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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dying to Live for Christ

I have often wondered why some preachers are enormously successful while others shepherd their flocks with the utmost care and have very little to show for it. Many of them are fired by their congregations and go through terrible persecutions from people who call themselves Christians.

Well, first I think we have to define success if we are going to get to the root of the answer. Success should be defined as fruitfulness. This fruit should be seen in the fruit of the Spirit in the one serving the Lord and in those who are being discipled by this one. Fruitfulness is also seen in those who give their lives to Christ. These two things do not mean that the Lord's servants will avoid being fired or persecuted. In fact, they just might ensure it.

My own experience and the Lord's leading takes me to a verse in John:

John 12:24-25 (ESV) 24 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. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Many people think that Jesus was merely talking of Himself. They claim this is only a reference to the Cross. I don't think so. Why would He continue speaking of it in the next verse? He is giving a principle that applies to Himself going to the Cross and to His followers. These two verses describe the necessary action which must accompany the fruitful follower of Christ. He must die to himself if the seed is ever to bring true fruitfulness.

This is foreign to many who follow Christ. Their following is, at best, a hobby. They work on it when they get a chance and the results are not the same as those who are professional. Many professional musicians die to their lives away from music in order to transcend what others can't see as possible. They do not make it a hobby as the one who plays the piano for their own personal enjoyment. This is true of Olympic athletes or artists or anyone who goes beyond what seems humanly possible.

But the Christian life is far beyond practice which repeats over and over the same piece of music or the same athletic move until it becomes a part of the performer. The servant of Christ dies to himself so clearly that he hates his life. Hating his life means that he denies what the appears to be normal and necessary for fulfillment in this world. Dying to this life means that the life he lives no longer responds to what the world says is pleasure.

It is this death and the hating of this life that the servant of Christ becomes immeasurably fruitful. It happens in his life and in those he brings to Christ. The problem is that most people who call themselves ministers are treating their ministries as a hobby. They have a modicum of success just as someone who plays a piano for their own enjoyment. They may even get to perform for a small group someday but they will never pack Carnegie Hall.

On the other hand, I would be remiss to say that dying to self is something that can be done easily. Everything in me screams how I want to be famous, rich, esteemed and self-satisfied. Yet, this will never produce the type of success that Jesus wants to have in my life. He wants me to be where He is. He wants me to die to myself so that I can really live.

I guess the best I can say is that I am working on it. I have to die today if I am to really live. I am to die today if I am to show people who Jesus really is. I am to die today if I am to allow the Spirit to bring the fruit in my life. I am to die today if I am to urge others to have this fruit in their lives.

I must die today. . .  and get ready tonight to die tomorrow.




2 comments:

high-expressions.blogspot.com said...

To please God, and to die to self, in order to live for God, are NOT easy stuff to embrace; we all have some sort of Achilles’ heel we struggle with; I have NOT arrived, I still have a long, long way to go.

Jesus has shown us the excellent example. He only wanted (while He lived on earth) to please the Father God (He always said He was to do the will of the Father); and He died to Himself, in order to live for the Father God. In Scripture, we saw the man-side of Jesus, the pain and anguish of a person who would NOT abandon the cause of the Father God, even when He knew He was soon due to go to the Cross, at the prime of His earthly life.

Jesus shown us the way, dying to live for the Father (God), and we, now, being His disciples, are to carry on the same ethos; in our case, we are to die to live for Christ. What are we to do to carry on? I like how Ps Prentis puts it – “Success should be defined as fruitfulness. This fruit should be seen in the fruit of the Spirit in the one serving the Lord and in those who are being discipled by this one. Fruitfulness is also seen in those who give their lives to Christ.

Again, I like to say that the Word is consistent, but it is ugliness of men’s hearts that seek to pervert the will of God. In the last entry, the entry before this, we have seen that God’s will is that we be saved for good works (Eph 2:10), and one of the purposes of grace of God flowing out to us, as said in 2 Cor 9:6-8 is so that we have everything we need so that we abound in every good work. Good work produces good fruit, and good work and fruitfulness have everything to do with righteousness. And it is an on-going requirement that we practice righteousness; it is NOT just a matter of righteousness standing, as put to us, by the overly grace preachers. Jesus exemplified that; even as He is righteous, He practices righteousness. We are to follow after Jesus’ example. 1 John 3:7 said that even as we are righteous, we are to practice righteousness, in the same way Jesus was righteous. As a man, Jesus had to make effort to be righteous, to be in agreement with Father God. We are to do the same, for that, in itself is good work, and would lead to good fruit or fruitfulness.

Ps Prentis is right to point out that fruit should be seen in the one serving the Lord. That fruit that is to be seen in the one serving, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. We do NOT produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit! Scripture gave us a few tests of “child of God”; among them included 1 John 3:10, and Romans 8:14. In relation to this, I will bring out Romans 8:14 - For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. Gal 5:25 said this - Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is always righteous – always in agreement with God or the Godhead. It is when we live by the Spirit, move in tandem with Him (and that is practice of righteousness), that we will have His fruit formed in us. Yes, it is the Holy Spirit who directly produces His fruit in us, but it is we have to live by Him and keep in step with Him. And His fruit are these: … the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).

Cont...

high-expressions.blogspot.com said...

Cont. from above

We ourselves must display the fruit of the Holy Spirit; and that is dying, dying to self, and dying to the flesh. Gal 5:16-17 - 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

In other words, we have to live by the Spirit and keep in step with Him, to have ourselves turned into a good tree. Matt 7:18 said this - A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Matt 7:16a said this - By their fruit you will recognize them. Many people suggest that the “By their fruit” is referring to the mega church built, the big ministry formed, and huge events held, and the likes; but in my view, the fruit was referring to the fruit of the Spirit. So, it is when you see love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, that you should recognise a tree if it is a good tree or NOT. To be a good tree, we need to die; our flesh does NOT want to love, the love here is God kinda of love, the `ahab love – love unto righteousness, and agape love – sacrificial love; our flesh does NOT want to be with peace and joy; it wants to be excited and gratified; our flesh does NOT want to forebear; it wants instant gratification; our flesh does NOT want to be kind to others; it wants others to be kind to itself; our flesh does NOT want to be good, faithful, and gentle towards others; it wants others to be good, faithful and gentle towards itself; and our flesh does NOT want to be restrained or be self-controlled, it wants to be able to do what it wants. There is consistency; the passage that Ps Prentis quoted reflected it – dying is needed - John 12:24-25 (ESV) 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. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

“Brother Anthony, I thought I built a church congregation that is fruit-what”. Yes, but first, we need to understand that we are only the helpers to the Holy Spirit, or we are the servants of God. In other words, it is the Holy Spirit’s or God’s project; we help. It is the Holy Spirit who directly workeths His fruit into every man; we only help in that. And a primary thing that God wants to do, is to worketh His fruit into each man; NOT the church building per se, NOT the size of the local church per se, NOT the size of the event, per se. God can worketh all things; that we must recognise first of all, meaning He does NOT need anyone of us. But He gives us the honor and privilege to be part of what He is doing. Even so, we are contributory to the partnership, if and when we are followers of the Holy Spirit, be led by Him, and so keep in step with Him. And we can only do so, when we are like Him, be of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; in other words, be full of the fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit uses the fruit in us, in the production of fruit in others. God’s intent is still to build trees of righteousness out of us all (Isaiah 61:3). Every tree of righteousness displays the fruit of the Spirit; it has nothing to do with the building, things, or events.

Ps Prentis, it is fine if and when the Holy Spirit wants to pack Carnegie Hall, but is perfectly fine, if He wants you to pack only a room. Keep up the good job of helping the Spirit to produce good trees.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions