And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. Luke 9:23-24, ESV
“Truly, truly, I say to you, 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, ESV
Through the years I’ve often thought about what the verses above and those like them (Matt. 10:39; Matt. 16:24-25; Luke 9:23-24; John 12:25) really mean for me.
In my growing up years, I was pretty dramatic and so I primarily saw Jesus’ command to die as a call to martyrdom in the context of foreign missions to which I was sure to go and to which many do go. I often contemplated the question, “Would you go if you knew you would be killed when people find out you are a follower of Christ?”
The truth is, if you follow Christ, death is not a future possibility or an option. In fact, you already have died, in the “already” part of the “already/not yet” sense (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 5:24).1 By that I mean, your current status as a believer is “one who is crucified with Christ;” God considers your unregenerate passions and desires to be already dead.
But, if you are like me, this truth has not been brought to perfect completion in your daily life. If you are like me, though God has already made you spiritually “alive together with Christ” and raised you “up with him and seated you “with him in the heavenly places …” (Eph 2:5-6), there is, in the “not yet” sense (as confirmed by Jesus’ use of the word “daily” in Luke 9:23 above), an ongoing battle with your selfish nature. There is a daily struggle between putting to death the old self and giving into the passions of the old man – the desires of your body and mind (Eph 2:1-3).
Nevertheless, I am commanded to put on the new self “already “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness,” Eph. 4:24. I am to put on who God has already said I am.
So how do I, a grandmother of five living in the United States between the realities of “already dead to selfishness” and “not yet dead to selfishness,” who is not in any immediate danger of being snuffed out because I belong to Christ, daily live out the death to selfishness that Christ commands of me, in front of my grandchildren for the sake of Christ, that is, for the reputation of Christ in the eyes of my grandchildren– so that they will see his glory? Whew! Long question.
In other words, “How do I practically, through self-denial, show my grandchildren that Christ is more valuable to me than … than me?” After pondering this for a bit, I came up with seven ways.
7 Ways for a Grandmother to Die to Self for the Sake of Christ.
- I can wake early to pray for the salvation and progress in holiness of my grandchildren instead of sleeping in. (Eph. 5:15-16; 1 Tim. 2:1)
- I can be gracious and welcoming to my grandchildren even when I’m tired and in physical pain so that they will feel and see the grace of God, that welcomed me, at work in my life. (Rom. 15:7)
- I can study instead of watching the news, surfing the internet, shopping, or anything else that steals time from growing in knowledge of God so that I can (1) clearly communicate the gospel to my grandchildren (2) answer their hard questions about God; (3) speak to them with understanding of God’s revelation of himself; and (4) give comfort and encouragement to them, based on God’s word, when difficulties come. (2 Tim. 2:15)
- I can spend money on activities and materials that will contribute to the spiritual growth of my grandchildren rather than spending it on some frivolous thing for me. (Matt. 6:19-20)
- I can encourage the parents of my grandchildren and others who influence my grandchildren instead of wallowing in complaints about what I wish they would do differently. (1 Thess. 5:14)
- I can involve myself in ministry to others rather than in trivial momentary things that have no eternal value so that my grandchildren will know that I love Jesus and am serious about obeying him. (1 John 3:16-18)
- I can fight sin instead of indulging myself in it so that my grandchildren will see the power of God and the fruit of the Spirit in my life. (Rom. 6:12-14)
You may think of other ways I haven’t thought of yet and I hope you do, but I also tremble that you might see my 7 “I can” ways and your ways as a “to do” list removed from the power of God and the Spirit’s transforming work in your life (Phil. 2:12-13). Please don’t do that! It will only result in another “self” – self-righteousness (Eph. 2:8-10).
It is true that we must do whatever it takes to kill self-centeredness, self-seeking, and any other “ness” of self, but it is equally true that, if you are a believer, God has already created you in his likeness (Eph. 4:24), and as you become less full of self, and God promises you will (Phil. 1:6), his image – his glory – will fill you more and more (Col. 3:10). And your grandchildren, and everyone else for that matter, will see, more and more, the likeness of God in your life.
Praying that you will lose your life for Christ sake so that you will save it and bear much fruit.
1. To learn more about what I mean by “already/not yet,” please refer to my blog, “Already? Not Yet? Which is it?”