30 December 2011

Life Requires Death

In April 1983 Jack Miller, pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, wrote to a young woman named Catherine who was considering going to the mission field in Uganda. She was held back by fear.

Toward the end of that letter Jack said the following, the second paragraph of which I find rebuking, igniting, and illuminating of past and present experience in my own life.
Open up the Scriptures which give us the full picture of the glory of suffering for Christ. What you discover is that there is no permanent joy in Christ apart from a willingness to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. That is, your life cannot have power in it or even salvation if you refuse to be like a grain of wheat that must fall to the ground and die in order to bring forth much fruit. God calls you to greatness, Catherine, but greatness means fruitfulness, and fruitfulness comes as we die to self and our fears and rise from the dead.

I do not presume to know whether you should go to Uganda or not. Only God can finally show you that. . . . But your life must have a death in it if it is to go anywhere. The greatest thing hindering revival at New Life is the way we tend to run away from our own death. The cross can be evaded only so long. Then if we keep away from it we begin to create our own deaths, and we die thousands of times over, killed and rekilled by our anxieties.
--The Heart of a Servant-Leader: Letters from Jack Miller (P&R, 2004), 230

Does that last sentence explain why so many Christians are so weak, so joyless? I want to make my own failings, not others', my biggest concern, so I say it cautiously; but is it not the case that most of us who have had our eyes open to Christ, have truly embraced him and been born again, refuse thereafter to let go of the more immediate security of reputation, or comfort, or career achievement, or _________? Creating a breeding ground for innumerable anxieties? Holding on to hollow 'life' when Life awaits, if we will simply release our hold on a handful of pennies to fill out the blank check being offered us?

There is so much uncrucified Dane in me. Onward to death and joy in 2012. It really is possible.

'I died.' --the apostle Paul

'Die before you die. There is no chance after.' --C. S. Lewis, Till We have Faces

Death and joy. Both or neither.


Andrew said...

There is a sign above the entrance of a monastery on Mount Athos that reads: 'If you die before you die, then when you die, you will not die.'

Yes, onward to death and joy in 2012.

Mike Berttucci said...

Thanks for that post Dane! Wonderful words going into the new year. And congrats on the another baby Ortlund!

Dane Ortlund said...

You are kind, thx MB.