Life, Hope, and Love through Death
If you have heard me speak since 2013, you know how John 15:9-12 has transformed my life. The truth that God loves and likes me is revealed in verse 9, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” Verse 12 provides a vision for how I am to love my family, as He has loved me. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
As I was reading this chapter this spring, I took note of verse 13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus demonstrated the ultimate display of love by dying for us. Then He calls us to love as we have been loved, which means we are to lay our lives down for others. We are not called to make sacrifices, but to die. Here’s a pdf of an article by A.W. Tozer which helps me comprehend the concept of dying. The good news is, dying leads to life.
Live to Die
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. ” (Matthew 16:24-25)
Paul echoes these sentiments, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who 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 for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
For followers of Christ, life is experienced through dying. While we all desire life, few desire death. When speaking of my journey in 2012, I have had several men express this sentiment, “I like where you are now, but I don’t want to go through what you went through.” I applaud their honesty, I would not have chosen this path either. But I can attest, I have found life through death. As painful as the journey was, the fruit is sweet.
While 2012 was a significant valley for me, I am challenged to die daily. One of my favorite songs I now sing to myself when asked to deny myself, is from the movie “Frozen”. Instead of defending my position, or arguing about politics or theology, or correcting what I perceive to be an inaccurate rendering of an historical event, I tell myself, “Let it go, let it go …”. These are not dramatic occasions, but little opportunities to die, give in, and yield to others. Relationships have improved and life is better. And for the significant choices and painful valleys God provides us with hope in a little known passage in Hebrews.
Hope in Dying
“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:14) When I read this verse my attention is drawn to the blood of Christ and it’s power to cleanse and purify. Within this verse I find fresh courage from these six words, “through the eternal Spirit offered himself”.
The Spirit of God assisted and enabled Jesus to die. The Good Spirit was in the Garden of Gethsemane helping Jesus pray earnestly until He finally yielded and said “Nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done.” The Paraclete sustained Him when hanging from the awful tree. And the Comforter provided comfort and assurance when He was separated from the Father because of our sin.
And it was the Divine Spirit who raised Jesus from the grip of death, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11)
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit together endured this unspeakable terror, because of love for us. And likewise my motivation for taking up the cross and denying myself has to be love for God and others. Note the first few words of each of these verses:
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son.” (John 3:16)
May you each receive fresh hope during the celebration of the cross and the empty tomb,
Upcoming Speaking Schedule
I will be speaking at IAHE in Indianapolis, IN this coming weekend, March 23-25)
Then I will be in the following cities in the month of April. I hope to see you at one of these events!
April 8, Iron Sharpens Iron, Buffalo, NY
April 20-22, CAPE, Albuquerque, NM
April 27-28, MASS HOPE, Worcester, MA
April 29, Iron Sharpens Iron, Albany, NY