To get the most out of life you must pour yourself out
A comment on my recent post entitled Perfect Plans and Purposes ended with “…living our lives to the fullest for God to our very last breath, whenever that may be.” (Thanks, Beth!) . This got me to thinking.
My response to this comment ended with a short phrase that reflected one of those rare moments when words just fall out onto the floor perfectly arranged with no need for re-wording, re-ordering, or re-thinking:
Living to the fullest means emptying ourselves fully.
Not that I came up with this on my own. Scripture is full of this kind of language, beginning with the well-known image of Christ as the perfect image of God—the one human who could truly and rightly claim to fully display the image of God—emptying himself and humbling himself to take the form of a servant.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
—Philippians 2:3-8 (ESV) — emphasis mine
Matthew and the other writers of the gospels reflect on what Christ did on the cross by also utilizing the image of being poured out. Modern practices of communion have focused on the communal consumption of the bread and juice. Unfortunately, pre-packaged wafers and communion cups do not carry with them the powerful image of the breaking of the bread and the pouring of wine—symbols of humility and sacrificial giving of himself—that are so important to remember and “see” regularly. The wine (or juice) being poured out is a powerful reminder that we get the most of life when we pour ourselves out, just as Christ did.
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
—Matthew 26:27-28 (ESV) — emphasis mine
The only real value in life, according to Luke and others, is in pouring oneself out. We can try to keep milk in our fridge, hoarding it for later, but it ends up going back rather quickly. It’s better to drink it regularly while also continuing to refill continually. The same is true of our lives. We get the most of life—our short time here on this earth—by being poured out and refilled, poured out and refilled, continually.
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?
—Luke 9:24-25 (ESV) — emphasis mine
John Wesley reminds us that God not only sees, but “communicates greatness” to, the very smallest of faithful acts of service (whether seen or not by human eyes). The truly happy, he writes, are those who give their lives to doing good and, finally, that oftentimes those who are seen the least (because they are constantly on their knees before the LORD) are among the chief causes of transformation that occurs. We get the most out of life by doing good to others for the sake of our witness and testimony of Christ.
God is so great, that he communicates greatness to the least thing that is done for his service.
“Happy are they who are sick, yea, or lose their life, for having done a good work.
“God frequently conceals the part which his children have in the conversion of other souls. Yet one may boldly say, that person who long groans before him for the conversion of another, whenever that soul is converted to God, is one of the chief causes of it.
—John Wesley (A Plain Account of Christian Perfection) — emphasis mine
Therefore, we can understand what Paul is saying when he tells us to sacrifice ourselves not through death, but rather by offering our very lives to the service of God and others. We get the most out of life by not thinking constantly about what life is giving us, but by giving ourselves fully to the lives of those around us.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
—Romans 12:1 (ESV) — emphasis mine
After all, our goal and purpose is to grow in holiness. The grow in holiness means to be increasingly Christlike. The grow increasingly Christlike means to grow in love for God and for neighbor. We get the most out of life by living holy lives of love.
He who says he abides in Him [Christ] ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
The title Christ has the same meaning as messiah so when we say “Jesus Christ” we are also saying “Jesus, the Messiah” or “Jesus Messiah.” Messiah is a Hebrew word meaning “anointed one” and could be applied to anyone who was specially designated for a particular task or role, such as a king or priest.
So, in the Old Testament way of thinking messiah was an adjective — describing certain people and the task they were given — but in the New Testament Messiah comes to be used as a proper noun — “the Messiah” or “the Christ.” — describing the person, the work, and the purpose of Jesus, the anointed one. In Jesus, the long-held hopes of the Old Testament people of God are realized, even if they didn’t realize it at the time.
In the book of Psalms alone we see this played out time and time again.
Let the light of your face shine on us (Ps 4:6)
Look on me and answer, LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death (Ps 13:3)
As for God, his way is perfect; the LORD’s work is flawless; (Ps 18:30)
For I have kept the ways of the LORD (Ps 18:21)
You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. (Ps 18:28)
Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me (Ps 25:4-5)
Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me (Ps 43:3)
Never take your word of truth from my mouth (Ps 119:43)
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth (Ps 145:18)
Much like the adjective messiah became a proper noun in Jesus, these three “lowercase” nouns describing three things that come from God — way, truth, and life — become “uppercase” proper nouns in Jesus.
See the prayer from which this post was taken here.
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