The Word of God tells us that those who keep their own life for themselves and to themselves; who hold their soul, their personality sacred and inviolate – they will die.
And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.
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 for eternal life. (RSV)
It is integral to being human that we human beings are absolutely convinced that we are the owners of our selves. I love to see myself as the commander of my own destiny, the one in charge of my life. We value ourselves as uniquely precious: ‘I’ am a unique pattern, the only ‘I’ in the universe that will ever be me. I will never allow anyone to change who I am or to make me over into someone else. There can be no substitute, no replacement for ‘me’.
Unconsciously, we often feel that when eventually we die, the world will effectively cease to exist, because without us in it there is no purpose for it.
This is our natural condition, our natural view of ourselves and our world.
God sees the situation somewhat differently.
His Word tells us that unless we surrender our lives, our control, our precious and unique-in-all-the-universe selves, we will lose all that we are so desperately – and selfishly – clinging on to.
I have to surrender my territorial integrity. I have to let God in to where I am, and let Him go to work on me – yes, on that unique and precious thing that is ‘me’.
Let’s see if we can get our heads around the way things really are.
God made me, I am His. (Have a look at Psalm 139)
When a potter makes a pot, to whom does the pot belong?
Why, to the potter, we would say.
That is human reasoning.
In truth, the pot belongs to God, because
He made both the potter and the clay;
he gifted the potter with talent and vision,
and the clay with malleability;
and the pot is, ultimately, His creation.
Even if we use this human reckoning, consider:
if the potter does not dig the clay himself, but
has another dig it for him, who brings him the clay,
and the potter makes two pots from it,
would we not consider it fair
that one pot should be the potter’s,
and that the other should go to the one who dug the clay?
(Who gave the one who dug the knowledge and understanding to find the clay, and the strength to dig it?)
What if the potter bought the clay from the digger?
Would not both pots now belong to the potter, as we humans reckon?
Of course so!
And has not God both created us and bought us with the blood of Christ?
We, in our precious independence and proud refusal to let down the barriers
which guard our ‘self’, which we think we own,
have failed to recognise
that the same God who made us by His careful, loving design,
also made that ‘self’, that person who so proudly refuses to yield to Him,
for fear that He will destroy His own design – yes, the unique pattern,
the only ‘I’ in the universe – which has become flawed by sin.
More, we fail to recognise or to acknowledge that the same loving Lord has bought us back from sin with His own blood (could there have been any higher price that was paid?),
so that He owns us, both by right of creation and by right of redemption.
And, most of all, we forget that He loves us with such a love that we cannot dream of measuring it’s height or depth, it’s length or breadth. Would such a One destroy His child, whom He hopes to save from destruction?
Cleanse and purify us, yes, drive the mark of sin from us, yes – but
that only so that we can be more perfectly what He made us to be:
more perfectly ourselves!
Never loss, but only gain.
And what glorious gain!
I must surrender!
Let me yield even my self to the Lord, for Him to make new again.