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’re 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 to live in that new reality.
The tough part is living this out—or rather, dying it out—on a daily basis. 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’re already called to obey his Word. That, in itself, should keep us pretty busy. And as we do so, our lives say to God, “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 his.
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. Let’s first 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—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 untold millions—was changed forever.
Fast-forward forty years, to the man who completes Moses’ 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. And 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 included not only 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.
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 too, 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.
(to be continued….)