james ray johnson

7/3/2019:  Highway Patrol Trooper Travis Smaka was on the Interstate near Las Vegas when he noticed a car in the HOV lane with a solo driver.  He stopped the Chrysler minivan and informed him that he was getting a ticket because he was one person short to be using the HOV lane.

The driver reported that he was not alone.  There was another person in the back of the van.    Upon peering inside, the trooper found that the van was equipped as a hearse, with a rail and a gurney and even a deceased person.

The driver asked, “So, he doesn’t count?” 

Hmm…I wonder how else this guy used his cadaver?  Maybe he took him to Sunday School to win the prize for “Bring a Friend Day?”  (If anybody ever needed Jesus – his horizontal friend did).  Maybe he took him to the bank to co-sign for his car loan.  Surely the “stiff” came in handy at the company picnic when he needed a partner for the three-legged race!  

Alas, Officer Smaka burst his bubble.  He said, “No he doesn’t count.”

That’s no surprise, BUT if you were to ask Jesus, He would tell you that the only time a man counts, is when he is dead.”

Jesus had just told His disciples that He was headed to the cross.  Peter scolded Him, “Jesus – you can’t die.  You are gonna become our King.”

Jesus answered, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” – Mark 8:34* The cross was an implement of execution.  He said each of us has one with our name on it and we need to embrace it rather than deny it.

Before you make out your will, understand that He spoke of death to our wills.  The cross was God’s will for Jesus.  To deny oneself is to give up the self-centered, self-directed life.

My best friend went to Seminary with the intention of being a pastor.  But a brain tumor got in the way.  He survived it, but it left his body somewhat diminished.  He thought that being a disciple meant being a pastor.  For him it meant dying to the dream of being a pastor.

To lose one’s life for Jesus sake, is to lay it all on the line to do His will and to advance His purposes.  

I could build the new lake house for me but maybe I should help repair the battered women’s shelter for Jesus sake.  I could spend that big raise on me, or I could raise the support I give to that missionary family.   I could win the argument with my coworker, or I could win his heart through gentleness and respect.  I could claim the parking space near the entrance or I could leave it for the mother of 3 in the car behind me.  Only a dead person is capable of such things. 

He continued, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me and because of the gospel will save it.”  Mark 8:35* 

Certainly, this applies to eternal life.  When we die to the impulse to save ourselves and turn to Christ, then we live.  To preserve the self-willed way, would be to perish.

But the principle has many reverberations.  For instance: the self-centered are busy saving their lives and often alienate others as they do.  The generous give their lives in service of others – and as a result they are rich with relationships.  So, who truly has the better “life?”

There was a missionary in India by the name of Sadhu Sunder Singh who was passing through the wintry Himalayan mountains with a friend.  They came upon an unconscious man in the snow.  The friend walked on, worried more about his own survival while Sadhu took the injured man upon his back.

The friend died of hypothermia, but Sadhu survived because of the extra work and the benefit of the warmth of the body of the man that he carried.

Most of us will never literally die for our faith, but we must die as an expression of our faith.

Yes officer Smaka – a dead man does count!

*NET Bible