Wednesday, February 11, 2015

February 11 – A beautiful death

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones. O Lord, surely I am Your servant, I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid, You have loosed my bonds.  (Psalm 116:15 HCSB)

This promise seems to contradict the rest of the chapter. The psalmist is praising God time and again for having saved him from death. Why would God see the death of His godly ones as precious, when He just took so much pain to rescue one of them from the jaws of death?  

The answer is all over the Bible, especially in the New Testament when Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.” (John 12:24-25) This is the death that is so precious to God – the death of our selfish desires, our flesh, our insistence on being in control, the death of our past and all that we once were. When Jesus says go or stop, persevere or change directions, wait or fight, we obey because our flesh is as dead as a grain of wheat in the ground, but our spirit becomes alive in Christ.  

If you were baptized in water, you were reenacting your death. It was a symbol of your burial, and also a symbol of your resurrection as you came out of the water to become a new creation. But there are lots of people who have gone through the ritual of baptism, and their old selves are still alive and kicking. Nothing died, even though they took some nice pictures and shed a few emotional tears at the time. But real death is permanent. The old self not only stays in the grave, he decays. This may sound macabre, but it’s a deep truth that is precious, beautiful and holy.

Then the psalmist says that though he is a servant, and a son of a servant, unworthy of love or honor, his bonds (or chains as it says in the Orthodox Jewish Bible) are now loosed. When we die, when we chose the life of a servant, chains that once bound us are no longer there. We become truly free. So the promise is: die and become precious and of great worth, be a servant and simultaneously be set free.  

These paradoxes confound those who are fearful of letting God be their Lord. They just can’t bring themselves to surrender to the point of death, and they don’t want to hear about it. They’d prefer to imagine a God who just blesses them because they’re good, a God that would never demand so much of them. They become angry at the thought that entry into the Kingdom of Heaven would come at such a high price. They may give lip service to the Bible, but when it really comes down to it, they don’t believe His promises of loosed chains, abundance, joy, peace, wisdom and power to overcome, and so they don’t believe that He is worth dying for.  

If you say you believe, don’t just go halfway. Believe it all. Go the distance and die today to your selfish control and selfish desires. Then see how beautiful your new life becomes in His Kingdom, and how powerfully His Spirit works in you when He finally is given Lordship over your life. 

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