We Must Die to Live
“I have to die to get better.” Have you felt that way? You feel so sick that you about wish you would go ahead and die so that you can feel better? We say that as a bit of a joke (or maybe not). Of course, at the time that we feel so badly, we do wish for about anything to happen that would improve our condition. Being sick is no fun and we will do whatever it takes to feel better. Of course, as Christians, doing “whatever it takes” still needs to be within what is moral and right. The world doesn’t always follow that path.
Spiritually, the concept of dying in order to get better is a truth to which we must conform. In order to get better, in order to be free from sin, in order to experience forgiveness and true freedom, we must die. This is an important idea in Scripture. For example, Paul put it this way:
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Col 3:1-4)
Paul follows up by saying, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you…,” then speaks of some of the sins that characterize the one who has not yet died to self. We put to death what is worldly, put off the sins of the flesh, and put on Christ and the new self (vv. 5-15). To be new, the old must go. We must die to live. Paul also wrote to the Romans:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Rom 6:1-4)
“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:11).
Again, before receiving forgiveness from God, we were considered to be dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1). That death came as a result of sin (Rom 6:23). However, we must experience another kind of death. This death is a death to self and sin in order to be brought to life by God spiritually. In other words, we must die to live.
This is another way of speaking about self-denial. Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-25)
Self-denial is a way of putting self to death in order to live for God. If we try to save our lives by refusing self-denial, we will suffer a death no one ultimately wants. If we will deny self, losing our lives for His sake, then we will be saved. It’s paradoxical, but if we can see the kinds of death involved, we can see that the point is simply this: we cannot put ourselves first over God and others and expect to receive the blessings God offers. If we want to live, we must die. If we want to be saved, we must lose our lives for His sake.
This is what Jesus did for us. He is the ultimate example of one who emptied (denied) self and died (Phil 2:6-8). Yet, He lives. The resurrection is what makes eternal life possible now, as Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
By God’s grace, we can die so that we will live. This goes beyond our spiritual death and new life here. This points to an ultimate life that comes from Christ conquering death through His resurrection. We die to live now. Then, because death has been conquered, our physical death is not something to fear because we, too, shall take part in the resurrection of life (Heb 2:14-15).
We don’t want to die; we want to live. Yet as physical death is necessary to resurrection, so also is death to self and sin necessary to the new life in Christ. By God's grace we can experience both.
In order to get better and live, we must die. Have you?