Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How to die to the world, and live for God

Genesis 35:3-4 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments; 3and let us arise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”

Dying to self in a nutshell
In these last several blogs we have covered the crucial concept of "dying to self"  We have discovered that in order to die to self, I must do three things: Get in order with what God has said; Reckon my former identity (before salvation) to be dead and third, understand that in God I want to move ahead.  We have also explored the benefits that come with "self-denial" or "dying to self": God's power is released to deal with trials and there is clearer illumination of who He is in your life. 

Where dying to self leads - "Dying to the world"
In the passage above Israel (formerly Jacob) makes a statement that demonstrates that he has truly died to his former identity of self-reliance.  His family had been trvaeling all over the land of Canaan with a bunch of idols in their possession.  When you read passages such as Joshua 24:1-2, you discover that these idols had been in Israel's family for centuries - stretching all the way back to the days of his grand-father Abraham.  God had certainly been working a lot of things in Jacob's life - with His great encounter in Genesis 32 breaking the strong will of Jacob. 

1 John 2:15-17 tells us this - "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever."

What in the world is "the world"?
When the Apostle John in 1 John 2:15-17 (just quoted) refers to not loving the "world", he is not referring to the people of our planet - rather he is referring to the system of human thought and satanic-inspired activity hostile to God.  The word for "world" is the Greek word "kosmos", from whence we get our English terms like "cosmopolitan" and "cosmetics".  It speaks of a certain arrangement of things.  Thus for instance when a woman applies "cosmetics" to her face, she is using a product that helps her "arrange" her appearance.  To hate the "world" means to not go with the flow, to hate what God hates, to oppose the system "arranged" against the God of the Bible.  In short, to die to the world means to love what God loves and hate what God hates.

The reason for dying to the world - Prioritize fellowship with God
When Israel told his family to "put away the idols", he was in effect declaring his left over allegiance to ungodly priorities to be at odds with his now-God-centered approach to life.  In the course of Israel's experience, God had made a "fellowship issue" with Israel and his family.  A fellowship issue is when God reveals to you that a certain thing in your life must go if you are to remain in close walk with Him. (please compare 1 John 1:6-7) 

God had to deal with other issues in Israel's life first, such as self-sufficiency, lying and stealing.  With those issues out of the way, Israel had this area he had to deal with - the family idols.  Unless Israel died to the world in this area, then he would only demonstrate that he had not died to self back in Genesis 32.  Fellowship with God had to take priority over his own comfort and preference if he were to move forward in his faith-walk.

Dying to self is the only means to dying to the world
What would had happened if Israel had not died to self back in Genesis 32?  He could not had carried out this bold initative to get rid of the family idols in Genesis 35.  Often when Christians hear about not being worldly, they think that dying to the world means wearing a longer skirt or adopting some type of legalism.  Whenever we try to escape the world without dying to self, we actually end up becoming more worldy!  Why?  Because legalism only deals with behavior, and not the heart. 

Dying to self deals with those deep seated, anti-God assumptions in my heart.  Unless I root those out by exposing my thought-life to God's word and surrender to God in prayer, I will never see the true need to die to the world. (compare 2 Corinthians 10:4-5). 

The cross is the only means to die to self
At salvation the cross is the place where I anchor my faith in the death, burial and ressurection of Jesus Christ.  In sanctification (the process whereby I am becoming more like Jesus Christ following my conversion), the cross is the tool used to bring-about Christ-likeness and death to self.  Co-crucifixion with Jesus Christ is where I daily identify my life with the cross.   Paul writes these words in Galatians 6:14 - "But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." 

When Israel told his family to "get rid of the idols", we see him building an altar to the Lord.  Israel was demonstrating an important truth - that only in identity with the blood can the Christian truly overcome the world.  That altar pointed to the ultimate event of Christ'as death, burial and resurrection. 

As we close this important blog series, I think it appropriate to give a verse from the last book of the Bible, Revelation 12:11, that captures the heart of faith that readily dies to self and the world: "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death."

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