Does the Church Still Think This Way? Should it?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 Now if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful work for me; and I don’t know which one I should choose. 23 I am torn between the two. I long to depart and be with Christ — which is far better — 24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25 Since I am persuaded of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that, because of my coming to you again, your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound. Philippians 1:21-26 (CSBBible)
Self-denial consists in the voluntary renunciation of every thing which is inconsistent with the glory of God and highest good of our fellow men.
Thus Luther writes: “Christians are a special, called people and are denominated not merely ecclesia, church or assembly, but sancta, catholica, Christiana, that is, a Christian holy people that believes in Christ, for which reason it is named a Christian people and has the Holy Spirit who sanctifies it daily, not only through the forgiveness of sins (as the Antinomians2 foolishly assert), but also through the putting away, purging, and destroying of sins, wherefore it is called a holy people.
The mission necessarily puts us in contact with the cross of Christ. This is the sign that the mission is in accordance with the Spirit of God. It is only by “dying” to everything else that we understand what we are asked to do and thus discover the right ways to do it. “I can assure you that if the grain of wheat that falls to the ground does not die, it remains alone; but if it dies it gives much fruit” (Jn 12:24).
As a Lutheran pastor, I often talk about the people of God, being drawn to the cross. We are cruficied there with Christ, as we are united to His death and resurreciton.
But there is something there that happens, a transformation that I am not sure we talk about enough. For if we did, and if we depended on the work of the Holy Spirit, how different would the world look?
What if we were only concerned about this life, because it was necessary for the sake of others? What impact would we have if we were far more invested and desiring eternitym than being concerned about out rights, and our happiness. We are called to imitate Jesus, but somehow He’s been replaced by Narcisus. And we are enslaved by temptations that cater to our pleasure, to our preferences, to our theories of how life should be.
Our only hope is found in the work of the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit circucises our hearts, purging from us that which is not of God. This is done as we are drawn to the cross, and crucified with Christ. That is why St. Paul writes, “13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.” Romans 8:13 (NLT2)
This is what the church needs today, people compelled by the Holy Spirit to choose to live, not for its own sake, but for others, all the while looking forward to the day when we see our Lord face to face. We need to be freed from Narcissis, and be found in Christ. Thank God, that move is not up to our will andability, but is found simply depending on Jesus.
This is where we need to be…crucified with Christ.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
C. F. W. Walther, Church and Ministry: Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Church and the Ministry, electronic ed. (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1987), 30.
Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 366.