Dying, We LiveRomans 12:1-2Theme: Sacrifice.This week’s lessons remind us that the path to eternal life begins with the cross. LessonThe truth of what it means to “live by dying” is the paradox itself, namely, that it is by dying to our own desires in order to serve Christ that we actually learn to live.
I do not think there is any difficulty in understanding what this means. We understand only too well that dying to self means putting personal desires behind us in order to put God’s desires for us and the needs of other people first. And we understand the promise, too. The promise is that if we do this, we will experience a full and rewarding life. We will be happy Christians. The problem is not with our understanding. The problem is that we do not believe it. Or if we do believe it in a general way, we at least do not believe it in regard to ourselves. We think that if we deny ourselves, we will be miserable. Yet this is nothing less than disbelieving God. It is a failure of faith.
So I ask, who are you willing to believe? Yourself, reinforced by the world and its way of thinking? Or Jesus Christ?
I say “Jesus” specifically, because I want to remind you of his teaching from the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. He speaks there about how to be happy. Indeed, the word is even stronger than that. It is the powerful word “blessed,” meaning to be favored by God. Jesus said,
Blessed are the poor in spirit,for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are those who mourn,for they will be comforted.Blessed are the meek,for they will inherit the earth.Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,for they will be filled.Blessed are the merciful,for they will be shown mercy.Blessed are the pure in heart,for they will see God.Blessed are the peacemakers,for they will be called sons of God.Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:3-10)
We call these statements the Beatitudes, that is, the way to happiness or blessing. But this is not the way the world thinks one finds happiness. If a director of one of today’s popular television sit-coms or the editor of a widely circulating fashion magazine were to rewrite the Beatitudes from a contemporary point of view, I suppose they would go like this: “Blessed are the rich, for they can have all they want; blessed are the powerful, for they can control others; blessed are the sexually liberated, for they can fully satisfy themselves; blessed are the famous, because they are envied.” Isn’t that true? Isn’t that the world’s way, the way even Christians instinctively want, rather than the way of sacrifice?
But think it through carefully. The world promises blessings for those who follow these standards. But is this what they find? Do they actually find happiness? Is personal indulgence the answer? You do not have to be a genius to see through that facade. It is an empty promise. Paul calls it “a lie” (Rom. 1:25).
So wake up, Christian. And listen to Paul when he pleads, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
God does not lie. His word is utterly reliable. You will find his way to be “good, pleasing and perfect” if you will bend to it.
Study Questions

What is the promise of living by dying?
What words did Jesus use in the Sermon on the Mount to describe the kind of attitude we must have if we are to experience true happiness?
What does the world say is the way to happiness?

PrayerTake time now to confess the ways you’ve tried to find happiness as the world defines it, and then ask God to help you put personal desires behind you and thank him for the blessings he’s given you.

Study Questions
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