“…being found in appearance as a man.”
“He humbled himself “
“and became obedient unto death”
“even death on a cross”
“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Bonhoeffer’s oft-quoted words set the stage for our crucifixion. They also bring out our protest. Leadership is about life, not death. Where does dying fit into this message? Reality pulls us up short. In Christ, ignominious death and exuberant life are part of the same dimension. He does not know the power of the Resurrection until He goes through the devastation of the Crucifixion.
To know the mind of Christ, we too must die in order to live fully and lead freely. This is not an option for us. Paul identified those who belong to Christ as those who “have crucified the flesh with its passion and desires” (Galatians 5:24). Is he referring to a significant event, a daily discipline or both? For Jesus it is both.
Before beginning His public ministry, He faces a frontal attack by Satan in the wilderness. His nature is not sinful, but He is fully capable of turning the legitimate desires for self-preservation, self-esteem and self-control into indulgent ends. By deliberate decision in a most significant event, Jesus crucifies the passions of self-interest. Is there any reason why we should not have the same experience before entering into Christ-centered leadership?
But the event is just the beginning. Throughout His life and even on the cross, Jesus has to discipline His desires. To us, then, the crucifixion of self-interest on a daily basis is a clear mandate of Jesus. He says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
Even after having our own wilderness experience where the temptation to succumb to self-interest is crucified, each new day gives Satan the opportunity to strike again. In a thousand devious ways, he will try to catch us off guard with the thought that some area of self-interest can be taken down from the cross. Without daily discipline, we give Satan the foothold he needs to bring us down.
Sound morbid? It is if we choose death and deny life. But this is not our problem. In our age of abundance, we choose life and deny death. Even in leadership literature, we extol the virtues of life — vision, integrity, passion and compassion — as if they are automatic outcomes of Christian character. To suggest that death to self might be the antecedent to these virtues would blow the lid off market sales. This is not our choice in the mind of Christ. Unless we die completely, we cannot live fully; and unless we live fully, we cannot lead freely.
What are the affirmations of the crucified life in Christ? We see the vital signs of life in Him — simple trust, radiant joy, creative freedom, rising anticipation and contagious hope. These are not fanciful wishes. With the power of His Resurrection, we too will rise from death to live fully and lead freely.
This is an excerpt of “Christ-Centered Leadership: The Incarnational Difference” (fmchr.ch/dlmckenna) by David L. McKenna.
 What is the wilderness event in my life when I died to self?
 What are the personal temptations to which I must die every day?
 What are the vital signs of new life in my leadership that come only after death to self?