We Must Die
Saturday, March 2, 2013
John 19:30 – “When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘ It is finished,’ and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”
Sweating profusely, alone, knowing what the next few hours would hold, dealing with disappointment, He fell on His knees in prayer. For many people this would be a last resort, something to do when they were at the end of their rope, but not for Him. Prayer was as natural as breathing. There was nothing shocking about seeing Jesus in a posture of prayer, what was shocking however was what He prayed.
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” In other words “Dear Father may your will be done.” Jesus died to self, not just then but every single day. He was God come in the flesh, but He was also man. Fully man and fully God, not half of one, half of the other. Fully God and fully man, and as a man He had to deal with the same feelings, desires, and temptations that we do, yet the Bible makes it abundantly clear that He was without sin.
We aren’t are we? We aren’t without sin. Even the people that we think of as great saints aren’t without sin. Instead their lives were at times filled up with it. David, a man after God’s own heart, was also a liar, a murderer, and an adulterer. He was at some points a Jerry Springer episode waiting to happen.
The same thing can be said of Moses or Noah or even of Abraham. The great people, “saints” of the Old Testament had lives that were filled up with sin. And the exact same thing can be said of those in the New Testament.
When Jesus was crucified, none of His disciples except John was anywhere near the scene. Peter of course denied Him three times, and even when they went into the garden to pray they were so overwhelmed that they fell asleep. They were disciples but they had sin in their lives.
Paul was the of course the same. He lamented in Romans 7, “why oh why do I continue to commit sin over and over again” (my paraphrase). They seemed to be great saints and in one way they were because Jesus imputed His righteousness to them, but still they struggled every day with sin. They were true followers of Christ who experienced daily a practical struggle with sin.
Jesus, who was a man just like they were and we are however, continually triumphed over sin. How? He daily died to self. In fact since He was perfect and never sinned I think it would be fair to say that He moment by moment died to self.
We are called to do the same aren’t we? We are called to “deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow Jesus.” The cross that we bear is not dealing with a difficult person or not having enough money in the bank or dealing with rebellious children, or an ache or pain, the cross that we are called to bear is actually the cross. J.D. Greear says in his book, Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart that Jesus calls us through the cross “to deny our very selves, that is, the center of our desires, decision making faculties, and source of identity. In those days ‘taking up your cross’ meant forfeiting any hold on your life.” We are called to do just that. To forfeit any holds on our lives take up our cross daily so that we can die to ourselves, so that we can be what we are called to be.
I’m not advocating a works based salvation by any means, but once we are saved then Godly work and practical holiness and striving to become more like Jesus should become a part of our lives. Once we are saved dying to self becomes our calling and our goal so that we might live obedient lives. In John 3:36 we are told that the “ones who believe have eternal life while the ones who do not obey will not see life.” Belief and obedience are used interchangeably. If we believe it comes out in our lives. If we believe we must die to self. Will we do that perfectly? Of course not, Paul didn’t, Peter didn’t, John didn’t, but when they slipped they appealed to the radical grace of God for forgiveness and restoration. That is why John says in 1 John 1:9, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Jared Wilson in his book Gospel Wakefulness, says “the only deal that Jesus is willing to make with us is His righteousness for our guilt but that it requires absolute surrender.” In other words it requires a taking up of our cross and dying to self.
Dying to self is a daily struggle, but a daily struggle that Jesus modeled for us. Whether it was in the garden praying, “not my will but Yours be done,” or whether it was on the cross saying, “it is finished”. He gave us an example to follow. We must die to self.
He also, by dying to Himself made it possible for us to be forgiven when we fail to die to ourselves. That is what D.A. Carson calls one of the ironies of the cross, “Jesus didn’t save Himself so He could save us.” Through the cross, He shows us that we must die to self but He also shows us through the cross that forgiveness is available when we fail. Free forgiveness to undeserving people, that is God’s grace in action.
That is the good, life changing news of the Gospel. Jesus died so that we might live. And now we die to self so that we might live to righteousness.