Losing and Finding

“If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it” (Matthew 10:38-39, NLT).

Jesus was not playing in Matthew 10. The chapter is filled with some truths that are hard to hear, and honestly, verses 38 and 39 aren’t even the most uncomfortable. In fact, I find verse 39 to be rather poetic.

This scripture goes back to being both alive and dead at once, like zombies. If we choose to keep our lives, we die. If we give up our lives, we live.

So what is Jesus talking about? And why did I include verse 38 if our main point is in verse 39?

Paul used the same symbolism in Galatians 2:20, which we discussed last week, and what he said there is not altogether different from what Jesus is saying here. Paul said he was crucified with Christ, and Jesus is telling us that to be His, we have to pick up our crosses and follow Him. Paul meant that when he accepted that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, the sinful man Paul was died. Jesus means that if we’re not willing to let go of the people we were before Him and if we’re not willing to shoulder any of the changes and shifts in our lives that come from following Him, we don’t deserve to belong to Him.

We’re not used to hearing Jesus talk this way. I’d even take it a step further and say that we don’t like to hear Him talk like this. We view Jesus as a great guy who understands us, who loves us, who will forgive us. All of that is absolutely true, so please don’t think for a second that I’m trying to tell you otherwise. But He is so much more than that. He loves us, yes, enough to be honest with us. He’ll forgive us, of course, but He knows the difference between a genuine and an insincere heart, and He knows that if there’s no correction or consequences, we’ll just run out and hurt Him again. He understands us, sure, and He understands how difficult it is to carry a cross, which is why He instructs us to follow Him so He can help us.

This is where the next verse comes in because it’s an expansion of what He was saying before. If we cling to our own lives– what we want, our priorities, how we see things– we will die. Eternally. If our lives remain centered on us and sin and ways that don’t align with God’s, we will ultimately and truly die. We’ll live and then die like typical humans.

To die and then live, however, is the way of the zombie. To lose our lives– accept Jesus as our Savior, seek God’s will instead of our own, be directed by the Holy Spirit– gives us eternal life. Our entire existence becomes centered around God, and when that happens, we find His gifts all around us and in us. We’ll die a mortal death, but then we’ll spend forever in light and love.

I’ll reiterate for any newcomers or for anyone who hasn’t read last week’s post: Losing your life does not mean losing who you are. You are still you, still the person God designed you to be, still capable of doing things in the kingdom of God that not just anyone can do. You’ll have your convictions– places you can’t go anymore or people you have to set up boundaries with or things you used to do that you shouldn’t. And that’ll change parts of your life, but it won’t take it away. God may reign in your life, but that doesn’t mean you no longer get to enjoy it.

I’m a zombie. Are you a zombie too?

Have you given up your life only to find a new one? If you have, you know that it’s filled with hope, joy, mercy, provision, and love unconditional. If you haven’t, would you like to? You can trade in your sorrows, burdens, and bitterness when you die to yourself. And you’ll come back to life forever.

By Carrie Prevette

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Nevertheless I Live

I once taught a lesson on how those who’ve been reborn are zombies based off of Galatians 2:20, which says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” I use the KJV translation because that’s the version I have memorized. (I’d like to note here that this is one of very few scriptures I know by heart.)

Additionally, I watch The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead. I even watch Talking Dead, which is an hour long show that comes on after both of those shows where Chris Hardwick and his guests discuss the episode that just aired. I’ve seen Zombieland more than once and enjoy it, and I’ve seen World War Z. I can appreciate a storyline involving zombies.

Yet I can’t say that I’m fascinated by zombies as a creature any more than other monsters. And I’ve watched Supernatural since I was 14, so I’ve had decent exposure to a range of monsters. However, I do understand the interest in zombies. As humans, we are either alive or dead, and we are in awe or terror of something that is both. They are barely alive, yet they feed off of what is fully alive. I get it.

Obviously, there are negatives to being a zombie, many of which depend on what your point of reference is, and those aspects can be used as spiritual metaphors. I reserve the right to switch gears with this series and discuss any and all of those, but for now, I want to run with this idea of being both dead and alive all at once.

Let’s revisit Galatians 2:20. Paul says that he’s crucified with Christ and that he is alive because Christ lives in him. We know this not to be literal, so what is Paul getting at?

Paul means that the person he was died when he accepted the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. When we accept the crucifixion as God’s greatest gift to us and accept Jesus as Savior, what happened on the cross becomes active and real in us, and so we die with Jesus and arise new and different.

We’re new and different because we are alive in Jesus, not ourselves. He’s running the show. He changes our hearts, minds, and outlooks. The way we live and walk in this world has changed because our internal wiring isn’t the same. Our life source isn’t the same.

In The Walking Dead universe, you can only kill a zombie by destroying its brain. This is because what reanimates it is very minimal brain activity right around the core and stem. There’s very little left of what once was. When we enter our new lives in Christ, there should be less of our old lives as well. Our reanimation doesn’t mean our personalities or tastes or hobbies change, but we have different motives and priorities, and we see our actions and consequences in a new light– the Light.

In season two, our group of survivors encounter another group that has kept alive their loved ones who’ve turned. They do so because they see them as the very same people they were when they were humans. In a universe where zombies are tangible and want to eat you, this is dangerous. In our spiritual lives in this universe, it’s simply inaccurate. We may look the same, sound the same, or act the same, but the fact remains that we aren’t the same as we once were.

I’m a zombie. Are you a zombie too?

Would you like to be one? Would you care for a new, eternal life source? How about a restart? A different way of existing? Christ offers all of this. (Bonus: He does not come with the cannibalism and disease of actual zombies!) He can turn you into something new and whole and bound for heaven. So what do you say?

By Carrie Prevette 

P.S.: Here’s the link to a song I like that accompanies this post perfectly, “Zombie” by Family Force 5.

Searching

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead?'” (Luke 24:1-5, ESV).

What an excellent question. Why do we look for life among death?

It wasn’t just these ladies who went to the tomb. We all do it. We look for answers, for meaning, for life, and we always look first in places that only bring death.

We look to money. Maybe we think, in a roundabout way, that we can buy our way into heaven by giving a lot of money in tithes or to charities. At the very least, we think it’ll provide us with enough happiness and opportunities down here that we’ll be considered blessed, that others will envy us. Maybe that’s true, but those blessings pale in the light of God’s love and blessings.

Success won’t earn us a place in heaven either. It’s not like there’s an all-star team that God selects only the best for. We all want to be successful in our own ways, by our own definitions, at our own things, and we think that will afford us a lot. Contentment, inner peace, the affection of others. But success doesn’t fulfill us. Only God does.

We turn to other people. We put friends, spouses, celebrities, other humans on pedistals and expect that sort of love to give us what we’re looking for. We long for their attention and strive to make them happy, often hoping they’ll have this same love for us. That is a kind of love, but not a redeeming love. It’ll provide no enduring sense of salvation for us, let alone actual salvation. For that we need the love of God.

We try all these things and so many more, but they’ll always end in death. None of them provide us with life or life everlasting. We’re all searching, but unless we’re searching within God, we’re looking for life among the dead.

The gateway to God, this ability to search Him for whatever we’re looking for is possible because Jesus wasn’t there when the women came to His tomb that day. “‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen…'” (Luke 24:5-6, ESV).

He had risen, and He still is risen. He’s alive to give us life, to give us all the things we search this world over for. If we’re looking for life, we should look where there is life, and as the empty tomb tells us, that is Jesus.

By Carrie Prevette

Life to Die For

For the past few weeks, God’s been leading me back to a certain point, and I’m not entirely sure why, but I know it’s for a reason. Maybe it’s for me or maybe it’s for one of you and I’m just the messenger. Regardless, after thinking about it during Alan’s sermons, during Focus on Sunday nights, and when I write the blog every week, I do believe now is the right time to talk about it. I’m not going to promise that this post will be a huge revelation, but it’s just been on my heart lately.

Jesus says in Luke 9:23-24 (NRSV), “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”

Jesus also says in John 10:10 (NRSV), “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Two fairly common scriptures, right? But at a glance, there’s a contradiction here. One says we need to lose our life for Jesus while the other says that Jesus came to give us abundant life. To the world, that would seem problematic. And maybe to some believers that would seem problematic.

We’re so used to it being all about us. We hear it all the time, but when you stop and think about it, to some extent, it makes sense that we would think that. It’s my life, my decisions, my actions, my preferences, my perception. It’s not illogical for someone to think their life is all about them.

That’s not to say that it’s okay for people to take outside situations and other people’s problems and make it all about them. That’s a different issue altogether. The point I’m trying to make is that it’s understandable for someone, to some extent, to think it’s all about them.

But as much as we may be used to it and as understandable as it is, we’re wrong. It’s not all about us. It’s about God.

We say that all the time, and I would have no trouble whatsoever believing that someone is tired of hearing it. That being said, there’s a big difference between saying it and hearing it and actually living it.

I taught at Focus about a month ago, and I asked the teenagers what it meant to die to ourselves daily, and I got some great answers such as “being selfless” and “going beyond ourselves.” Those are very good answers, especially from such young believers, but it’s more than that. It’s giving up what we want. It’s realizing that while we are free to make our own decisions, we should consult God first and follow His advice, even if it’s not what we want to do. It’s stopping our mouths from running off at someone to think about how much God loves that person or to pray for them. It’s trading where we want to be in life for where God wants to take us. It’s giving up our life for the life He wants for us.

That sounds terrible, but once we go a little deeper, it’s not. We think it’s a compromise of who we are and that we’ll end up miserable. God made you who you are for a reason. He created you to like and dislike certain things, to feel certain ways, to view the world the way you do. And He didn’t make you that way just to turn around and change all of it. In giving your life to God – really, truly, entirely – you aren’t compromising who you are or what you want. You’re handing your seat at the control panel over to God, who loves you, knows you, and knows what life you’ll enjoy the most.

I’m glad I’ve given God control of my life because I can assure you that if my life had gone the course I’d planned, I’d be absolutely miserable right now. I wouldn’t have the friends I have, I wouldn’t have the security I have, and I’d be way more in debt than I am. Mostly, I wouldn’t be as close to God as I am. Yes, I’ve “suffered” by giving up certain things or not getting what I want, but I am so much better for it.

I’ve lost my life for God, but I have more life now than I could ever imagine.

When we lose our life for God, we broaden our horizons. Our eyes open up to opportunities, our hearts open up to people, and doors open up for us. We’re still the same people we were, but we’re so different. And all of that leads to abundant life.

Romans 6:6-11 (NRSV) says, “We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

It seems weird to say that we gain freedom by pledging our lives to something, but it’s what happens when we give our lives to God. The abundance that He gives us goes beyond our mortal lives here and spills over into eternity with Him. But before we gain the abundance, we must lose our lives. Leave the sin and follow the Savior. Losing our lives to God is the last transition from our old selves to our new ones.

On Sunday, Alan said, “It should be impossible for us to go back knowing how great God is,” and that’s so remarkably true. We’re quick to remember the old, fleeting feelings of our sin and quick to forget that our walk with God has both mountains and valleys and never plateaus. The truth is that our worst days with God are far better than our best days without Him. And if you’ve yet to experience that, if you find yourself doubting that, I suggest you start by losing your life to God today. You’ll be surprised how alive you’ll start to feel.

By Carrie Prevette

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