20 September 2017

Dying to live

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart, you’ll be saved.”

Let’s begin with a startling, yet profoundly true paradox – We have to die to live.

Put simply this means that we have to bite the bullet in the short term to get the value and the quality in the long term. But what if you and I could have a new start? What if the slate could be wiped clean? What if ‘Born Again’ weren’t just some religious kind of cliché? What if ‘Born Again’ was a new reality in your life?

Of course, hope as we may, we can’t turn the clock back. However, what we can do is admit that some things in our lives aren’t working. We can admit that something is missing, that something’s not right and we can decide to do something about it. I like the fact that Jesus is both edgy and profound. He cuts through all the froth and bubble and goes straight to the point. When He was explaining to his disciples why he had to go to the cross and die He didn’t beat around the bush, rather He chose to come straight to the point, using a really great metaphor. He said, ”I tell you the truth, 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. The person who loves their lives will lose it but if you’re prepared to lose your life in this world, you’ll have eternal life’.

Now for the disciples who have been with Jesus, loving Him and learning from Him for the past three-and-a-half years, watching Him heal lepers, cast out demons and giving sight to the blind, this is a very difficult lesson. For Jesus to say to them, ‘Well, the time’s come, I’m going to be crucified,’ is not very palatable for them, in fact it’s scary and it’s confusing. Jesus approaches the issue in a manner they can relate to, using the metaphor of the kernel of wheat.

It’s a great picture, most of these people knew what kernels of wheat looked like, even if we only ever see them once they’ve been crunched up in the supermarket inside a loaf of bread.

These people knew what seeds looked like, what wheat looked like, they probably touched it and walked through the fields and were close to it. If you live in a rural community maybe it’s the same for you, it’s not for me.

And He was saying, ‘look a seed can’t grow into a new plant until it dies’ and that’s true. If, as a little kid, you ever tried to take an apple seed and plant it in the ground, you will know that nothing comes out because, first, you must wait for that seed to dry and shrivel up and in a sense die, before it can become an apple tree. What does that mean for you and me in our lives?

In our modern society many people have this template dropped on their head that says, “Me, me, me – I am in the centre of the universe and everything else has to revolve around me and has to come my way and has to flow into me.” This notion of dying that Jesus talks about is inverting that. It says, “I’m no longer at the centre of the universe. No, no! God, Jesus is at the centre of my universe.”

That’s a big transition. That means abdicating the flow. That means subjecting ourselves to God. And then Jesus says, “Take up your cross, come follow me.” Maybe in your understanding a cross is just a little gold symbol that hangs around people’s necks. When Jesus was saying it, crosses were things that people got nailed to, before experiencing gruesome deaths. He was saying, ‘Be prepared to die.’ In fact, Jesus even said, “Take up your cross daily.” Die daily, die every day, put yourself last and Jesus first – follow Him.

It is so easy to say that Jesus is the Son of God, it’s so easy to acknowledge that God has paid a price on the cross, but when we really believe in Jesus it changes what we do, it changes who we are, it changes our behaviour, it sets us free from some of this stuff in our life that we know isn’t working.

“Take up your cross and follow Me” is not an intellectual choice, it is a life choice, it is a decision to lay down our lives day after day after day and follow Jesus. It is a decision to partner with Jesus and say “Lord, you are now in the driver’s seat of my life. I’m going where you’re taking me. I know there’s a cost, I know there are changes, I know there are lifestyle choices that I have to make in getting my life together but you are going to be the Lord of my life.”

The apostle Paul writes a letter to the Roman Church 2000 years ago. He says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart, you’ll be saved.” Is it time to say ‘Jesus is my Lord?’ Not a part-decision but an ‘all of me’ decision. My life, my world view, my wealth, my behaviour, my feelings, my hopes, my dreams, every corner, every crevice, every part of me is laid down at the foot of the cross. And I’m going to die once and for all to this world and rise again a new person, a new life, a new start in Jesus Christ. Forgiven, made new, all the old things have passed away, everything is new. I want to be ‘Born Again’.

My challenge for you today is, have you laid down your life in order to truly live? Will you take that step? Lay down everything. Follow Jesus!

Berni Dyment