Death for Life

29861Today’s reading is a long one, but it’s rich with details, lessons, and promises. In order to soak it in, read it aloud. Hearing and speaking the Word increases the impact it will have. You will increasingly claim God’s Word as you become more familiar with it.

As Jesus left the Temple and was walking away, his followers came up to show him the Temple’s buildings. Jesus asked, “Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, not one stone will be left on another. Every stone will be thrown down to the ground.”

Later, as Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, his followers came to be alone with him. They said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that it is time for you to come again and for this age to end?”

Jesus answered, “Be careful that no one fools you. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will fool many people. You will hear about wars and stories of wars that are coming, but don’t be afraid. These things must happen before the end comes. Nations will fight against other nations; kingdoms will fight against other kingdoms. There will be times when there is no food for people to eat, and there will be earthquakes in different places. These things are like the first pains when something new is about to be born.”

“Then people will arrest you, hand you over to be hurt, and kill you. They will hate you because you believe in me. At that time, many will lose their faith, and they will turn against each other and hate each other. Many false prophets will come and cause many people to believe lies. There will be more and more evil in the world, so most people will stop showing their love for each other. But those people who keep their faith until the end will be saved. The Good News about God’s kingdom will be preached in all the world, to every nation. Then the end will come.”

“Daniel the prophet spoke about ‘a blasphemous object that brings destruction.’ You will see this standing in the holy place.” (You who read this should understand what it means.)  “At that time, the people in Judea should run away to the mountains. If people are on the roofs of their houses, they must not go down to get anything out of their houses. If people are in the fields, they must not go back to get their coats. At that time, how terrible it will be for women who are pregnant or have nursing babies!Pray that it will not be winter or a Sabbath day when these things happen and you have to run away, because at that time there will be much trouble. There will be more trouble than there has ever been since the beginning of the world until now, and nothing as bad will ever happen again. God has decided to make that terrible time short. Otherwise, no one would go on living. But God will make that time short to help the people he has chosen. At that time, someone might say to you, ‘Look, there is the Christ!’ Or another person might say, ‘There he is!’ But don’t believe them. False Christs and false prophets will come and perform great wonders and miracles. They will try to fool even the people God has chosen, if that is possible. Now I have warned you about this before it happens.”

“If people tell you, ‘The Christ is in the desert,’ don’t go there. If they say, ‘The Christ is in the inner room,’ don’t believe it. When the Son of Man comes, he will be seen by everyone, like lightning flashing from the east to the west. Wherever the dead body is, there the vultures will gather. Soon after the trouble of those days, ‘the sun will grow dark, and the moon will not give its light. The stars will fall from the sky. And the powers of the heavens will be shaken.’ At that time, the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. Then all the peoples of the world will cry. They will see the Son of Man coming on clouds in the sky with great power and glory. He will use a loud trumpet to send his angels all around the earth, and they will gather his chosen people from every part of the world.”

“Learn a lesson from the fig tree: When its branches become green and soft and new leaves appear, you know summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things happening, you will know that the time is near, ready to come. I tell you the truth, all these things will happen while the people of this time are still living. Earth and sky will be destroyed, but the words I have said will never be destroyed.” Matthew 24

What stands out to you from Matthew 24?

Let’s focus on the last several verses, keeping them in the context of the entire chapter. Even when celebrating the beauty of summer and the fulfillment of possible growth and blooming, it’s important to keep such beauty in the context of the seasons surrounding it. After all, the season of spring with its planting and growth led into summer, and the decline and chill of fall will follow. Many aspects of nature deteriorate in fall in order to break down and benefit the earth through the quiet dormancy of winter…in preparation for spring and summer again. The cycle repeats itself over and over.

Jesus knows what is coming in the future, and he wants everyone to know the signs of what’s to come. He uses the illustration of the familiar fig tree to place a mark on the spiritual calendar. Even though the fig tree will be in the middle of a healthy growth process, death will follow. Destruction is necessary before growth. To be more specific, destruction is necessary for your personal growth.

Jesus uses another illustration when he’s talking about his own death:

Jesus said to them, “The time has come for the Son of Man to receive his glory. I tell you the truth, a grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die to make many seeds. But if it never dies, it remains only a single seed. Those who love their lives will lose them, but those who hate their lives in this world will keep true life forever. Whoever serves me must follow me. Then my servant will be with me everywhere I am. My Father will honor anyone who serves me.” (John 12:23-26)

In order to live, we must die. We get to live with God for eternity, but we must die to ourselves as we live on earth. It’s a concept that is hard to understand, accept and act upon. We like to see things from our own perspective. We think we can understand more when we’re in control. But the truth is we’re not in control anyway. We have choices, but whether we choose to accept him or not, God is God. He Creator; we’re created.

It’s not about us. It’s not about you. We live in a narcissistic culture that says, “Put yourself first. Protect yourself. You have rights, and you need to claim them with everything you have. You’re entitled.” Even Christians jump on the entitlement bandwagon. Have you ever heard someone say, “We stopped going to that church because our needs weren’t being met?” or “When _______________ happened, no one said anything to us or stopped by to ask us how we were doing. They don’t care, so why should we?”

Starting with our own standards and expectations is not only narcissistic but also against God’s Word. We don’t follow Jesus to get our needs met. We follow Jesus to serve others – just as Jesus set as an example for us.

Jesus called all the followers together and said, “You know that the rulers of the non-Jewish people love to show their power over the people. And their important leaders love to use all their authority. But it should not be that way among you. Whoever wants to become great among you must serve the rest of you like a servant. Whoever wants to become first among you must serve the rest of you like a slave. In the same way, the Son of Man did not come to be served. He came to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many people.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

Serving requires a sacrifice of self. Faith requires a death of self.

Let God reveal to you what needs to be destroyed within yourself in order to fully yield to God. He wants to grow you through each season of life, including the decay of self in order to nourish the unfolding beauty of the Spirit in you.

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