by Bruce Weatherly
Philippians 3:10, 11 – I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Matthew 16:23-25 – Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him “deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Philippians 2:13 – “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”
What was Peter’s great sin and error? Jesus said he had in mind the things of man instead of the things of God. Peter was focused on living…Jesus on dying. Peter was focused on the good life…Jesus on real life. Peter was focused on living for Jesus, the victory ahead, how Jesus was going to become King and Peter and the other eleven would be “livin large”, powerful and ruling with Him. Jesus was focused on dying.
Well-meaning, well-intentioned, ignorant of the facts, unknowingly still prideful Christians are focused on living. Disciples are focused on dying. Well-intentioned, still prideful Christians are focused on and talking about living for Jesus to accomplish things for Him. Disciples are focused on and talk about dying for Jesus. Well-intentioned still prideful Christians secretly believe they must do it for Him. Disciples know He can and will fill them and live through them, because they really believe and count upon the fact that He lives in them. Well-intentioned still prideful Christians focus on and talk about “commitment.” Disciples focus on and talk about “surrender.”
A disciple is dying daily so he or she can “know Christ.” He is daily going through an inward dying to self so Jesus can live through. “Self” is whatever part of me still lives that, knowingly or unknowingly, exercises itself in opposition to, apart from or instead of Christ. Simply put, self is whatever is not Christ. Self goes deep.
A disciple is one who has taken up his cross and is following Him. A disciple is dying daily, surrendering, letting go of control, at increasingly deeper and deeper levels of his being so he can “gain Christ”, so he can “know Him”, glorying in “the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attain the resurrection from the dead.”
A disciple knows that death brings life, like a kernel of wheat falling to the ground. A disciple knows that the indwelling Holy Spirit always fills space created by brokenness. He longs to come to the place and looks forward to being able to say with Paul, “and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Paul meant this experientially. It is the birthright of every Christian.
To “attain the resurrection from the dead” is to come to know, as much as is possible in this life, experiential union with Christ; to know experientially, by grace through faith, what we already have positionally. This is accomplished through knowing the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, i.e. dying to self; through brokenness, dying to all that is in me that is not Him.
Following Him along this painful path, we gain Him, and that makes it all worth it. Well-intentioned still prideful Christians don’t like this. They want to stay in control. Disciples glory in it, love Him and want to die more so they can have more of Him.
If we are to go on with God, we must come to the place of this shift; we must come to the place of focusing on dying instead of living. Jesus died so we could live. All He asks of us is to return the favor. We are not disciples until we do so.
“We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Corinthians 4:10-12).
It is through dying that we “somehow” find life, and give it to others. The “somehow” is because we no longer live, but Christ lives in us.
Bruce Weatherly, Licensed Psychologist, Regional Director of Safe Harbor Christian Counseling, Mid Pennsylvania Region