Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.-John 12:24-26
32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.-John 19:32-33
Beware of refusing to go to the funeral of your own independence. – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, December 9th
Humans are resilient creatures. We don’t die easy. We labor and strain for every last possible molecule of air before our lungs stop. The wave must knock us down and then the current must come and hold us to the bottom, for we will fight and scratch and kick ourselves to the surface until all goes fully dim. It can take years or even decades for a deadly disease to finally stop our hearts from struggling and struggling and struggling to beat, only stopping long after it seemed possible that it could pump one more life saving pump. Even after a full life lived, an aged and frail little woman will labor for weeks in her death bed before her body gives way. Wars must ravage a nation until every soldier is no longer able to resist the other side who does not defeat them but rather outlasts their foe.
And as a child grows and sees firsthand what type of effort and striving it takes to survive on this planet, they see that those who are most resilient and relentless receive the most honor and praise from their fellow overcomers. To survive, to outlast that which is trying to kill you, to breath when it doesn’t seem possible to breath one more desperate breath – this is what we idolize and thus seek to become.
This commitment to survive can be used for and against our Christian faith. We must never give up following Christ and resisting sin, the world, and the devil. No matter how many times we turn we must always turn back to him. Tooth and nail, we must never stop following Jesus, no matter the cost. But when it comes to dying to the old life so we can be raised to new life, when it comes to dying to the law and works so we can live to grace and freedom . . . well then this resilience becomes the worst of curses.
Christ says that to follow him we must die. We must die a painful death every day that we desire to follow him, taking up our cross, a torture tool used for centuries as the worst way to lose your life. Many of us want to die to our old selves and live for Christ but that nasty habit of doing everything we can to stay alive through our own desperate clutch on life comes and resists the command to take up our cross and follow him.
We are like the criminals who died next to Christ, still breathing long after Jesus chose to die so he could get on with being raised. Death is painful and it hurts, but it hurts all the more when it’s resisted with tooth and nail. If those on the cross would push their bodies up with their legs they could last a few more hours before the suffocation and asphyxiation would eventually over take them. But if you lived too long on the cross they would come and break your legs so you could no longer use them to push yourself up for air.
And so, in love, God is forced to spend much of our lives killing us. If we linger on our crosses, pushing up with our legs so we can breathe just a few more breaths of our worldly life, eventually God will come and break our legs, making the cross even more painful than it had to be. With every trial we face and resistance we put up, God does all he can to kill our pride, or self striving, our personal righteousness, and our unbiblical optimism when there should be no optimism without Christ. He tries to kill us before we are dead to him forever. He tries to make us give up fighting to breathe our own breath so we can breathe his. God knows that if doesn’t do all he can to break us, we will die trying to live rather than living because we chose to die.
How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. . . . The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:36, 56-59).
We must hold fast to Christ and never give up fighting for him and his purposes. But to live in Christ we must die to everything else.
Death hurts, but it hurts more and it takes longer when we resist it. In love God will do whatever he can to kill our old selves, and this killing is painful as all death is. But if we never die then we will never be raised to new life in Christ.
Let us pray and know when we must fight for Christ and die for Christ, as both will be needed.