Tomorrows Leaders, Today's Sacrifice

 By Francis Frangipane

The oak tree grows out of the grave of the acorn.

Return to the Cross
Those who will be tomorrow's leaders will pay God's price today. Other Christians may seem to be enjoying the benefits of Christ's blessings while doing little to obtain them. You who have answered Jesus' command, "Follow Me," will find no easy path before you. Yet, it is written, if we "suffer with Him" we shall also be "glorified with Him"(Rom 8:17).

How does a disciple actually suffer with Christ? At the core of our existence, we choose to let the way of Christ guide us rather than the way of man. The cross is the cost we pay so Christ's redemption will succeed.

Our cross puts to death our self-preservation instincts, as well as our fleshly ideas and ambitions. Before Jesus will truly manifest in power in our lives, He requires an end to striving with our flesh. Self must die for Christ to manifest in power.

If we will become those to whom God entrusts His kingdom, we must envision ourselves crucified. We must purpose to see Christ revealed and living within us. And we must see the time of extended preparation, however long it takes, as fundamental to our future success.

Consider: Jesus lived thirty years of surrendered obscurity. Yet His life was not hidden from God; His life was hidden in God. Without outward signs or works of power, inwardly Jesus carried a cross. Daily, He chose to die to the voice of self-interest; without interruption, He lived in the warmth of His Father's pleasure. As a blue collar worker, in the mundane tasks of human existence, Jesus' life increased the bliss of God.

How did He, not as a miracle worker but as a wood worker, attract the Father's unswerving focus? Jesus never silenced the voice of love nor separated His heart from its trust in God.

We, too, must not assume that because men do not acknowledge us that God Himself is indifferent. If we are truly living for God, He will notice. If we are genuinely living in pursuit of Him, He will certainly measure our progress and, in time, reward our hunger with His substance.

It is Needful That We Die to Self
It is easy to be false, but only with difficulty do we become true followers of Jesus Christ. If we would have the Spirit of God become real to us, we must first become real with Him. Our superficiality must die and our outer man buried. Yes, we are sheltered in the Father's love, but His love does not protect us from growing up. His sheltering presence keeps us from evil, but it does not keep us from having to change.

Thus, part of God's provision, even in the midst of our blessedness, is the crucifixion of our old nature. Indeed, to facilitate this death process, Christ accommodates the adversarial conflicts which come against us and uses them to perfect us. We cry, "God, protect me." But the Almighty seeks not so much to protect us, but to perfect us. Our perfection, our maturity, our conformity to Christ's faith, love and character is the protection offered by the Father.

You see, there are enemies in our lives from whom God has no intention of delivering us until we have changed. They are specifically and divinely allowed, for they attack and destroy that element of our nature that lives outside of our conformity to Christ. In other words, you will always have people slandering you until you are unmanipulated by the words of man. You will frequently have people who curse you until you learn to bless them, and not react.

Jesus said, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (Jn 12:24). Although Jesus was talking about His own physical death, He extended the principal of dying to self to His disciples: Unless we die to self, we will abide alone. We will not bear "much fruit."

True Christianity requires the crucifixion of our old self-life, and it requires we willingly choose to die. This is a most profound truth and worthy of prolonged contemplation, that both God and the devil desire we die, but for different reasons. While Satan seeks to destroy us at the cross, God seeks to bring forth, in that very place of our decease, the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. Death awaits us. The choice before us is not how can we avoid death, but how can we die as Jesus died, forgiving His enemies and trusting God?

"Always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body" (2 Cor 4:10). In a myriad of ways we will find daily opportunities to die. The key is to carry in our bodies the "dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body." What tremendous privilege is afforded us: Jesus manifested in our bodies! Not a religion about the Son of God, but the manifest substance of God's Son, revealed in and through us. And the doorway is death to self.

You see, the explosive power of God does not come from Bible study or Christian fellowship. These things, while essential, only help to maintain our spiritual level of growth. Increased spiritual power comes from the increased presence of Christ, which comes from the death of self. It is finding ourselves in circumstances which plunge us face to face with an eternal choice: we either die to self and become Christlike or we harden our hearts and become either backslidden or religious.

Do we want the living Christ manifest, functioning in power in our lives? At the same moment self is being crucified, Christ is being magnified. The cross that crucifies self is the gate through which God's power enters our lives.

Paul wrote, "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead" (Phil 3:10-11). Crucifixion precedes resurrection. Why is it more of us cannot break into true spiritual power? Self still rules. God cannot trust us with power, for self will instinctively hijack power to attract the worship and praise of man.

Self must die; Jesus must live. Paul declared, "I have been crucified with Christ; and 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" (Gal 2:20). Do we see this? God did not only take my sins to the cross; He took my old self there as well. I died at Calvary. The Almighty does not seek to heal me, He seeks to kill me and, in my place, manifest the perfect life of His Son in me.

The cross means death to selfishness. It is a crucifixion of our insecurities and fears and an abandonment to death of our unending self-pity and woundedness. What must die in us deserves to die! It is the enemy of God and us. Only Jesus deserves to live forever; only that part of me that wants Jesus is capable of living forever.

Yes, beloved, there is a price for destiny. Some who pay it will be teens who want to find their fulfillment in God alone. Some are people approaching retirement and, for the first time in their lives, are about to make a choice to truly follow Jesus Christ. Yet, whomever He chooses, they will be people who proclaim with faith and vision: "Self must die; Jesus must live!" Tomorrow's leaders shall pay God's price today.

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