Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I think the older I get the more I realize how desperate I am for Jesus. It's sometimes even difficult for me to really enter into worship because I'm constantly aware of my selfish thoughts and prideful heart.

The best I can do is to fall on my knees and beg God for mercy. My hope is that, somehow, He will change my heart and work that miracle where I am mysteriously transformed into the image of Christ.

Until that day, I am simply broken.

Maybe that's why I was drawn to this verse in 2 Corinthians last week?

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us." (2 Cor. 4:7)

How true this is. There is nothing good in me. The more I know myself the more amazed I am that God could love me. Yet, I don't doubt His love. I've experienced it hour by hour, day by day, every second of my life. His love is constant and completely undeserved. That's why they call it "Amazing", because there's no other word for a love so strong and a price so high for a people so flawed and broken - Amazing.

Recently I had to confess to my church family that I felt like I was going through the motions. The reason why I wasn't connecting with God, or loving others the way I'm supposed to, is rooted in fear. Mainly, fear of being hurt again.

About two years ago, a man I had befriended died of bone cancer. He was homeless, alone, and far from God. I did everything I knew how to do to show him the love of Jesus, and in the end I'm not entirely sure I succeeded in this attempt.

That experience has left me fearful of putting myself out there again. So, I've slowly retreated more and more into my comfort zone and closed myself off from the needs and struggles of others.

The word "compassion" means "to suffer with" and frankly, the last thing I want to do right now is to suffer with anyone else ever again. So, I've kept people at arms length. I've pulled back into my little safety zone and wrapped myself in layers to protect my heart from ever hurting again.

But, I know that's not my calling. I know that's not God's will for my life. I know that following Jesus means laying down everything and enduring the pain of death in my flesh so that the life of Christ can change me from within. In fact, in that same verse above, Paul says as much:

"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh." (2 Cor. 4:8-11)

What's so beautiful is how my church family responded to this confession. They surrounded me and placed their hands on my shoulders and arms and head, and they prayed over me the most healing words of hope and restoration.

One brother was reminded of Jesus, in the Garden, kneeling before the Father and asking that, if it were possible, that the cup of crucifixion be removed. Nevertheless, Jesus was resolved to follow through with his mission and ended by saying, "Not my will, but yours be done."

And that's really what this is all about, isn't it? Living for Jesus means experiencing the death of our flesh, which, by the way, is quite painful. Yet, we are not allowed to shrink back from this suffering simply because it hurts. Our calling is to follow Jesus, and following Him means taking up our own cross, much as He picked up His long before we were born, and stepping forward into the path of obedience to share in His sufferings, so that we can also share in His life.

As Paul concludes:

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Cor 4. 16-18)

What God has been constantly reminding me of lately is that my focus needs to be more on what I am gaining and less on what I am letting go of. In other words, my focus has been too much on the idea of dying to self and not enough on the idea of living in Christ.

I had lunch with a dear brother in Christ a few weeks ago, and this perspective shift was highlighted for me in an interesting way. We were both talking about this idea of needing to die to ourselves and let go of earthly things in order to follow Jesus. My response to all of this was, "It's sometimes hard to follow through with what God expects of us" and my friend's response was, "Not just what He expects of me, but what He wants to give me and what new blessings He has for me to enjoy."

That was it. My friend's focus was on the joyous treasures of the Kingdom. My eyes were on the things I needed to give up and let go of.

So, if you're one of those people who is praying for me, I'd ask for your prayers to simply be that I could experience this slight, but very necessary, shift in perspective from the worthless things I must surrender to God, to the glorious treasures that are found in Christ Jesus our Lord.



co_heir said...

I was going through the same sort of thing earlier this year after the disastrous end of a friendship with a person my wife and I thought we were touching with the love of Jesus. I was pretty much obsessed with the idea of dying to self, to the extent that I forgot about the fact that it is Jesus living in me. The Father has taught me in the last few months that while I do need to die daily, my focus needs to be on Jesus living in me.

Jeremy Norton said...

I'll pay for you.