I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Gal 2:20
Dying to what?
Dying to self. This is a phrase I utterly dislike. Not because it weren’t true. Not because I had my difficulties doing so. I do just as everybody does, but I know the necessity of it. No, it is because of how we understand dying to ourselves in the first place.
We misinterpret a word in this phrase. And it is the word self.
We quote todays verse. It is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me. And we think: Jesus now lives in me.
We say that we have to die to our self, and too often mean to let go of our identity.
Jesus spoke about this. But did he really?
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.Luk 9:23
Two things: Jesus talks of denying one self, and he speaks to people still in the old nature. Why is that so? Jesus has not died himself yet.
Dying to Sin
Dying to self. When we look up the verses associated with that phrase, they usually speak about dying to sin or flesh, not self.
When we hear self, we hear ego. We hear egoism. We—living in a mentality of a sinner saved by grace that have to become like him—hear John the Baptist say: He has to grow, and I have to fade away.
John the Baptist, the greatest prophet in the old covenant according to Jesus, had to wither away as the representative of exactly that old covenant.
We are no children of the old covenant. We have become a new creation. But still, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Each and every one of us.
Why then should we die?
Look around. God is a God of creativity, of multiplication, of abundance. Why should he want all of us to become like Jesus by dying, by killing what makes us—different?
From the view point of the old covenant or the unsaved soul, yes, I have to die. My old nature has to die. And it did. There on the cross, the moment I accepted Jesus as my lord and saviour. Done deal. It is finished.
Granted, it takes a while until I grasp and believe this truth. And yes, during that period of not quite understanding I will put my flesh to death. But what I really need is a change of perspective.
Christ versus Jesus
Back to us replacing Christ with Jesus in todays verse.
Christ is not the last name of Jesus. It is much more. Christos means Messiah, the anointed one. And just as the anointing on Aaron dripped from the head through the beard onto his clothes down to his feet, the anointing on Jesus dripped down on his body. Now he is the head and we are the body. We together with him are Christ.
What Paul tells us here is that no longer my old nature lives, but I am in Christ. I am a new creation, and this new creation in Christ breathes and lives within and through me. Me in him and he in me. I am part of Christ as much as I overcame my old nature.
But stop. My old nature has been overcome at the cross. It is dead. I am fighting windmills here. I am no longer subject to sin. I am no longer this sinner, not even as in saved by grace. I am Christ.
Yes, I left out the part of. I usually only talk of some body part as a part of me if something is wrong or it is somehow detached from me—or me or somebody else needs to be reassured that this really is my hand, my foot, my leg I am talking about. As long as I know that Christ is not Christ without Jesus, the head, I am fine. We tried that, and Christ detached from God became Adam, became our old nature, destined for death.
Can you understand now why I detest the phrase dying to self? Because it makes me look at myself from the wrong vantage point. I examine, even place and identify myself with the past and have to forcefully overcome it.
Instead, I want to see myself in this present reality and future manifestation as a new creation, and thus create a draft that will automatically draw me there. Speak those words of hope and faith and truth to project and draw me into the reality that already is: I am a son of God. I am Christ.
A New Definition of Self
From this vantage point, self is no longer my old corrupted nature. Self is this wonderful identity in Christ, this absolutely glorious being that God imagined and created when he made me, this fabulous and gifted person that he so longed to have a relationship with.
This self never has to die. On the contrary. It has to flourish, develop, grow—from eternity to eternity, from glory to glory.
And you know what? Believing this and investing in this new self automatically takes care of those memories of the old self that seem so real. They fade as we learn to accept our new nature and grow into it.
Don’t fight the old, accept the new. You are truly wonderful.
From this new view point, you realise how much you have to offer. And since you are thankful to Jesus that he made you this absolutely perfect new creation, you are more than glad to invest what you have into the body and kingdom of Christ.
And you will also esteem those others that together with you are Christ as they complement you. Because perfect does not mean self-contained. It does not mean whole as in no need for anybody else. Perfect means mature. It means the perfectly fitting piece in the puzzle for the whole picture of Christ. Together we are Christ. And together, that is in Christ, we can do all things.
I am not going to die to self any longer. Jesus killed that beast 30 years ago when I agreed to him doing so. I am going to invest into and grow my new self.
I am no longer going to talk about myself self-diminishing. What does my belittling of myself say about the artist that made me? It certainly does not lift him up.
Hey, I am great, brilliant, wonderful, perfect. And I want to become even more brilliant and mature even more to have people marvel about my maker.
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Hey, and you are great, brilliant, wonderful, and perfect as well. Do you believe it?