Cruel To Be Kind: Destroy Your Life to Save It

         God is not so interested in how a sinful world perceives His children. It seems as though He is not so interested in our credibility. He will probably not bless our attempt to become a successful and respectable member of society. If one is already a solid secular citizen within one’s chosen social and business circle, as opposed to being a member in good standing within His kingdom, it was most likely achieved without His help.

         And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” [Mark 8:34-38]

         The word “lose” in the above passage is from a Greek word that means to utterly destroy. In other words, to save one’s life one must destroy one’s life. One must destroy the old before the new can come forth. Demolition precedes construction. Winter precedes spring. Night precedes the dawn. One must die before one can be born again. Real repentance is as death. The second birth is a resurrection. Without a new birth, one will die in their sins and both body and soul will be destroyed in hell. [1]  

         The glorification of sinful flesh is not one of the Lord’s priorities. There are people who become very successful in this life without any of God’s help. They strive and achieve only to leave it all behind at death. Imagine the people who lost their homes and livelihoods recently in the northeastern floods and Texas fires. These are terrible tragedies. But death is often like that, in that everything a person has ever built, accumulated, and worked for remains behind within the tiny closed parameters of this physical world.

         You cannot take it with you. Wealthy people don’t have a Brink’s truck following their hearse to their gravesite. And while we are in this material realm, anything we may possess is subject to loss.

         The best way to protect your stuff is to give it to God. Let Him have control. Subject it to His authority. He may tell you to get rid of some stuff. He may tell you to keep this and that. He may instruct you to give stuff away. But one thing is certain: Whatever He may want you to keep, you will keep; at least until it is time to let it go.

         Isn’t this a better way to live? Isn’t this exactly how the Lord Jesus taught us we must live? If we can’t take it with us, why do we insist on clutching onto all our stuff and our own authority in the present?

         It is the same with our reputations. We often spend years building up reputations that later come apart in an instant, sometimes through no fault of our own. If our reputation is based on being an honest person, not much of it will be lost. But honest people tell the truth, and that means they even tell the truth about themselves. They don’t hide their faults and shortcomings. They are humble. They know they often come up short against standing societal mores and spiritual directives, but are more interested in being honest and trying to get better than securing a fake resume inflated like a hot air balloon.

         It is such false biographies and fake reputations that eventually blow up and come crashing down. All things phony bite the dust. Only the real survives. And only the real, based on God’s definition of the term, makes a successful trip into eternity. As our foundational example, consider the life of the greatest Man who ever lived:

         Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

         Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [Philippians 2:1-8] [2]

         For the real Christian, he or she belongs to God. And that includes all our stuff. It also includes our credibility. It includes anything we may be and anything He wants us to be. In this light, it makes little spiritual sense to hoard up a bunch of stuff, whether material or not, that might in all probability be weighing us down and grounding us to this world.

         The Bible clearly states that real Christians are not of this world. The Lord Jesus is not of this world. We are supposed to be born again OUT of this world and INTO His kingdom. So who cares what anybody else may think? The Lord certainly didn’t care what others thought about Him. He was on a mission, He would not be stopped, and the world was only doing what came naturally when trying to destroy Him in any way it could. He caught it from everyone, including His own nation, friends, and family. Rather than recognizing Him as God, this is how almost everyone actually perceived Him:

         Because He drank wine, He was thought to be a common drunk. [Matthew 11:19, Luke 7:34]

         Because He ate the same food as everyone else, He was thought to be a glutton. [Matthew 11:19, Luke 7:34]

         Because He reached out to the lost, He was thought to be an associate of sinners. [Matthew 11:19, Luke 7:34]

         Because there were serious questions about His birth, He was thought to be illegitimate. [John 8:41]

          Because everyone else was stupid and dense, He was thought to be insane. [Mark 3:21]

         Because He had spiritual abilities no one else had, He was thought to be demon-possessed. [Mark 3:22, 30]

         Because He humbly downplayed who He really was, He was thought to be a nobody. [Matthew 13:54-56]

         Clearly, the Lord Jesus did not care about a worldly reputation. His focus was on doing the will of the Father and accomplishing His purpose. This should be our focus as well. When we drift from this, should we wonder why the Lord does not seem to care about the things we hold most dear? If one decides to live for God, one will be persecuted. People will think you’ve gone off the deep end. They will hate you, think you’re crazy, call you every name in the book, and run your name into the ground.

         If you consider yourself to be a real Christian and these things are not happening in your life, you better check your oil. The more a believer attacks the gates of hell to rescue the lost and reveal truth, the more the enemy will fight. If one is not in the fight, one is not with the Lord and the Lord is not with him. If one is more concerned with one’s worldly reputation or comfort level than serving the Lord, one has little spiritual reputation and is no threat to the devil.

         And though the unbelieving world hates real Christians, the adversary is well aware of his enemies. They are known in hell: The evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” [3]

         © 2011 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Matthew 10:28

[2] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

[3] Acts 19:15 NKJV

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Posted on September 8, 2011, in Teaching and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Bob,
    Philippians 2:1-8 was one of the Scriptures we studied tonight in our home Bible study on compassion…God’s and our own, given by the Spirit. As like-minded believers we must empty ourselves and humbly take on the godly traits that bring joy to Jesus, not the least of which is compassion for one another and for the sick, hurting and lost. We reviewed a segment of the Movie “Soul Surfer” where one of the scenes depicted people who had suffered tremendous loss from an earthquake/tidal wave and were shown compassion by a person who had herself suffered a great loss….The result was an amazing healing of both the compassionate person and the victim. It brings to mind 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Blessed be. . . the God of all consolation, who consoles us in our affliction so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.”
    don

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  2. “But one thing is certain: Whatever He may want you to keep, you will keep; at least until it is time to let it go.” Over the years God has directed us to give many things away. As a result of our many moves, we learned how to travel relatively light anyway, but sometimes God would have us give something special to someone. I could always tell how attached I was to that item by how difficult it was to part with (especially if I had waited a long time to acquire it in the first place). There are obviously many reasons why people clutch onto their stuff. For me, I always thought it had more to do with the fear that if I let it go, God would never give me anything to replace it. I was afraid that He didn’t love me enough to fill the need left behind by giving it away. Obviously, that’s quite ridiculous, but the fear was real anyway. I found that each time we parted with something, God was faithful to fill that void. It may not have been immediate, but God always made sure that we had what we needed. And the satisfaction of knowing we had blessed someone else, really blessed us.

    We live in a culture obsessed with “stuff.” Our reputations are often tied to how much stuff we have. We can have some, we just can’t allow it to have us. We can’t allow our stuff to shackle us to it so that we are unable to do what God has called us to do. God has not called us to a life of ease. He has called us to advance His Kingdom. That will always have a price. At some time we must make a choice: God’s agenda or ours?

    Thanks for this post. It is a good reminder as to where our focus should be and the price we will likely have to pay.

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  3. After reading this post, I realized I had missed the point by just responding to what was on my heart at the time…compassion.

    I seem to get rid of stuff, only to acquire more stuff….it’s a vicious cycle. If I am going to make any headway at all, at some point, I need to start giving away more than I acquire.

    Going back over the original post has reminded me that I should be giving for God’s glory, not just for the sake of getting rid of things so I will have more room for still more stuff. The rich man of the Bible had a bumper crop with no room to store it…so what did he do? He built bigger barns rather than give it to others needing it more……as the story unfolds we see his end was eternal torment.

    God protect us from our pride and selfishness and wanting more than we need….give us a giving spirit of compassion, motivated by love.

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  4. Thanks for your comments. True love is impossible without total giving. Many Christians have been taught that they can get by without obeying this command. Like many of the Lord’s teachings, this teaching is usually never brought up in many churches and ministries because it requires what appears to be far too much sacrifice, which annoys people in general and turns them off to real Christianity. Thus, many preach a different gospel that allows its adherents to be as worldly and fleshly as the day is long, and still be “Christian.” The only minor problem with this approach is that such people end up in hell. Otherwise, it may be okay, I guess.

    The bigger point of my post was to direct us toward the destruction of our lower lives with reference to the Lord’s command that we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. Though material things are part of that, the most significant part of it is our personal authority and desires which have not been subjected to the Lord’s authority.

    To “lose” one’s life in order to preserve it is an authority issue and a trust issue. If one really gives his entire heart to God, then everything in his life belongs to God. In fact there is no other way. We either give it all (100% of everything for all time) or we retain ownership and remain in authority. There is no such thing as partial ownership with God. If we give our life to Him, He in turn gives His life to us. If we put all of our stuff under His authority, it then belongs to Him to do with whatever He wants. He will give back what we need or what He wants us to have.

    Or, He may not. Regarding possessions, the apostles had very little, for example. Yet, sometimes the Lord gives us an incredible amount. The Lord is a great blesser! There are believers who have given away their greatest material possessions, such as their houses, only to have the Lord bless them even more. God doesn’t necessarily want or need our stuff, but He wants and needs our hearts. He loves us. He wants to give His entire heart to us and bless us abundantly, but such involves an even exchange. Rest assured, though, regarding any giving you may engage in—He will always be a greater giver than you! If one sincerely gives everything he or she has to the Lord, the Lord will give everything He has as well. Something tells me we will get the better end of that deal…

    Also, if certain things cause one to sin, He certainly, as our Father, will not let us have them. One can have them if he wants, of course, but then God would no longer be in control. Such a person would consequently be in sin and could end up losing his soul.

    Destroying our own lower life and desires allows for Him to bless us with A MUCH BETTER life. Thus, we save and preserve our life by destroying it.

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  5. A good name is priceless. But sometimes for the Lord’s sake, we suffer the loss of it. The Lord made Himself of no reputation for our sake. Our suffering in this way is going to get worse. We must learn now to stand for and in Him alone.

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