Have You Yet to Lose Your Life for Christ?

“For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” Luke 9:24

The thought only occasionally crosses our minds that one day we may be required to lay down our lives for Christ. In our tolerant society, it’s easy to forget that believers are martyred around the world every day.

However, the Greek word for the physical body (bios) is not used in this and other similar passages when Jesus refers to laying down one’s life. Primarily, two Greek words for life dominate the New Testament in the words of Jesus and the Apostolic teachings:

ZOE—the highest and best kind of life; the life Christ possessed; God’s life

PSUCHE—the lower regions of man’s being; the immaterial often referred to as the soulish realm wherein the mind, emotions, and will reside

In an earlier article, I discussed taking up one’s cross daily as Christ commands. Yet, we cannot take up a cross until we lay down the very thing that resists it.

Before the Fall, Adam and Eve’s spirits—alive and energized by God’s life—ruled over their minds and emotions, and the will responded accordingly. God never intended for our lower life to take control and work independently from His, yet that is exactly what happened.

After the Fall, man was no longer inwardly connected to God. The lower life became man’s master, and the will followed the reasoning of darkened minds and impulses.

However, God did not abandon us, even in our rebellion. His Son assumed human flesh and stepped into history to redeem humankind from this doomed slavery to self. He came in what the Bible refers to as the “fullness of time”—thousands of years of undeniable evidence against man’s repeatedly failed attempts at being good.

Amazingly, the Son of God was willing to pay the ultimate price of self-denial to set us free. He laid down His privileges and riches in order to secure our ransom, living as one of us in the limitations of human flesh and overcoming the temptations we could not resist.

This life of self-denial led Him to the Cross, where the base, lower lives of all humans and resulting consequences were placed upon Him. He destroyed the tyranny of sin and became the substitute payment—in blood—for our wickedness.

Given the earthly name Jesus, our Savior was fully God and fully man. This means that while on earth, He had a mind and emotions as any ordinary man. He had a will that could freely choose His way or God’s way.

The redemption story is about not only Christ’s death, but also His life—a human life lived in perfect obedience to God.

This is so important! Although we are forgiven for the deeds done in the lower life, we are also empowered to live in ever-increasing victory over the soulish realm while we remain on the earth. Jesus’ earthly life proves it can be done…IF God dwells within!

“To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

Don’t be fooled! If Jesus still had to learn (master) obedience while on earth, we are called to do the same! (Hebrews 5:8)

In over twenty-five years of ministry, I’ve observed that many Christians I’ve pastored and counseled do not allow God unrestricted access to their minds and emotions. Their growth is stunted, punctuated. Years later, there’s very little change in their conversation and conduct. Self will not give up its throne easily!

Let’s clarify an important point: We are instantly saved and given Christ’s righteous standing with God when we believe.

How can that be? Because the lower life was executed at Calvary, and you exchanged the dead man of self for the new man in Christ.

However, manifesting the realities of what we have legally become in Christ takes a lifetime! This process is called sanctification.

We’re taught from the Bible that at the culmination of all earthly things, Jesus will reunite believers’ spirits into resurrected (incorruptible) bodies and we will be glorified--made flawless.

So, if every Christian is eventually glorified, then why is sanctification so important?

First, the life you live on earth as a professed Christian speaks louder than words. You are His representative and living epistle. No child of God is expected to arrive home “alone”.

Next, your life on earth will be your final gift to Him when faith becomes sight.

The Bible says that “works” (interestingly, in the Greek—moral conduct) will be put through His holy fire and revealed. (I Corinthians 3:12-15)

Some lives will be solid and built upon the proper foundation of Christ’s character. As a result, they will come forth as gold, silver, and precious stones. Other lives will be as wood, hay and stubble (representing the lower life) that will easily burn to ashes.

We are assured by the Apostle Paul in these verses that even though a Christian life lived to the immature whims of one’s intellect and emotions (what I think; what I feel) will not survive for Christ, they will be saved…“yet so as by fire”.

Remember, I’m not referring here so much as to what you did FOR Jesus, but who you became. The Father is not impressed with your religious activities and deeds of benevolence if done to try to make up for a lack of personal holiness. The self-life can be very generous and religious--as long as it is still in control!

Let’s look at the Salvation experience:

You said “yes” to God’s finished work of redemption while under conviction from the Holy Spirit. Your surrendered will activated your regeneration.

Afterwards, without your cooperation, God instantly justified you (a legal act where He decrees our sins forgiven and Christ’s right standing as belonging to us). Later on, He will resurrect your body, unite it with your spiritual being and glorify you wholly by His spirit.

In the meantime, sanctification is much like conversion:

The Holy Spirit works persuasively, convictingly, but He still needs your “yes”—your surrendered will—to patiently mold you into the image of Christ.

God’s Holy Spirit will not coerce, nor control; therefore, even Christians can slowly desensitize themselves to His dealings.

Paul told the Christians in Corinth to war against the unruly specters of self with spiritual weapons that are mighty through God:

“Casting down imaginations (reasonings) and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ…” (II Corinthians 10:5)

Truly, the lower life IS dead, but the programming that brainwashed and shaped your choices remains. Your behavior is not instantly modified to Christ’s upon salvation. How your old Adamic man thought--his passions, appetites, fantasies, morals, speech and manners—has to be confronted, challenged, and progressively put down.

The intellect is not bad! Before Adam divorced his from God, he displayed just a portion of his brilliance by observing, classifying and naming ALL of God’s creatures on the land and in the sea and air. (Genesis 2:19, 20).

God also gives us our expressive emotions. The Gospels record Jesus weeping, displaying righteous anger, joy and intense anguish--yet ALL from the higher seat of God’s life within and therefore, without sinning.

So, exactly how is one supposed to “lay down” the remnants of the lower life?

At first, it appears to require just fleshlier will power! That’s typical Christian thinking and only leads to a “works mentality”, followed soon by predictable defeat.

The answer may surprise you. It’s love...yes, but the higher kind of God-love that is an expression only from the God-kind of life!

Here’s the key: “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” (Galatians 5:6)

The Greek word for worketh shows us that only love can…

“Make effective, make strong, energize, activate, prove, accomplish” OUR FAITH (our new life in Christ)!

The Greek language is far more exact that English. For instance, for our one word, “love”, it uses four major descriptive terms. In English, I can say I love my spouse, pizza, and sunny days. If I use Greek, however, you can tell exactly what kind of love I’m referring to by my choice of words.

Agape is the word that describes the highest, purest kind of love—unconditional and self-sacrificing. It has been used Biblically to describe the kind of love that originates only in God and subsequently, flows from ZOE.

“Here is love (AGAPE), not that we loved (were able to AGAPEO) God, but that He loved (AGAPEO) us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

Are you trying to prove your “love” for God through your own will power? Then your focus is wrong and your love inferior!

I’ve often told people that are having faith struggles to quit praying for more faith and check their love walk with the Lord and others.

Only FAITH works by AGAPE love, not self-effort. It can’t be generated--only received, intensified, and then reflected.

Really, it’s not your faith, but the very faith of the Son of God that you absorb from a right love relationship with the Godhead.

“…Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our FAITH.” (Hebrews 12:2)

The lower life is self-absorbed, even in a religious sort of way, which may be mistaken for humility by the undiscerning.The higher life is God-absorbed, and characterized by agape-driven sacrifice and a desire for all things pure.

Remember, we’re not talking about the sloppy, all-inclusive kind of love many people try to pass off as belonging to God.

John boldly proclaims that, “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome, For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—OUR FAITH!” (1 John 5:3-4)

Jesus said, “If you love (AGAPAO) me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)

As our love is made perfect (intensifies) by receiving and reciprocating the God-kind of love, so does our obedience. Sadly, we’ve put the cart before the horse in Christendom, trying to gain love by obedience when it is remarkably the other way around!

And where the first is a work of the lower life and short on power, the God way is full of always sufficient, never lacking grace (God’s ability) and ever ready to serve and take us to the finish line!

Will you run the race perfectly? No. Remember, sanctification is progressive. Though gradual, growth in Christ should be steady without repeated, dramatic spikes and plummets.

So, what activates and energizes our faith? Our ability to love Him? No! His unconditional agape for us. That’s what we surrender to, receive, and bask in continually!

It activates the faith we’ve been longing for in order to finally put down the residue of the lower life! Alive, it resonates within us, keeping us ever aware of its activity and its Giver.

The Holy Spirit guards it, matures it, and radiates it outward into a damaged and hurting world.

Let’s look closer at another Greek word:

Jesus said in John 10:15, “I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Psuche is used here for “life”, indicating that He was not laying down his God-kind of life, but the lower life of humanity He took on as Adam’s redeeming representative in life and death (I Corinthians 15:45).

How did He lay it down?Tithemi…“In a passive or horizontal posture, as opposed to active and upright”.

In other words, He voluntarily surrendered to the Father’s will. Although His struggle was intense, love won.

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

All life words in the above passage, as well as our starting Scripture in Luke 9:24, are PSUCHE, the lower-kind of life ruled by our darkened reasonings and selfish desires.

The word “it” refers to finding the higher life that only God grants.The word “lose” means just that! If you’ve lost something, it’s out of sight.

We’ve got to distance ourselves from the lower life, meaning getting rid of “high-placed” souvenirs and keepsakes in our hearts and minds that constantly exalt themselves over God! (Read 11 Corinthians 10:5-6 again.)

Paul taught that our “inner man” is renewed DAILY (II Corinthians 4:17).

The Greek word for renewed means, “increasing in quality”.

Paul was also speaking to believers in Ephesians 4:23 when he commanded them to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”

How? In the Spirit

Where? In your mind

“…seeing that you have put off (one-time past action—at your regeneration) the old man with his deeds, and have put on (one-time past action—at your regeneration) the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created Him…” (Colossians 3:9,10).

Paul is commanding these believers in Ephesus to act out in faith, undergirded with supernatural grace, the glorious truth that the old man is dead and ONLY the new man in Christ now lives. He reminds them about the importance of continually growing, which comes through intimacy and interaction with God, not religious activity.

Review these Scriptures, too, that commands us to “put on”:

Armor of light—Romans 13:12
The Lord Jesus Christ-Romans 13:14
Christ-Galatians 3:27
New Man-Ephesians 4:27
The whole armor of God-Ephesians 6:1
Strong mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, forbearance, forgiveness-Colossians 3:12,13
Charity-Colossians 3:14

“Put Off (or away)”:
Childish things-I Corinthians 13:11
The former conduct-Ephesians 4:22
Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking-Ephesians 4:31
Malice, blasphemy, and filthy communication, lying-Colossians 3:8,9

We all stand before God right now covered in His righteousness. However, on earth, throughout each day we choose how much of HIM we wear before others!

Can you spot a civil judge on the streets or a doctor or nurse after hours? They can take off the clothing that defines their vocations, but the Christian cannot “take off Christ”! We must be vigilant and completely clothed in order to represent Him authentically before others

Conversely, just as flashy adornment can appear gaudy and attract negative attention, we must not cheapen our witness with stuff still hanging on from the old life…such as our speech, particularly “coarse jesting” (Ephesians 5:4).

If we didn’t have the power to change, we would never have been told to “put it off”!

In Romans 12:2, Paul instructs Christians at the Church in Rome to “not be conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”

Catering to the lower life conforms you to the world; the God-kind of life transforms you.

How? Again, by renewing your mind—allowing the indwelling Holy Spirit to illumine God’s Word to you and coming to know Him better each day through prayer and worship.

In the New Testament, the word life is used 35 times as PSUCHE--the lower life, 132 times as ZOE--the higher, God-kind of life.

I’ll only present a few Scriptures references for you in this article. However, I encourage you to use a Strong’s Exhaustive and do your own comparative word study between Psuche and Zoe.

Matthew 6:25: “Take no thought for your Psuche-lower life”

The next Scripture has often been misunderstood. However, once we understand the different meanings of the word life in the Greek, Jesus’ words become clear:

Matthew 18:8,9: "Wherefore, if thy hand or foot offends (Greek-“leads to your ruin or fall”) thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into the God-kind of life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire."

"And if thy eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into the God-kind of life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire."

Unbelievers who choose to hold on to their lower lives will suffer the eternal destiny of staying in Adam--estranged from God and His goodness without remedy.

For the Christian, whatever remains attached to you from your lower life that easily besets and halts your race—get rid of it so it will not hinder your witness and sanctification.

Matthew 20:28 Jesus came to give His “lower life” as a ransom for many.

Nevertheless, the benefits are reserved for those who receive by faith the finished work of Christ on the Cross, and are willing to reckon themselves dead to the lower things and alive in Christ.

Luke 12:15: “And Jesus said unto them, ‘Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s God-kind of life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth.”

Luke 12:22: “Take no thought for your lower life…”

Luke 14:26: “If any man come to Me, and hate not (only in comparison to love for the Lord) his father, mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own lower life also, he cannot be My disciple.”

John 10:10: “I am come that they might have the God-kind of life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

John 10:11: the Good Shepherd lays down His Adamic life for the sheep…

John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the God-kind of life…”

Here’s an excellent summary of this teaching from God’s Word:

“I am crucified (an action completed in the past that has continuing results; that’s why Paul did not use “I was”…) with Christ;

Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life (ZOE) which I now live in the flesh, I live by the FAITH of the Son of God, who loved (AGAPEO) me, and gave Himself for me.”

No comments: