Looking at a new year ahead,
countless eyes are wide with wonder, hearts giddy in expectation, arms open to
embrace unknown opportunities, wills set in firm resolve to realize resolutions.
Futures are bright. Hope is high. Plans are set. But with all of our glorious
plans, dreams, and resolutions for personal success,
How many of us have "death to self" on our list?
Most of us, if we are honest, live on
this earth with the innocent objective to achieve greatness, to make a mark on our world and impress it
with our own unique, special qualifications and talents. We have goals set for
ourselves: to finally graduate from college, to get married, to become the next
business entrepreneur, adored performer, idolized instructor, even an impressive
agent in ministry. Success and glory seem to be behind all of
But with the recent passing of the
Christmas season, “Christ” being the key word, I was startled by the thought that
Jesus lived to die. "Crucified ... You lived to die ..." I contrasted all of my grand ideas about my future with the
simple yet profound life of the Savior, whose end-goal was, ultimately, death. And what
shocked me most was His audacity to suggest the same end-goal for me. The kind of death He suggests? A death to my flesh, to my own self-will.
Me? Die to self? With graduation waiting in the
spring, with so many ideas of what to do with my life? Grad school? Ministry?
Internship? Places unvisited, people yet unmet, words yet unread, unspoken? Death? Carrying a weighty cross? With all of my fantastic concepts of becoming, however, of discovering who I am as an
individual, Jesus reminds me with the utmost gentility the true answer to finding
“If anyone desires to come after
let him deny himself, and take up
his cross, and follow Me.
For whoever desires to save his
life will lose it,
And whoever loses his life for My
sake will find it.”
Reading this, I had the tendency to
say, Wow, Jesus, these are hard words. Of course, that was my fleshly reflex.
Looking closer, I realize that God Himself is bidding me close to His heart,
desiring to impart a most precious secret to a richer, fuller life. “For these seeds to give
birth to life, first they must die.” If only I would die to myself, partaking
in gritty and glorious self-sacrifice, I am promised a most valuable treasure:
a piece of the very heart of God. And a life more overwhelmingly full than I could ever imagine.
I took a step back and asked
myself, Am I ready for such a challenge? Am I willing to get up each morning
with the purpose of casting my own desires aside, stooping as Christ did to the
feet of others, denying His very self to come to the aid of an ungrateful people? Who deep down are but blinded souls, children of God
with the chains of unbelief coiled about them, waiting for a Savior to set them
free? Lord, I said, I don’t have the kind of humility You had. I lack the love
and compassion You so liberally distributed. I lack the heart of joy that drove
you to dedicate Your love for sinful people like me. God, I can’t do it.
But He knows I can’t. He knows that, because of The Fall, I have the unfortunate privilege of owning a less than perfect body
and a human nature prone to doing things my own way. If I was forced to face such
a task alone, I dare say, I would not even be tempted to look the offer in the
face. Yet I find more promises from my Lord:
“But you shall receive power when
the Holy Spirit has come upon you …”
“… how much more will your heavenly
Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
“And I say to you, ask, and it will
be given to you …
For everyone who asks, receives …”
I can only accomplish such an
end-goal through His Spirit, His love for all the world,
His heart—oh, His most precious,
loving heart—inside of me. And it’s all mine for the asking. I merely must have the
boldness to ask.
For any who want more out of this
life, who are weary from failed promises of the past, who desire to shine like
the stars, may I make a suggestion for a New Year’s resolution? Die. Deny
yourself. Inhabit Calvary’s cross. Emulate Christ. D.I.E. I know these are tough words. I know that the duty of a writer is to practice what he or she preaches (and to be honest, I get
a little scared just thinking about it sometimes!), I know it sounds slightly morbid, shocking, and not all that appealing, but I trust my God when He
gives such an invitation. He has never asked too much of me. And He would never
ask me to do something that He would not help me with, nor something that did
not end up in anything but good (Romans 8:28; Matthew 6:33). Such is the work of the kingdom. Such is the glory of heaven. Such is the grandiose stuff the heart of God is made of.
And when we really think about it,
what other choice do we have?
Scripture taken from Matthew 16:24-25; Acts 1:8; Luke 11:13,9-10; NKJV
Quoted lyrics taken from "Above All" by Michael W. Smith; "Baptize My Mind" by Jon Foreman