Today we are going to examine a mandatory part of our Christian faith that can be quite frightening. It is so frightening that many of us are afraid to do it. But it is not an optional part of being Christian. If we want to enter Heaven we must be crucified. In Luke 9:23-24 we have these passages: “Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
So in other words I am writing about dying, specifically dying to ourselves. Why you might ask would I choose this as my email to start off the New Year? The answer to that question is simple; it is because I want all of my readers to enjoy a more joyous life in 2014. From death to self comes joy.
Romans 6:3-8 assures us a newness of life if we but die to ourselves. Romans 6:3-8tells us: “Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. For a dead person has been absolved from sin. If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.”
The two items I want to focus on are these: What is the meaning of taking up our cross daily, and what does it mean that we must lose our life?
At some point in time I believe all of us have watched the evening news and encountered a story about someone being led on their last steps towards execution. Here in the United States, sadly some states still allow executions. Throughout human history executions have been carried out in some of the most barbaric methods. People have been buried alive, boiled alive, cooked alive, drawn and quartered and executed by many other means. Perhaps the most famous of all executions is the death by crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. Two things stand out about Jesus’ execution. The first thing we know about Jesus and his execution is that he was innocent, and the second thing we know is that it was voluntary.
Before I expand on the two points above let’s first examine Crucifixion for a minute. Wikipedia says this: Crucifixion was often performed to terrorize and dissuade its witnesses from perpetrating particularly heinous crimes. Victims were left on display after death as warnings to others who might attempt dissent. Crucifixion was usually intended to provide a death that was particularly slow, painful (hence the term excruciating, literally “out of crucifying”), gruesome, humiliating, and public, using whatever means were most expedient for that goal.
The first point I made above is that Jesus was innocent. What does the Bible say about this? In 2 Cor. 5:21we read: “For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” Now unlike Jesus we are all sinners. 1 John 1:8 says this: “If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves,and the truth is not in us.”
My second point is that Jesus voluntarily chose to die for us. In John 6:38 it states: “because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.” Certainly most of us can state verbatim John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” So out of his love for us Jesus accepted death by crucifixion.
Okay it has been established that Jesus, who was innocent, freely accepted death so that we could have eternal life, but the story does not stop there. No, Jesus also calls us to the cross, and He doesn’t just call us once to the cross, He calls us every day to the cross; “take up his cross daily“. Jesus goes on further and says this: Luke 14:27“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
We have no options; we must die to ourselves if we hope to enjoy eternal life. This is what is written in John 12:24-26:“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.”
Let me try to bring all of this to a meaningful conclusion. A new year has begun. It is now 2014. How can we make 2014 a meaningful year in our Christian journey? Here is what is written inGal 5:24 “All who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified self with all its passions and its desires“.Col 3:5-9 gives us guidance on approaching this New Year: “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.Because of these the wrath of Godis coming upon the disobedient. By these you too once conducted yourselves, when you lived in that way. But now you must put them all away:anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language out of your mouths. Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices.”
My friends we are directed to put many aspects of ourselves to death. Maybe a good place to start is to reread the list above and pick one or a few of these items that you struggle with or any other area of sin that clouds your relationship with the Father and write them down. Find another Christian that you trust, maybe someone from your Christian Life Group if you are in one and share with them the items that you have written down. Making your sin known to another person is perhaps the first of the pain in the dying process.
Do not expect the process of eradicating sin from your life to be easy or a pleasant process. Maybe you are willing to let go of some sinful area of your life, but your prayer to God is; “God please administer a quick and painless lethal injection to my sinfulness and don’t allow me to suffer through it.” Unfortunately we are called to carry a cross to our execution. Today we often try to give ourselves an easy pass, thinking that to carry a cross means only to shoulder a heavy burden. Make no mistake; to carry a cross is a slow and painful journey of execution.
Keep one very important thing in mind, even Jesus fell three times while carrying His cross. He had Simon there to help Him carry and John and Mary standing near his side to share in his pain. We too need our Simons, Marys and Johns to help us carry our cross and to be with us when we fall and to share in our pain along the road. Jesus’ walk to Calvary placed an immeasurable amount of pain on the heart of his mother Mary and his disciple John, yet they stood by his side. Be aware that by asking our friends to share in our journey they will have to also share in our pain. If Jesus needed help with his cross you know we do too. If we hit the point that not even our friend’s support is enough to help us with our cross, that is the time to unite our cross with the cross of Jesus and let him help with the heavy load.We are called to die in this life to all worldly desires in order to enjoy the next life.
Will you join me in this dying process this year? I have made my list of a few things in my life that I hope and plan to put to death this year and I have shared it with some very close friends, with my wife and with my pastor. By sharing my intentions I hope to gain their prayers and I hope they can help to make me accountable to this dying process. If you join me in writing something down to die to during 2014 what can you expect to experience in this dying process? You can expect it to be slow, painful, gruesome, humiliating, and public, after all we are called to nothing less than a crucifixion. I have already begun to experience some of these things, and it is not fun. Let’s share our pain together. What do you say; let’s die for Christ. And when we die to these things what can we expect? We can expect to share in the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ and the joy of heaven.
Start dying today!!