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When Christ Calls a Personby Duane Mabee on January 17, 2019
Dietrich Bonhoffer wrote from a Nazi prison camp, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” He was executed for his leadership in the Christian church soon after he wrote that statement. For him, dying would be literal. What Bonhoffer was referring to, however, was that Christ calls us to die to self; to our desires, our plans, and our self-will.
We tend to treat Christianity something like a spiritual energy drink. We expect it to boost our personal power and satisfaction, making it easier for us to do what we want to do. That’s not how Christ sees things.
Paul Bubna addressed this when he wrote about the story of the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17. The man came to Jesus to ask how to inherit eternal life. Jesus pointed him to the commandments about murder, adultery, lying, stealing, coveting and honoring parents, which the man affirmed he had kept from his youth. He was a moral man. Jesus didn’t challenge his assertion. Instead, Jesus “loved him.” Bubna points out that “There are lots of us here today who could say the same thing. ‘I don’t lie, steal, commit adultery; I don’t kill people; I’m keeping the law!’” But in one statement, Jesus uncovered something in the man that needed to die. He told the man to, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor,” (10:21). The young man went away sorrowing because he had great riches. He was satisfied with his moral living, but he was unwilling to die and surrender to Jesus.
When Jesus calls us to salvation, He calls us to come and die to ourselves; our self-will, our self-determination, and to all the things that we don’t want to surrender to His control. Romans 8:13 says, “For if you live according to the flesh (your self-will) you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live,” (ESV). In Mark 8:34-35 Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it,” (ESV).
Christianity is not a spiritual energy drink. It is not meant to help you do what you want to do. It is a call to complete surrender to the will and ways of Jesus Christ. “But,” you might say, “dying to self sounds so difficult.” It’s not difficult. It’s impossible. Jesus ended the discussion with His disciples over this event saying, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God,” (Mark 10:27 ESV). Anyone who thinks they can do this on their own is sadly mistaken. That’s the point of salvation. We need Jesus to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. Only through new life in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit working in us can we surrender our will to Christ’s will and be born again. But what is impossible for us, is possible for God. Have you died to your self-will, so that you can be made alive in Jesus Christ? Or, is there something in you that still needs to die, like there was in the rich young ruler?