Do You Love Your Life?
“The man who loves his own life will lose it, and the man who hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” John 12: 25 (J.B. Phillips translation)
I remember first reading this and similar verses as a baby Christian and it confused me because it didn’t fit with the gospel that was preached to me. I thought that the people who hated their lives were the ones who were down and out and ready to jump off a bridge. I was told that as a Christian I would find happiness and purpose in life. I was told that God would bless me, answer my prayers, take care of me, and meet my needs. The message was that we humans were riding through life with ourselves in the driver seat, and we ended up making a complete mess of it, so now, if we put God in the driver seat, it would correct all the damage that was done, and our lives would be blessed. Wouldn’t this result in us no longer hating our lives, but now loving our lives?
Could the above verse mean that we should hate the old life we had when we were in the driver seat, but love the new life with God in the driver seat? No, this is not what the verse is saying. We are told that we should hate our lives in this world. Loving our lives in this world, even now with God in the driver seat, is not the same. So what does this mean, and how does it fit with the Gospel?
Let me first say that there is some truth to what I was told as a new convert to Christianity. We must make Jesus our Lord, essentially placing Him in His rightful position as the lord of our life, or “in the driver seat” of our life, so to speak. And yes, we can find happiness and purpose in our life. Yes, God will care for us and bless our lives. The problem is that this is not the focus of the Gospel, but rather, it is secondary. In fact, it could be that our lives on this earth could worsen from a physical standpoint. Many Christians face severe persecution. Some lose their possessions and are separated from family, friends, and loved ones as a result of their conversion.
The real issue, though, is the focus of the Gospel message. This is what has been corrupted in our western Christian culture. Christianity is not a self-help tool intended to help improve people’s lives. Christianity is a revelation of truth that must be accepted and acted upon by the exercise of a deep, sincere faith. This act of faith will shift a person’s hopes from this world and this life to a hope in the next life in heaven. This deep act of faith constitutes a complete change of mindset in the Christian from a focus on the things of this earth and the associated pleasures and happiness, to a focus on the things of heaven and the future glory that they will bring.
The true Gospel message starts with the understanding that this world has been cursed and is under the power of the devil. We do not belong in this cursed world, but are here only temporarily. In addition, this cursed world is under the judgment of a holy Creator who has been dishonored and rejected by its people. This judgment is coming in the future. God has, in His mercy, made a way to be redeemed from this judgment by sending a Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. This redemption removes the penalty of a Christian’s sins, and also carries with it an acceptance into the family of God, adopted as His children, with an inheritance of eternal life.
The “good news” of the Gospel is that we can now place our hope in this promise of heaven and eternal life. Before hearing this Gospel message, people are deceived into thinking that we should consider our existence here on this earth as the full extent of our lives, beyond that being unknown, so we should make the best of it here on earth. Upon hearing the Gospel message, we are faced with a choice of remaining in the mindset of making the best of this life, that is, “loving this life”, or choosing to shift our love and hopes into the promises offered by God through Jesus, thereby taking on a mindset of “hating our life in this world.” A true Christian believer now lives for heaven, seeing this life as a temporary passage and life on earth as a pilgrimage, being a temporary resident awaiting entry into a true permanent home prepared by God.
Living for heaven is also a recognition of becoming a citizen of heaven by entering into the New Covenant with God, and thereby recognizing Jesus as the Lord and King of this new kingdom of heaven that we have become a part of and are waiting for His return to establish His Kingdom. We obey Jesus now as the Lord of our heavenly kingdom that we have now become citizens of.
Please understand that this act of “hating our life in this world” is not a once and done act, but rather a continuing mindset that the Christian lives and acts according to. It is a mindset based on faith and focused in the spiritual reality presented to us by Jesus. We call this “walking by faith” or “walking in the spirit.”
Of course, by living our lives in this manner we will experience the fruit of the spirit, which is true joy, true peace, true happiness, etc. As I have said previously, this is a secondary result of acceptance of the Gospel, and not its main focus. Also, this fruit is internal and exists regardless of the external conditions, so that the physical, material situation, as well as possibly the surface emotional state of the Christian (i.e., sorrow or heartache), could end up being worse after conversion, at least temporarily, but the deep joy from the assurance of the promised hope of eternal life in Jesus, and the understanding of God’s love for us in this act of mercy on His behalf, cannot be taken away, and is a source of strength as we endure in this world awaiting the full realization of His promises at the end of this age.
With this understanding of the core Gospel message, we can now see the alignment of the teachings of Jesus in the Scriptures:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” Matt. 6:19-21
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Matt. 6:25
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matt. 6:33-34
“And Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matt. 16: 24-26
Consider also Jesus’ sermon on the mountain, or the beatitudes, in the light of this Gospel mindset:
“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matt. 5: 1-12
There are many different “flavors” of Christianity, and many different Christian teachers and teachings. Unfortunately, especially in western Christianity, many of these flavors and teachings take away from the core Gospel message and allow us to drift back to the worldly mindset of “loving this life”. I encourage you to continue in a mindset of “hating” your life in this world, and “loving” your future life in heaven.
The Apostle Paul’s exhortation to consider yourself dead to this world, and to set you affections on the things in heaven, not on the things of this earth, is a reference to this same truth of having a heaven centered mindset.
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Romans 6: 3-5
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Col 3: 1-4
Also the Apostle John gives us this similar warning about loving this world:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever.” 1 John 2; 15-17
Every day of our lives we are faced with pressures to pursue a path of loving this life. Don’t be fooled, and don’t give in to the temptation. Patiently endure in your well doing and the permanent, immortal blessings of eternal life with God, as our Creator had initially intended, will become a reality. We look forward to that day. Come quickly Lord!