Romans 6:3-4, "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."
On the wall of President Lyndon Johnson's White House office hung a framed letter written by General Sam Houston to Johnson's great-grandfather, Baines, more than 100 years earlier. Baines had led Sam Houston to Christ. Houston was a changed man, no longer coarse and belligerent but peaceful and content.
The day came for Houston to be baptized—an incredible event for those who knew him. After his baptism, Houston offered to pay half the local minister's salary. When someone asked him why, he said, "My pocketbook was baptized too."
We may not like the idea of dying to self, dying to sin, dying to our wishes, wants and purposes but that is exactly what Christ calls us to when he says, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it" (Matthew 16:24-25). We see the death of self—rightfully so—as complete, irrevocable, possibly painful. But without this death we can not be born into the living hope God has called us (1 Peter 1:3).
But we all must die one day or another. The Christian, in the wisdom God has given us through Christ, chooses to get it over with now so he will not have to go through it later. That later death will only be death. But now, if we are willing to die, we are born into life. Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26). If you do believe this it changes everything for us. Not just what we don't do but what we will do. It is a complete death. But here is the gospel paradox: it is through death that life comes. Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). Life that comes from death seems like a paradox but it is true.
Geologists said that the eruption of Mt Saint Helens was equivalent to 20,000 atomic bombs going off at once. Everything for hundereds of square miles was laid to waste at once. Every living creature died. Everything—flora, fauna animals. But a fascinating thing took place months later. Biologists flying around in planes observing the destruction began to notice areas where clumps of grass were sprouting. What they noticed is that the clumps of grass were in the shapes of animals—elk, bear, rabbits, ground squirrels. Where an animal had died new life began.
A paradox but true. "The one who believes in me will live, even though they die." Die to live. Deny yourself daily, take up your cross and live for God and you will live through God—a life that will never end, an abundant life.
Prayer: Father God, we do not like to think of death but by the death of our Savior, Jesus, we can have life and through the death of the self, which comes from faith, we do have life. May we see that simple truth that as death is complete so your Lordship over us is complete. We thank you that death is not the end but the beginning of the life you have for us and that life is abundant life in Jesus Christ in whose name we pray, amen.