It's Halloween. So here is one of my two Halloween posts.
There is a death that is horrendously gruesome. It involves the flesh being ripped apart. It involves their insides being torn out of them, piece by excruciating piece. Depending on who it is, the gruesome death may involve having their eyes gouged out or their hands chopped off. It ends in what is left of their them being hung in a tree, nails hammered through the palms of their hands and the tops of their feet, slowly suffocating from the weight of their own body, open wounds exposed to the sunlight, left there to fester and rot. And as their corpse takes it's last breath, it is drenched in the blood of a lamb.
If someone wants to call themselves a Christian, if they want to be a true follower of Christ, if they really want to know Jesus, they need to be willing submit to this death.
We often hear the concept that we need to die to ourselves. And in the minds of most people, this concept involves a very pious admission that we are bad and Jesus is good and we need to put Jesus above ourselves, and from now on, we aren't going to drink beer or watch R rated movies and instead of reading those slutty romance novels, we are going to read our bible at least once a week, twice if we are feeling particularly holy. These people aren't truly dying to themselves. They are just putting on the costume of a dead person. No more real than any other Halloween costume.
The truth is dying to ourselves is all but guaranteed to be a gruesome death. If it isn't excruciating, you aren't putting your whole self to death. Dying to ourselves is a process. It takes months or even years to allow God to sort through our insides and tear out what is not of Him. We argue and fight with God about what He wants to pull out of us and we struggle to hold on tight to some of it because we don't trust that God's goal is to make us more like Jesus. We deny that the Bible says one thing or another about how we should live. We argue that what God wants to pull out of us is not as diseased as what He should pull out of another person. We try to tell God that we are healthy enough, that we don't need Him to do any more surgery on us and if He just leaves us alone, we can do fine on our own. We push Him away and let our disease filled bodies languish in the corner, because it feels safe and it's all we've ever known.
The paradox here, though, is that we need to go through this gruesome death in order to really know life. That is the beautiful mystery of Christ. As our diseased and dysfunctional parts are ripped away from us, new everlasting parts, made in the image of Jesus, replace them. It isn't until we trust Jesus enough to actually let ourselves die completely that we can fully know what life with Him is like.
Dying to yourself is painful. It's ugly. It makes you vulnerable. It breaks you down. It leaves you confused and spent and helpless. It is only then that Jesus can fill in the empty places and make you whole again. It is the scariest thing you can possibly go through. But once you die that way, you never have to die again.