Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pack Your Coffin

A band of brave souls became known as one-way missionaries two centuries ago. They bought tickets to the mission field without the return half. Instead of suitcases, they packed their few earthly belongings into coffins. As they sailed away, they waved goodbye to everyone they loved and all they knew, knowing they’d never return home.

A.W. Milne (1785-1822) was one of those missionaries. He set sail for the New Hebrides in the South Pacific, aware that the headhunters there had martyred every missionary before him. Milne didn’t fear for his life because he had already died to himself. His coffin was packed.

For 35 years he lived among that tribe. When he died, they buried him in the middle of the village and inscribed this on his tombstone: “When he came there was no light. When he left there was no darkness.”[1]

Another intrepid soul cut from the same cloth was Methodist missionary, James Calvert (1813-1892), who committed his life to reaching the indigenous peoples of the Fiji Islands. It is widely reported that upon his voyage, the ship’s captain warned him to turn back, saying, “You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages.” Calvert purportedly replied, “We died before we came here.”

Calvert and Milne understood the implications of Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ.” The first and most essential act of discipleship is firing the planning committee in your heart and dying to self. Those men lived powerfully for God because they recognized that the greatest barrier to discovering all that God has for us is our preoccupation with self.

That is why Jesus declared unapologetically in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” The cross is more than a religious symbol or shiny piece of jewelry on a necklace. When Jesus made that statement the cross was a symbol of death. The Romans reserved it for the worst criminals. The cross was torture, humiliation and a long painful death. So with those words you can see that Jesus is not interested in “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” You don’t build a faithful following by telling people they must be at the bottom of the organizational flow chart of life.  

Jesus intentionally used a gruesome symbol to get the people's attention. He did this to say that following Him was not a game and it is not easy. In fact, it will cost you to follow Him as a disciple. But, on the other hand, it will cost you more not to follow Him.

A.W. Tozer has said, “In every Christian's heart there is a cross and a throne, and the Christian is on the throne till he puts himself on the cross; if he refuses the cross, he remains on the throne. We want to be saved, but we insist that Christ do all the dying. No cross for us, no dethronement, no dying. We remain king within the little kingdom of Man's soul and wear our tinsel crown with all the pride of a Caesar; but we doom ourselves to shadows and weakness and spiritual sterility.”[2]

So what does it mean to “die to self?” So much could be said, but allow me to give you a few practical examples of how this would work in day-to-day living.

·         To bear the cross means forgiving, instead of harboring that grudge.
·         It means resisting that temptation to do what everybody else does.
·         It means not having sex before marriage, and being faithful to your spouse after.
·         It means putting down the remote control and picking up your Bible.
·         It means praying when you would rather be sleeping.
·         It means "swallowing your pride" and telling someone about Jesus.
·         It means doing what God wants you to do, instead of what you want to do.[3]

Now let me ask you, “Are you dying to yourself and taking up the cross?” Have you packed your coffin?

[1] Mark Batterson, All In: Your One Decision Away from a Totally Different Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 13.
[2] A.W. Tozer, The Radical Cross (Camp Hill, PA: Wind Hill Publishers, 2005), 100.
[3] Greg Laurie, “The Paradox of the Cross,” 12 January 2012

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