mean when He told us to hate our lives in this world? How would you explain His words to a child?
2) Name a time where obeying God felt like dying. If you obeyed, did you die? What was the result of your obedience?