Jesus said…”I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die”… Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. — John 11:25-26, 43-44
Lazarus did not have a near-death experience. Even Miracle Max from The Princess Bride would have realized that he was not simply “only mostly dead.” He was completely, undeniably dead. First, he was miserably sick, and then he passed away. He expired. He kicked the bucket. He bought the farm. He bit the dust. However you want to say it, make no mistake about it: Lazarus died. His sisters washed his body and wrapped it in linen. Weeping, they laid his corpse in a cave-tomb and leaned a flat stone across the opening.
We like to read this story because it ends so well, with Jesus arriving apparently too late–four days later–only to dramatically raise Lazarus from the dead and gave him back to his family.
“Do we really get it—that we need to be dead people ourselves before Jesus can infuse into us with His divine Life?”
The 3 cheeky Hebrew rascals were not delivered from king Nebu, until they experienced unquenchable inferno that supposed to kill them, before the Lord turned it into a air-conditioned room (Daniel 3)k. I wonder, though, if we devote enough time to thinking about the implications for our own lives. In our excitement about the resurrection part, do we forget that you can’t raise a person from the dead unless he or she is actually dead? Do we really get it–that we need to be dead people ourselves before Jesus can infuse into us with His Life?
2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” Colossians 3:3 says it even more clearly:
“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” The expectation is obvious: When Jesus invited us to follow Him, it’s an invitation to die. Only when we die to ourselves can we truly live for Him, it is an invitation to die. That kind of surrender goes against every instinct we have. We want to hang on to life, hang on to families/relationships/friendship, hang on to properties, hang on to familiar environment, hang on to our character traits or identification. We can’t seem to let go. We refuse to pull the plug. But it is only when we die to ourselves that we can finally experience the resurrection power of Christ.
It is not necessarily physical death, but something much more to gain eternal life.
The concept of “dying to self” is found throughout the New Testament. It expresses the true essence of the Christian life, in which we take up our cross and follow Christ. Dying to self is part of being born again; the old self dies and the new self comes to life (John 3:3–7 ). Not only are Christians born again when we come to salvation, but we also continue dying to self as part of the process of sanctification. As such, dying to self is both a one-time event and a lifelong process.
Jesus spoke repeatedly to His disciples about taking up their cross (an instrument of death) and following Him. He made it clear that if any would follow Him, they must deny themselves, which means giving up their lives—spiritually, symbolically, and even physically, if necessary. This was a prerequisite for being a follower of Christ, who proclaimed that trying to save our earthly lives would result in our losing our lives in the kingdom. But those who would give up their lives for His sake would find eternal life (Matthew 16:24–25 ; Mark 8:34–35 ). Indeed, Jesus even went so far as to say that those who are unwilling to sacrifice their lives for Him cannot be His disciples (Luke 14:27 ).
The rite of baptism expresses the commitment of the believer to die to the old, sinful way of life (Romans 6:4–8 ) and be reborn to a new life in Christ. In Christian baptism, the action of being immersed in the water symbolizes dying and being buried with Christ. The action of coming out of the water pictures Christ’s resurrection. Baptism identifies us with Christ in His death and resurrection, portraying symbolically the whole life of the Christian as a dying to self and living for and in Him who died for us (Galatians 2:20 ).
Paul explains to the Galatians the process of dying to self as one in which he has been “crucified with Christ,” and now Paul no longer lives, but Christ lives in him. Paul’s old life, with its propensity to sin and to follow the ways of the world, is dead, and the new Paul is the dwelling place of Christ who lives in and through him. This does not mean that when we “die to self” we become inactive or insensible, nor do we feel ourselves to be dead. Rather, dying to self means that the things of the old life are put to death, most especially the sinful ways and lifestyles we once engaged in. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24 ). Where we once pursued selfish pleasures, we now pursue, with equal passion, that which pleases God.
Dying to self is never portrayed in Scripture as something optional in the Christian life. It is the reality of the new birth; no one can come to Christ unless he is willing to see his old life crucified with Christ and begin to live anew in obedience to Him. Jesus describes lukewarm followers who try to live partly in the old life and partly in the new as those whom He will spit out (Revelation 3:15–16 ). That lukewarm condition characterized the church of Laodicea as well as many churches today. Being “lukewarm” is a symptom of unwillingness to die to self and live for Christ. Death to self is not an option for Christians; it is a choice that leads to eternal life.
Someone said that the hardest part of dying to ourselves is that we have to do it daily. Write out a prayer for today, laying your life at the feet of Jesus. Reaffirm that He is not just your Savior, but your Lord. Don’t hurry through this, and prayerfully write only what you mean. For today, list what attitudes, priorities, or sins-what part of you-you will allow to die.