Tag Archives: dying to self

Wanted: Dead and Alive

a grain of wheat.jpg

John 12:24

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.




Jesus was soon to be crucified.  He knew it was coming, but those around Jesus just couldn’t grasp what was going to take place.  Some Greeks wanted to see Jesus, and when they got to Him,  He talked about a grain of wheat falling to the ground.  Jesus was talking about His own upcoming death, but He was also telling us that’s the way we should live.   A plant doesn’t grow unless a seed dies first.  That’s a funny topic for Jesus to discuss with people he  just met, but He got to the point because His pathway to glory was through death.  And He wanted us to know that if we want to follow Him, our pathway to glory is also through death.

The Christian life is about living–eternal life, abundant life, and new life.  But it is also about dying–dying to self and losing our life so we can find it in the end.  The dying part has to do with really counting yourself dead, dead to your rights, dead to your ambitions, and dead to your life goals.  In Galatians 2:20, Paul writes “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”  In other words, “I died and now my life is Jesus’ life.”  And in 1 Corinthians 15:31 Paul said, “I die daily.”  It’s like God puts up a sign for us:  “Wanted: Dead and Alive.”

So what does that look like in everyday life?  It can mean sacrificing time and money for others, rather than just doing what you want for yourself.  It could also mean not being self absorbed, only talking about yourself and then moving on when you’re done.  Instead, you listen to others and take interest in what they have to say.  The things that God may call you to do might be hard, or even dangerous.  It could mean loss of friends and family because you’re now a Jesus follower, loss of money because what He’s calling you to do isn’t lucrative, or loss of self because it’s not glamorous in our culture’s eyes.

For some Christians, it means actual death.  A Christian guy I knew, Bart,  spent time ministering to young men in a rough city neighborhood.  He had one guy come and live with him for a period of time.  Bart wasn’t seen for a couple of days.  Two guys went to his house looking for him, and there they found him dead.  The young man had killed him and took the little money that Bart had.  As Jim Elliott said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”  Wanted: Dead and Alive.

One more example:

In the biographical book, We Died Before We Came, Stephen Foreman preached a sermon before he and his wife Emily and their family left the United States to minister in a North African country.  He ended up losing his life only months later to an Al Keida gunman.  This is an excerpt of his sermon:

When James Calvert went out as a missionary to the cannibals of the Fiji islands, the ship captain tried to turn him back, saying, “You’ll lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among those savages.”  To that Calvert replied, “We died before we came here.”  That’s my question for us again tonight.  Are you dead yet?  Dead to yourself, dead to your own desires, dead to fear?  Are we alive in Christ?  My desire is that when people see your life, when they see my life, they will see Christ, and Christ alone.  Let us live our lives as if they weren’t our own lives.   To truly be strangers in this world.  To be aliens in this world.  Our citizenship is in Heaven.

Do you have something worth dying for, living for, or moving for?



A Mayfly’s Life

mayfly  The lifespan of an adult mayfly can vary from 30 minutes to one day, depending on the species.  Do they   wear little t-shirts that read “Born to Die”?

Thinking about the Christian life, we are designed to be like Mayflies probably more than we can understand or want to understand.  I’m not talking about physical death, but about what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 15:31 “I die daily.”  In John 12:24 we find that if a grain of wheat doesn’t die, it remains alone, but if it dies, it produces a whole bunch more wheat.  Lofty thoughts maybe, so I’ll apply it to my week and what God brought home to me:

I was in a meeting with some co-workers when my boss turned the discussion to a butt chewing session pointed at me for something I had done or intended to do (question of motives).  He moved on and I said, “Whoa, let’s back up a second.”  I went on to punch back, perhaps in snotty tone, about how the other two people present were the ones who dropped the ball.  My boss went on to pick apart something else I had said, totally missing a much bigger point.  The meeting ended, he left for an appointment and I was mad.  Over the next day, I contemplated a variety of speeches, responses and only daydreamed about walking away from “the man” and the whole package.

I prayed that God would give me some sort of right attitude or word that would be better than launching a civil war at work.  I’ve usually (always) lost those anyway.  I opened up a daily devotional the next morning that was about John 12:24-25 and about the kind of death that produces fruit in our lives.  It’s not the cross with a big C, but the daily cross of

a willingness to die to our own interests, our own reputation, our own rights, our own way of doing things, our own comfort, convenience, hopes, dreams and aspirations.  To die means to lay it all down.  To give it all up.  To let it all go.  This may seem difficult, perhaps even unthinkable to our own self-protective, individualistic, rights-oriented minds…What was Jesus saying?  The only way to gain your life is to give it up.  The only way to win it is to lose it…When we choose the pathway of brokenness and humility, we are choosing to let His life flow in us and through us.”  from Nancy Leigh DeMoss The Quiet Place, April 10

Okay God, I’m starting to get it.  I have to give up my right to be offended and not strike back.  Give me the right heart so I can go make this right.  I wasn’t quite ready yet, so waited until the speeches in my head got softer.  I prayed that God would work it out, but didn’t know what that would like.  That afternoon, my boss, a proud nonChristian man, sat in my office and apologized.  He acknowledged how wrong he was and how much he valued my work.  I sincerely apologized for striking back and having the wrong tone.  It was the best talk we’ve had in the decade of sometimes difficult interactions.

God did this, not me.  He somehow prompted a man to do something not normal to teach me that giving up my rights and dying to all of those things is really the way to letting God work out bigger things.  Loving others really leads to death because it usually means giving up self interests for the greater good.  It’s the death of what I want to do, or of my right to do those things.  Self protecting, self securing, self pleasing as a way of life stands in contrast to self denial, death to lots of things and letting weakness as opposed to strength be a glory.

In John 21 Peter told Jesus that he was young and could go where he wanted, but one day he would be old and not able to be free and then to die for Him.  Jesus was telling Peter that if he really loved Him Peter would be willing to go on a path that led away from self interests and toward death.  He didn’t say that because Peter was an irritant to Him, but because Jesus was giving Peter a picture of what his life as a Jesus follower would be.  It’s because He loves us and calls us His own that He takes us on the path that goes against self and the world.  It takes us straight to the arms of Jesus and to life that is truly life.