Life and death stand in stark contradiction to each other. The thought of dying so that you can live is a contradiction that surpasses many other spiritual paradoxes. Our mind and body is designed with a natural instinct called self preservation where it doesn’t want to die, but once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.
When I was a young kid I jumped into a pool because I thought I had mastered my two days of swim lessons. I quickly learned that I swam about as good as a rock. I flailed about with all my strength fighting against the waters trying to stay afloat, but kept submerging and came close to drowning.
Thankfully my brother was close by, and pulled me out and threw me on the deck beside the pool. Even though my swimming ability has greatly increased since then, I now see that when faced with death we will do whatever we can to stay alive because it’s hardwired into us.
There’s a battle that rages everyday between the flesh and the spirit (Galatians 5:17). The flesh or the ‘self’ will do anything and everything it can to stay alive against the Spirit, but once you learn to die, you learn how to live.
I picked up this particular line from Tuesday’s With Morrie, and knew the instant I read it there was depth beyond measure to it’s words. Tim McGraw reiterated these same sentiments in his 2004 hit, “Live Like You Were Dying.”
There is something about death and finality that causes us to live with more fervor.
Jesus, Paul, And Death
No doubt before any modern day writer or singer presented the idea of dying in order to live, Christ laid the foundation. He told us parables of the wheat falling to the ground to die in order to live unto multiplication.
He told us if we would follow Him we have to take up the cross and deny ourselves. The very idea of taking up a cross means more than just a burden. It is the very symbol for death.
Paul builds on the foundation set by Christ in Galatians 2:20,
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
He starts by saying I have been crucified with Christ. This signifies his death. He continues on to discuss the life he now lives by faith.
But, wait, if he is crucified with Christ and died how is he now living?
Once we learn how to die, we learn how to live.
Paul gives us two important points about crucifixion here.
- We were in Christ from before the foundations of the world (Eph. 1:4). We were crucified with Him when he died.
- We also must crucify our flesh unto him daily. Why do we have to die over and over?
DL Moody said it best,
The problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar.
If you desire to have the most meaningful life, and live by Christ’s life, you have to kill the flesh… everyday. They are in constant contradiction. When our flesh dies, the Spirit lives.
It won’t be easy. Remember when I said we have a hardwiring for self-preservation? Same rule applies to the flesh against the spirit. The self-life will try to crawl off the altar.
The flesh will try to pretend that it can still live, and do the “right things.”
It will try and convince you it’s “not that bad.”
The flesh may even rear its ugly head and attempt to throw you into the depths of sin.
Don’t fall for any of the tricks.
How do we crucify the flesh?
The Crucified Life, comes through the altar, the fire, and death.
The altar is metaphorical for any place you can make prayer and consecration in your life. This can be at an altar in a church building, beside your bed, at your desk, or even in your car.
I’m sure people think I’m crazy, because I tend to pray in my car on my commute to work, and there are times when I get pretty enthusiastic. This is my altar.
You have to pray as David prayed,
Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful [sinful] way in me. – Psalm 139:23-24
This prayer is to expose sin, to expose the flesh, and bring it to the light. When it is brought to light, it can then go in the fire.
God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). The purpose of fire is to refine. Fire burns away the dross and the chaff in order to bring purity. That’s why Paul tells us our work will be tested by fire (1 Cor. 3:13). The meaningless stuff is going to be burned up, and the valuable things of Christ will be all that remains.
Those meaningless things are anything produced by the self-life within you.
When we learn how to die, and put to death anything that is not of the life of Christ, we will truly learn how to live. When we allow the dross and chaff of our life to be consumed by fire, to be put to death, then we will be fully alive.
Jesus said I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) But that abundance of life only comes when we can say with Paul “not I, but Christ,” and with John, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
The more we decrease, the more we learn to die; and the more we learn to die, the more He lives.