Yesterday was my 33rd birthday.
In most ways, the day was no different than any before. If it was not for calendar dates, I would know no difference. But there it was, November 25th and therefore another birthday come by the gracious hand of God.
I have never been one to think much of my age. It’s just another number in many respects. A course that all must follow granted and paved by the Author, Giver, and Sustainer of Life.
Since God called me to Himself in His Son by His Spirit through His Word a little over ten years ago I have lived with an ever present urgency toward life. Tomorrow is a gift not a promise. This urgency, at times for better and at others for worse, has encouraged my longing for the wisdom of age and experience separated from the life and time needed to cultivate such gifts. A temptation for all – particularly Christians.
As I reflected on my birthday, I was humbled by what came to mind. Throughout the day, God’s gifts in my life were constantly brought before me: His salvation, constant provision, care, and grace, my loving and compassionate wife, three beautiful daughters, a supportive and loving family and friends, the body of Christ to which we have been joined, and so many other expressions of grace.
But more than that, my mind was fixed on Christ’s death (bear with me for I am not attempting to be super-spiritual). Tradition (not dogma) has been that Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, was 33 years of age when he was crucified. This is the age I now bear. Many, in light of the fleeting nature of life marred by the curse of sin, say to themselves and others as they grow older that they have a lot more living to do. Therefore they set out to amass for themselves those things which they feel are lacking in enjoying a “fulfilled life.” Yet, as I considered my life in relation to Christ’s death on my behalf I realized that it was not more living to my self that was needed but rather I have a lot more dying to do.
You see, this is why Christ came – that in dying he would give us life and in dying we would live. In Luke 9, following Peter’s great, God-given confession of Jesus as “The Christ of God,” Jesus announces the plan to bring life through death and the way in which we might enjoy such life. Luke records Jesus’s words:
“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (v 22-25)
There it is. Death for life and life for death. Christ’s substitutionary and sacrificial death purchased my life, freedom, and eternity. But my experience and enjoyment of the life he died to give is directly impacted by the life, or better yet, the death I live.
It is not more living for my self, my desires, my ambitions, my dreams, and my happiness that I need but the perpetual putting to death of these for the greater joy of living for Him, his desires, his will, and his people. This is life. It is the life that every person in Christ is called to enjoy not just to do. This is life more abundant found only in and through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
You see, as I reflect on my life I still see too much of me: pride, lust, idolatry, foolishness, self-righteousness, and much those entail. What I long for, by God’s gracious sanctifying work of the Spirit, is to see more of Christ in and through me. Alongside God’s purpose in salvation to be praised for His glorious grace is His purpose to present us holy and blameless before Him (Eph. 1:3f). While this will be brought to fulfillment in Christ’ return (1 John 3:1-3; Phil. 1:6), my desire and His intention is that I be, here and now until I take my last breath, conformed into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29-30). This conformation (or transformation, as used elsewhere) comes through death – a dying to self and a living unto Christ (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 4:7-18; cf. Luke 9:23-25 above).
As I look back upon my life, I am thankful and humbled by God’s immeasurable goodness to an unworthy soul. John Newton said it well, “I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be in another world. But still, I am not what I once used to be! By the grace of God, I am what I am!” Praise God!
So, as I look forward to what lies ahead, I wait “for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) but not only in His return but the appearing of His glory even now in and through my life as I fix my gaze upon Him and am transformed (2 Cor. 3:18).
I am 33 but, by God’s grace, I have a lot more dying to do.
Soil Deo Gloria