Submitted by Pastor Rodney Hopper, First Christian Church, Rock Port
Richard De Haan, broadcaster and creator of the “Day of Discovery” TV program, tells of a soldier who was doing sentry duty on the front line in WWI. After being relieved of duty, as a Christian, he wanted to pray, to thank God for protecting him and to ask specifically for his continued protection. But the enemy lines were very close and he couldn’t go far, so he just walked a little ways from where he had been standing guard and began to pray aloud. The sentry who replaced him heard his voice and thought he was speaking to someone in the enemy lines. So he reported him. The officer in charge said, “You’ve been accused of revealing secrets to the enemy. How do you respond?” The soldier said, “It’s not true.” The officer replied, “Then what were you doing when you were standing out there facing the enemy and talking?” He said, “I was praying.” “You were praying out loud?” “Yes, I was.” The officer said, “Show me. Pray right now.” So the young man got down on his knees and prayed. When he finished the officer dismissed the charges. “Because,” he said, “nobody can pray like that unless they have been practicing.”
What Do You Live For? – There’s an old story about St. Augustine of Hippo (November 13, 354 – August 28, 430); Early on in his Christian life, he was intensely absorbed in the writings of Cicero. And around this time, he had a dream that he had died. And now he was standing at the pearly gates. And the keeper of the gate said, “Who are you?” And he said, “I’m Augustine.” Then the keeper said, “What are you?” Augustine said, “I’m a Christian.” The gatekeeper said, “No, you’re not a Christian. You’re a Ciceronian!” Augustine said, “What are you talking about? I’m a Christian!” And the gatekeeper said this: “All souls on earth are judged by what dominated their interests. In you, Augustine, it was not the Christ of the gospel. It was the Cicero of Roman literature. You are not a Christian. You cannot enter here!” Augustine was so startled that when he woke up, he resolved then and there to be fully committed to Jesus Christ for the rest of his life. And to live for Him.
Can we say, I know Christ as Lord and Savior? Or Christ is the center of my life? Can we say with the Apostle Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20); and “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Paul was dedicated to serving God with all his heart. At one time in his life he used all his energy to persecute Christians, but then he encountered Jesus and became one of the most extraordinary Christian examples the world has ever seen.
The individual who “dies to self” knows that God created him or her for a reason; that he or she is a part of God’s great plan for the world. If we are to be used by God, we must first consider how God can use us to accomplish His purposes in this world. Jesus said, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8). God’s plan tells us that “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). We bear fruit when Christ lives His life in and through us, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing”(John 15:5). The Lord wants us to live a godly, spiritually productive and happy life.
The world’s philosophy says ‘LIVE FOR SELF’, but God’s Word says ‘DIE TO SELF’! Many people came to Jesus and asked to be His disciples, but most of them turned away because they were not willing to give themselves to Christ; to make themselves a “slave of Christ.” Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Luke 16:13). We are to become a “Spiritual Sacrifice”, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” Romans 12:1; and “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
As we celebrate the New Year let us ask ourselves, “What Do I Live For?”