Using Your Strength to Die

Dear Jack,

Lydia and I visited Life Church, a new church that recently launched and is meeting at the Lancaster Convention Center.  The rest of this letter is going to pretty much be a copyright infringement of the sermon covered by Pastor Jason this past Sunday, and I highly encourage you to listen to his original words (Legacy: Part 4).  Here’s my own recap and ideas of how to apply it to my life.

The context is that Life Church just wrapped up a four week sermon series on Legacy, with the idea of asking ourselves “What do we want to be remembered for?”  Sunday’s sermon was geared toward men and challenged us to ask ourselves that question – and to summarize it into one word.  Patient?  Busy?  Loving?  Absent?  Providing?  Selfish?  Fun?

[Spoiler notice]  Jason basically said we should strive to be remembered as one who died.  As in dying to ourselves.  Dying to our selfishness, dying to our own desires.  Dying so that those around us can live.  So that our wives can live.  So that our children can live.  So that our employees and clients can live.  So that our neighbors can live.

He said that men are created strong (physically, emotionally, intellectually, etc.) so that we can die.  And to do the hard things necessary, which require strength,  so that we can die.

What a strange paradox.  And the Christian life, I find out more and more, is all about strange paradoxes.

Jason moved on to say that there are three areas we are to use our strength to die: in family, in church, and in the city (community).  Briefly, I’ll share some of the ways I think I can apply this “self death” to my own contexts.

Family.  Putting aside my ideas on how the back yard should be organized, or the refrigerator for that matter.  Not zoning out and playing Playstation or watching TV or even reading at the sacrifice of helping Lydia do household chores.  Taking interests in the things that interest Lydia.  Confronting parents and in-laws about tension-causing issues instead of being passive and hoping things will get better.  Finding ways to fuel Lydia’s passions instead of ways to extinguish them.  Purchase quality kitchen utilities instead of skimping for the sake of frugality.  Getting up to check on Adrianna if she cries during the night before Lydia can check on her.

Church.  Using work vacation days to do local (or non-local) mission work.  Getting up early to meet with others for fellowship or accountability.  Sacrificing free evenings to lead Bible studies.  Getting to Sunday services early to greet visitors.  Staying late after Sunday services to help clean up.

City.  Not bee-lining from the car to the front door when a neighbor is out front of their home.  Crossing the street to say hi to a stranger.  Writing a note of encouragement to someone who lost a loved one.  Taking trash cans back towards the alley if a neighbor forgets to.  Parking far away so someone else can park close.  Choosing to be honest with a client in confronting a bad behavior instead of assuring him it will all work out, when I know it won’t.

None of these are things I do exceptionally well – in fact, most I don’t do well at all with.  But it’s what I’m striving to do better at.

And then Jason closes his sermon with the most encouraging message: we have eternal hope to accomplish this “self death” because we have Jesus, and we can fix our eyes on him to give us the inspiration, motivation, or discipline we need.

John 19 is the passage where Pilate tells the crowds “Behold the man,” displaying Jesus as a beaten, bloody, purple-robed, crown-thorn-wearing broken body.  And Jesus, if there’s one thing I’m sure of, is God.  If God used his strength to suffer and die, so that we all can ultimately live, then I certainly can use my own strength to put aside my selfishness for a time.  It’s not to promise that I always will succeed – but at least I can try and I have access to the power to do so.

Find ways that you can, and need, to die to yourself.  It’s such a strange idea, and yet it resonates so soundly within my heart.  It sounds crazy, but maybe that’s not all that bad of a thing.  It’s definitely counter-culture.  Till next time, Jack.

Sincerely,
J.

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2 thoughts on “Using Your Strength to Die”

  1. For me the hardest part of dying to self is saying “no” to church and city because my family is my first priority. It’s easier to go to a meeting and leave my wife with the kids than risk the judgments of man because I’m not at this SO IMPORTANT meeting. But we aren’t called to do what is easier; we are called to obey the leading of our Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep. So why do I care so much about what other sheep think?

  2. Yeah… priorities are tough. Something I’ve been wrestling with for awhile is finding the right “balance” …. but I think that search is in vain. The pursuit of balance is good, but to think we have arrived at a balanced life is only self-deceiving, I think.

    Rather than balance, I’ve been trying to seek harmony, and that’s something I think is a bit more attainable. I can’t use a spreadsheet to measure my hours spent with family, church, and city – but I can ask myself tough questions about the relationships in each of those categories.

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