(As many of you already know, I’m in a[nother] period of transition here. So, as I restructure—and as I rework the first draft of the next book—thought I’d reintroduce said book here. And if you’re new to all this and like where it’s going, feel free to wander back through the archives. So enjoy, as I regain my bearings in a variety of ways….)
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:13-14).
We read the words in John 15, and take great comfort in the fact that Jesus laid down His life for us, His friends. But if we truly belong to Jesus, guess what? Then He’s our friend, too. If we belong to Jesus, we too are to take up our crosses and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). Re-read the passage above with that in mind, and follow the implications.
“…And you know the way to where I am going” (John 14:4).
The idea of laying down our lives for Christ’s sake may seem impossible, but it’s not just an idea—it’s our calling. In fact, it’s our life-long calling—and beyond. It’s not only foundational; it’s eternal. It’s how we first came to Jesus, and it’s how Jesus continues to shape our will in union with His. It is salvation; it is sanctification; and it is the totality of eternal life in Jesus. Our lives have to move from being of Christ or for Christ to being “in Christ” (Romans 8:1, et al.) to the point where finally our life “is Christ” (Philippians 1:21, et al.).
Therefore, within these pages you’ll find some pretty heavy ideas being… well, laid down here. And why not? This is your life we’re talking about, and about laying down every piece of it for the glory of God. There’s nothing more important than that. It’s not easy. Quite the contrary: It’s the hardest thing you’ll even have to do. And if you do it right, you’ll get to do it every day for the rest of your life.
In some ways, this is meant to be a very practical book. But it’s not all about doing. Before that, and along with that, each of us is called to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). We are called to become the new person Christ intends each of us to be, and to understand that each of us is a new person.
The challenge for me, as writer—and for you, as reader—is to avoid compartmentalizing these things into stages, steps, 10 easy ways, etc. And because this is a book with a beginning, middle, and end, I’m presenting a certain structure and sequence to make it easier to understand. But the fact is, God doesn’t compartmentalize—because He doesn’t change. Repentance and grace go hand-in-hand. Obedience and freedom go hand-in-hand. Inner discipline and outward service go hand-in-hand. Walking in the Spirit and loving our fellow human beings go hand-in-hand. And we stumble away from God’s will for us when we try to separate these things.
Furthermore: Laying it down is not just about releasing our bad stuff, but offering up everything “good” we have to God. Jesus, the ultimate good, offered Himself up for us. Who are we to do less—and why do we think the ultimate results would not be as glorious? “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).
Many equate laying down with giving up—specifically, with being a quitter. In some ways that’s true—for example, as when God calls us to quit the sins and/or idols in our lives. But as we venture further with Jesus, laying down becomes less about ceasing some activity we’re doing, sinful or otherwise, and more about a different kind of giving up—the surrendering of everything we do to Christ. It doesn’t mean we’ll stop doing the good things we surrender to Him, but it does mean that we give up control of those things to Jesus, so He can direct them, so that His will can be done.
Therefore, we don’t stop working, but we “work… for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). We’re still parents and children and spouses, but our priority becomes glorifying God in those relationships rather than pleasing ourselves, or even that spouse or parent or child. We still use our gifts and talents, but we do it to serve God fully and not just for ego fulfillment—even, or maybe especially, in the context of “doing God’s work.” We still receive amazing blessings from God, but we learn to immediately place them back in God’s hands, knowing that even the people and things we love most were given to us for His purposes, and that our joy must rest in that rather than in His gifts.
So let’s get ready to Lay It Down.