There is a loss that stands out above all others in my redemptive history. Mine is the story of how I came to face and embrace the death of one dearly beloved to me, and why my life will never be the same again.
I am not a stranger to death or to the God of grace. But there was a death that affected me more vitally than the sum of all those I have known and loved who have been called home to Heaven. This was a death that I refused to face and embrace for years. My reluctance to simply accept that death as the perfect will of God brought me seven years of suffering and grief. When I finally accepted the fact that this person had actually died, not only did the Lord turn the loss into gain, but He restored all the years that the locust had devoured by my living in denial.
The death I struggled so long to accept was my own. I had previously heard words such as: our old self was crucified with Him … even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus … for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God — and many other words to the same effect. The truth is, I did not begin to understand what had been revealed by those words.
When Christ revealed Himself to me as my Savior in 1958, I was determined from that moment on to live my life for the Lord. I even foolishly told Him that He would find me to be the best servant He ever saved. I was striving to be a better Christian every day, but I was becoming more and more discouraged and disillusioned by the fact that it wasn’t working. I was increasingly discovering the indwelling corruption in my heart and that revelation often caused me to hold my very salvation in high suspicion.
I was following earnestly the spiritual disciplines I had been taught — daily quiet times; Bible memory; assembling with the saints; actively ministering — yet in my life I was a defeated Christian. I even spent several years as a student in renowned Bible institutes, hoping that would enable me to be the servant of the Lord that I knew He desired me to be. In those years of desperate searching, I listened to many voices and vainly chased after blessings, gifts, mystical experiences and ascetic practices that would bring me victory over my flesh. For seven years I struggled against my paralysis to deal with the indwelling corruption in my heart. In 1965 I crashed. I gave up the dream that I would ever improve as a Christian.
In the merciful providence of God, one glorious morning I found myself sitting at the feet of a godly mentor, and by the light of God’s Holy Spirit the reality dawned on my heart. I was told that day, as if I had heard it for the first time, the most precious news a helpless Christian could ever hope to hear: I was dead! God had not promised to improve me; He desired to replace me. I thought He would change me; instead, He was offering me an exchange — His life for mine. I had received Him as the One who died as my Substitute seven years before; I was now given the opportunity to receive Him as the One who wanted to live as my Substitute for the rest of my life.
I did not die that day in 1965. That was the day I took by faith the fact that I had died with Christ 2,000 years ago. This reality became, to my burdened heart, as clear as the noonday sun.
Have I faced and embraced loss? Indeed! As the Apostle Paul testified, “Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.”
Has God turned that loss into gain? Indeed He has! To the high glory of God, I offer this testimony of the last 48 years: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…”
The more I tried to serve the Lord
And bless His worthy name,
The more I grieved Him by my sin;
More guilty I became.
Repent! Confess! And rise again,
Old promises renew,
Became the story of my life
As I, more weary, grew!
It is no longer I who lives
But Christ now lives in me.
No longer must I do for Him;
I simply have to be!
As once, He lived and died on earth,
And rose for sinful men —
He now indwells this thankful heart
To live His life again!