Dying for Fellow Christians
by Pastor Jack Hyles
(Chapter 19 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, How to Treat Different Types of Church members)
I Corinthians 15:31, "I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily."
Romans 8:36, "As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."
Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me."
I love the woods! I spend much of my time alone with God in them. I have a little place in the woods where I go daily just for the purpose of praising God. I spend 15 minutes at that sacred little spot. For 60 seconds I write on a card or a paper the things that God has done for me recently. After I have made the list, I then go back through the list and praise God for each of them. It is not unusual for me to clap my hands, even take off my shoes and have a little spell as I praise God for what He has done for me.
I then leave that little spot in the woods and go to another. Though the branches at the first spot seem to clap themselves together when I arrive for my praise time, the branches at the second spot seem to bow themselves reverently, because this is where I go to worship. I take 60 seconds to list the things that God is, such as, God is merciful, God is gracious, God is longsuffering, God is forbearing, God is love. Then I go back through the list of what God is and worship Him for what He is. I spend 15 minutes at this worship place.
I then go to another little place in the woods where I confess my sins. This is done beneath a weeping willow tree, because I do not want to be the only one weeping when I confess. I begin by taking about 60 seconds and listing my sins. Then I go back through the list and plead for forgiveness and strength over temptation. I do this for about 15 minutes.
Then I go to a little place in the woods that is the most sacred of all. It is a place where I pray and present my petitions to God. It is where I plead for power. It is where I plead for His mercy, His guidance, His leadership. It is here where I pray for each member of my family by name and ask God's blessings upon them. This is my prayer place and the fourth stop in my daily journey through the woods. I usually spend a minimum of an hour at this place. One day a week I spend about 3 hours there and still another day a week I spend from 4 to 51/2 hours there. Because of this, the woods are very dear to me.
My favorite time of the year in the woods is the wintertime, while the trees are bare. The reason this is my favorite season is that this is the time when the trees are alive. This is not the usual opinion. Most people would say that the trees are alive in the spring and the summer, but quite to the contrary! The trees are dying in the spring, the summer and the fall. They are alive in the winter. This is when life is coming into them that will be spent in the spring and summer and finally in the fall, so the trees are living while the branches are bare. New life is entering. The trees are dying when covered with leaves, for then the life is being spent.
Each evening I take my cordless electric shaver and plug it into the wall socket. Through the night it is being charged. It is living. Life is entering. Then I take it with me the next day and use it. While it is being used, it is dying. It is using up the life that it got through the night. This is the way the trees are. They are living in the wintertime as they gather life. They are dying in the spring, summer and fall as they are giving up that life.
This is what Paul meant when he said in Romans 8:36, "For thy sake we are killed all the day long." Notice it is "all the DAY long." He tells us why he is killed all the day long. It is for the sake of God's people.
Now read I Corinthians 15:31, "I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily." Notice especially the three words, "I die daily." Give special attention to the word DAILY. Actually he is saying, "I serve daily," because serving is dying. Living is time spent with God when new life is received. Dying is time spent with our fellow Christians in service to them and for them. Paul could not say that he died daily if he had not spent time living daily So really what we think is death is life, and what we think is life is death. Paul wrote to Timothy and said, "But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth." John wrote the church at Sardis to tell them that they had a name that they were alive, but they were dead. What man thinks is life is death, and what man thinks is death is life! Death is the expenditure of life that is received while alone with God.
So the Christian life really has two major parts, living and dying. The living part is that time when we are plugged into Heaven. Dying is that time when we serve our fellowman as we expend the life we received while we were plugged into Heaven.
Hence, there are two tragedies in the Christian life. Some try to die all the time, but it doesn't work. Only that which is alive can die, and until a person is alive in Christ by communion with Him, he has no death to die. This is the reason for our futility in service for God. This is the reason for our powerless Christian lives. We go, go, go, serve, serve, serve, work, work, work, but we cannot die because we have no life to give. It is just routine with no blessing from Heaven and no power of God.
Another tragedy is the person who spends all of his time living. He never dies. He becomes so enchanted with the prayer closet and with the study that he spends all his time being plugged in and becomes much like a monk in a monastery. He is of no value to his fellowman because he is not willing to die. He gets to the place where he enjoys living so much that he refuses to go out into the highways and hedges to die for others.
The balanced Christian life is that life that spends hours alone with God living, then leaves the prayer closet and study to spend hours with man dying. To leave off the living means there is nothing that can die. To leave off the dying nullifies the purpose for living. What value is it if the tree receives life all winter only to refuse to give fruit, blossoms and leaves in the spring and summer and fall. On the other hand, the tree that receives no life will have nothing to die, and there can be no foliage.
One of the main reasons why Christian people cannot get along with each other is that we cannot die for each other or that we refuse to do so. Either we have no life to die for others because we have not spent time with God in securing a life to give, or we spend so much time securing life that we refuse to die for others, and they go unloved and unserved.
Yes, I love the woods. I love them in the spring when life springs forth and begins to die. I love them in the summer as they spend the life they gathered in the winter. I love them in the autumn when they are the most beautiful of all in death, and the dying process that started at birth is completed. I love them most in the wintertime, for though they lack the beauty and luster of the spring, summer and fall, nevertheless, I am aware that they are living and gaining life in order that they may die for us when spring comes.
Everything is born dying. When a baby is born, what really happens is that death is born. As soon as the cord is cut, the baby begins to die. They die at birth, or at least they begin to die at birth. What we want to do as human beings is postpone death as long as possible. We know that death is inevitable, but through diet, exercise, medicine, etc. we are trying to prolong the inevitable as long as possible. This is true with institutions. I am aware that someday Hyles-Anderson College will be in the hands of liberals, and I am aware that it is now dying. However, there are ways that that death can be prolonged and that its usefulness may continue for a longer period of time when it would without nurture and care.
May God help me to go to Him that I might live and go to others that I might die, and then go to Him that I might live and go to others that I might die. May I walk with Him in such a close communion that I will have a life to die for my brothers and sisters in Christ. May God help you, dear reader, to abide in Him that you may live and to spend that life dying for others. This is why Paul could write in Galatians 2:20a, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live." He lived and died and lived and died and lived and died. If there is no living, there is nothing to die, and if there is no dying, then there is no purpose in living. As the old man 88 years of age said on his deathbed as I held his bony hand, "Thank you, Preacher, for walking with God six days a week and for telling me on the seventh what God said."
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