Monday, February 24, 2014

Too Few Deaths

Sometimes we Christians have a tendency to dissolve the impact of our Bible verses and phrases with our reckless use of them.  We've thrown the idea around in so many different ways that the punch of it has become softened.
Then He said to them all, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." - Luke 9:23-24
This week at World Gospel Mission headquarters our president, Hubert Harriman, spoke on holiness.  He said of the Church, "we are dying because we aren't dying".  What a powerful comment on how we digest verses like Luke 9:23-24.  These words of Christ seem to have become no more than song lyrics or ornaments in church vocabulary.  We make jokes saying, "Well, this is the cross I bare" referring to something far less than the verse intends for us.  Yet the truth remains whether we get it or not: we are dying because we aren't dying.

Over the past few weeks I have been thinking a lot about how I feel when I speak to those in our churches.  Often I get the sense that congregations think God has called us to Africa because we just like it there or we're good at being missionaries or this is all just easier for us.  I shared this feeling with fellow missionaries and they expressed the same thoughts.  They said that people will often say "what an adventure!" and brush off their pain of sacrifice.  Of course, to some extent, we do like it there and we do hope to be good missionaries and we certainly agree that it's an adventure.  But, before it is any of those things, it is a sacrifice.

Imagine how you might feel if God asked you to do what He has asked us to do.  You would need to start cutting your ties here, leaving your groups and clubs, selling your things and disconnecting yourself.  Your friendships would begin to change because others would sense a 'good-bye' coming down the road.  Many of your habits and comforts would be pulled away from you.  Much of what you have relied on as a personal identity would shift and change.

It might seem as if the death we all need, the "cross" from Luke 9, happens in these big changes I just listed.  It does not.  The "cross" referred to in Luke 9 happens before the big events in life happen.  We are able to cut ties, leave groups and clubs, sell our things and disconnect because we have died to self.  Life in Christ means living only for Christ.

There is always more dying to do but you can be certain that missionaries know the pain full well.  We have thrown ourselves beneath the weight of our crosses.  We feel what you imagine a human might feel.  Missionaries are not missionaries because they contain anything different than you do.  We are missionaries after a significant personal death, the first of more, probably many.  The death spoken of in Luke 9 is one that brings life in Christ.  Before that life can be obtained there must be a death to self.

It is violent.  It is painful.  It is not a joke.  The cross is the terrible before the wonderful.

If there is no death, there is no life in Him.  We are dying because we aren't dying.

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