Sunday, September 20, 2015

Making upside-downers, Part 4: Life

I read a book recently, that brought up a question that I've been thinking about a lot... What would life look like if we really believed in the resurrection of Christ?  And I've come to the conclusion that this - the resurrection of Christ - is the key element in flipping everything upside-down. If Jesus had done what was expected, he would have come as a prince. If Jesus had done what was expected, he would have overthrown the Roman government. If Jesus had done what was expected, he would have stayed dead forever. But he didn't. He came as a poor baby, lived as a servant, and rose from the dead. And if we believe that, then we have to believe that everything he calls us to do is unexpected, abnormal, and upside-down!

So I want to consider the craziest, most upside-down thing Jesus called his disciples to: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." Upside-down philosophy #4: If you want to live, you must die. 

I think that when we tell people about Jesus, the biggest "selling point" we have is ETERNAL LIFE. True life in Christ! Living forever in heaven with him! In John 6, Jesus said that if we eat of the Bread of Life, we will live forever. And in John 10, he says that he came to give life more abundantly. It is definitely a gift of God, and is completely true and trustworthy! In Ephesians, we read that we were all dead in sin, until God made us alive in Christ.

But then he said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me." To follow him, I must die to myself. And this is significantly less appealing and popular. Here's how Paul explained it: "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."

If you trust in Jesus to save you from your sins, you absolutely do receive eternal life. But if I really want to experience the fullness of that life on this side of heaven, it takes sacrifice - it does not come naturally. I have selfish desires, pride, hate, and a multitude of other habits that stubbornly cling to me in this sin-cursed world, and they threaten to take control of me and keep me from knowing the depth of the gift I have been given. So it becomes a daily battle, a daily death to who I am without Christ, to give him more authority, more power to rule and reign over my heart. And the more I put to death of my own life, the more He can live through me. It pulls me into closer fellowship with him, gives me a deeper insight and understanding into his heart for me and for the world, and compels me to love and worship Him more and more.

What we think of as "life" right now is really not life at all. I think all these upside-down teachings and disciplines are meant to prepare us for eternity - life as it was always meant to be. If we are disciples of Christ, then we are students and recruits, and we are in training to fully receive the inheritance that we are promised. This life, in this world, is nothing compared to what God has in store, so the sooner we can let go of all that we try to pursue and cling to - treasures, greatness, power, and life - the sooner we can take hold of all that truly matters.

"I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow to attain the resurrection from the dead."