Last week I wrote about two men, John Leonard Dober and David Nitschman, who literally sold themselves into the service of our King. These men gave up everything, never really expecting to see their friends or family again, to share the truth of Christ among a foreign people in a foreign land. The Lord has used the example of these men, and Matt Pappa’s song “The Reward of His Suffering” to spur us on to what he is calling us to in life. You can read this blog post here. Consider this the second part of “Our Conviction” series.
Some of you reading this blog have been walking along side of us for the past 5-6 years and have seen our hearts changed, shaped, molded by the Holy Spirit into what they are today. You may have heard us speak about and seen our hearts grow in our desire to give our lives more fully to the Lord – to do what he pleases with our lives. We did not become the people we are today overnight. No, it has taken several years of study and prayer. It has taken several years of tearful wrestling with the Lord in prayer and seeking his leading. Where our hearts rest now has been fully by the grace of our Lord, working and shaping our desires by his Spirit. Where we are today is not through blind submission or reluctant surrender of our lives. We are not pushing forward to prove or earn anything. We are responding to the call that the Lord has placed on our lives. We are eagerly embracing our hearts yearning to give our lives more fully to the Lord – to take us where he deems best.Six years ago, we were not at the place we are today regarding ministry. We had already been feeling the Lord’s pulling and leading to be involved in ministry overseas, but struggled to know what this would look like or what it would mean for us. As Alyson and I talked and prayed, we initially thought that we would have a partnership with an international ministry of some kind. We thought we would live here in the US, working our jobs, living in our house, attending our church, raising our children, and then go wherever it was several times per year to partner in ministry. We liked this idea because we could be a part of international missions, but also have our lives here in America.
However, the Lord began to convict our hearts regarding these thoughts and position. God began to expose our desire for control of our lives, our desire for comfort, and our love of ourselves. In our hearts, the Lord showed that we wanted to keep a foot in our easy, comfortable American lives, and simply to do enough overseas that would satisfy our desire to be involved. God started to convict us of our selfishness, and also burden our hearts for the spiritually lost of the world – those who have no access to the true Gospel. We could not ignore the Spirit’s moving in our hearts to invest ourselves more fully. We could not push aside this sense of urgency to give much more of our lives to the proclamation of the Gospel.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:23-26 (ESV)
The Lord has used this passage many times to convict my heart. He has exposed how much of my life I hold on to, wanting to make it what I want for my own pleasure, my own comfort, and control of my destiny. God has exposed how little I trust him with the entirety of my life. By many definitions, I live a very active Christian life. I am eager to give of my Sundays, to go to church, lead a small-group, and even to read my Bible and pray almost every day. I openly share the truth of the Gospel with my neighbors, friends, and co-workers. But this is not what Jesus says to the people in this passage.
Christ tells the people standing around to literally give their whole existence, accepting their own death as imminent, shouldering and carrying great burden and pain for the sake of the service of their King. Then Jesus drops the bombshell, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Basically, he says that the people who follow him would have to die before they would find life. They would have to endure struggle, hardship, and give everything they have (including their very lives) in order to find life in Christ. Christ is not saying that this life is earned upon the physical death of the person who has done a lot of things in God’s name. God gives this life as a free gift to the one who submits their life fully to him, repenting of their sin and sinful tendencies, claiming only the sacrifice of Christ as their means of forgiveness from our holy God. God gives this life to his people who die to themselves and take hold of the life he has called them to, not living for themselves but to God alone.In the last 5 years, Alyson and I have read books written by David Platt, as well as listened to many of his sermons. Platt says something very often in his messages about living for Christ and giving one’s life for the service of our Lord. He uses the phrase, “write a blank check” with your life. What he means by this is allow the Lord to use you in any way, shape, form, or method he deems fit in his kingdom. Do not give only a little of yourself, knowing there is more to be given that you are holding back. Do not limit the ways and methods in thought, heart, effort, or action you allow God to use you in his kingdom. Platt’s words match with what Jesus says in Luke 9, the meaning is the same: give all of yourself, without restraint, joyfully and eagerly to the service of your King!
The Lord has been so gracious to Alyson and I as we have grown in our understanding of the truth of Luke 9. We once felt comfortable being involved in global missions and the global proclamation of the Word without being fully invested. We now know that the Lord has called us to give our lives much more fully to him, to do with us what he deems best. We now see and know that the Lord gives true life to those who give their lives fully for him. Jim Elliot’s famous words ring true often in our minds, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”Alyson and I hope and pray that our current understanding of taking up our cross to follow Christ and laying down our lives for Christ is nothing compared to what it will be in the future. We pray the Lord continues to grow our hearts in this. We know that our King, our great and holy God, is worthy of all praise. We know that we are his creation, made for his glory and praise. We trust in our eternal hope and life, sealed in Christ by his blood shed on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. We fully trust that our Lord will faithfully save us to our eternal home when our time on this earth is done. He has promised to do this for those who lay their lives down completely for him – for his worship, for the spread of his Gospel, for the service he calls them to.
I have not written this to say that our journey is the path God calls everyone to take. According to Luke 9, he has called everyone to lay their lives down for him. Probably he is not calling you to move to Romania as he is calling us. But I would ask, how is the Lord calling YOU to lay down your life? How is our great and faithful God calling you to die to yourself, for his glory to shine more fully in your life? I urge you to give your life as a “blank check” to the Lord. Pray the Lord would show you what this means for you. Pray he works a great work in your heart for this. He is our good and faithful God, who has sealed our lives with Christ. Christ gave his life so you could have life. Won’t you give your life to the Lord?