In dying we live?

Have you ever wanted to do great things for God and expect him to open doors, but God seems silent? Or may be you are feeling like Jeremiah who said “O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed.I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me”. (Jer 20:7)?

Similar situations has drawn my attention to Exodus chapters 2 and 3 while I was reading them recently. The life of Moses is one of the most fascinating stories in the Bible. He was born to a Hebrew couple, while all the Hebrew male children were being killed according to Pharaoh’s command. Despite this command, Moses was adopted and raised by Pharaoh’s daughter in the same palace where the decree was given. He was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.(Acts 7:22). It all seems like God has raised a perfect man to deliver Hebrews from Egypt. The Hebrews could not have asked for a better leader. He was qualified, capable and was passionate for his people’s wellbeing. God had been working in Moses’s life right from the beginning. What he was at that point was all because of God. Then suddenly, everything fell apart. We see Moses run for his life to Midian crossing the Sinai wilderness and later staying content in the house of a Midian priest and marrying his daughter. He left his privilege as Pharaoh’s daughter’s son, lost the comforts of the palace life and his people he loved and even his own family. Most importantly, he had left the idea to fight for his people’s justice. Why didn’t the deliverance process begin when he was in Egypt? Why didn’t God speak to Moses then about delivering his people and sending him to Pharaoh? Was it Moses’s sin? Did he need more training? Was it wrong timing?

Charis Kairos (The Tears of Christ), 2014 | Makoto Fujimura

These were my questions after reading this passage recently. What did God really want to accomplish? While thinking about this, I could relate to what happened to Abraham. He must have thought all had turned out well, when Isaac was born after 25 years of waiting for the promised son. One day everything falls apart for Abraham when God asks him to sacrifice his only son Isaac on the mountain. Can you relate to these incidents? What did God really want to accomplish here? Does he like to create such twists in people’s life? Was this easy for Abraham? We think God wants to test and see if Abraham really loves God more than his son? Seriously? The Eternal God who is all-knowing, does not know Abraham’s heart? So, what exactly is God trying to do? I think God wanted Abraham to know what it means to truly love God.

God wanted Abraham to know, what it means to truly love God.

What I noticed is that, what has become most important in their lives had been asked to sever from their heart or offer it to God. For Abraham, it was his son and for Moses it was his people or his confidence on himself that he can deliver his people. Yes God want to deliver his people, in fact, He sent Moses back to Egypt on the same mission later. Yes Isaac was the promised child, but God want to sever that from Abraham’s heart. Why? Is it about sin or something else? I think it is sin. Abraham’s love for his son and Moses’s mission in itself is not sin, they are not evil desires, but once these desires turn out to be self-seeking then it is really not love. If you notice, any sin is primarily putting yourself in the centre and ‘Edging God Out’ (EGO). Self-seeking, self-reliance or pride is the heart of sin. So what is truly God’s love? The most astonishing thing to me was, when I related this to what had happened on the cross. Here the triune God himself severed his Son from him, on the cross. Jesus cried out on the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Why? Why does even God had to do this? God’s love is to sacrifice himself and not to hold back. This love is radical, self-sacrificing, gracious, unmerited, everlasting etc. I don’t know how much I can understand this way about the cross, but I see God himself did not put himself above his creation but gave himself to die to restore his dead creation back to himself. This is love in its full glory. It is beautiful.

Sin is primarily putting yourself in the centre and Edging God Out (EGO)

So, the common thread I noticed in these critical experiences of Moses, Abraham and many more like Jacob, Joseph etc. is that they too walked the path of shame, weakness, suffering, defeat, humiliation, self-sacrifice which is the way of the cross, our Lord himself took. Not for the good people, but, loving the unloving and dying for the unworthy in the most shameful form of death. If you are born of God and abide in this love, there is no other way. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:5–8). This is foolishness to the world. Paul says, this crucified Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Now Jesus commands, “if you want to become my disciple, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me”.(Mat 16:24)

Triune God himself severed his Son from him, on the cross.

In our performance & results-driven culture, we are after high growth, high impact and high returns. It is all about “climbing up”. We want to be self-made heroes fully in control of everything. We lust after glory and power. We want to hang-out with movers, people of influence who can open doors for us, not with the weak and the marginal. Unfortunately, we borrowed this worldly pattern to church. We took the world’s triumphalism idea to shape our faith, ministry and even service. We see our success in increased numbers, wealth, name and fame. Mostly, we think “Glorifying God” means this, but God was glorified on the cross.

What glory or power have we been seeking? In our job, ministry, business or with our talents? Do we as a disciple or as an artist want to glorify God? I would encourage you and me to take a long look at the cross. May be, God wants us to sever something from ourself. May be, even the church that you had planted must be handed over to someone else? Shutting down your next big project half way? Selling your stake and stepping down from your business? Or giving up your career or art practice to take care of someone else? Maybe, you are currently experiencing this feeling of defeat. You may ask, should I stop doing what I am doing? Does God want me to be lazy? Irresponsible? Poor? Incompetent? Unsuccessful in my pursuits? Absolutely not. I don’t think God ever desires to discourage us. It is important that we don’t become disappointed, passive, sulk or become extremely fearful to take up our responsibility. This too is self-seeking. Our responsibilities, actions, initiative, goals and dreams are important. God wants us to be responsible disciples, citizens, servants, neighbours, parents, colleagues, entrepreneurs, professionals etc. But the path he wants us to take is to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, completely abiding in him, taking up our cross and follow him in this path of shame, suffering, humiliation and love. This will always be our struggle, this will never come easy except we seek God’s help.

When Moses severed his well-intended vision to fight for the justice of his people, God sent him back on the same work with God’s greater vision. Moses then had all excuses not to go, but he took up his cross and went as a humble servant. God desires for us to join his great mission of redemption and restoration in the world but, the path that he set before us is the way of the cross which he himself took. Let us truly live by dying to ourselves, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.(John 12:24).

May be these questions can help us check our walk through this narrow path. The world asks “What’s in it for me?” Like satan asked Jesus “turn these stones into bread”. But we need to ask, Am I seeking my glory, my profit, my interest, my comfort, my name and fame? Self-seeking is sin. Remember, ‘man shall not live by bread alone’. Instead I need to ask am I truly giving without holding back anything? Giving not that I may gain but giving that others may gain. Secondly the world asks you “Are you in control?” If not you are a looser. Being in control gives us strength and confidence, losing control is weakness. But I need to ask myself if my confidence is in God? Am I trusting God for his providence or relaying on my own resources? When we die we don’t have any resources, all our resources are in God.

May God help us to lose our lives so that we may truly find it. (Mat 10:39)

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”.

Your fellow traveller in this narrow path.