I have been a Christian for a number of years and I don’t recall ever seeing the term ‘die to self’ in the Bible. Consequently, I believe this term has been misused by many; a better term, and a more biblical one, would have been ‘deny self,’. I believe our old self was crucified with Jesus, and the new life we were born into is now hidden with Him in God. We are citizens of a new realm; we have come to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.
Having been left in our mortal bodies, we must continually deny the self of the old nature. I believe we do this by believing in the work of Jesus, that He took upon Himself the punishment for our sins, and that God raised us up with Him when He raised Him from the dead. We are now to consider ourselves dead to sin, and alive to God through faith in Christ. There is no need to die to the old nature, or to the Self, for that person was crucified with Jesus; Self is already dead; for as it is written, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin;” and “For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 6:3-7,11).
Being found still in human form, we must humble ourselves and become obedient, denying to gratify the old nature that once had control of us, and put on the new nature by simply believing that God’s divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them we might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust, (I Peter 1:3-4).
We, as Christians, are to set our minds on the Spirit because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in us. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. And if Christ is in us, though our bodies are dead because of sin, yet our spirits are alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to our mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells us. So then, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh —- for if we are living according to the flesh, we must die; but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of our bodies, we will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God, (Romans 8:6-14).
By the words, ‘if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of our bodies’, we know that we are not putting to death our old self, but only the ‘deeds’ of our bodies; in other words, we are denying our self, considering it to have been crucified with Christ, and not allowing it to control our actions; we prevent our self from taking control of our actions by taking up our cross and following Jesus, while all the while trusting our Father, who cannot lie, to work mightily in us through the power of His Holy Spirit, because of our faith in Jesus, leading us from victory to victory for His name’s sake.
I think some call forsaking our will and giving ourselves to God’s will dying to Self. But I can find nowhere in the Bible where this is even hinted. Even Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, is nowhere found to have died to His Self. Rather, He humbled Himself and became obedient to God, turning from His will and doing the will of God. For He says, “…I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me,” (John 6:38). So submitting to God’s will is not an act of dying to self, but rather an act of denying that self, by humbling ourselves and learning obedience through the things which we suffer, in order that God’s perfect will may be done in us, and through us.
Some may say that in John 12 Jesus said that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. In this instance, Jesus was referring to His own death, for in the sentence prior to this He says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
Others may ask, “What difference does it make which term we use, dying to self, or denying self? They both seem to lead to the same end.” The difference is this, one is correct, the other is not, and by using the incorrect term many people have been misled and hurt. For instance, as a baby Christian I was constantly told that I had to die. My pastor was constantly telling me, “Old Jon has to die,”. I was very tender and I thought that pastors, as men of God, would always speak the truth. So I tried to die, only to find, after years of trying, that it was impossible. The harder I tried, the more ‘Old Jon’ popped up in my face. During a time when the Lord pulled me away from the church in order to teach me His gospel Himself, my eyes were opened to the truth — I had already been crucified with Jesus — I didn’t have to die —- I was already dead. My spirit was finally free to follow Jesus with joy and with faith that God had also raised me up with Jesus into newness of life. All I needed to do was to believe, deny myself daily and follow Jesus.
No matter how hard we try, self will always rear its ugly head. We can only deny the self, and this we do daily, each and every time he wants his way. Our self is us; it is not some foreign thing attached to us; it IS us. Having been born again into newness of life we find that the principle of evil is still present in us, (Romans 7:21); and Romans 8:2 tells us that, even though that principle is still in us, we are freed from its power and influence because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and of death. So we must deny our self, take up our cross (lose, or walk away from, our old life) and follow Jesus in the new life, the life of doing God’s will instead of our own.
We must follow Jesus one day at a time. For just as God’s mercies are new every morning, so, also, are His promises; and we must walk in them day by day, persevering to the end. We must fight the good fight daily. In this way, and only in this way, can we be so bold as to say, “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 delivered Himself up for me,” ((Galatians 2:20).
I would like to finish by saying that the pastor I spoke of loved me deeply. He and I had a special connection in the Lord. He never meant to hurt me, and I never told him I was hurt by his words. He passed away many years ago and to this day he holds a special place in my heart.
Dear friends, I mean only to help people, not tear them down. If anything I’ve said is contrary to what someone else has said, or believes, I mean no harm, nor do I sit in judgment. I speak only of what I’ve seen and heard.
Rev. Jon David Banks, God’s most unworthy servant
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