What does it mean to die to self? From the time we are born, we are inclined to rebel. Our sinful, human nature longs to be independent of any form of rule or authority. We want to do our own thing – do what makes us happy. I see this with my daughters. The second they could speak, I heard the word ‘no.’ My youngest sees me holding her pajamas at bedtime and her first instinct is to run as far away from me as she can. And then I practically have to tackle her before I can get her to stand still long enough to get her ready for bed!
I suppose this is what Jesus meant when He asked us to pick up our cross daily and follow Him. His victory on the cross meant our freedom, and with that freedom, we choose to give each day back to Him. It’s a life of surrender.
Jesus sacrificed it all to guarantee our freedom – something we could have never achieved on our own.
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? – Luke 9:23-25 (NASB)
So what do we do with this newly found freedom? Many of us continue to live the same way we lived before. Sure, we make God a part of our lives. We go to church, pray, read our Bibles. We try harder not to sin. But do we really give Him everything? Many of us are willing to go through the motions of being a Christian, but are we willing to take up our cross and literally die to self?
Now I will be the first to admit that this concept of “dying” to myself is easier said than done. In order to die to self, I have to set aside my desires, my hopes, my dreams, my goals and exchange them for His desires, His hopes, His dreams, and His goals.
Daily taking up my cross means just that. I wake up in the morning and before my feet even hit the ground, I die to self and live in Him.
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. – Galatians 2:20 (NASB)
What are we really giving up when we die to self? A life apart from Christ is really no life at all. Sure, there may be some good times – memories made, happy moments, worldly successes – but there’s also a lot of pain and heartache. (And do I dare mention death?)
As a believer, I still experience trials, but I have a hope that only comes from a life in Christ. He is able and willing to exchange my sorrows for joy, my stress for His peace, my slavery to sin for His freedom. He defeated sin and death on the cross, and now I get to share in His victory!
We don’t simply die to self and that’s the end of it. It’s all about an exchange – my empty life leading towards death and defeat for His abundant life leading towards life and victory.
It really is a no-brainer.
*Unless otherwise indicated, scripture quotations taken from the NASB.