Saturday, April 2, 2011

I'm the Zombie Bride of Jesus

34 When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. Mark 8:34-35 NKJ

20 I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20 Amplified

Have you died lately? As Christians we are called to give up our lives and let Christ live within us. The power phrase we hear today is dying to self. Which is a good phrase, but I can’t seem to find where Jesus or Paul say those exact words, but the Bible does tell us that we have to crucify our old selves so that Christ might live through us. Regardless of the phraseology this idea can conjure up images of pain and suffering, or at the very least Jesus zombies populating churches around the world. In reality, its a pretty heavy subject. Oswald Chambers says in the passage from Mark 8 we can replace the words “his life” with “himself/herself”. Whoever desires to save herself will lose herself, but whoever loses herself for My sake and the gospels will save herself. Interesting. So I need to lose myself for Jesus. Ok I want to serve Him, but I kinda like myself. I might prefer being a zombie to losing my identity.

In the beginning, after I recommitted to Christ as an adult and I desired to crucify my old self, I thought this meant I had to change my entire personality. I had to suddenly morph from being a loud, outgoing, overly sarcastic, occasionally funny, delightfully inappropriate person into a quiet, piteous, holy, almost nun, and I could drop the nun part when I got married. This seemed like an impossible thing to do, much less it was hard to live in the joy of Jesus if I wasn’t allowed to be funny anymore. Luckily my then boyfriend (the famous Mark and now husband) didn’t even attempt to rid himself of his personality and humor. He was even skilled enough to come up with what I call Biblical humor. It was through him I learned that I could be a new creation in Christ without being a new boring creation.

Now, many times when someone becomes a believer and they come across the concept of dying to self they expect this instantaneous change. Like you say, dear Jesus, I would like my old self to die and be new in You. And Bam! Magic! You’re a new creation. It’s not that easy. Dying to yourself is something you have to do everyday. It gets easier as we go and much of the old crap that was piled into my cool personality has been gone for years, but I still struggle with my flesh and I have to remember to rely on Jesus and not on me. It’s like I go through seasons where I rarely swear and then I watch certain movies or hang out with certain people and I start swearing again. Now I don’t really think it matters if I say crap or shit, I mean the same thing. But I do think it matters how often I’m uttering such exclamations, because it gives me an idea where my heart and mind are. So if every time I drop something (which is often) I have to shout an ugly word, than perhaps I’m being a little lazy on dying.

Sometimes I think it was almost easier to die to myself in the beginning, when the concept was new, I had so much junk to get rid of. It was also probably easier because I bought the book A Call to Die by David Nasser (yes, this is me recommending this book) and I forced myself to get up an hour early every day and spend time with the Lord distancing myself from my old ways. At times, I think we (I mean me) get a little casual with our relationship with Jesus. We read a little Bible, we say our prayers, we go to church and follow our favorite Christian bloggs. But we don’t put that much extra energy into dying. We don’t conform our minds to Christ. Why should we? We are so very clever. Sometimes as we get farther along in our journeys with Christ (I really hate that metaphor) we would rather not do anymore dying, it means we have to look deeper, we have to attack ingrained behavior that isn’t godly, but that is as familiar to us as our favorite jeans. But look at what Paul says.

22Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; 23And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude], 24And put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God's image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24 Amplified

Yikes. He tells us to discard the part of us that is characterized by lusts and delusion- delusions that come from ideas of the world. Paul says to be constantly renewed in our minds. That sounds ongoing to me. He says our new nature is supposed to be Godlike. We know we can not be like God, but we should always be striving to be like God. I’ve heard as a couple’s marriage progresses they can become lackadaisical in their efforts toward each other, (I say I’ve heard this cause we are still newly weds and we haven’t experienced this yet) Much in the same way we are espoused to Christ, and can be lackadaisical in our relationship with him. But we need to constantly seek intimacy with our spouses, and with Christ and to rid ourselves of anything that hinders this.

So here I go, I need to identify the things that are keeping me from intimacy with Christ, from being the bride he longs for. It might suck to realize the things within me that aren’t good, but in the end it will bring me closer to the Lord and make me a better representative for Him and probably make me a better wife too.

What do you think? Is this “dying to self” thing continual? Or do we eventually reach some standard of death where we die no more? Does it get easier or harder as we go? Is this something you struggle with, and if so, how do you motivate yourself to die more?