Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I received from My Father. John 10:17-18
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16
At any point during the night of His betrayal, Jesus could have escaped from the control of His captors and avoided the cross. He had the power to free Himself as He had demonstrated in previous encounters with crowds that wanted to take Him by force. But this night He used an even greater power…..the power to lay His life down. And because we are in Him, we have this same power.
Many in the church today are seeking after power…..the power to preach, the power to heal, the power to move in the spiritual gifts. And I say yes! Let us, by all means, have these things. But where are those who are seeking, earnestly seeking, the power to lay their lives down?
Generally speaking, we are a selfish people. The new nature that Jesus has given us is many times crowded out by the self-centered demands of an un-crucified flesh. Comfort…convenience…..leisure…ease. And the words of the Lord Jesus are drowned out – “if anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)
In the cross was the ultimate demonstration of God’s love. Jesus took up His cross. He laid His life down. Oh that we would long to follow Him in this! Can you imagine how our cities would be shaken by a people who exerted the full force of their power to lay their lives down!
Lay your life down to preach the gospel….lay your life down to pray earnestly for a move of God….lay your life down to actually demonstrate the love of God to those in need. It’s only a temporary life anyway. What a waste to use it all up on ourselves. Why not pour it out lavishly in anticipation of the glories of that eternal life that awaits us?
Imagine the pleasure of Jesus to have a people who live to give their lives away…..just like He did.
I wonder how many things which we occupy our time with in this life, things that seem so very important and necessary now, will seem trivial and meaningless when we stand before the Lord Jesus. Life is short and these few years of our pilgrimage here are all we have been given to make Jesus known to a world that perishes without Him. It seems only fitting that no other task should so occupy our time, our attention and our prayers as this great work of spreading the gospel.
“What is the secret to great living? Entire separation to Christ and devotion to Him. Thus speaks every man and woman whose life has made more than a passing flicker in the spiritual realm. It is the life that has no time for trifling that counts. “ Amy Carmichael
Today I passed by a church that had the following announcement on the sign outside the building: “Imposition of Ashes – 7:00 pm”. Throughout the Bible, ashes are connected with grief, sorrow over sin and repentance. When Job was in great sorrow concerning all the losses in his life, he sat in ashes. When the prophet Jonah preached the word of judgment to the city of Nineveh, the king himself repented in sackcloth and ashes. But what really caught my attention about the sign was this word – imposition.
Imposition – an excessive or uncalled-for requirement or burden.
In that one word the spiritual condition of our nation is summarized. We don’t want to be imposed upon by God to think anything about ourselves is wrong or needs to be changed. The ashes that are to be an outward expression of the inward repentance of the heart, like so many other things, have become nothing more than a religious ritual with no real spiritual significance to most who participate in it.
Repentance, the turning of a heart toward the Lord Jesus and away from sin, is a beautiful thing. The apostle Peter actually describes it as a blessing:
To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” Acts 3:26
Paul says in Romans 2:4 that it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. Why? Because from our repentance comes times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19). What a welcome thing this is to those who have experienced it!
Repentance is no burden, but a proper and necessary response to the dealings of God with our life. It is through our repentance that we agree with God about the weakness of our flesh, our ever falling short of His glory, and our continual need for His strength and cleansing. In repentance my heart can rejoice that I serve a God who is unwilling to leave me the way that I am, who is committed to conforming me to the image of Christ, and who is always working to remove those things from my life that hinder this goal.
I won’t be getting any ashes on my forehead tomorrow. Instead I choose to live daily in the fiery presence of a God who changes me from glory to glory.