From Bulb to Beauty

April 2008

Spring flowers are a wonderful reminder of new life. Especially for those in areas where winter is cold, snowy and seemingly endless, spring feels like rebirth. It also reminds me of the opposite, perhaps because when I think of the bulbs I planted I marvel that such beautiful flowers can come out of brown, ugly, dead-looking little things. The contrast is striking to me and is no doubt a divine reminder of what God has in mind for us through Christ.

In the death and resurrection of Jesus we see the same amazing contrast. He died as a criminal, tortured and beaten, almost unrecognizable and repulsive to human sensibility. His body lay in a tomb for three days, probably decomposing, as dead bodies do. But then from death and decay, by the power of our omnipotent God, he rose to glorious new life. This was a marvelous event, the cornerstone of our Christian faith.

But wait, there’s more. Paul said we died with him, and were buried with him in baptism. We have also risen with him to new life, life in the Spirit, and we’re being transformed into new creatures.

But how are we transformed? Paul tells us it’s by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Then in Colossians he tells us to put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature and to “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:10, NIV). Putting to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature can only be accomplished by dying to self, and that only through the Spirit (Romans 8:13).

This is a difficult concept, as death is the natural enemy of mankind. I instinctively recoil from all thoughts of dying in any form. But as C.S. Lewis said in The Weight of Glory, “A rejection, or in Scripture’s strong language, a crucifixion of the natural self is the passport to everlasting life. Nothing that has not died will be resurrected….” We can only rise with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-6) if we have died first (Colossians 3:3) and been buried with him in baptism. We are to be living sacrifices, but as Jill Briscoe has said, the trouble with living sacrifices is they keep climbing down from the altar! Dying to self is a daily occurrence for us, as our natural, earthly selves will not truly die until we die physically.

Jesus voluntarily laid down his life for us. We die to self by laying down our lives for others, voluntarily setting aside our own wants and even needs to help or give to another. To die daily is to crucify our pride and selfishness, both of which can cause us to elevate ourselves over others.

Jesus said those who try to save their lives will lose them, but if we give up our lives in this way, we’ll save them.We won’t learn to do it all at once and we can’t do it on our own, but only with the grace and strength of Jesus. So happy spring and may we all continue to celebrate the resurrection by continually dying to the old self and rising to the new.

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