Did you know that in the kingdom of God the way to live is to die?
Obviously, I don’t mean suicide; rather, I’m referring to dying to ourselves. This is called the “kingdom paradox.” The way to win is to lose, the way to be first is to be last, the way up is down, the way to lead is to serve, and the way to live is to die. The only way that Jesus can truly be visible is when we get out of His way. The apostle Paul obviously understood that concept, because he said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Paul died to self. Moreover, he lived “dead to self” because he said, “…the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.” Paul’s life was consumed by Christ; his focus was on Christ and not on himself. He also wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). In a sense, Paul died to his life every day so that he could live by faith in Christ.
Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). To “deny” ourselves is to disregard our own interests in comparison with Christ. His ways and His will are to always take precedence over our lives. Denying ourselves is humbling and often times it is very costly. Humbling ourselves goes against the grain of our culture, which actually is bent on self-pleasure. In order to deny ourselves, we will have to die to ourselves. But what does it mean to die to ourselves? Dying to ourselves means to give our lives up to Christ. It means that He can do with our lives whatever He chooses; our lives belong to Him as a living sacrifice (see Romans 12:1). However, dying to ourselves does not mean to disrespect our lives; and it does not mean that we don’t love ourselves. On the contrary, if we truly love our lives we will place them into God’s hands, because only He can deliver us from the sin that corrupts and destroys our lives. If we truly value our lives, we will put them into the hands of the Creator and let Him do with them whatever He desires. This actually is the essence of living a sanctified life.
Walking in a life of sanctification and holiness goes beyond merely dying to ourselves “once.” Part of growing in sanctification is dying to ourselves whenever we sense our flesh wanting to resurrect. We go back to Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:24, if we’re going to follow Him we will have to deny ourselves. Denying ourselves is part of dying to ourselves, and sometimes—many times—we find the need to do that daily. Therefore, we have to die to live, because when we are out of the way Jesus can be seen. I want to get even more practical. Several years ago, I read seven statements that reflected the essence of dying to live. Read these statements aloud, prayerfully, and allow the Holy Spirit to challenge your heart. I read these often, and every time I read them I’m challenged to die a deeper death so that I can personify Jesus even more.
- When you are forgotten, or neglected, or purposely avoided, and you don't sting or hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ—that is dying to live.
- When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise up your heart, or even defend yourself, but take in all in patient, loving silence—that is dying to live.
- When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any unpunctuality, or any annoyance; when you stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, and spiritual insensibility, and endure it as Jesus endured—that is dying to live.
- When you are content in all circumstances; any food, any offering, any climate, any society, any apparel, or any interruption by the will of God, and you never sulk, whine, complain, become moody, or entice the attention of others—that is dying to live.
- When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good works, or itch after commendations; when you can truly love to be unknown—that is dying to live.
- When you can see your brother prosper and observe his needs being met, and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy, nor question God while your own needs are far greater and in more desperate circumstances—that is dying to live.
- When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less standing than yourself, and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart—that is dying to live.
Which of these statements speak to you? Allow the Holy Spirit move deeper through your heart and life. May we all truly die to live; may we echo the apostle Paul’s words, “I have been crucified with Christ…Christ lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20).
Take my life, God. Consume me until the only thing people see is you. Live through me; possess my very being, and touch this world through my life. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.