You can’t be resurrected without dying first. Death comes before resurrection. The order cannot be reversed. New life only comes after dying to the old life. If you want to know the power of Jesus’ resurrection you have to become like him in his death. It’s only those who die that are candidates for new birth.
If you want to come to Jesus you have to die to your sin, to your plans, and to your ways of doing things. On his way to kill Christians, Paul’s plans changed when he died. “I’ve been crucified with Christ” he wrote later.
But this thing about “becoming like him in his death” insinuates something even more than this. If we ask ourselves how Jesus died we might come nearer its meaning. How was it that God the Son came to the cross to begin with? They didn’t take his life. He gave it freely. What did it take for him to do such a thing?
We’re told he “humbled himself and became obedient to death” (Philippians 2), that is, he unselfishly submitted to the beating and crucifying. He could have summoned thousands of angelic beings to prevent it; instead he lay down the prerogative to power and meekly surrendered himself to his crucifiers. I we’re to become like him in his death that same spirit of meekness will be required of us.
Aren’t you just dying to be like Jesus? It will take “offering our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1). In other words we have to die right like Jesus did. Those at the foot of his cross, believers and skeptics alike, had a front row seat to the right way to die––in surrender and humility.
Don’t misunderstand me; it’s not that Jesus was anxious to experience the brutality of crucifixion. “Let this cup pass from me!” he cried in the garden. But it didn’t take long for him to acquiesce, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” “Nevertheless”––what a sweet word!
It was “for the joy set before him”––i.e., the redemptive result of the sacrifice––that gave him the will to endure it (Hebrews 12:2). Taking the long view, he was willing to submit to the Father’s better will.
Mature Christians die like Jesus did. They die in the same spirit as he died. They die to their own will, to their short-term preferences. They’re willing to die for the sake of something greater. They admit to wishing the cup of suffering to pass them by. They prefer a much easier cup but they take the longer view and submit to the better will of the Father.
We can only begin to imagine the humility it took for Jesus to let his own creatures arrest, abuse, and assassinate him. But imagine we must if we’re to “become like him in his death.” Maturity is getting not what our flesh wants but what our spirit needs in order to find itself. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And it requires the Jesus sort of humility to die so unfairly.
It doesn’t take strength to pick up our cross and carry it; it takes humble submission to God’s better way. Jesus was “crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:4)
The mature are “weak” enough to go to the cross for the assassination of their flesh. Contrary to populist Christianity, maturity is not being strong enough to get what you want, but being weak enough to die to what you want so you can have what God wants instead.
This is the 5th of 10ish posts on How Mature Christians Act. Scroll down for earlier ones.
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