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Living and dying for Jesus

OPINION by Pastor Chuck DeVane, Special to The Sentinel-Record | April 29, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, "Let the will of the Lord be done."

-- Acts 21:13-14, ESV

The Apostle Paul invented the phrase "life is a journey." His had taken him from being a silver-spooned son of Tarsus, to the hardened Pharisee Saul, to the Damascus Road convert, to the commissioned Apostle Paul, to the missionary, to the pastor, and now, to the would-be martyr. He's been everywhere and now thinks he's going to "die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." This, of course, is in keeping with Paul's purpose, to live, and die, for Jesus.

Jesus went to Jerusalem, as required by God's word. Every devout Jewish male had to show up in the holy city at least three times a year for the Feasts. As His public ministry gained a few disciples and garnered a host of enemies, Jesus was repeatedly by warned His disciples not to go to Jerusalem and face His enemies. But the Son of God lived to do the Father's will, to fulfill and obey God's word, and because of this He died, in Jerusalem.

Paul went to Jerusalem, as led by God's Spirit. Though fully Christian he still honored his Jewish roots. He felt led to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost, to deliver the offering, to worship with the saints, to tell all the visitors about Jesus. Repeatedly he was warned not to go. But he lived to do God's will, he was led by God's Spirit, he was writing God's word, so he was willing to go, willing to die, like Jesus, in Jerusalem.

People who want to obey God's word and be led by God's Spirit wind up in their own Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the place where they planted the cross. Jerusalem is the setting where the Spirit came in power at Pentecost. Jerusalem is the center where the Jews gathered to meet with God in accordance with the Old Covenant, and where God first gave the Gospel to the Gentiles at the inauguration of the New Covenant.

Jerusalem is the place you go to meet God, to die at the cross, to live by the Spirit. Jerusalem is place where you join the church, suffer persecution, and persevere as a saint. Jerusalem is the place where you live, and die, for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Where is your Jerusalem? If you've never been, will you go? You can if you are you willing to live, and if necessary die, for the Lord Jesus Christ?

Where is your cross? Where was it planted? Did you die there, to sin and self, in repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ? Where is your Pentecost? Where did you feel a rush in association with hearing and believing the Gospel? Did you feel regeneration, conversion, that change of mind, heart, and will? Are you living your life now by God's word and God's Spirit, for the honor and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ?

You do not have to live and die in the literal city of Jerusalem to live and die for God. Jesus did, to be sure. Paul was willing, but did not, as we shall see. But Jesus and Paul really lived, for God, because they were always willing and ready to die, for God.

This may sound overdramatic for some. No one is out to get us, like they were the Lord, and His servant Paul. We do not risk our lives to assemble for worship or invite other people to Christ and His church. Nursery work is a little scary, we potluck at our own risk, and sometimes rolling out of bed for a Sunday morning service seems like great sacrifice.

Not many, if any, of us are on the path to martyrdom. But you don't have to be a martyr to be a favored saint of God. You just have to be willing to live your life, putting everything in your life, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And, yes, you have to be willing, if somehow called upon, to die for the Lord who died for you. For only when you are willing to die, can you truly live.

Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected].

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