Dear Beloved Friend(s),
Derek Prime, mentor to radio preacher Alistair Begg of Truth for Life, wrote that before stepping into the pulpit to preach God’s Word he prays, Help me, Lord, to speak as in Your sight, and to be prepared to fall into the ground and die so that I may bear much fruit (p. 79). That grabbed me in light of last month’s article that Dying is the key to serving.
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. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (Jesus in John 12:24-25)
But just what does dying to self really involve? Jesus is talking about a sacrificial life. In the Old Testament the requirement of animal sacrifices was to teach this very thing. We learn:
- Israel sacrificed the first. We must die to selfishness.
God required Israel to sacrifice the firstfruits of their grain, wine, and animals (Proverbs 3:9). Firstfruits means that we must give God first place in our lives – first place with our time, our money, and our gifts in service. Some believers on payday write their first check for their tithes and offerings before they pay any bills or go shopping. It is their simple way to remind them that God must come first in everything. In order for that to happen we must die to selfishness.
- Israel sacrificed the best. We must die to half-hearted mediocrity.
God required that the animals sacrificed to Him be unblemished and spotless without defect (Malachi 1:8, 14). Cain just discharged a duty but Abel sacrificed his very best. So dying to self means whatever we do for the Lord we do to our very best. Doing that means dying to half-hearted mediocrity. Dr. Paul Dixon once said, Anything connected with Jesus ought to have excellence written all over it. Excellence means we die to laziness, shoddiness, and minimal effort. We do our best for Jesus.
- Israel sacrificed from authentic lives. We must die to hypocrisy.
In Micah 6:6-8 God convicted His people of their deep sins. So they asked what they should do. Offer sacrifices? God said no. The purpose of sacrifices was to teach believers to live a sacrificial life. God said that this was what He required: to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. It is easy to run over people and mistreat them even in Christian service. So do justly. It is easy to be harsh with people when they fail. So love mercy. It is easy to be hard, unbroken and indifferent when we sin. So walk humbly. Dying to self is dying to hypocrisy and being authentic in loving God and loving people.
Here, then, is a sacrificial life: it gives the first by dying to selfishness, it gives the best by dying to mediocrity, and it does it from an authentic life by dying to hypocrisy.
Remember, dying is the key to serving. Your friend, Pastor Brian (:-}).