“How Jesus Saves” by Clay Buhler. May 8, 2014 Vespers Podcast.
Written by Clay Buhler. Digital Media by Cassandra Rieke.
Podcast by Cassandra Rieke
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Jesus died for you. Will you die for Him?
If you’re a Christian, the most basic belief you hold is the understanding that Jesus died to save you. You don’t need me to tell you why Jesus died. Most of us have heard those reasons our entire lives. I want to ask a question based on our belief that Jesus died for us: would we die for him? If you think you can answer that question now–don’t. Because I hope to show that dying for Jesus isn’t something we can say we would do. Rather, it’s something we simply do.
Somewhere along the way, Christians became afraid of death. In Paul’s time, to die was to gain. In fact, Christians who
denied their faith in order to avoid persecution or martyrdom, were usually doubted to have had real faith in the first place. It is important to note, that these early Christians did not try to revolt against their persecutors. Rather than resist, they submitted. Not because they didn’t have families worth defending, not because they were cowards, and not because they didn’t care about justice. They let themselves be killed because they no longer feared death. At the heart of war is the desire to stay alive and defend yourself at all costs. But the cross isn’t a weapon. Was there ever someone who actually picked up a real cross for any other reason than to carry it to death? The Christians who took up the cross were choosing to die. To be martyred was not to lose. To die was to gain. Why are Christians today afraid to die?
What I’m suggesting is that too many of us live a life that reflects our fear of death, whether we realize it or not. I know I have, and sadly I still am. Think about why you’re in college. You’re probably hoping that your degree can somehow get you a better job and more stability than you could have found without it. Otherwise, I can think of a lot better ways to spend tens of thousands of dollars. I often think how all the money I poured into my college education could have been used to save a life. I don’t believe it’s a stretch to say that this amount of money could have saved at least one of the many who die of starvation each day. So either this degree is going to enable me to better help suffering people, or I just don’t really care all that much about them. Maybe we Christians are too concerned with our own wellbeing and that of our family. Maybe we’re afraid of starving ourselves. But again, that brings up the question: why are we afraid to die?
Jesus died to save us, but yet we continually suffer horrible things. Christians get sick. Christians often die of terrible
diseases and circumstances. Did Jesus not save us, or do we just mistakenly think that our death as Christians is somehow the worst possible thing that could happen? Do we mistakenly forget that Jesus has died to remove the sting of death? When we realize our purpose is no longer to preserve our life at all costs, we realize that sickness is not our greatest enemy. But we don’t think like this. The very suffering that early Christians welcomed in order to display their faith, is often the thing that causes many of us to lose our faith. Why are we afraid to die?
At this point you might be thinking how crappy my life must be if I have no desire to live. However, that is not the case. I am dating the most perfect woman I could ask for and I get the privilege of being a part of her five year old daughter’s life. I want so dearly to enjoy life with them. However, something strange happened when I started falling in love and realized that I would be sharing my life with them. I started becoming really concerned about our future. About our financial stability, about our health, even about our political surroundings. In other words, I became really afraid of dying. I’m not saying I don’t have a responsibility to care for my loved ones. Rather, I’m suggesting that if I begin to think it’s my purpose to preserve our lives as long as possible, I’m missing the reason God created us in the first place.
We were created to have life with one another and with God. Yet, after the fall, we were removed from this life with God and entered into death. Initially, Adam and Eve did not physically die, but that was their ultimate destination. This means the second we are born, we actually begin to die. This life is not true life, because we enter it already removed from Christ and on our way to physical death. So this life, this life of death, is a barrier that keeps us from our intended existence with God. Christ came to destroy this barrier, and once again bring us life free from death, starting right here and now. In other words, what separated us from eternity with God is no more. With Christ our physical death does not mean separation from God, but rather a complete reunion with him. I say all of this because if I live in fear of a barrier that we claim to be gone, I’m giving death the power that Christ took from it. I’m becoming afraid to die. And I’m teaching others the same.
When I first became a Christian and started to read the Bible, I was amazed at the radically different mindsets of the Apostles as compared to those of myself and the people I knew. I would read stories of Paul being unrightfully sent to prison and yet praising God. Of him being stoned for preaching in a city and yet returning to the same place afterwards to preach once again. And so one of the things that began to stand out to me was that those who truly embraced Christ no longer seemed to fear of death. I wanted to believe that could be true for me, I needed to believe that, but I saw no other Christian around me living a life that reflected such fearlessness. So I began to ask myself, if I live a life which doesn’t reflect that I’m no longer afraid of death, that I’m no longer driven by self-preservation, do I really believe that Jesus saved me from it?
What was Paul afraid of? What did the martyrs fear? It certainly wasn’t death. And if you don’t fear death, why would you be afraid of anything else? Think about how much of our sin–our greed, our lust, our pride–is based on fears of missing out on something before our impending death arrives. But if we don’t fear death, why would our lives in any way resemble the rest of the non-Christian world, who is, and should be, afraid of death?
This isn’t a call to living some sort of life detached from our humanness. This is a call to living a life free of the fear of death. This is living a life that openly acknowledges and reflects the belief that Jesus has already died to save us from death. We don’t need to reject life on this earth, we just need to realize that eternity starts now because death no longer holds any power. In other words, we must live a life that shows we no longer fear the very thing we claim to be saved from. Start living on this side of eternity, how you would on the other. Our faith in God doesn’t look impressive when everything is going well for us, and we are able to ignore death altogether. Rather, faith in God looks impressive when we openly acknowledge with how we live that Christ has defeated death. When we have lives that reflect the claim about death we Christians make.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Jesus died for us. Will we die for Him?