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Losing Your Life to Find It
by David A. DePra 
"Whosoever seeks to save his live will lose it, and
whosoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
     These words of Jesus are familiar words. But like so many of
the familiar passages of the Bible, the real meaning often gets
lost in the familiarity. We can get so used to hearing a verse that
we become dull to what God is saying through it. To us, it is
what we have heard so many times before.
     We dare not do this with this verse. Why? Because of it's
importance. Notice what is at stake here. Jesus is talking about
losing your life! He is talking about how to find true life in God. So
certainly, if we don't get this right, nothing else is going to be
right in our Christian life either. This verse is clearly talking about
the most important thing imaginable: Life in Christ. And it's
telling us how to either lose it or find it.
     Jesus is stating, in this one sentence, a principle of the
kingdom of God which is so important that it might be said that it
is a governing principle. It is, in fact, a description of how creation
functions. Embodied in this one statement of Jesus is the
plan of salvation, the process of growth, and a revelation of what
the relationship between God and His church is supposed to be.
In this verse is the HOW and the WHY of these realities.
A Simple Equation
     Jesus says, "If you want to find your life, then lose it. But if
you want to lose your life, then try to save it." If we put this down
as a simple equation, we get this:
Seek to SAVE your life = LOSE it.
LOSE your life in Christ = SAVE (i.e., find) it.
     This is the opposite of how human nature thinks. We think
that to gain our lives we must save them. We think that if we
let go of our lives that we will surely lose them. This is natural
and understandable. But it is wrong.
     To grasp WHY it is wrong, we must understand what Jesus
means by the terms He uses in the above passage. What does
Jesus mean when He says, "Lose your life?" What does He
mean when He says, "Seek to save your life?" And why does
doing each produce the opposite effect from what we expect?
     Simply put, Jesus is talking about self-ownership. He is telling
us that we must lose our ownership of ourselves. We must lose
control of our lives. All of that must die. It must be uncondtionally
surrendered into the hands of God. If we do surrender, then we
will experience what real life in Christ is all about. We'll actually
experience resurrection in Jesus.
     Jesus also says, "If you want to die, demand your life. Hold
back from unconditional surrender to God. Own yourself; decide
for yourself. Choose to determine the outcome of your life
through your own works and reasoning. And to it all very
     Now, don't make the mistake of thinking that Jesus is drawing
a contrast between the saved and sinners. He is not specifically
doing that at all in these verses. To the contrary, He is talking
to His people; to those whom He has already called. He is
saying, "I have called you for a purpose. You had nothing to do
with it. It was completely by My grace. But now that I have
called you, you must choose. You must choose to either
surrender yourself to Me, or hold onto yourself."
     No one can unconditionally surrender to God unless they
believe Him. This is, therefore, a call for faith. But even that is
something God will grant us a measure of by His grace. Losing
one's life in Christ is therefore one of the easiest things possible
for us -- although our flesh will resist our choice. Yet we must do
it, both in the overall sense as a commitment to God, and on a
daily basis, as we carry our Cross behind Jesus Christ.
A Work of Grace
     Never think that God has called us by His grace only to
leave everything else up to us afterwards. No. God calls us by
His grace and then works in us by His grace. Nothing is up to
us except one thing: Surrender. It is up to us to lose our life in
His purposes. It is up to us to take up our Cross.
     HOW do we surrender? Surrender first takes place as an act
of will. When God brings us to the place where we see He wants
a surrender, we must first choose to believe and trust Him. Then
we must actually choose to unconditionally surrender our
lives to Him. We must say, "Into your hands do I commit my
spirit." And then, if we really mean what we have said, we must
obey accordingly. We must "work out" our surrender in whatever
form is necessary. The consequences of our surrender,
and of our obedience, we must then leave with God.
Losing to Find
     Under normal circumstances, seeking to save one's life is not
wrong. It is natural and legitimate. But in this passage, Jesus
says that it is a sure way to LOSE. If I try to SAVE my life, Jesus
says, I'll end up losing it. Or, to put it another way, if I try to gain
my life, death will be the result.
     The most obvious "life" to which Jesus is referring, the "life" we
are never to try to "save," or preserve, would be this temporal life.
We must never try to save or preserve our old man in Adam.
But that is only the beginning of what Jesus is talking about here.
Jesus is actually saying that we must never try to save or
preserve ANY of our life -- including even our life in Christ. We
must fully and unconditionally surrender ourselves to God. Total
abandonment to God is the only way to true life in Christ.
It may seem odd to suggest that we could try to "save" our life
in Christ.  Afterall, we only have life in Christ if we are already
saved. But what Jesus is warning against is the tendency for
Christians to try to control the outcome of their walk with Christ
through the efforts of religious flesh. He is telling us that if we
really belong to Him, we must relinquish even that into His hands.
     All of us try to control the outcome of our spiritual lives. God
works in us along a particular line and we resist. We don't want
to die the death required to advance into freedom. We'd rather
try to accomplish "God's will" in our own way -- a more
comfortable and less costly way. And we always do it quite
religiously. Terribly religiously. In fact, some of us have even
used self-imposed suffering and humiliation to preserve
ourselves. Anything to avoid the real issue.
     Of course we usually do this mostly in ignorance. The flesh
tends to have a natural reaction to defend itself against anything
which would violate it's territory. Often, we don't even need to
think about it. We throw our guard up against God and try to
avoid what He is doing. We mask ourselves in religious garb and
try to convince ourselves, and God, that we really do belong to
Him without strings attached.
     Fortunately, God is never suprised or shocked by any of this.
He already knows we are going to do these things. He knows
what we are made of. Despite it all, God continues to invade us.
He continues to disturb us; stir up our complacency. He loves us
too much to allow us to be ill at ease. The Holy Spirit is
continually seeking access to us for the continuing work of grace
and redemption which Jesus Christ has won for us.
     Ultimately, however, I must choose. I must choose to either
save my life, or lose it for Christ. I must do this in many "little"
ways each day. But then there will be the "big" ways -- those
crisis points in which I will either go on with God in a deeper way,
or regress to a point where God must start all over with me.
     It is never too late to repent and surrender to God. There is
no sin I can commit, nor any bad choice which I can make which
is too deep for the Redemption of Jesus Christ and the full
forgiveness of God to reach. It is always always possible to turn
and say to God, "Into your hands I commit my spirit." It is never
too late to lose my life in Jesus Christ.
     "Losing my life for Jesus' sake" means exactly what the
phrase suggests: I must lose my life. This means that I don't
control it anymore. In fact, I no longer know where my life is, or
where it is going. Yet I trust the One who is leading. I trust the
One who is in control.
     This issue is clearly a matter of OWNERSHIP. Who owns me?
Have I staked a claim of ownership upon any part of my
existance? Have I reserved for myself the right to have the final
word regarding anything about myself? Do I operate under the
spirit of self-owership? If I do, then I am seeking to SAVE my life
-- seeking to OWN my life. I am on the throne, at least partially.
I have set limits upon the access I will give to God.
     When we think of examples of how we might seek to save
ourselves, or be our own boss, there are some which are quite
obvious. For instance, if I am trying to maintain myself with God
through my own works, I am obviously trying to save myself. I
may not call it that, or even bring salvation into my thinking. But
as long as my works are my basis for standing before God, I am
seeking to save myself. And the only result possible is that I will
LOSE my life.
     This is exactly what happens, too. Ask anyone who has spent
years trying to live up to their self-imposed standards for
walking with Christ. They will likely tell you they are buried
underneath an avalanche of condemnation, fear, and guilt. This
is the only possible result of putting myself under such
self-imposed laws. I LOSE real life in Christ because I seek to
save myself through my own efforts.
     Seeking to save or preserve my life always results in a fake,
soulish type of spirituality. It always results in religious flesh
governing my life. I may say the right spiritual things, and appear
to be a most spiritual and deep person. But underneath it all,
I have somewhere side-stepped the real Cross God had for me,
and opted for my own agenda. Yet we need not judge one
another in these matters. Our focus should be to present OUR
bodies, a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Indeed,
this is what it means to "judge ourselves, that we be not judged."
A Dependent Nature
     Anytime I decide to own myself, even along legitimate lines, I
will LOSE what I'm after. But this is not because God is going to
come down from heaven and punish me or something. It is
because that's the way it works -- it's as a "law." It's the way
things MUST work in the kingdom of God, because it's the only
way they CAN work.
     Why? Because what we are talking about here has to do with
man's -- and God's -- fundamental nature. Man was
originally designed to be fully dependent upon God. God did not
make man with any capacity at all to be independent. Therefore,
when man declared his independence from God, he became
something contrary to the original nature God put in him. The
result was distortion of character, and a twisting of his real nature.
That is always what happens when a living creature begins to
operate out of the realm for which he is suited.
     Man is not suited to save, control, own, or rule himself. He
can't do it. It produces death. Only if I surrender my self to God
without strings attached do I return to the NORM. And the norm
is LIFE -- now provided through a surrender to God through
His Son, Jesus Christ.
     The greatest sin a Christian can commit is to seek to save
himself. Why? Because by doing so, I actually deny Jesus
Christ. I seek to salvage myself for my own ends. This is the
very essense of the sin of Adam! It is what God is delivering us
from. No wonder Jesus says that the end result is that I will
LOSE the very thing I seek to save through my own efforts!
Seek First the Kingdom

     Jesus said to instead "Seek first the kingdom of God." That

means to live for the eternal. It means that rather than try to

salvage something out of this life for myself, and thus "save" my
life, I'll surrender it all to God. The result? I'll FIND real life. In
other words, I'll find Christ Himself. And along with Christ, I'll
have added to me all that is necessary to achieve God's

purposes in me. That too, is as "a law."

     The issue again and again is one of OWNERSHIP. One of
HEADSHIP. Who is my God? Who runs my life? Not in theory,
or in a doctrinal sense, but really?
     We find the issue of headship wonderfully illustrated in the
book of Revelation. There God illustrates this great principle in
the 20th chapter:
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was
given unto them. And I saw the souls of them that were
beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and
which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither
had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands.
And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years...on
such the second death has no power. (Rev. 20:4,6)
     Notice what qualified these ones to reign with Christ: They
were "beheaded" for His sake. In other words, they had their
OWN HEADSHIP cut-off! God, in symbol form, is showing us
here this same Truth. He is telling us that if we want to reign and
rule with Christ, we cannot reign and rule ourselves. We must
LOSE all of that in order to find Him.
     In the final analysis, the only way I can reign and rule with
Christ is if Christ first reigns and rules over me. There is simply
no other way I can be immune to "the second death." And there
is no other way I can experience what God has for me through
the resurrection.
Carrying Our Cross Daily

     The instrument of death God offers us is our cross. Jesus

said, "If any man would be My disciple, he must pick up his cross

and follow Me." This is not a one time event. It is a continual

process. I am to walk through life carrying a cross.

     This does not take away from the fact that, in Christ, I do die

all at once. It simply means that there is a process by which

His death must be worked out and made manifest. Through the

continual "losing of my life," it is worked out. And as His death

is made manifest in my life, so is His life. For if I will "lose my

life" for Jesus' sake, I will find it in Him. *

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