Our first devotional runs longer than usual, but that’s only fitting. After all, it’s going to take a little time to get to know each other. So let’s start in….
Many Christians today believe—or at least live as if they believed—that Jesus died solely to forgive them; and that because their messes are now cleaned up, they can go on with their lives as if Christ had no further claims upon them. This is, quite simply, not true.
If we’ve truly placed our lives and trust in Jesus, then we are also already under the same death sentence as Jesus. “For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:10–11). We have not died with Christ because we think we have, or because we agree that we have. We—have died—with Christ. Our old life is done. We need to truly realize that, and live in that new reality.
The tough part is living this out on a daily basis—or rather, dying it out. Nonetheless, it’s what Jesus calls us to do: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23–24).
You will never fully become the person God has created you to be until you’ve fully laid down the things that he has not intended you to be. Only by laying it all down and following Jesus will things begin to come clear.
Notice I said “begin.” This laying-down thing takes a lifetime. God will guide us into the next things that require laying down as we’re ready, but we can start now—with the things we know aren’t God’s. Even when we don’t know exactly what new direction God wants to lead us in, we are already called to obey his Word. That, in itself, should keep us pretty busy. And as we do so, we say to God with our lives, “Speak, LORD, for your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:9). When we willingly lay down our old selves and serve God as best we know how, we testify—to God, ourselves, and everyone around us—that we are not the same people we used to be. And in the process, we grow closer to God.
As you discover and trust that God has a better life for you, and follow out that trust, it will become more natural—I won’t say “easier”—to lay down the things that aren’t God’s, and to receive those things that are.
There are any number of powerful stories in the Bible that illustrate this exchanging of our old lives for our new ones. Sometimes even the names themselves change—Abram becomes Abraham, Sarai becomes Sarah, Jacob becomes Israel. Today, let’s look at a couple more Old Testament examples, and then jump almost 1,500 years forward, to another changed man with another changed name….
At eighty years of age, Moses was a fugitive from the law, “a stranger in a strange land” (Exodus 2:22, KJV). He had gone from being miraculously rescued and raised in Pharaoh’s household to a rebel who murdered a fellow Egyptian on behalf of a people who immediately rejected him for it. And now, he seemed destined to live out his days in obscurity in Midian. By most peoples’ measure, Moses was an eighty-year-old failure and would die that way.
But God had other plans.
In Exodus 3, God calls out to Moses from the burning bush. He calls him to lead an entire nation out of slavery and into the land he had already promised them. But before he gives this call, he asks Moses to do something: “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). Moses obeyed. He honored God. And because of that, his life—and the lives of millions—was changed forever.
Fast-forward forty years, to the man who completes the task of bringing the Israelites into the Promised Land. Joshua no doubt knew about Moses’ past, but all he’d actually seen was the man that God had transformed Moses into. From that perspective, Joshua knew he was no Moses.
Then again, for the first eighty years of his life, Moses had been no Moses either.
As Joshua approaches Jericho, the last big hurdle to entering the Promised Land, he too has an encounter with God, and a similar response:
Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so (Joshua 5:14b–15).
The places where we encounter God are holy. For me, that’s not only included both proverbial and literal mountaintops but also gas stations, empty meeting rooms, and my own living room. You have your own experiences. Because we’ve encountered God in these places, they’re special, set-apart places for us. However, it’s not the location itself that’s inherently holy—it’s God’s presence that makes it holy. God is capable of making every place in our lives holy, and he wants to.
Likewise, God calls us to come out of slavery—to our sins, to our selfish desires, even to the good things we have that are nonetheless only a shadow of the better things God wants to give us—and “enter the land” he’s promised us. And he calls us to help others do the same.
Now, let’s fast-forward… to the Last Supper. In the middle of the meal, Jesus does something unusual—he gets up, grabs a towel and a washbasin, and begins washing the disciples’ feet. (It’s safe to assume the sandals have already come off by now, this time around.) Follow what happens next:
Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (John 13:8–9).
Simon—who Jesus renamed Peter—protested, because he knew who he had been, and who in many ways he still was. He knew how unworthy he was of Jesus. But Jesus knew it, too. Furthermore, he knew what would happen later that evening. He knew how badly Peter—and all of the disciples—would fail him. Jesus’ priority wasn’t the disciples’ past, present, and future failings. What mattered most to him, at that moment, was that the disciples take off their sandals and be served—cleansed—by him.
What Jesus says to Peter, and to all of us, is: It doesn’t matter who you’ve been, what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter how big a screw-up you are now—and no doubt will be in the future. What matters is: Will you hand over your life—all of your life, including the screw-ups—to me, so that I can begin this incredible lifelong reclamation project called Your Life in Me?
Jesus came to remove both the eternal separation from God that Satan intended for us, as well as all the temporary separations from God we put in front of ourselves nearly every day. In case the disciples missed the point—and they likely did—an hour or so later Jesus tells them this:
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. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you (John 15:13–16).
This is where a changed life really begins. Especially at first we want, and probably need, to make laying down about the “negative” stuff—the things we know we need to give up for Christ’s sake. That’s why we’re spending most of this first week on those things. However, if we focus only on what we need to give up, it’ll probably never happen. We’re overwhelmed by the task. We know we can’t do it. And to be honest, we really don’t want to give some of it up. For all those reasons and more, we need to grab onto what Jesus promises each of us if we’re willing to lay down everything for him. We need to remember who we are, now—Jesus’ friends. Eternal-life-long friends.
We want to justify ourselves before God, to make ourselves worthy. It will never happen. It can never happen. So let go of it. The good news is: Jesus has made us worthy. He has cleansed us. He has laid down his life for us. Jesus has chosen us because he has chosen us. Because of Jesus, that is enough.
Lay It Down Today
Got shoes on? Take them off. (Or wait for a time when you can do this later on.) Reflect on those places where you know God has already met you, and thank him again for those encounters.
Then, pray a prayer of consecration—something like: “Lord, you have created everything and everything was created to be holy, separated unto you. I want to honor you everywhere I put down my feet, starting in this place. Help me to let go of the person I’ve been, so that I might become the person you intend for me to be.”
Then, don’t forget you prayed this. Watch what God does with this prayer in the weeks to come. Write down any additional thoughts or prayers.