Posted by: Damon Whitsell | March 2, 2009

Dying to Live the Abundant Life: Bearing the Cross by John Woodward

ABOUT Dying to live the Abundant Life. 

 

 
 

 

Have you ever wished you could die? Of course, you didn’t really want to kill yourself. You just didn’t want to be here anymore! When life gets painful, who has not wished they could just go somewhere and leave it all behind? In one of his Psalms, David expressed it like this: “O, that I had wings of a dove, I would fly away and be at rest.”

Even the great apostle Paul, when imprisoned in Rome, said it would be better to die so he could be with the Lord. And when listing the many trials he had to endure through his life, Paul said he had “despaired of life.”

This “death wish” is a natural human response to seemingly endless trials. As a counselor for 25 years, I have met many persons who felt this way, even some who were suicidal. But as I counseled suicidal people, I learned this:

There is a right way and a wrong way to die!

When people say they want to die, they mean that they want to escape their painful circumstances. They are disappointed that life is not turning out as they had expected. And the greater their expectation, the greater their disappointment. Many have turned away in anger toward God! Who of us has not felt this way?

And it is not just the BIG things in life that cause us to feel this way. Daily we deal with these disappointments. We are angry because the paper was late this morning; the toilet stopped up again; the car needed to go in the shop for the third time this month. And we say, “I would rather die than live like this.” Wait a minute, you say! What’s wrong with wanting these things? My friend, that is the wrong question! The question is not whether it is wrong to want these things. The real question is: what will you do when you don’t get them? What will you do with your disappointment? And your anger?

The irony is that these hard times are meant to show you that there is something you need to die to, or said differently, to let go of. As children of God, we must learn there is a right way to “die” (let go) and a wrong way to “die” (let go).

This is the point of this webiste.

The real death blow is to give up, or die to, stop insisting on your own way, that is, your expectations of how things should be. This is what it means to die to self. Jesus said, unless a grain of wheat…dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears MUCH fruit. Jesus meant that you cannot be alive to this abundant life He offers unless you are willing to die to your own. When you give up your right to be in charge of your own life, that is, be your own god, you allow God to be God. And the life that He will give you is marked by contentment and peace instead of anger and depression.

Jesus suffered and died and then rose up to be seated at the right hand of His father where He lives a glorious eternal life. He extends that life to us right now – in time. It is called Abundant Life. Jesus invited you to have it, but you have to die to experience it. He calls you to deny yourself, to pick up your cross and follow Him. Picking up your cross means you are taking your place with Jesus, to die to your own will.

Jesus said “I can do nothing on my own…” Why should it be any different for you and me?

Dietrich Bonheoffer says “when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” There can be no full receiving of this “new” life while we are unwilling to let go of the “old.”

Are you hungry for more of God? Are you eager to have the abundant life that Jesus offered? Are you dying to live the abundant life?

Jesus said: I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

Through pertinent articles written by Dr. Greg Burts and some of his favorite authors and teachers, you may read more about this “dying to live abundant life” truth. And this is why Greg has written his book Are You Dying to Live the Abundant Life?.

May God bless your journey to Abundant Living! 

 

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Dr. Greg Burts is the Founder and Director of the Center for Biblical Counseling.

Greg says, the Lord called me to the ministry of biblical counseling after my own journey away from God because of confusion and ignorance about my identity in Christ. Upon discovering these truths, he became passionate to advance personal spiritual growth in the church through the ministry of biblical counseling. Although Dr. Burts holds a Masters degree in Marriage, Family, & Child Counseling from Azusa Pacific University and a Ph.D. in Psychology from California Coast University, his therapeutic approach is singularly biblical.

You can learn more about Dr. Greg Burts’ ministry of Biblical counseling and training through his website at www.centerforbiblicalcounseling.org.

Dr. Burts is author of two books:

Strategic Biblical Counseling and Are You Dying to Live the Abundant Life?  

While both of these books present and explain the truths contained on this website, the latter was written specifically to accompany the Dying to Live seminar, taught by him in various locations several times a year.

Dr. Burts’ wife Altha, Founder and Executive Director of Well of Life Ministries, has written a book of her own journey of transformation and healing, called Come Up Higher. She has also written a strategic Bible study called Treasures of Truth, which can be viewed online at www.well-of-life.org, where you can also hear Altha’s testimony and learn more about her ministry.

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Bearing the Cross
By John Woodward
May 17, 1999

The story is told of a child in a church service who was intrigued by the hymn, “Gladly, the Cross I’d Bear”. Some time following church, the little one told his mother that he really liked the song they sang about the bear. “What song did we sing about a BEAR?” she asked. The child responded, “You remember, “Gladly, the Cross-eyed Bear”! Hopefully his mom could enlighten him. . .

Perhaps we too feel a little confused about the various facets of the Cross. Andrew Murray noted two fundamental aspects of the Cross. Christ died for us–that is the REDEMPTION of the Cross: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18).

Believers died with Christ–this is the FELLOWSHIP of the Cross: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”(Gal 2:20).

Since our theme this month is “the flesh”, let us study some verses that relate the cross to “the flesh”. Galatians 5:24 states “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” In other words, because the believer is united with Christ, THE AUTHORITY OF THE FLESH HAS BEEN BROKEN! We are free!

Now I think we need to answer two questions arising from Galatians 5:24. First, Does this verse teach that the flesh is no longer present in the believer? No; the context indicates that the believer needs to “walk in the Spirit” to avoid the “works of the flesh” (v.13,16,17-see previous issue). [However, the “old man” (our unregenerate human spirit) WAS crucified with Christ and IS NO LONGER IN THE PICTURE because it was replaced with “the new man” (the regenerate human spirit) — Rom 6:6, Col 3:9,10, 2 Cor 5:17] .

Second, Does Galatians 5:24 teach that the believer somehow directly crucified his flesh? I propose that this crucifixion of the flesh is a consequence of our union with Christ at salvation. Our part was to repent and believe; God’s part was to unite us with Christ and BREAK THE AUTHORITY OF SIN in our lives–(John 8:32).

The believer’s indirect “crucifixion of the flesh” is comparable to the indirect use of “save” found in 1 Corinthians 9:22. Paul wrote, “To the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means SAVE some.” Here Paul aims to “save some” through his preaching of the gospel. Would Paul directly save them? No; God would save them THROUGH Paul’s witness. Similarly, believers “have crucified the flesh” indirectly as a consequence of being united with Christ: “He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1 Cor 6:17). So through Christ, THE AUTHORITY OF THE FLESH BEEN NULLIFIED BY GOD!

This truth is also taught in Colossians using the symbolism of circumcision: “And you are complete in Him [Christ], who is the head of all principality and power. In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” (Col 2:10-12). Circumcision was the Old Testament sign of the covenant relationship with God. It conveyed the idea of putting off the sin inherited from Adam, and anticipating the promised Seed who would come–Christ (Gal 3:16). Those who are redeemed by Him are spiritually “circumcised”. As the prophet foretold, “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:33). When we walk in the Spirit we are living in accordance with our “new heart”.

There is another use of “putting to death” of the flesh that needs to be examined. In Romans 8:13 we read, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you PUT TO DEATH the deeds of the body, you will live.” Charles Solomon explains, “When flesh is in the ascendancy or control we are functionally (though not organically) separated from the Source of Life which results in a STATE of death (Rom 8:6) while having a STANDING of Life (Col 3:4)”. In other words, if the believer “walks according to the flesh” he does not lose his salvation, but he does hinder fellowship with God. (Fleshly thoughts and actions grieve the Holy Spirit–Eph 4:30).This “putting to death” the deeds of the flesh differs from the FACT of our crucifixion with Christ and the blessings that flow from it (as described above). Rather, Paul exhorts us in Romans 8:13 to apply the Cross to the flesh patterns which still exist in the soul.

Our POWER SOURCE for this is the Holy Spirit: “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies [for holy living] through His Spirit who dwells in you.”(Rom 8:11).

OUR STRATEGY is to set our minds on the truth, on our freedom, on Christ, and on the Spirit’s active ministry in us: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” (Rom 8:5).

One concluding reference to the cross in the believer’s life is Luke 9:23: “Then He (Jesus) said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Here our Savior calls us to say “no” to our will and “yes” to God’s will–no matter how difficult the consequences. The Lord Jesus demonstrated this commitment in His prayer in Gethsemane (Mark 14:36).

Are we gladly willing to bear His Cross? This involves reckoning our true identity and freedom in Christ. Thankfully, we can rely on His Resurrection life in us to live according to God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will. This is the life God calls us to live–a life without regrets.

Our gracious God, we thank you for the freedom from the authority of the flesh that is our birthright in Christ. As we stand in grace, we choose to live by grace. In Christ’s victory we pray, amen.

JBW May 17, ’99 vol 2 # 20

http://www.gracenotebook.com/pub/163

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