STOVALL: Experiencing death for life’s sake

Gabriel Stovall

Gabriel Stovall

“For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” — Romans 8:13 (NIV)

The Kingdom that Jesus Christ began to establish when He stepped into humanity’s world, dressed in humanity’s uniform is a kingdom that is full of oxymoronic, paradoxical statements — statements that go against the grain of all human logic, reason and sensibility.

In essence, these Kingdom principles stated by Jesus, on the surface, just don’t make much sense. And not only do they not make sense, Jesus did not intend for them to make sense — at least in terms of human wisdom. Consider these statements by our Christ and compare them to the conventional wisdom that is common in our world today:

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures on Earth …but lay up for yourself treasures in heaven …” (Matthew 6:19-20).

“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:14).

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:25).

“So the last shall be first, and the first last…” (Matthew 20:16a.)

“But I say unto you which hear, love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you and pray for them which despitefully use you.” (Luke 6:27-28).

And finally:

“He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10:39).

This obviously is not an exhaustive list of these statements neither from Jesus nor through the rest of Scripture. However, can’t you see how antagonistic this kind of thinking is to the me-first, look-out-for-number-one, cutthroat, get-to-the-top-by-any-means-necessary mentality that permeates not only through our secular society, but now, unfortunately, even throughout our nation’s pulpits?

The entire eighth chapter of the book of Romans is one of my favorite portions of Scripture because it deals with conquering sin and winning the relentless spiritual warfare between the flesh and the Spirit.

Society, and even in some circles now, the Church, may teach us that having more means more. If we have more money, more prestige, more members in our churches, more preachers in our pulpits, more choir members in the choir loft, more friends and colleagues in our corner, more good days than bad, more health than sickness, then somehow it is believed that we have more favor from God.

While in certain situations this can be true, we must be careful from allowing this line of thinking to create a spiritually elitist mentality within us. If not careful, our quest for more may lead us into areas of greed that will cause us to live more of a life in the flesh rather than one that walks in the Spirit.

The truth of the matter is, God does desire to give us more, but the “more” He wants to give us can only be given when we ourselves become “less.”

When Jesus Christ first came on the scene, John the Baptist was the popular preacher and prophet of the day. Some even believed that he was the Christ. However, when the Messiah began His ministry, John said: “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease).” (John 3:30).

This is humility at its finest. This is a picture of a man who was willing to put to death his own reputation, his popularity and even his flesh, that eternal life may come.

At the end of the day, we cannot expect to live in Christ’s Spirit until we die to our own flesh. In Luke 5:37 Jesus tells us that no one can put something new into an old container. Why? Read that text and you’ll find that it’s because that which is old is unable to contain that which is new.

God may very well be desirous to shift you and me into newness in every aspect of our lives. But what old sins, old attitudes and fleshly affections are still living in our hearts and minds, preventing us from embracing true and new life in Christ?

Only an honest inventory of our lives can answer that question. And only you and I have the ability, by God’s Spirit, to do the hard work of killing dead weight that prevents us from receiving God’s fresh favor.

In the end, there is no way around it. We cannot spiritually live until we’ve first fleshfully died.