It’s About Being, Not Doing
Most of us have asked God in a thousand ways, “What is your will for my life?” Bottom line: God cares more about who you are than He does about what you’re doing or where you’re going. But you may be asking yourself, What about all the good things I’ve done in my life? What about the hurtful things others have done to me? Do You not care about my future? Doesn’t all of this matter? Does it not count for something? Don’t you care God?
In the life of a Christ-follower, these things matter only to the degree that they’re moving us closer to Jesus and positioning us to show His unconditional love and grace to others. From this perspective, there really aren’t good and bad things in life. There are just things, every one of them an incredible opportunity to encounter the unconditional, undeserved, unending love of Jesus. And there really aren’t good and bad people in life. There are just people, every one of us with the potential to sin, and the need to experience God’s grace and mercy, so that we may be made new in Christ.
Jesus wants to walk with each of us into the painful memories and hurtful experiences that have caused brokenness within us. Every one of these is a doorway to enjoy God’s presence more deeply and intimately. The more fully we uncover the ache within us – to ourselves, to God, and to another human being – the more profoundly we’ll encounter His life-changing love and grace. He’s the only one who can fully know us, fully love us, and fully accept us! This is where the healing of our brokenness occurs.
The Truth None of Us Likes to Hear
Our human nature seems to fight against the most essential ingredient for real, authentic life change to occur. This element many Christians (myself included) struggle to implement in our lives is found in some of Jesus’s most important spoken words:
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it” (Matthew 16:25 NIV).
In this passage, is Jesus telling us that in order to discover a life of meaning and purpose we have to give up life as we’ve come to know it? I really believe that is what He is saying. It seems counterintuitive, or even contradictory to our human minds. Many of us who are reading this can’t imagine how it could ever work. We are supposed to willingly make ourselves smaller and make Him greater? And somehow that is going to make our lives more joyous and fulfilling? Absolutely!
He’s telling us to deliberately put to death all that makes us who we are in this world – past, present, and future – both happy and hurtful. And He promises to redefine our identity into who He created each of us to be. He promises to give our lives more meaning, purpose, and significance, in place of our shame, stress, and fear. It still seems daunting, doesn’t it? Can I trust Jesus? Does He really know what’s best for me?
Many of us still have a white-knuckle grip on the three biggest obstacles to experiencing a life of wholeness in Christ: CONTROL, CONTROL, and CONTROL.
A Radical Paradox: Dying in Order to Live
God is not speaking in this passage of us losing our life literally, even though there have been times on my journey when the emptiness within me was so great that I wished my life would end.
Dying to self means dying to our flesh – our fallen human nature. I did an online keyword search for words in the Bible that are synonymous with this concept of this “dying to self” we’re talking about:
- 46 occurrences in the Bible.
- Self-denial. 54 occurrences in the Bible.
- Flesh / sinful nature. 6,166 occurrences in the Bible.
God has a lot to say about this topic! Here are several passages from the Bible that I often turn to as a reminder of where my confidence should lie:
“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. (Galatians 2:20 NLT).
“Then he said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow Me’” (Luke 9:23 NLT).
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives” (John 12:24 NLT).
“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it” (Mark 8:35 NLT).
“If you refuse to take up your cross and follow Me, you are not worthy of being Mine” (Matthew 10:38 NLT).
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (Philippians 2:3-4 NLT).
“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” (John 3:30 NLT).
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2 NLT).
“So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11 NLT).
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