If you want to really live, you're going to have to die

Then Jesus said 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. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Matthew 16:24–26)

In John 20:26, we see the risen Jesus suddenly appear in the midst of his disciples, despite the fact that they are in a locked room. Apparently Jesus’s resurrected body was not subject to physical limitations such as walls. And in 1 Corinthians 15:42-43, Paul tells us that when we receive our resurrection bodies, they will be “imperishable” and raised “in glory” and “in power.” It’s hard to imagine what that will be like – will we be able to fly? Surely it will be beyond our wildest dreams. But the reality is that in order to experience the resurrected body, there must be a death first.

Easter is an annual reminder that death must precede life to the fullest. The central story of Christianity is Jesus, the eternal Son of God, dying on the cross to take the punishment we deserved for our sins, and then rising again from the dead to show His power over sin and death. But we can not receive the eternal life that He offers us unless we too are willing to die first. Not physically, but rather die to ourselves – our sins, our desires, our way, our control over our lives. As Paul put it:

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:2-5)

Jesus tells us that he came that we might have “life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). But he also warns us that whoever wants to save their life will lose it, while those who are willing to lose their life – to take up their cross and follow Jesus – will find the abundant life (Matthew 16:24-26). In Matthew 13:44, Jesus tells his disciples that “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” In order to experience the treasure of Jesus’ kingdom, we must be willing to give up everything.

 Now, admittedly, when we first commit our lives to Jesus, we don’t understand all that he will ask us to give up along the way. But more than likely, if you take a minute to ask God what He is asking you to die to, to give up, or to lay down so that you might experience more of His abundant life, He will bring something to mind. So, this Easter, as you reflect upon God’s love for you as displayed through the death of His Son on the cross that saves you, I encourage you to pray along these lines:

Heavenly Father, I trust you and know that if you gave your Son when I was your enemy, you will give me everything I need now that I am your beloved child. I believe that in you is found life to the fullest. I know that I am holding on to things that are preventing me from truly experiencing that abundant life. Lord, please reveal to me what it is that I need to give up or die to, and give me the courage to put it to death, that you might fill me with a greater measure of your life. I ask this in the mighty name of my Lord and Savior, your Son, Jesus, amen.

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