“The further we travel on this pathway to glory the more glorious it becomes, because we are given to understand that every glad surrender of self…is merely a little death, like the tree’s ‘loss’ of the dead leaf, in order that a fresh new one may, in God’s time, take its place.” — Elisabeth Elliott
From Death to New Life
Robin Weidner, March 2010
Do you ever have times when it seems that every direction you turn, the same message is coming your way? Through the beginning of 2010, God has taken my heart again and again to the cross, calling me to die to my own agendas, gifts, desires and dreams…to myself.
I’m finding that this death God calls us to can prove a bit messy, especially in a heart full of desires and dreams. In recent months, this call has come in the midst of six months of physical ailments (the embarrassing kind of stuff you go to urologists and gynecologists for) as well as continued mourning for the losses of 2009.
Dying to ourselves has everything to do with relinquishing (and all of its beautiful synonyms): give up, let go, cut loose, forsake, hand over, shed, launch, lay aside, release, sacrifice, surrender, withdraw, yield.
And although each of these can feel painful as God prunes, disciplines, molds and develops our character, I’m also seeing that each promises new life…freedom!
God's Clean Cut
If you live in a part of the world emerging from winter, go outside and look at the young buds on a tree. You’ll likely see tiny blood-red veins—a reminder of the death the tree underwent in the fall before it could experience new life.
Scientifically speaking, this death occurred through formation of what are called “abcission” cells (taken from the same root word as scissors). These cells allow a tree to literally “cut loose” the leaves that are no longer useful, preparing the way for new life in the spring.
How fitting that the Bible equates conversion with the circumcision (same root – to cut) of the sinful nature (Colossians 2:10-12). And that the ongoing work of God’s word in our lives will often take the form of a surgeon’s knife (Hebrews 4:12-13).
And God tells us that all of this is for his glory and for our good. In John 15:2 Jesus tells us that, “He [God] cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
(For an interesting study, I’d suggest looking at all the ways God used the cross to make a clean cut – See below for ideas.)
Where we find perspective
This idea of experiencing death in order gain new life doesn’t make a lot of sense from the world’s standpoint. And I know that when I lose perspective, Satan is more than happy to provide his own definition of what I’m going through…
I find that I can only process the “little deaths” in my life rightly through what Elisabeth Elliot calls “the layer of separation” that stands between us and our past — the cross. In fact, the cross is the very safest place to flee when Satan tries to convince us that all this dying is for nothing. As Elliot says…
- When God prunes my character he chides, “Robin, this is all happening because you’re just not spiritual enough!”
- When there is an unwanted delay in my goals (for instance, on my second book), he whispers, “You aren’t writing much because you have nothing to say!”
- When I’m having trouble surrendering painful circumstances, he sneers, “Don’t you see that your life is falling to pieces? You better get control, before it’s too late!”
“When Satan the accuser scorns that act of renunciation later and taunts—‘Hypocrite! You didn’t mean it!’…run to the foot of the cross, our safe shelter and abiding place.” As we die each day to ourselves and surrender our circumstances to God, we can always go back to the foot of the cross to find perspective:
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)And just as the cross enables us to live a new life, the truth is that each of “God’s prunings” are producing a fruit of beauty, blessings and joy… even if they come clothed in suffering!
Life through the Cross
I’m convinced that through the losses of last year and God’s continued pruning, he has been working to cut out the old in me so he can bring new life. And I already seen many buds on my tree, adorned with the blood-red mark of the cross. For example:
- The rebirth of Secure in Heart — The second edition is now out, a beautiful reminder of God’s work in this ministry from the first release until now.
- The emergence of Purity Restored Ministries — A purity ministry for men and women formed by my husband Dave and I, bringing hope to many out of many years of struggle with sexual and love addiction.
And on the horizon, I see even more dramatic changes…that will require abandoning more of me to God’s good purposes.
But here’s what I’m holding onto. This letting go — whether of deep suffering or small but disheartening day-to-day circumstances — leads me beyond the pain of the cross… directly to the resurrection of Christ!
But what does this really mean? Where’s the practical application?
For clarity, let’s spend a few weeks looking to John chapters 20 and 21, where we see three early disciples wrestle to process Jesus’ death and their own need to relinquish all in light of his resurrection.
I hope you’ll join me on this “pathway to glory.” As I’ve been studying this out, I’ve been moved by all the applications to my own life, and I can’t wait to hear your stories of how God is bringing about new creation!
John 15:1-8, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, Mark 8:34
What are some areas of my life that I need to relinquish to God? How might God be working right now to prune my character? What good fruit can God bring out of these hard times I have faced/am facing?
Listen to God’s voice:
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24
Study out all the ways God used the cross to make a clean cut (a clear separation between the old and new). For example:
- The old and new covenant (Hebrews 8:7-13)
- The way sacrifice is made for sins (Hebrews 10:1-25)
- Priesthood (Hebrews 4:14-16, 7:18-28)
- Our relationship with God and each other (Ephesians 2:11-22, Galatians 3:21-4:7)
Picture a tree that is ready to shed its leaves. Imagine now that the tree is fighting to keep the leaves. (How amusing that would look!) Now, picture one of the things that God is calling you to relinquish. What would it look like if you tried to hold on to it? What would it look like to let go? What fruit might be waiting to grow in its place?
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