I can guarantee this truth: A single grain of wheat doesn’t produce anything unless it is planted in the ground and dies. If it dies, it will produce a lot of grain (much fruit). John 12:24 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. Galatians 2:20
“Sanka you dead, mon?” It’s my favorite quote from Cool Runnings. Every time the bobsled turns over they ask this poor guy if he’s dead. Well, I feel like this pretty much describes my daily life. I go around asking people if they’re dead yet. Really dead. Let me explain.
In 2016, I went from supermom with a great job, to a blubbering, helpless mess riddled with panic attacks and anxiety. I was a disaster. Jesus healed me by inviting me to be with Him in His presence every day and about a year later I was free. I tell that story in more detail here. But what I realized as I sat with Him is that part of the anxiety (meaning “divided mind“) was that I was trying to live like a Christian but I couldn’t fully. Not really. Because I had never completely died.
Death comes before life. You have to decide to die completely before you can be filled fully and come alive with Jesus. How much of you have you surrendered to Jesus? Actually. How much territory of your heart has been yielded? Honestly.
I was always taught that God made me unique and beautiful to use me for His glory. I always thought God would USE my natural gifts, my personality, so my job was to figure out how to serve Him in those giftings and natural proclivities. I genuinely desired God’s glory because I knew I was supposed to! Plus I loved Him genuinely. But there was something under the surface that scared me. A LOT. At the same time I wanted His glory, I also desired my recognition, success, security, safety, fame, and legacy. BECAUSE, I told myself, if I get a platform then I will honor God from that position of visibility.
This is such a cultural lie. And we keep promoting it. Look how these don’t line up:
FALSE GOSPEL: Follow your dreams. God wants to promote you and elevate you and make you better and influential at what you do so you can bring people to Him and bring Him glory. So try really hard to be the best so He can use you!
TRUE GOSPEL: Obey Jesus. Follow Him and begin by seeking His agenda, His Kingdom. Lay down your nets, your gifts, your money, your land, your family and follow me. Go lower, become like powerless children, rely on the Father, serve the poor, orphan and widow, wash feet, feed the lambs. So try really hard to be unseen, to pray in secret, to seek and save the lost, to go to desolate places, to love greatly, to give your life away.
These two things do not go together. They just don’t.
Stop trying to make them. You have to die before you find out who you are actually meant to be as a person made in the image of God. Stop trying to hang on to the things about yourself that you find precious. You will never find life. This is not self-hate, but coming into the fullest understanding of how much you are desired.
Lay it all down. And die completely. In the words of my friend Don, you only die once. So let’s talk about the things that need to die:
#1 YOUR SIN
You must die to sin! That’s why Jesus ALWAYS said, “go and sin no more.” If you are not willing to die to sin, you cannot enter the Kingdom. Jesus says you must be holy as God is holy. If you have not decided to do this, stop here and do just that. It is a decision of the will and living it out practically is a matter of determined reliance on the Holy Spirit at EVERY instance of temptation. Why doesn’t He just kill the desire? Because He desires our reliance. One day the desire will be gone or at least greatly diminished as a result of your constant training in obedience. The desires of your heart will be rewritten by the Holy Spirit, not on hearts of stone, but of soft flesh. You will be circumcized in your heart and completely His, in the new covenant of Jesus’ blood.
#2 YOUR MIND, NATURAL GIFTS, AND PERSONALITY
The hardest for me. I was ok dying to sin because I could obviously see that as a “bad thing.” But I was trained in middle school in the self-esteem trend of the 90’s. Then I was an ENFP in college. Then I was an enneagram 4. Wow. How entrenched does our love and interest of self become through “harmless” curriculum or personality tests. By the time I was 30, I had just finally grown to love and accept my personality. My talents/gifts of music and songwriting and teaching, the way I could seem to intuitively understand people, my confidence in my view of the world which was so “biblically-sound,” my intelligence (PhD in hand), my “goofy switch”, my sarcastic sense of humor, my childlikeness, my quick wit, my artistic brooding, my mysteriousness, my cool demeanor, my boldness, my perseverance and endurance. Wow. God was really going to be able to use that. When God asked me to lay down my mind, natural gifts, and personality, I was floored!
“But God,” I said, “Why do you want me to surrender the parts of me that are good and the things that make me unique?” Then I heard His voice.
“Who are you to decide what is good. Only I am good. I am offering to replace your natural gifts and nature with mine. Are you saying that your personality is better than mine?” (Mark 10:18, Colossians 3:12, James 3:17)
Well, yes, I guess I did genuinely think my personality was better than Jesus (meekness rarely seems attractive at first). So that day I laid my giftings, intellect, and personality down and asked Him to let His person come alive in me, through the intimacy that comes from Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, and the training of obedience. Then he showed me that my pride in my biblical worldview was the religion of the Pharisees, my sarcasm and quick wit were actually jaded self-protection, and my “artistic brooding” was a decision to stay in dark places, when I needed to live in light. That was just the start.
What about you? What do you value about your personality? Are you willing to surrender the bad and the good as you assess them? What if He has better gifts awaiting you? Gifts that would actually showcase His glory in your weakness? (1 Corinthians 2)
#3 WELL-BEING, FUTURE PLANS, AND FINANCIAL SECURITY
You’ve been told that God has plans to prosper and not harm you your whole life. But what if the route to your “good” future may include pain, poverty, suffering, rejection, and even physical death? Paul was thirsty, beaten, hungry, homeless, imprisoned, and finally killed. Are you ready for that? Also, do you think you are following best practices to make a five or ten-year plan? Where is that in scripture? Jesus, Moses, Paul, Abraham, David, Gideon, Samuel, Noah modeled a step by step following of God even within a broader vision of His purposes, HIS goals. If your plans and hopes for the future include your riches and optimal health, you need to realize the lie that the enemy is probably trying to tell you-“I am blessed if I am healthy and prosperous and I am not if I do not have those things.” Do you want to know why He is withholding information about your future? Because He wants intimacy with you. He wants you to need Him. Let Him discipline and draw and allure your heart by asking Him for only next steps.
#4 YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
You’ve been told that good relationships will form if you follow Jesus. But He came to bring a sword. He came to separate families. He was called a madman by His brothers and mothers. Are you ready to follow this kind of Messiah? Some of your most treasured relationships will not be able to stand your choice to start obeying Jesus’s command to make disciples of all nations. By the way, did you know this is your calling as a kingdom worker? You calling is not a mysterious thing. You don’t have to find it. You just hear the call looking for the available, the listening, the usable. And you go! Not all your relationships will not survive this kind of radical obedience. Will you die that death?
Why doesn’t He heal all your relationships now? Because He wants intimacy with you. He wants to train your heart to rely on His comfort and and love, and He will give you people who also rely on Him in this way so you won’t be alone in your devotion.
#5 YOUR DREAMS, PROJECTS, AND LEGACY
You’ve been told that you need to leave a legacy by doing great things. Some of you want to leave a legacy “for God” by doing great things “for Him.” Both of those ideals are misguided. You may start out with a vision, noble ideals, but by the time you get there, you will have given up too much integrity (wholeness) in a race for a trophy/title/platform, and you will have gained a great fear of man instead. You will have no real kingdom influence if you go out to gain riches and recognition and influence. God might place you on a platform if you are tested and practiced in humility and have proven yourself ready to handle attention and recognition. Also. He might not. You know how he trains people for Kingdom leadership? Not through leadership conferences and degrees. He trains people for Kingdom leadership in Prison (Daniel, Joseph), Caves (David, Elijah), Exile (Moses, Zephaniah), Wilderness (Jesus, people of Israel), Crosses (Jesus, Peter, You). You ready for all that?
God does not need your initiative or legacy. He is zealous for His own name. He needs your attention, your ears, your obedience. He wants you to partake in HIS legacy and HIS glory. Be brave and reassess your projects! Are they God’s projects? Or are they your projects? Or worse and even more deceitful, are they human projects labeled “for God”?
Here’s the offer. Take up His project–the Kingdom taking over the hearts of man. Not because of you being trained to be in an influential job or ministry, but because you have yielded to the way of Jesus and prioritized what He told you to. Make disciples. Take up a towel to serve the poor, the lost, and the sick. The call has gone out and He is simply looking for the available and obedient. Take up your cross. Follow Him. Make disciples. By this you will be leaving the legacy of Christ. This means you leave yours legacy behind.
Maybe you sell out to your God and He will honor you. Or maybe you will end this life crucified to a tree or torn apart by wild animals. Are you ok with that? If everyone forgets you, but remembers God changing their lives, are you ok with that? Can you die that death of legacy?
So then what do I do? If all that is dead, then who am I? What do I do with myself? The answer is simple but you might not like it.
You are just simply “Christ in you the hope of glory” And isn’t that what you thought you were? Yes, but you weren’t dead yet.
How do you get there?
Know what He wants. Here it is: He wants to know you and be known by you. He wants to be united with you in intimate love. Repent of your sins and do the one thing necessary–sit at His feet. and listen to Him. That’s where the glory happens, in the mutual enjoyment of you and God being together! You die, and He comes and fills you and, in doing so, He utterly fulfills you and you find out who you were always meant to be. Don’t worry. On the other side of this death is GLORY!
Sanka, you dead mon? Yeah.