02 2023
Dying to Live

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24

Jesus uttered these words just before his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, just before the “hosannas” from a fickle crowd might suggest that his kingship could avoid the cross. In it, Jesus proclaims what is necessary to live. He tells us that to live we must die first. There is a famous piece in sex addiction recovery called “The Luster’s Fear of Dying.” It strikes to the heart of real, lasting recovery. Why? Because we are afraid to surrender the one thing that has propelled us through life. Because for the luster like me to live, he or she must die to lust and its accompanying demons, self-centeredness, self-will, ego, fear and entitlement to name only a few. As the sands of time continue to fall, this call to die in order to live becomes more insistent.

Many of us know that to truly live we must die to “keeping our options open.” The person who would rather travel hopefully than ever arrive is doomed to immaturity. To venture down one career path we must leave others behind. To marry one person, we must “forsake all others.” To master a field, jack of all trades will have to go. We cannot “live” to all choices forever. To do so would be to wither and die and lose any purpose or life focus. But the lust addict is in a unique and tragic trap. He thinks he can keep all options open, but he cannot. He or she is hooked on a person, an image, a fantasy or a practice that promises open ended pleasure but cannot deliver. One person described this as “riding down a river of pleasure unaware of the dangerous rapids that lie ahead.” To constantly “fall in love” will mean we never really love. We cannot love the way God intended. In fact, if unsurrendered, lust addiction delivers the opposite, a spiritual death in its most decisive and irreversible form.

Jesus contrasts two spiritual ends to both refusing to die and dying. Let’s look at each. The lust addict who refuses to die to his disease and become sober “remains alone.” The very character of lust addiction is a secret, isolating disease. Self-will prevents him from engaging in true, transparent fellowship. Lust addiction usually begins in youth at a time isolated from parents or any trusted adult. Because of the shame involved, it grows as a hopeless activity that becomes a negative feedback loop. I do it in isolation and secrecy which drives me further into those very things. Thus, the habit, the longer it continues, makes “bearing much fruit” impossible. The seed that refuses to die will rot in the field. I have received hundreds of calls from people seeking help over the past 9 1/2 years. One of the things I have learned is that the older a person is the less likely they are to stop. But still, any individual can if they are willing.. C.S. Lewis illustrates the truth that change is not always possible, but goes in seasons that must be taken advantage of as they appear. When the gates open, it is time to run to the open door.

What The Bird Said Early in the Year
I heard in Addison’s Walk a bird sing clear:
This year the summer will come true. This year. This year.
Winds will not strip the blossom from the apple trees
This year, nor want of rain destroy the peas.
This year time’s nature will no more defeat you,
Nor all the promised moments in their passing cheat you.
This time they will not lead you round and back
To Autumn, one year older, by the well-worn track.
This year, this year, as all these flowers foretell,
We shall escape the circle and undo the spell.
Often deceived, yet open once again your heart,
Quick, quick, quick, quick!—the gates are drawn apart.

Now lets look at Jesus positive statement. “If it dies, it bears much fruit.” Curt Thompson, a friend of this ministry, has written extensively about fall and restoration. He says we were created for beauty, creativity and purpose. There simply is no restoration of a person’s life without these things accompanying that restoration. A big part of the enemy’s plan is to permanently alienate us from this purpose as God’s creative agents. We cannot let him do this.

But there is something else here too. If we contrast “remaining alone” with “bearing much fruit,” it is pretty clear that recovery involves community and at a deeper level of ” being known.” When we are willing to die to our disease with the help of our recovery program brothers and sisters, we are free to “live” to being known, bearing much fruit and finding our creative purpose. We are free to give rather than take. We begin to fulfill the purpose for which God created us.

The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:31, “I die daily.” Some translations render it “I face death daily,” but there is a deeper spiritual truth here than the threat of physical death. It likely means he is facing the death of his natural self-will on a daily basis. Things don’t quite go as planned. Persecution arises. Expectations are smashed. The Holy Spirit intervenes and sends him west instead of east. As Corrie ten Boom once said, “I have learned to hold the things of life lightly because it hurts when God pries them out of my hand.”

For addicts like me there is simply no way forward without dying to my disease and my underlying defects. It is the very way I find life. Fortunately, I have lots of brothers in recovery to help me out. The culture and tradition handed down through AA is a treasure to employ. To put it another way, “God’s “no” always leads to a greater “yes.” Look for it because it will surely come as day follows night.

So what is God calling you to surrender and let go of? To die to in order that you may live? Life in its fulness lies on the other side. Do you believe this? Jesus promises that it is so.