Have you found something worth dying for?

My husband and I were listening to a sermon the other day by Todd Hunter and he was talking about how polls show that the majority of Americans claim they are Christians, however many "lifestyles" do not reflect this as true.  He then made the statement, "Many people have found something to live for, but have you found something worth dying for?"  Todd Hunter stated how people are willing to invite Christian morals into their lives, but they often are not willing to die to themselves to follow Christ.

What is Jesus' Call?

As we look at the call of Christ and throughout Christian history we can see that death, both spiritual and at times physical is a part of following the Lord.  Below are several examples of individuals whose understanding of who Jesus Christ is, was something worth physically dying for:

  • When Jesus presented Himself to Paul on the road to Damascus, He also presented Paul with the kind of life he would soon be living:
    • Acts 9:16, "I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."
      • When Paul accepted the invitation to follow Jesus as Lord of His life, Paul understood what he was getting himself into.  His understanding of Jesus Christ convinced Paul that Jesus was someone worth dying for. 
  • In John 21:18, Jesus informs Peter of the cost following Jesus would entail:
    • "Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”  Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer, chose to return to Germany, knowing very well that his decision could lead to his death, and he ended up walking to his death saying, "This is the end - for me the beginning of life."
But as we also see in John 21 (which Erwin McManus discusses in Unleashed), not every follower's life, will lead to a physical martyrdom:

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved
was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against
 Jesus at the supper and had said,
“Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 
 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return,
what is that to you?
You must follow me.”

Because of the country we currently live in, our faith rarely requires us to give up our physical life for the sake of Christ.  However, if we hear the words of Jesus, His invitation to us still requires a death:

Luke 9:23
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves
and take up their cross daily
and follow me.

Have you encountered Jesus in such a way that you are willing to die to follow Him?

How Deep is the Love of Christ?

God has been opening my eyes to the depths of His love for others. He has been showing me that if we as His people, want to meet people in their depths then we need to be willing to go to the depths to meet them there.  Entering into those depths may at times very well feel like a type of death, but Jesus is willing to encounter us in a way that we can willing follow Him wherever He leads.

Marriage is one practical area where we have to die to ourselves in order to follow Jesus' path.  As I think about my marriage, I realize that there has been phases where I have not wanted to follow Jesus' leading, particularly, in the area of submission.  I'd love to say, that I've been a great Christian wife always ready to follow my husband's lead.  But there have been many times where I was cringing inside, or defiant to his lead.  I wanted him to prove beforehand that he was worthy of being followed before I would follow.  As a result, frustration and disappointment began to dominate my marriage.  Thankfully, the Lord stepped in to change me.  In my process, the Lord began to ask me to trust Him first and that part of that trust would at times entail dying to my "rights" to have my own way and to instead submit to my husband's leadership.  It was not an easy process and at times it was quite painful.  But in the midst of that "death" God has brought about such life.  I emerged from my spiritual death and awoke to find a husband, who is an incredible man of God and leader.

Another place in my own life where I have experienced a type of "death" in order to follow Christ has been in ministry to others.  One particular time of ministry, was extremely difficult for me and in the process, I thought to myself, "I am going to have to die to myself in order for this thing to work."  I felt like the Lord smiled and said, "Exactly."  I then asked Him, "Is this really how deep your love goes - that a death is needed in order to bring life?"  And He said, "Yes."  You see sometimes for us to be able to serve others in a life-giving way, we are going to have to die to ourselves as we follow Jesus: 

Hebrew 12:1b-2
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 
 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross,
 scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

The primary way we walk out our Christianity is through love.  In order to love and serve others well we may very well need to die to ourselves to follow Christ's lead.  The good news is that He has gone that way before us and He has overcome it with a new and better life.  So my question remains, "Have you found something worth dying for?"

I pray your answer is, "Yes."

I haven't encountered Christ in a way that I am willing to die.

However, if your answer to this question is no, I would like to share some thoughts.  I know that it would be very easy to read this post and come up with 10 different ways you haven't died to yourself and then begin to come up with strategies on "how to do better tomorrow."  You could beat yourself up and say, "I don't really love Jesus."  If that is your reaction, then you've missed the point.  The "key" to this is to FOLLOW Jesus' lead, and He knows how to speak to you.  However, so many of us have never been taught to listen for His voice because we have been taught to be on a mission of self-improvement.

If your immediate reaction is self-improvement, I believe it is due to one of the greatest misunderstandings of the church today - the idea that a Holy God cannot be in the presence of sin.  In my series entitled, Journey to Understand Grace: Part 3, I address this misunderstanding in depth.  But very simply, Jesus Christ could not have been fully God here on earth if that concept is true.  Because of our obsession with the "problem of our sin" we end up total ignoring the beauty of the cross and what Jesus did.  God states in Psalm 103:12 that He has removed our sin as far as the east is from the west.  So what does this have to do with trusting Jesus?  If you still think your sin is an issue between the two of you, then you will not come to Him to listen nor trust His leading and guidance.  Instead, you will be spending all your time, trying to figure out how to get yourself better in order to spend time with Him.  However, it will be a fruitless cycle of despair and desperation because apart from Christ you cannot be righteous.  So if you don't feel like you can come to Him because of your failures and you try to get better in order to come to Him, you will fail over and over and over again.  Or Beloved, you can embrace the truth.  Jesus Christ came to set you free from the curse of sin and death and you have full access to Him 24/7 no matter what you have done.  This kind of love is profound and can be found in no other place. 

Jesus invitation to Peter provides a perfect scenario of the difference between self-improvement and following Jesus' lead.  Peter had declared that He would follow Jesus to the death but ended up denying Him 3 times!  Then, Jesus came to Peter and asked Peter 3 times if Peter loved Him.  After the third time, Peter finally said, "Lord you know all things..."  Jesus replied, "Follow me."  And that is where the truth lies.  Jesus knew Peter's heart the whole time, but before Peter understood this, Peter thought it was his duty to prove his love to Jesus by the things he did.  Jesus instead showed His great love for Peter that NOTHING could get in the way of Jesus' love for him, including failure, and that Jesus is the One that will lead us the way we should go.  We just have to follow Him.

So I don't know what lies have gotten in the way to prevent you from a desire to follow Jesus with all your heart even unto death.  However, I do know that He is a faithful, True and loving God and He will meet you right where you are at.  In addition, I hope that you understand this "death" to yourself is not so that you can live a miserable existence.  Rather Jesus says, "he who gives up his life for me, will find it (Matthew  10:39)."  This death, is an exchanging of the lies and the masks that we carry around and hide behind.  The result of this "death" is life and life abundant.

In Christ,

1 comment:

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