Freedom is not free.
Our nation recently celebrated its 245th Independence Day. If you are like most Americans you probably commemorated our freedom from the tyranny of British rule with a BBQ, maybe decked your house out with American flags, and of course, fireworks. While the day is overwhelmingly about fun and celebration, deep down we are all aware of the somber undertones and the reverential appreciation due to the countless early Americans who were so strong in their convictions and so desperate in their desire for freedom that they were willing to lay down their lives to gain it.
The concept of death to gain freedom is the bedrock of what it means to be an American and it is one that resonates among Christians too. We ruminate with awe and wonder over what was accomplished by Jesus’s sacrifice and we willingly accept His offering so that we can have eternal life. But why is it so difficult to lay down our own lives to benefit from the freedom from sin and death that He won for us?
Perhaps that is also explained by the fact that out of 33 million eligible Americans, each year only 136,000 will sign up to join the military and continue to defend the freedom others gave the ultimate sacrifice to gain. Appreciating the hard work someone else put in is easy-putting aside your own comfort, safety and desires to maintain it is quite another.
All believers easily appreciate the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross, but how many are willing to do the same? The Bible is very clear, we are to be “doers of the Word” and the Word says we must die to ourselves- that’s what it takes to be a follower of Jesus. But, it’s not a call for all of us to become martyrs, so what does dying to self mean?
Jesus’s disciples called Him Rabbi and Teacher, but this Jewish concept is hard for us Westerners to understand. It doesn’t mean they merely spent their days listening to His parables while eating unleavened bread. These men left their jobs, homes and families to learn how to BE like Jesus. They studied everything He did: how He walked, talked, ate, slept, prayed, thought, how He dealt with people, how He made decisions, how he dressed, how he handled money, what things He cared about and what His order of importance was…. and they devoted their lives to unbecoming themselves and becoming Jesus so that when people saw them, they would be looking at their teacher. THAT is what dying to self is, but in today’s culture of, “I’m doing me” and “I was born this way”, the idea of actively working on un-becoming yourself to become another person in thought and action is almost too foreign. But that’s the call! Our freedom wasn’t free, it came at a heavy cost- and while we celebrate Easter and Christmas and get together on Sunday’s to sing songs- in between those times should be marked by an active and intentional pursuit to study Christ through the Word and prayer to become like Him. We want to listen to our music, watch our shows, buy our food and clothes, and hang out with our friends, and all of that is well and good, IF it is what our teacher, our Rabbi would be doing.
Asking ourselves, “what would Jesus do” before anything and everything is a daunting task but if we are doing anything that is not His way we are not dying to self. If that sounds too difficult to do on your own, that’s because it is. Thankfully, we have the Word and the Holy Spirit available to us, to guide us and minister to us when…
- Temptation comes: “ No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
- We fall short: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
- We lose our focus: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
- When it gets hard: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Luke 10:28-30
Dying to self to gain Christ is the war to end all wars, and it is fought one-on-one, every second of every day on the battlefield of your life. The mission is clear, the cost is high, but the reward is far greater than 245 years of not having tea drinking as a national pastime. Heaven, our homeland, is waiting for us to be victorious in our battle.
- Mark 8:36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
- 1 Timothy 6:12 “Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.”
- Malachi 3:-6-17 “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem His name. “They will be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.”