If you’ve ever felt like certain parts of Jesus’ message seem conflicting, you’re definitely not alone. The most confusing thing to many people is the idea of dying to live.
In John 10, Jesus is warning His followers to be careful to not get dragged away by sin and temptation. In verse 10, He says, “The thief’s [that’s Satan, by the way] purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” The version you’re most familiar with probably says something about “life more abundant.” (John 10:10 NLT)
So Jesus says Satan wants to take your life, but Jesus came to give you life. But then He turns around and says, “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 9:23-25 NIV)
Say whaaaaa? Didn’t He just say He came to give us life, and now He says we have to lose our lives? And He left no doubt about what that meant, because He said “Take up your cross.” Once you take up a cross, there’s no going back…that’s a one-way road to the grave. That’s the conflict I’m talking about.
We love the conversation about how God wants to give us hope and a future and blessings, and never wants us to feel pain, and wants to make us rich, and provide for all our needs, and do all this other stuff for us. We love the concept of a vending machine God, where we insert a quick prayer and out pops whatever we ask for. This is why certain churches with certain pastors who only preach the health, wealth and prosperity side of things are booming. We all like that.
What we’re not so into is the other side of the coin, that says we have to give something up to gain the good stuff. We want to have our cake and eat it too. The word “submission” has been made into a nasty, demeaning word in American culture. When we think of submission to anyone, we think of weakness. But the Bible says Jesus submits to God, the Son to the Father, so how can that be demeaning? Submission isn’t weakness, it’s strength.
When we realize that and become willing to “lose our lives” by giving up control and letting God lead us, we open ourselves up to an entirely new, awesome life! It doesn’t mean everything always goes our way, but it means God is in control so it all works out in the end no matter what happens now. He always knows what’s best for us, even when we don’t. So this part of Jesus’ message isn’t conflicting. In fact, it’s perfect harmony when we step back and see it from God’s perspective.
As for the “losing our lives” part – the dying – it’s tough. We fight for control. We want to drive the car. Like the bumper sticker that says, “Jesus is my co-pilot,” we want to have first say, and God can speak up when we ask for help. So the best thing to do is take it one day at a time.
Charles Spurgeon wrote, “No man would find it difficult to die who died every day. He would only have to die but once more.”
1 John 3:16 says, “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (NLT) By showing love to others, we’re laying down our lives in a way. We’re taking the back seat. We’re dying to self and living for God.
Start today by doing something sacrificial for someone else. Speak value into someone’s life. Give someone a gift for no reason and with no strings attached. Meet a need in someone’s life. Serve someone. If you die today, it will be a lot easier to die tomorrow.