If You Want Christ's Life, You Get Christ's Death

jim elliot

1 Corinthians 1:18 says, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 

It's like Jim Elliot said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

To us who believe in Jesus, this message is life -it is the power of God! It's the way we live forward and the truth is that the centerpiece, the whole meaning of Jesus' life, is in a cross and a resurrection --a dying and a living!   

The centerpiece to Jesus' whole message is the invitation to a cross so that you may experience your invitation to a resurrection. A whole new life that is impossible apart from the power of God --the dead don't come to life apart from the power God!

"For even the son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." -Mark 10:45

If you want Christ's life, you get Christ's death -you can't have one without the other! The death of Christ has got to be not just something that you and I admire merely from a distance, but that we enter into in a very real and personal way on another level! 

Part of what we suffer is the loss of living self centered and self serving and of looking out for our own interests. We trust that Jesus has our back and that He will serve our interests. Jesus has served your interest in the cross and in the resurrection that he's offering you.

You will be blessed forever and your life on earth will be radically different and better than you imagined! The difference is all in the dying! 

Some of it can be seen, much of it can't, but in the end Jesus will reveal what was true and what was not. What was a fraud and what was authentic. What was a genuine struggle and what was an illusion. And so we die to a dying world that we might live to a new Kingdom that has come!

In Matthew 16:26 Jesus said, "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the son of man is going to come in His Father's glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what he has done."

This life is not all there is --it is quickly passing. The Jesus who came as the bookend of one part of human history is going to come again as the second bookend in human history...and to gain an eternal life, we have to give up a world! 

What part of your world are you struggling to give up? What part of your world is fighting to stay alive and be in charge? I think we would all agree that Jesus' willingness to die made all the difference in the world, but do you understand --so will yours? -Dr. Drew Shofner

You cannot see, without faith, all the possibilities of God!

you cannot see without faith

Just as your physical eye cannot see all the spectrums of light, you cannot see, without faith, all the possibilities of God! So why settle just for what you can see? Why not live for so much more? 

 
The mystery is that there is more to life than what we can see. There are more spectrums to life than the visible eye can see. I still find that hard to believe, I know that it is true, but what it speaks to, is a reality behind what I can see and even what I feel! It really doesn't matter if I feel like ultraviolet light is real or not, it is! 

In the same way, God is here today, though you may not be able to see Him, He is speaking to you in parables to show you a kingdom you cannot see that must become more real to you than a world you can see. For some of you, to personalize this, in your own life all you can see is that you're stuck. The feeling may be that my life will never be more than this. Well, that may be what you can see but it is not what God sees!

In Matthew 16:25, Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?"
 
So Jesus is saying 'if you want to save your life, you lose it. Because only by losing your life, for me, will you ever find your created purpose! Will you ever find what you're longing for...will you ever be who you were made to be...will you ever love like you are longing to love and be loved! Only in me will you find that and to find me you have to give up this!' (Paraphrased)

The truth is, we'd have to be blind not to see the worth of heaven over the world around us! The broken world. A 9-11 world. A world of so much injustice. A world of holocaust. A world of racism. A world of people using one another. A world of theft and lying. A world of using every advantage of power and beauty against other people to lift ourselves up! 

Can we not see how radically cancerous our world apart from God is?
 
If you and I want to make our home in this world, we're free to do that. Jesus offers more, but against that more, there is a power working to keep you stuck in your world. To keep you broken down and to keep you less than. To keep you unhappy, to keep you rooted in your pain, to keep you in every way oppressed and in jail (spiritually speaking). 
 
2 Corinthians 4:4 says, "The God of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God." There is a Kingdom that has come, but that Kingdom is opposed by a God of this age, Satan.

The kingdom of the world and the Kingdom of Heaven are two different economies and what has to be exchanged is the heart and the attachment. 

And so, God wants to give you a Kingdom worth more than the world but there is a worth decision that has to be made. Some of you think that you are worthless, and the truth is there could be no greater lie! God says you're worth more than His own life and so He sacrifices Himself upon the cross, is buried, and on the third day rises again because love will not die! 
 
You are of infinite worth to the Father! You don't have to live your life angry. You don't have to live your life lusting. You don't have to live your life using drugs or people. You don't have to live your life searching for recognition and respect at work because none of that will last forever! 

And so "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field...(Matthew 13:44)" Not everyone is going to see it, and some who do see it will say, "That's not worth much and certainty not worth me giving up everything that I want and everything I've been living for up to this point. No thanks God, that really isn't my treasure, my treasure is elsewhere." And many will see the offer of this Kingdom as something that is just not real. 
 
Some other people will hear this message of Jesus and part of them will say yes to it, but part of them will say "I want the world as well. I want the car but I don't want to give up anything of value to pay for it." And that doesn't work, but I just want to share with you this one simple thing above all else, and that is that the Kingdom only comes to those who let the world go! Why settle, in your life, for just what you can see when the God of parables is seeing so much more and trying to show you so much more? -Dr. Drew Shofner

The goal of God is maturity!

The most powerful things

A topic that often isn't dealt with in churches, is the topic of doubt. No one in the Bible, outside of Jesus, has received higher praise than John the Baptist -and yet John the Baptist struggled, questioned and doubted. And maybe if God affirmed him in his struggle, maybe today God has something to say to you!

John the Baptist had had an amazing effective ministry preaching the coming of the Messiah out in the wilderness, and people had flocked from Jerusalem to hear this prophet speak the truth of God. And for speaking the truth, John was arrested by Herod and thrown into prison and John knew that his day of death was near. Matthew 11:1-3 "After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee." So John sent his disciples when he saw that Christ was near to ask him "Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?" 

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” 

This is an important detail to the conversation at this point because Jesus has something to say about John that He says intentionally after John's disciples have left so that this message does not get back immediately to John. As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: 

What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written:

‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." (Matthew 11:7-11)

What I want to share with you today is 'what it means to trust' and how we deal with doubt and fear and questions. The truth is, that I believe with all of my heart, that struggling through doubt is the heart of trusting! It's the heart of what it means to trust God! Not that we live in the absence of, but in the presence of doubt and questions, struggling through those toward Jesus Christ, we are expressing the highest heart of faith!

Believers throughout the centuries, from the early church fathers have talked about something called 'The Dark Night of the Soul.' - The Dark Night of the Soul is that time when God seems to be in eclipse! When the promises of God seem so far away from the realities of the moment. When God seems so distance and so absent, it is as though you were living in a God eclipse and in that dark, it is cold and it is death dealing and you feel alone and you feel flawed and you're wondering is it God? Is there a God? Is it you? What's wrong with me? But certainly this can't be right!

I want to share with you that everyone experiences a 'Dark night of the Soul'. Hear me, all you who are committed followers of Christ, you need to know that doubt is a normal part of the Christian life! It's an inevitable part of broken people discovering and entering into eternal life while passing through a very broken world! 

Sometimes the experiences in life just seem so much more real than the promises of Jesus and in cultural Christianity, we learn to be dishonest and pretty unreal quickly in our lives but the God of scripture is a God that never leads us to pretend! One of the things that just makes me convinced of the reality of the scripture is just how the people in scripture are revealed. 

I mean Noah after landing in the ark, gets drunk and is lying naked in his tent - well my hero is not like that! King David is committing adultery with a woman and then murders her husband! Well if I'm writing the Bible, I'm kind of editing those parts! And Jesus, my superhero, when He's on the cross, He's not gonna ask any questions! He's God, He has all the answers, He's not gonna cry out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" The very fact that the Bible is so real and so raw and so human and so true, is one of the things that convinces me that this is the revelation of God - this is truth!

So how is it that we've become 'plastic' in gathering as a church? We have this idea that to be a real Christian means that I've got it all together! That I'm not hurting, that I have answers and that life is good because God loving me means that everything is OK - it's not a struggle! 

Guys, I just want to be honest with you and tell you that I've been in many seasons where my soul felt in total eclipse of God.

Chuck DeGroat talks about 'Dark Nights' and he says "Dark nights provoke deep questions." Guys, as followers of Christ in the example of scripture, don't walk away from your questions! Read the book of Job if you want to see how questioning is handled with God...God can handle your questions and He will answer! 

Deep questions deserve deep answers and so often we throw shallow answers into the face of the deep. Don't give shallow answers to deep pain! I know we all want to do that, we all want to fill in the pain, but sometimes the deepest answers are found in a holy silence - in seasons of brokenness and just listening in the presence of God!

Dark nights are both spiritual and psychological. They are spiritual and you have an enemy who is out to destroy you! He feeds off your pain, your tears are his drink! He is intelligent, he is strategic, he watches. He is not all powerful so there's no reason to be afraid of him, I'm just saying let's not be naive, we have an enemy who is actively at work to trip us up, bring us down, to literally destroy us and laugh at us! 

Have you ever been tempted to do something and then after you do it...what's the voice that comes back in? "You idiot! How dumb can you be? You worthless person!" And you're like "you just told me that this would be great and awesome and it's not!" That's your enemy- that's who he is.

There is a profound spiritual basis for the 'Dark Nights of the Soul' for those seasons of struggling and times for questioning where we don't have all the perfect evidence and we're looking through the glass darkly and there is a very spiritual game being played out here. The reality is there are also psychological elements to that and you can't deny that!

The simple truth is, that you will come to a place, or have been in a place, or are in a place where the pain and the dark and the apparent distance of God are so deep that you will struggle and you will question and you will doubt - God does not condemn you for that! 

Jesus said "Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist..." John the Baptist was mature, he knew and yet he still said "are you the one?

Faith is letting Jesus be bigger than your pain. Jesus being more real than the darkness that you feel. It's allowing Jesus Christ to be the light in your darkness! We think sometimes faith means having no darkness, having no struggle, having no pain. No, real faith is struggling through doubt toward Jesus; that is the heart of trusting! You just gotta keep going! Keep moving towards Jesus, because the reality is there is a doubting that is a dialing back and turning away from Jesus and then there is a doubt that is a coming alive and fighting forward and struggling to see Jesus and to move toward him! 

You see the goal of God is maturity - a faith that leans on the infinite glory of Jesus and Jesus Christ alone! That's God's goal for your life - that you trust in Jesus alone! That the issue of your life is not your spouse, it is not your child, not your finances or your health or your past, it is not the fear of your future, the issue of your life is Jesus! Turning to Him, He becomes your foundation, He becomes your trust and though you struggle, you struggle forward in faith successfully - that is the heart of trusting! -Dr. Drew Shofner

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