A.W. Tozer, being born again, death, dying to self, experience, following Jesus, joy, killing sin, love, pain, resurrection, spiritual power, suffering, T.A. Sparks, The Holy Spirit, the new self, the old self
In this article I want to make clear that death and resurrection are two very different things. Regarding Jesus’ death on the cross and His supernatural resurrection, and what that should imply for us today, you will find a longer excerpt taken from one of T. Austin Sparks’ sermons following my deliberations on dying to self.
Nobody wants to die, right? Whether we are Christians or not, the word ‘death’ has a negative connotation. Just lately I heard someone say that we should enjoy this life as much as possible because death would last long enough (eternally, that is). Of course, you might have realized that this remark was not made by a Christian. However, that is how this world tries to ‘survive’ death, i.e., by ignoring the fact that we all must die one day. Dying is never fun. If you see someone suffer physically until they are allowed to breathe their last or if God lets you taste death before dying physically by putting you into this dying-to-self process so that you do not have to die anymore, dying IS a very painful process. As for having been enabled to live eternal life already here on earth and as to no longer fearing the confrontation of deaths of any kind (your own, of loved ones, or dying to self), I referred to that situation where Jesus’ promised Martha as Lazarus was still in the grave, “Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die,” (Jn 11:26 ESV). We know that Martha’s and Mary’s beloved brother shortly afterwards was raised from the dead as Jesus told this dead man,
“Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (Jn 11:43-44 ESV)
It was only recently as I was in such a situation of which I really thought there would NEVER be any way out of it. I am referring to the big temptation of which I wrote in my last blog post Get Thee Out… and move on. It was the second time this year that God had brought me into such a situation of which I thought it would/could/should never happen to me. Trials somehow always come out of nowhere, particularly when you are having a good time and then – BOOOM!!! Here we are again, back at square one. Clueless on what to do, hopeless when you see prayers are seemingly not heard, and helpless since neither you yourself nor any other person can help you come out of such a deadlock. Prayers do help, though. But not always immediately…
God waits until we are truly done in every area of life. He waits until we have completely given up on our own self-salvation projects. Whether we try to be ‘good’ or ‘better’, or if we tend to believe that Jesus had to do all the dying since, “It is finished”, isn’t it? God really wants to see our old nature die because He wants to raise us to a completely new life IN Christ as His new creation which has NOTHING to do with our old Adam nature. A.W. Tozer once so poignantly said,
Among the plastic saints of our times, Jesus has to do all the dying, and all we want to hear is another sermon about his dying.
Dear brothers and sisters, whatever we might try in this particular spiritual matter, we will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER get to this new life in Christ on our own. We cannot put on the new self on our own, we cannot kill the deeds of the body without having been filled with God’s power before, and we cannot enter the kingdom of God unless we have been (passively!) born from above. There is nothing to do for us but suffer and die until God shares His resurrection power with us and lets us taste divine life and love in the midst of a godless world and adverse circumstances.
As already announced, here are TAS’ thoughts on death and resurrection (bold emphasis mine).
“You can be taught and taught and taught thoroughly, soundly and for a long time and yet not be in the real enjoyment and experience of it all. Teaching may be vital, it may be important, but these people that we meet in this New Testament are not just what they are, living as they are, because they have heard about Jesus being raised from the dead, but because Jesus raised from the dead is in His resurrection life THERE and then present with them! It is not something of a few years ago, or many years ago. It is not something in history or in Christian doctrine and teaching, it is something right here NOW! Jesus might just at this very moment in this very hour have risen from the dead and appeared to them. It is like that with them, it is A PRESENT REALITY IN EXPERIENCE.
“They not only knew in their minds by information that Jesus was raised from the dead. That One Who was raised was there and then as real to them as Christ risen, as though they had been with that handful who had seen Him with their own eyes of flesh, after His resurrection; just as real as that.
“Inclusively, inclusively, death is the end of everything, isn’t it? Death is the end of everything. There are many things that men can do for men, just provided that the men are alive. If they are only alive, what a lot can be done for them! Even if they are only half alive or quarter alive still we can do something, we say while there is life there’s hope. We can still do something while there is any bit of life remaining, we can do something. But when the life is gone, we can do nothing. All that you might try to do doesn’t profit at all. Death is the end of all that you can do. Death is the end of everything. It’s the end and you just have to close the book and say it is finished. After that, what? Nothing; unless God steps in! Nothing; unless there’s an intervention of God! Now men are entirely put out of court with all that they could do, they had to say: we can do no more, that’s the end, it is finished. Now it’s God’s matter. It’s God’s matter or it’s nothing at all, there’s no more. Only God can do anything now. You see, that is just the beginning of Christianity, it is that! If God hadn’t stepped right in when Jesus was in the grave there would have been no Christianity, there would have been none of all this that the world has come into and is coming into because of Him, but God stepped in. It was God’s ALONE power and prerogative to raise the dead. Now it is utterly and absolutely and ALL of God and NOTHING of man, nothing outside of God. If Christianity begins there and is based on that, then the Christian life is something which speaks of a mighty intervention of God and says: “I am today in this experience on the basis of something that only God Almighty could do. What I have, what I have is that which God alone, the Almighty, Eternal God could do. I am the fruit of that. My life rests on that. My Christianity is of that kind. It derives from an intervention of God Almighty when no one else could do anything at all”.
“I wonder if the experience of every one of us is like that? You know the Lord takes pains to have it like that, that’s why so many, so many when the crisis of their salvation has arrived and they try to get through on all kinds of ground of their own works and their own activities and energies and all the rest of it, they never get through until they come to this place: only God can save me!”