The dictionary defines an oxymoron as a “figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.” Thank you for the useless help, Mr. Webster. I think that was an oxymoron. Useless help. Examples will serve us better: open secret, deafening silence, minor crisis, jumbo shrimp. I was talking with a man in Texas about oxymorons and he immediately burped out, intelligent preacher. Ouch!
The Bible has some amazing oxymorons: virgin birth (Matthew 1:18), dead undertakers (Luke 9:60), blind guides (Matthew 15:14). Some of the most startling—and, perhaps, most useful—oxymorons spoken by Jesus are in the Gospel of Mark: losers who win and life-giving executions.
If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. – Jesus, Mark 8:34-25, NIV
We have all seen the bumper sticker: “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Jesus goes cross-grain with that secular-humanist thinking by saying, “He who dies with Christ wins.”
I have a sinful nature (the flesh) that is just as sinful today as it was the day before I accepted Jesus as my Savior. And it will be just as sinful the day I turn 100 years old, if I live that long. Ray Stedman says, “You are still capable of the worst sin you ever committed—and more.”
So Jesus is not going to waste His time on a “behavior modification” program that ultimately doesn’t work. He doesn’t try to polish up the old flesh. He doesn’t try to patch up the old nature. “He writes it off as worthless” and says that we must crucify it by taking up a cross (Stedman). If I am going to save my life I must die to the old life—make a decision daily that the Christ-life is more important than the self-life. Then nail the self-life to the cross and leave it there. I can’t take it down. I dare not fondle it or coddle it—that is disastrous. It opens the door to the flesh. That’s always my downfall.
How do we crucify ourselves?
- First thing every morning, make a decision: Christ-life or Self-life? If you don’t intentionally decide, I can tell you which you’ll find yourself accidentally living.
- Offer yourself into the powerful hands of Jesus. Surrender. You can’t choose the fruit without the Spirit.
- Once that is settled, tell the Devil to go to hell where he belongs. He doesn’t belong in you; you are the Temple of the Holy Spirit!
The Apostle Paul sums it up for us like this: “let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves… Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (Galatians 5:16, 24-25).