Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.” John 13:38
Will you lay down your life for Me? That’s today’s question. Peter thought he would when given the opportunity. But Peter didn’t know his own heart. You did though. But that wasn’t all you wrote about Peter. You knew that one day Peter would be able to lay down his life for You. But before He could, he would need to see both You and himself in their proper perspectives. And the same holds true for me. The point for both of us starts with the fact of seeing that, “Get this now. I mean really get this now. You, Peter, you, Sharon, are not all you think you are.”
Peter couldn’t follow you in this “laying down” of his life for others, not even for You, at that moment, because He didn’t truly understand his and Your relationship yet. “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you will follow afterward.” And I think to understand where You were going, I need to go to John 10: 17,18. In John 10 You are sharing how You are our Shepherd. Here is Your function for the sheep and Your Father’s purpose in You. “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” Laying down Your life, Jesus, all depended upon Your relationship with the Heavenly Father. Because You had a proper “God awareness,” because You understood Your relationship to Him and His to You, You could fully submit Yourself unto Him. No one made You lay down Your life. You layed it down of Your own accord, in accord with Your Father. You had the authority to do that because You understood the Father, You knew Him. You had received Your appointment from Him. His appointment came with power. You had His power to lay down Your life in Him for us. Without His authority, You could not have done it.
Now, Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 10:12 “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. GOD IS FAITHFUL, AND HE WILL NOT LET YOU BE TEMPTED BEYOND YOUR ABILITY, but with the temptation HE WILL ALSO PROVIDE THE WAY OF ESCAPE, that you may be able to endure.” (Emphasis my own.) Here is the contrast. To lay down my life, I must place myself in “a passive, horizontal position” before You, Lord. I must deliberately acknowledge that I have no power on my own. This is my first step, the first action I must lay down. I must acknowledge who You are and that it was the supernatural power of God that enabled You to lay down Your life for me. In the supernatural power of God, You willingly place Yourself in the most extremely humble position before God and before the world. You placed every iota of Your life in His hands to do as He wished. “Not My will but Yours be done.” This is where laying down one’s life begins.
Laying down my life for You or for someone else doesn’t start with boldness and bravery. I have to face the hard fact. I don’t have this kind of ability in me of myself. My intentions would stem from what I want and who I want to protect. I wouldn’t be laying my life down at all. I would be running full force in a standing position, never learning what it was to lay myself down and surrender to Your will, to Your desires, to Your choice of outcomes. And the problem lies with how much I trust You. Just like with Peter at the time. Did he really trust You to be everything You said You were? Or was he suffering from doubt? Was he standing in his own understanding and in the desires of his own heart? Would he have acted differently if he already believed that the trial and all these events taking place now were truly mandated by You and part of Your plan for our benefit and Yours? If I believed, would I act differently?
Rev. J. C. Ryle shared these thoughts. “A humble sense of our own innate weakness, a constant dependence on the Strong One for strength, a daily prayer to be held up, because we cannot hold up ourselves,–these are the true secrets of safety. The great Apostle of the Gentiles said, ‘When I am weak, then I am strong.'” Peter’s strength was not in himself. My strength is not in me. My strength comes from You and knowing You and knowing Who You Are. It comes from a right perspective. You are standing in authority and power, I am “laying” like a corpse in a tomb waiting for You to give me life. I must deliberately place myself in that position. This is the position of passive reception.
I’m pretty busy doing things. I’m always collecting things or raising funds for Philippine missions. But all my work means absolutely nothing if You aren’t empowering it. I don’t have enough of me to give and I don’t have enough money to give unless You make more of it. I lay it all down. And I wait for You to bring it to life. It’s not that I don’t do anything. I do. I lay it before You. I lay it in Your hands and I say, “If You will, make much of this for others. If You will, make much of this for me, so that I might glorify You through this.” Because it’s not about me. I must lay myself down like a corpse and become dead to sin.
What does it mean to become dead to sin? Well, I want to define sin as anything that is not of You. I must be unresponsive to anything that is not of You. I must only be brought to life by everything that flows from You. By surrendering to You, You empower me to live in full “God awareness.” I’ve chosen to die, to become unresponsive to that which is not of You. But it wasn’t by my own power. I had to place myself before You just like Abraham placed Isaac before You. I had to be willing to accept the consequences, to accept whatever Your plan is for me, even actual death. And then You give me life and victory in You.
“Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for You.” Peter, you will lay down your life for Jesus. But He had to prepare you first. But first you must see your own weakness and your need for Him to make you able. It’s the same for me. The Message puts it this way in 1 Peter 4:1,2 “Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like Him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.” And that’s the point. Because, if Peter had layed down his life for You, Jesus, at that time, it would have meant nothing. He would have wanted to stop You from being crucified. But that was why You came. He would have been working against God’s plan.
Isn’t it interesting that You, in Your Word through Peter later tell us that it’s “hard for the person who has God’s approval to be saved.” (1 Peter 418) Now this isn’t just talking about our initial saving faith, which does take an act of God, but according to Precept Austin refers to “‘continually being saved’ – this would speak of day to day sanctification including the trials that are part of that daily process.” He’s one of those that understands the Greek usage of the word so that’s where he gets this accurate notion. So let’s follow Peter’s continued thought. “Those who suffer because that is God’s will for them must entrust themselves to a faithful creator and continue to do what is good.”
Now, all I can say is “Oh, my goodness!.” I’m looking to check out what this “good” is but I skip back to check out the depth of the word “entrust” and what do I find? A precious gem I didn’t expect! For some reason, I didn’t share earlier that the Greek word used for “laying down” your life here is “tithemi.” I didn’t even know that knowing that Greek word would be important. But I think it is. Because look at what is used in 1 Peter 4:19 for the word “entrust” –“paratithemi”. Do you see that? “Paratithemi” “literally means to place something beside, to set alongside or place before someone.” It’s the idea of me depositing my whole self as a trust in Your hands, Lord. See, it’s not about trusting in what I can do or my strength, but it’s all about all of me trusting in You and Your strength. It was used for the Greeks when they entrusted something legally to someone for a particular time period. “This object was to be kept free, unused and undamaged until restoration. The trustworthiness of the trustee was thus most important. (Precept Austin) You understood this fully, Jesus. On the cross You said, “Into Thy hands I commit (paratithemi) My spirit.” This was the point of Peter’s initial failure, Peter’s initial severe trial and fall, so that he could learn to “paratithemi” instead of just to “tithemi.”
Now, briefly on to doing what is good. I can only do what is good if I first totally entrust and commit myself into You as totally trustworthy in handling all of my life. Because the only good that can truly flow from me has to flow from You. That’s why Peter can tell us this now in his letters but he couldn’t do it back before the cross. One has to have entrusted themselves totally to You before one reaps those benefits. Otherwise what risks are we willing to take? Peter wasn’t willing to risk his life for Righteousness because he hadn’t fully entrusted himself to You as fully trustworthy and faithful yet. But once he did…radical things happened in his life.
Well, Lord, I didn’t exactly see this coming this way. What do I say? I want to be able to lay my life down for You and in You. I want to entrust all of me into Your faithful and trustworthy hands. I want Your goodness to flow from me. And any area of my life that has not been fully entrusted to You, show it to me, that I may hand that over to You. Let me not just say that You are my faithful Creator, but let me live it by every action. And as You bring suffering into my life, let me continually entrust it to You to mold me and strengthen me and keep me and love me.