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The joys of being dead

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Archives / 2017 / April



The joys of being dead

Jerry N. Page

Jerry Page is General Conference Ministerial Association secretary, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.


An Adventist university professor tells of one of his most embarrassing moments in life. He had the opportunity to preach to the entire campus family for a chapel service. He preached on humility, and it was a deeply moving message. He said it was evident that everyone was meaningfully touched by the Lord because fervent amens were heard and tears were in many eyes.

After he finished, he went off the platform into an empty side room. Feeling that he had just preached one of his best sermons ever, he said out loud to himself with satisfaction, “Eat your heart out, Billy Graham!” Unfortunately, he had forgotten to switch off his lapel mic. His comment was amplified to the entire congregation, still sitting in silence after his message.

It reminds me of a comment I heard C. D. Brooks make one day, talking about how he was very careful how he prayed for humility. “I pray for the Lord to humble me so I won’t have to be humiliated!” I agree with him. When you are humble by dwelling with Jesus privately, there is no need for being humiliated publically. “And whosoever shall exalt himself will be abased; and he that shall humble himself will be exalted” (Matt. 23:12, KJV).

It seems that most problems blocking our real joy and power in life and ministry track back to “self” and the pride that causes us to protect it, try to exalt it, or indulge it. As Clarence Schilt and Stephen Schilt say in A Life to Die For, “When self is alive two major issues result: a. spiritual power in us is blocked; b. and spiritual power through us for others is blocked.”1 Ellen White said on the matter, “There is no limit to the usefulness of one who, putting self aside, makes room for the working of the Holy Spirit upon his heart and lives a life wholly consecrated to God.”2

Most of the tension or conflict Janet and I have had in our marriage over the years was because of self still being alive and getting offended (most often in me). For example, we had just arrived late one night, very tired, for our first visit to China. At the hotel room Janet said something that I misunderstood, which caused me to get upset and say something not so nice to her. This upset her, and she made another comment. That upset me more, and I made a worse comment, and so it escalated until we were both very angry and wished we had separate rooms for the night. How could we ever minister to others in China the next day?

The next morning we were still upset, but we both went aside and spent time with Jesus alone. By the time we left the room, we had apologized and were in each other’s arms. God really blessed our time in China! The solution is always putting self aside by abiding in Jesus. The joy of agape love shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5) is always so good. And self being alive leads to unrest and destroying our peace—every time. “Those who are dead to self will not feel so readily and will not be prepared to resist everything which may irritate. Dead men cannot feel.”3

Paul was a very successful, highly educated, “always right,” harsh-on- others, young church leader who had it all wrong. But he finally found that the secret of joy, power, and truly successful ministry was in knowing Jesus and being conformed to His death and resurrection power (Phil. 3). Paul calls us to the joys of being dead, buried, and resurrected in Jesus for a life of self-giving, loving service.

“Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation” (Phil. 2:2–7, NKJV). Jesus humbled Himself to become a Man and was obedient even to the death of the cross, and He has been exalted higher than any other throughout eternity!

After receiving an amazing vision of how God is displeased over our defense of self and justifying why we are right, Ellen White makes this profound statement, which is the best conflict management seminar you could ever receive in just one sentence: “If pride and selfishness were laid aside, five minutes would remove most difficulties.”4

This month’s Ministry has several articles about how we can live our Lord’s agape love like the New Testament church did in Acts: being one in koinonia fellowship, mentoring, listening to each other, and respecting the organization of the church we have agreed to. Jesus holds out to all of us an amazing life of joy and peace if we crucify self and live in His resurrection power and selflessness. Help self stay dead, Lord!

Sidebar: Principles of the exchanged life*

1. When self is alive, two major issues result: a. Spiritual power in us is blocked; b. And spiritual power through us for others is blocked.

2. Resurrection power comes only to the dead—those who are dead to self.

3. A corpse can’t be hurt, so when self is dead, its feelings can’t be hurt.

4. Those who are dead to self aren’t surprised when things don’t go their way; they aren’t offended when things don’t go their way; and they aren’t controlled by the things that don’t go their way.

5. We do much if not most of our sinning when we are in the right but we’re not being treated justly or fairly.

6. What happens to us is relatively inconsequential; what happens in and through us has far-reaching consequences.

7. We should be willingly surrendering to receive rather than willfully trying to achieve.

8. What gets the mind gets us, and what gets us is reported through our thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions.

9. Practice makes perfect, so we must be careful what we practice. (Are we perfecting habits of self or of Christ in ourselves?)

10. Sin is what we do when our hearts aren’t satisfied with God.

* W. Clarence Schilt and Stephen Schilt, A Life to Die For: Discover the Secret of Christ’s Transforming Power (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 2009), 261.

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1 W. Clarence Schilt and Stephen Schilt, A Life to Die For: Discover the Secret of Christ’s Transforming Power (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 2009), 261.

2 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1942), 159.

3 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2 (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), 425.

4 Ellen G. White, Early Writings (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1945), 119.

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