Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Thoughts On Dying Daily and Following Christ

I recently was listening to D. A. Carson speaking on the crucifixion.  In it he said the following paragraph paraphrased by myself: “In the ancient world crucifixion was scandalous; you just didn’t talk about it and you certainly didn’t have a cross dangling from your ear. Only the scum of the earth were allowed to die that way. They would carry the cross bar to the place where the vertical pole was already standing. Then, in a deliberate attempt to humiliate the condemned person, they were stripped naked. The last and only thing they own was taken away and gambled off. The things that happened to Jesus weren’t unique with him; that was the normal procedure. The soldiers stayed because friends would sometime come and rescue the victim once everyone had left.  And so the one who had taken up his cross and was going to the place of death only had three things to look forward to and there was no expectations of anything better ahead; humiliation, suffering and death!”
This got me thinking about what it is to die daily.  Keeping the realities of crucifixion in mind; he is not saying that we are to get up each morning and expect and pray that God will give us whatever we want that day. Neither are we to expect that if we have a “good day” and are a good little Christians God will reward us with all sorts of goodies. We don’t get up and expect that because we are saved we will automatically have healthy bodies, big families where all the children honor and obey us and get saved, steady jobs, good neighbors, etc. You just don’t find Christ telling us to expect that.
What he is saying is that you need to get up each morning and realize that you have been redeemed by his death and that part of sharing in his life is sharing in his suffering; that his plan for each one of us is to conform us to himself by sending trial after trial until we have learned to find in him all we need. So each day we are to remember why we are here. We are to consider our life as over and our life now belongs solely for him. Gal 2:19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. That is Paul dying daily.
When something happens during the day and it causes us to question God and to complain to him or to others about him; when something happens to cause us to be dissatisfied with him, to be a malcontent; if we become sullen and depressed, introverted and withdrawn; if we are focused on ourselves and not Christ and we aren’t serving others; it is because we have not taken up our cross when we awoke in the morning! We have not considered ourselves as dead; as owed nothing. If we had, when God takes it away we would have already given it up for his sake to start with, because we only expect three things: humiliation, suffering and death.
Too many times we claim to have died with Christ and given everything to him but each morning we at least subconsciously get up and grab hold of everything we have and dare God to take it away. What happens when you take something away from your child that he wants but you know better? He or she screams and lashes out. I can only imagine what God thinks when he does the same thing to us “godly children” and we have every kind of reaction other than "OK God, you know best; give me the grace to accept this from you so that I might conquer the situation for you instead of it controlling me." Adults still pout, we just have fancy medical and psychological terms for it.
In the end, either we love Christ with our entire being or we love ourselves supremely.  Either Christ is our life or our lives are ours.  How we act during suffering says a lot about our love.

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