Pastor’s Blog for March

Dying to Live

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”  – Mark 8:34-35

We don’t think much about the physical laws that govern our universe and world. They just are and we have learned to live with them as they are. We take for granted the laws of friction, motion, movement, and gravity, for example. I don’t have to worry about whether my feet will be able to move my body over the ground. I just put my feet down and start walking! But there’s a lot going on there. The laws of friction, motion, movement, and gravity are all at work. Thank God! When I put my feet on the ground and my mind tells my legs to move, they do. There are a lot of natural laws like this. Laws of the universe and of this world that we simply accept as the way it is. If we defy these laws (the law of gravity, for example), however, we pay the price. I cannot jump off the roof of ten story building without getting hurt and suffering the consequences.

But just as there are physical laws that govern our world, so too, there are spiritual laws at work in our world and lives. Jesus said that what we sow, we will eventually reap. The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death. We also know that when we die, we will face God and be admitted into an eternity in heaven or hell. These are just a few basic spiritual laws that also govern our lives and actions on earth and with our fellow human beings. And, to many of us, these laws make sense – especially to a person who has come to know God through His Son our Savior Jesus Christ. We have come to accept these spiritual laws also.

But there is at least one spiritual law, however, that is counter-cultural and defies reason and common sense in every way. This is the law I call “dying to live.” Jesus said that “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:34-35). In other words, in order to find true life in God through Jesus Christ, we must first die to ourselves. Jesus says, “Deny yourself and take up your cross.” Apparently, according to Jesus, this is the way to true and everlasting life. The spiritual law or principle at work here is this: We must die in order to live.

Now I don’t know about you but dying is not something I relish – not anything I look forward to. I tend to want to hold on to my life, avoid death. And Jesus isn’t merely referring to the time that our bodies expire so that believers may enter their heavenly home and live forever with God. Jesus is pointing us to the spiritual law that when we deny ourselves, say “no” to our own fleshly or sinful desires, even when we put others’ interests ahead of our own, and learn to sacrifice for others – then we discover how life on this earth was truly meant to be lived. In fact, it is in the very act of serving others and placing others ahead of ourselves – in giving ourselves away – that we become most like Jesus himself, and discover his Spirit most alive in us.

And this is what we remember and re-enact during Lent. Lent is a time to die to ourselves – repent of sin and follow in the example of Christ’s suffering sacrifice. Engaging in Lent from Ash Wednesday to Easter morning, is a way of purging ourselves of all that is inconsistent with holy living, and to seek more of God’s peace, power, purity, and passion in your life. Really, who would not want that? Our Lenten sermon series is designed to help us do just that. But we do not die to self to bury ourselves. No! We die to self in order to experience more life – something we look forward to celebrating on Easter morn! A seed must first die if it is to sprout and become a blooming plant or flourishing flower! And, this is what dying to live is all about.

Dying to Live with Christ,

Pastor Dave Van Netten