When the will of God cuts across the will of man, someone must die. ~Addison Leitch
Last Sunday morning I prayed for my husband, as is my custom, before he left. I asked God to bless his preaching, and for hearts to be softened. Then I kissed him goodbye, and continued getting ready for church.
A moment later, he stuck his head back in the door.
Don’t forget to unplug the hair dryer!
He says this often, and I usually laugh and assure him that I won’t.
But my response last Sunday?
How old am I?
He left quietly, shoulders drooping but saying nothing, and within seconds I felt miserable, wishing I could take back such insolent words. As he drove away, silhouette bent over the steering wheel in the morning light, I called, told him I was wrong, and apologized for my rudeness. He quickly forgave me.
I had just prayed for softened hearts, thinking mainly of faces in our congregation. But God meant it for me, pricking then softening mine in confession and repentance.
Mea culpa catches in our throats, doesn’t it? It is one thing to mumble I’m sorry, but to say This is my fault and I was wrong? Such direct ownership of personal sin crushes pride, trampling it to death.
Pride contorts our frame, bending us inward, as we grip sin like Gollum does his ring. Mine! Precious! This ancient trap ensnares, slithering at our ankles, with flickering tongue, curling, squeezing, suffocating with promises that burn with a lie so enticing: I am my own master. And as we feed our pet Pride, trying desperately to tame it, it turns and bites, seeping venom. God opposes the proud (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5).
Like Eve in the garden, we stake claim to our personal rights, thinking that we reign sovereign, but in truth we rule with crooked crowns upon flimsy cardboard thrones.
The world, however, is quick to applaud this approach: My will. My way. My life. My dreams. My future.
But is anything my fault?
As Christ followers, we must die a thousand times over to this sin of our flesh, always turning away from ourselves back to God and his Word. Jesus, sinless, modeled this the night before his crucifixion: Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done (Luke 22:42).
To be like Christ, we must pick up our cross, daily crucifying sin.
All of those little deaths hold purpose.
For those willing to please God through obedience, pain is inevitable.
I remember when one of our sons was very young, and had a splinter. We did not know what was wrong, but we could see that his foot was hurting and red. The pediatrician used her powerful magnifier and head lamp to study the sole of his small foot.
There is definitely a small splinter deep in there, she said, sending us home with instructions to soak his foot three times per day in warm water, mixed with Epsom salts.
So we followed her protocol, and the splinter came to the surface of his skin. As I took the tweezers and pulled, he cried. Yet the moment it was over, the splinter and infection removed, he felt tremendous relief that ushered in winds of freedom: he could now run and play.
Isn’t that the very picture of the mortification of sin?
A magnifying glass of introspection, the all-powerful flashlight of God’s Word, and the salt of truth bring healing. Sin is exterminated, and I am free.
Wouldn’t it be grand to walk upon streets of gold right now, seeing God and bowing low in reverence; so safe with him, treasuring eternity free of sin and pain and sickness and death?
Yet as long as we have breath in our lungs, the will of God for each of us is to travel this Calvary road, a narrow path to the Kingdom. Although slim, it is beautiful, isn’t it? Our Master gives us glimpses of treasure: Scripture to guide, prayer to deepen our walk, fellow believers to encourage and befriend, and the stunning views of nature. The path is also marked with painful inclines, low valleys, and storms. But there remains a joy in our journey because God is present and he forgives us, his repentant children, encouraging us to gaze only upon him as we travel. The Author and Perfecter of our faith is also our patient Shepherd, caring tenderly for our souls.
All of those little deaths to self? They are marks of the purposeful slaying of sin, shining as our Yes to God. He sees each and every one, a string of precious beads, stained red and hard won, treasures marking a crucified life in Christ.
I have been crucified with Christ, it is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20).