Dying To Live

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“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.’” Luke 9:23-24

In this season of Lent before Easter I have noticed how much I have been resisting the idea and subject of death that seems to define the time. I think I am like Peter who spoke up when Jesus revealed that He would suffer, die and be raised on the third day. Peter rejected this revelation as inconsistent with his personal view of the Messiah and his personal views about Jesus. He was resistant to the idea of death that Jesus was embracing as part of His own mission. I’m sure it was hard to imagine that they were following someone into the threat and danger of suffering and death, especially when they probably imagined a different conclusion to the story.

In my own life it is hard to imagine that following Jesus involves suffering and death, but the New Testament Scriptures, when observed faithfully, seem to indicate that following Jesus will not only provide an eternal life in the presence of God in all His goodness and love, but also involve suffering and death on the way there. It seems that there must be death before there can be resurrection.

What I have been acutely aware of in this particular season of Lent is that my desires and my agendas have been experiencing disruption from what I imagined or intended. It seems God has provided a laboratory in which I am invited to practice and experience the daily self-denial and taking up my cross that Jesus says must characterize His followers.

My wife has experienced her own disruption to whatever she imagined would be normal, and it is far more severe for her than any disruption I have encountered. Every day she awakens to the fact that life is not what she expected or wanted. She is relearning to walk, relearning to use her left hand, and in general just relearning to function in some “normal” way again. Life and the reality as she has known it have changed.

This change in her life has impacted me, to a lesser degree, as well. I am daily being reminded that I have a responsibility to provide a more intentional and extensive care for her. I hoped that before I was caring, but it may not have involved as much sacrifice as I liked to think. But with her new reality and her newly revealed needs I am confronted with my responsibility to die to my self, to my agenda and desires to be available to care for her appropriately. I find myself reminded in this season that today is a new day to die so that I might follow Jesus in His way and live.

This has not been an easy path to follow for me. I tend to want to hold on to my agendas and feel entitled to live as I want. But the reality is that when I said, “Jesus, be my king.” my life was no longer mine to govern. This season of Lent has just made it more clear. It has revealed my selfishness in new ways. It has exposed my resistance to following Jesus when it deviates from the path I want to take. It has manifested itself in anger and resentment that I didn’t realize were there. It has laid bear the brokenness, weakness and ugliness of my life in new ways. I am a mess.

Fortunately for me I have also discovered the patience of God and His unfailing love for me in this time. It seems that the truth is this, that Jesus came and died for sinners like me. Though I have to die to follow and live, I am not making this journey alone without the resources of grace, love and power that Jesus manifested at the cross and resurrection. He is powerfully transforming me in my weakness in the midst of my resistance to this daily dying.

So my practice, when I am faced with the circumstances that threaten death and discomfort is to pray and repeat the phrase, “This is a new day to die; to myself, to my agenda, to my desires and to this life. Lord Jesus have mercy and help me to follow you today.”

I don’t have any idea what your circumstances are presently, but I am pretty sure there is some area this day in which Jesus is inviting you to die so that you might live in Him. I want to encourage you to consider embracing that place of the cross and to stick to the path of Jesus as He leads you into eternal life. You might consider practicing the little prayer I use in those moments when my agenda seems disrupted. May you find in Jesus the strength of His grace to follow Him.

Here is a song that may encourage you as you process these thoughts.

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