Art Linkletter introduced us to the colloquialism, “Kids say the darndest things.” Most parents have stories of times and places which mark the truthfulness of this observation. The wildest things spoken at the worst possible time produce fertile soil for a lifetime of laughs and gasps. Mr. Linkletter reminded us that children have a unique understanding of life. They are unencumbered by the social rules that age posits on a life – and we laugh at their innocence and naivety.
Imagine with me the unspoken response to Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:24-25 when he says 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.” I wonder if the disciples had the same response some parents have when their children say one of those “darndest things.” Jesus begins this teaching moment with an eye to those who were trying to follow Him. It quickly changed into a statement suggesting life comes from death. The cross in verse 24 is clearly the Roman executioners chosen method of death. But then Jesus clears up any leftover murkiness with a bold statement that whoever wants life will have to lose it.
Here’s the truth that Christ-followers have to wrestle with: are we willing to die to ourselves in order to find true life in Christ? Although every individual situation is different, I am convinced that there has to be a time in our life where we die to ourselves. This is one of the conundrums of scripture – life coming from death.
For me, death was on Highway 68 north of Greensboro, North Carolina. For several years I worked hard to advance in my career with a national wholesale distributor. Things were looking up in my professional life but I couldn’t shake the feeling that God was calling me to pastor. The objections I rehearsed to God in my prayers were: but I’ll have a reduced paycheck, this will take me away from family, and Lord, I don’t have the proper training. But the persistent and consistent call of God wore me down and I had to die to myself right there. In the car. On the way home from work.
What if this theme, Jesus teach us how to die, became the cry of our hearts? It might change up how we interact with those around us; requiring us to surrender self daily to this end. My children attended Morning Star Academy which put a great emphasis on this personal interaction with the deep theological truths of scripture. They routinely used a formal question and response founded on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Even if you are unfamiliar with the responsiveness of this, there is great benefit in committing to daily asking for wisdom in how to die. At first it might feel weird to say “Jesus teach us how to die”, but this is the catalyst to true life. When we grasp this truth, we won’t regret it.