If You Try To Save Your Life You`ll Lose It!
When I was pretty young, I came to the point where I was sick and tired of living a life of self-seeking and self-preservation. I was miserable, and I realized that kind of life never lead to anything good. It wasn`t a life worth living. God reached me with his love, and I decided I didn`t want to live my life anymore. I wanted to live Jesus`s life.
Then I encountered God`s love again and again, starting when I was 12 years old. I wept and wept as I felt His love and it became stronger until I could physically feel it as a force field, a tingling current of power, goodness so real and tangible it had weight.
Somewhere I heard or read about people who made a pact with the devil. They sold their souls to the devil. Maybe to get rich or something else. I also learned about people who meddled with witchcraft or magic arts until they got themselves way in over their heads. Crazy things started happening, and not good. It led to all kinds of destruction.
I saw that it never went well for those people. So I thought, “If they could sell their souls to the devil, why can`t I ‘sell my soul’ to Jesus Christ? Why can`t I keep opening myself up to the Holy Spirit until I`m completely taken over by him?” If it was ever possible to go past the point of no return in giving myself over the Holy Spirit, I wanted to. I figured it was the only life worth living anyways. Nothing else went right for me. By the time I was 14, I became fully resolved that I wanted to live my life completely for Jesus, that my supreme goal in life was to become completely possessed and given over to God`s love and work.
I stumbled, failed, and went astray many times since then. Yet in spite of all that, I never let go of this goal. I learned to keep telling the Holy Spirit “I want your work in my life!” In spite of all the failings, I would pray “Holy Spirit, here is my heart. Fill every part of it and take every part of who I am!” I learned to welcome His work. If my heart was hard I asked Him to soften it, and if I felt like I couldn`t love someone or I’d failed, I would open my heart and say “Holy Spirit, I don`t feel like I can love this person or be strong in this area, but I want you to do your work in me, love through me, strengthen me.” And I have done that consistently since I was 14.
And in spite of all the stumbling and failures along the way, that decision to try to open myself up as fully as possible to the Holy Spirit has born fruit in my life. The other day I just finished teaching some English classes and a Christmas carol was in my heart, “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him!” And as a sang, I felt a weight around me and a current of love flowing through my heart. Physically. And it`s not so out of the normal for me to feel that. I don`t depend on it or live by it. On the contrary, the tangible experience is something that manifests out of a reality that has grown in my heart: an awareness of God that is not dependant on circumstances of feelings.
The Sobering Side Of Love
Not long after I resolved I wanted to go all the way in giving my whole heart and soul over to the Holy Spirit, I read the book “Tortured for Christ,” and “Fox`s Book of Martyrs,“ as well as the stories of other Christians around the world who suffered severe persecution. I didn`t want to be tortured! But what if God`s love led me into such hard places? Would I say yes? I realized that giving myself fully over to God`s love would have to mean going wherever that love would take me. It could mean pain, suffering, severe hardship, abuse. I didn`t feel like I was strong enough to go through that. But how could I say “no” to this love I had experienced? I realized knowing such love, giving myself over to God`s love, was heaven on earth. (See Present Access To Heaven) It was the only life I wanted to live. Yet heaven coming into our hearts leads us to confront hell. So I prayed “God, I don`t really want to be tortured, beaten, imprisoned. But I want my life to be completely given over to your love. I want to go on even if it comes to that. So please help me! Even if your love leads me to a place where I have to risk my life, I say yes.”
I recently heard Robby Dawkins share a story that reminded me of that sobering side of experiencing God`s love. He was in Afghanistan teaching Christians to evangelize with power and healing. His hosts were freaking out because at any moment the nearby Muslims could attack and kill them. And then the government officials arrested him on made-up charges of stealing something.
They locked him in a shipping container and left him there for a long time in the cold. I have read stories of many persecuted Christians who were left in cold shipping containers as a form of torture, often killed by the extreme cold or the extreme heat. From what the authorities said, it sounded like he was never getting out. He thought he might never see his family again.
Meanwhile, someone praying for Robby heard the Lord and prophesied exactly when they would let him go. And at that time, the authorities came and took him out. A Muslim businessman, who had previously persecuted Christians, had seen the healing miracles. And he told the authorities…“Let him stay under house arrest while you investigate. I will vouch for him. If he runs away I will go to prison in his place. He is a good man.” They set him free but warned that they would be watching him every moment.
The next day, the streets were filled with rioting because Donald Trump had moved the US embassy to Jerusalem. The authorities were so busy dealing with that, they completely forgot about Robby Dawkins, and he continued evangelizing freely! He was not about to back down from expressing God`s love just because he just narrowly escaped getting locked in an Afghan prison for the rest of his life!
Are You Willing To Open Your Heart Fully To God`s Love?
Knowing God`s love starts with receiving his love for us. Knowing his love is completed when our hearts are possessed by his love. And that leads into pain, hardship, suffering.
I`ve seen so many times when the Holy Spirit was imparting his love to people, they would weep with compassion, sometimes even wail or groan. It is so holy. Compassion compels us to face hardship, not to run away from it. Often the very supernatural experiences with God`s power prepare people to persevere through the hardships they will face in the places where love compels them to go. Will you open your heart for God to express his love through you? Will you say “God, I want to know your love! Give me your compassion! Holy Spirit, I rip my heart open to you and invite you to fill every nook and cranny of my being! Jesus, if you want to weep through me for hurting and broken people, here I am! Here I am Jesus! Send me! Express yourself through my life!”
What does that mean for you? It may mean leaving everything and going as a missionary to radical Muslims, or it may not. It does mean to be willing to go where God`s love compels you, to stop trying to preserve your own life, and to confront hell instead of avoiding it! It does mean stepping out of your comfort zone and ministering to people instead of avoiding their problems! It does mean allowing Jesus to weep through you with compassion for the lost and oppressed.
If You Lose Your Life For Christ`s Sake, You`ll Find It!
Lately, we have seen a huge rise in totalitarianism and tyranny. Many in other nations who have lived under totalitarian and communist governments recognize recent events in the United States as a Marxist coup. They recognize the toppling of statues, violence on the streets, censorship, media manipulation, kangaroo court impeachments, and threats of violence and job loss against anybody who stands in the way. Venezuelans recognize what has happened in the US as what happened in their country. A Chinese immigrant told me that if Joe Biden was put in office in 2021, democracy would cease to exist in the world. I hear similar things from South Americans, Asians, Africans, people all over the world. Many people all over the world are afraid as it seems to them that democracy is failing in the United States.
You guys know I`m not a pessimist or fatalist. I hold to Victorious Eschatology. Yet I still believe we need to be vigilant and if we are going to follow Christ we must be prepared to face persecution and even death.
Here`s the thing: When Christians are absorbed with preserving their own lives, when our version of Christianity becomes only about receiving God`s blessings but not about participating in his love that leads us into suffering, that is when evil advances. In that case, the salt has lost its saltiness. Without the move of the Holy Spirit through people who have laid down their lives for love, society will self-destruct. Those who are absorbed with preserving their own lives will lose them anyway. Many people right now are realizing what I realized as a young teenager: that life we try to preserve isn`t secure anyways! We might as well determine to lose our own lives for Christ now, and by doing so find real life, eternal, glorious, victorious life that starts now, that completely frees us from fear, and can never be taken away from us!
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose”-Missionary Jim Elliot who was killed on the mission field
Matthew 10:29-30 (NRSV) Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.
1 Peter 4:13 (NRSV) But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.
Romans 8:17 (NRSV) …and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
By losing your life you will find it, and this is really the only life worth living. It is a life of suffering and glory. It is a life of courage, a life of risk, a life of miracles. Those who want to live a life of miracles must be willing to face impossibilities by the power of God. It`s not always easy, but it’s worth it!