(Image courtesy of http://www.examiner.com.)
About a month ago I was taught by God that being a leader in my marriage meant to take the initiative.  But take the initiative to do what?  This question has since been answered as God has shown me through His Word and His Spirit in other believers.

To be a leader, I need to take the initiative to

There is no greater or holier task in the whole universe than for a man to lay down his life.  Jesus teaches as much: "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it..."; "If anyone wishes to come after Me he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me."

Cross necklaces, cross tattoos, and cross everythings are common sightings in our world today.  But what does the cross really stand for?  I can tell you, my friend, that its meaning is far greater and much more gruesome than an adorning decoration.

When Jesus carried His cross to the mount of Golgotha, He went to die.  When Jesus says to carry our cross and follow Him, what do you think He is saying?

Jesus is demanding that we die - that we commit spiritual suicide.

Whether you are single or married, dying to yourself is the result of spiritual understanding and insight coupled with faith and trust in the Author of your salvation.

Marriage, however, is a calling and should be viewed as such.  It is not strictly for enjoyment, but it is a sanctified calling upon one's life.  The purpose of this life, whether single or married, is to ultimately be conformed to the image of Christ.  That's it, right there.

As I reflect on the story of Jesus in the Gospels, I see one thing: Jesus teaching, healing, rebuking, and praying ALL in order that those around Him might be made like Him. Jesus' ministry on this earth was to pave the way for those God foreknew and predestined so that they might meet the impossible standard of being like God through Him.

Think about the serpent in the Garden of Eden. His part in the story was offering humankind the promise of being like God if they would only eat the forbidden fruit. “You will be like God.” Yes, the goal from Creation was to be like God, conformed to the image of God. However, Eve, followed by Adam, deceived and were deceived into believing that they could be made into the image of God by eating a piece of fruit. Adam and Eve were already created in the image of God, but they fell into a distorted image through sin. So God sent Jesus to be the second Adam, the new image bearer, so that all whom He predestined to be like Him should order their lives after Jesus through Him and with the help of the Holy Spirit.

There was one creation – the beginning – and sin wrecked it. Humans were now a broken image of God. We were transformed into the image of Adam, worshiping idols and the created things rather than God, the Creator. So God sent Jesus to remake the earth and defeat sin. He set apart only a remnant for Himself to be conformed into His image, the image in which He had originally created us.

Therefore, a new birth is necessary, a new creation through Jesus (I Thes. 5:17). Now, the greatest struggle is throwing off the old self and putting on the new self; that is, being conformed to the image of Christ.

And who is Christ?  I believe the Apostle Paul gives us a clear picture of who Jesus is:

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He HUMBLED Himself and became OBEDIENT TO DEATH, even death on a cross. Therefore, God exalted Him and gave Him the Name that is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus, every knee should bow – in Heaven, on earth, and below the earth – and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:5-11).

Here then, is the question: how do we live in a way so that we are conformed to the image of Jesus? The sin nature in me died when Jesus died and new life awoke in me when Jesus was raised from the dead! So I have much confidence in Jesus, but none in myself. Therefore, live confidently your life in the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. “I die daily.” Indeed, I die every hour. I must, for that is how I bear the image of Christ in my life, in my death and in His life in my body (Gal 2:20).

In closing, I am reminded of the Kamikaze pilots from Japan during the attack on Pearl Harbor.  These pilots believed in their cause so greatly that they viewed their suicide by flying their planes into American ships to be an honorable death for their country.  What a great picture of what our lives should look like - flying into death in order to bring Him honor and glory.

It starts with putting others first.  It ends with others being first.  That is how you die to yourself.  That is how you are conformed to the image of Christ.

(For more on this topic, watch this video about marriage and being conformed to the image of Christ @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoQEljfJEcc.)

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her... Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord..." (Ephesians 5).