“How are you doing?” “How was your week?” “What were you up to this week?”
These are all common questions that we ask when we see people. They are all basically asking “How are you LIVING?”
This week, my wife asked me a very good question. I didn’t give much of an answer at the time (and still haven’t), but it has caused me to think all week.
Her question was,
“How are you dying?”
We often think of living for Christ. Ephesians 5:15 commands us to “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
We are to live for Christ, as wise, not unwise, making the best use of the time.
However, the vast context of Scripture deals with our Dying, more than our Living. In fact, it is only when we die that we can then live. We must first die, before we can live.
Looking again at the larger context of Ephesians 5 & 6 it is all about dying.
We are to die to our old ways of living.
We are to die to our old ways of speaking.
We are to die to our old friendships.
We are to die to our own desires in submission.
First we need to die to our old selves, and only then can we live for Christ.
Jesus clearly pointed to our death coming before our life in Matthew 16:24-26, “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”
We are to deny ourselves… die.
We are to take up our cross… die.
We are to submit ourselves in following Jesus… die.
We are to lose our life for his sake… die.
And then, and only then, will we find life. Death is the precursor to Life.
We are reminded of this again in Matthew 20:20-28, “Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The “mother of the sons of Zebedee” was looking for her sons to skip straight to life (sitting at the right and left hand of the king, ruling with him, etc.). Jesus reminded her, and the disciples, that the only way to Life is Death.
“Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” – the cup of death (See Matthew 26:39)
“Whoever would be great among you (Life) must be your servant (Death), and whoever would be first among you (Life) must be your slave (Death), even as the Son of Man came not to be served (Life) but to serve (Death), and to give his life as a ransom for many (Death).
The only way to Life is Death.
In Romans 6:1-14 Paul reminds us of this same truth. As you read the following, look what comes first. How many times does “Life” come before “Death”? How many times does “Death” come before “Life”?
Romans 6:1- “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”
Dying is the seed of Living. If we don’t have a true seed of Death, we won’t have the true fruit of Life.
How would it affect our lives, our families and our churches if our focus was on the seed of dying to sin and self and living to Christ, instead of the fruit of how that plays out in our activities? Activities can be for show. We can talk in a way that makes it look like we have Life, and we can even deceive ourselves. When we look at how we are Dying to sin and self, there we can get a true picture of our Life!
So, “How are you dying?”
Try this question out the next time you are at church or with family. Get ready for a prolonged silence and awkward squirming, hopefully then followed with great conversation (perhaps at a different time, once the person has had time to pray and reflect). This is the question that we need to ask before we can really see how we are living.
Now that we have focused on Death, the follow up post will be coming soon, “How is Christ living in you?” (You can subscribe to be informed when that and other posts are available.)