Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Finding Life

As I was reading the Bible this morning, 2 Corinthians 4:11 grabbed my attention. It says, “For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” As I read this I thought, “I’m one who is living. How am I always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake?”

A few verses earlier, Paul had written that he was hard-pressed, perplexed and persecuted but not in any way crushed or in despair. But my life isn’t like Paul’s. I don’t have the kind of persecution and oppression that he faced. I don’t face anything greater than the normal pressures of modern American life. There are the aches and pains of growing older. There are the disappointments that come from relationships with other people. But nothing in my life approaches the kind of sufferings that Paul had gone through.

Nevertheless, I think there are some ways in which we all could learn something from this passage. Our bodies are under the curse. We are in the process of dying; and we carry that dying with us everywhere we go. Those aches, pains and weaknesses are all signs that this body is not going to live forever. Even in our areas of service for God, our efforts are often weak and ineffective in our own strength.

Another way I think that a Christian carries about the death of the Lord Jesus is that we are to be continually dying to self. Matthew 16:25 says, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” In Luke 9:23 Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” The cross, of course, is a symbol of death. It seems to me that the Christian life involves learning to lay down ones life for others. It means not trying to get your own way all of the time. Loving others means putting their interests first. Even in the more mundane things of life we need to die to self and lift up others. Perhaps your spouse wants to eat at one restaurant and you a different one. Love says put your spouse’s interests above your own. Perhaps one spouse wants to watch a football game, but you would rather watch a movie. It’s hard to give up what you want to do to allow the other person to do what he/she wants to do. How often do you need to put other’s interests above your own? All of the time! That is extremely difficult and requires a constant dying to self. And dying to self is difficult and often painful. But it is what God requires. But shouldn’t the other person die to self sometimes too? Yes, but that’s between them and God and has nothing to do with what you need to do.

What is the benefit? Losing ones life in this away actually is the doorway to finding true life. Our passage in 2 Corinthians verses 10 and 11 tell us that the result is that “the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” And, “the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” The encouraging thing to me in these verses is the focus on this mortal, physical life. The positive benefits are realized in our body, our mortal flesh. It does not wait for some future time, but rather the life of Christ becomes visible in us today as we allow his death to accomplish its work in our lives.

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