How many have you heard people talk about the idea of “dying to self?” Sometimes you will hear it said, “Laying down your life.” But usually they are used in the same way.
The question we want to answer today is what does this look like?
The reason is rather simple. Many times we find ourselves in a discipleship relationship or in some sort of counseling situation where we give this sort of statement.
We usually get a thoughtful nod from the person but almost always we need to explain what we mean. They usually get the idea but what they don’t get is what it actually looks like. At times we have to almost spell it out point by point to them on multiple occasions until they figure out we were actually serious with what we said.
As a side note, if you have faithful pastors who actually take the time to speak into your life, take their words seriously. They are usually very busy and quite stretched and they are not talking just to hear the sound of their voices.
To give proper attention to this subject, we also want to put the idea within the biblical context from which it is derived. So that is our outline for this episode: Where does it say to die to self and then, what does that mean or look like in real life?
There are several passages we could reference but we will only focus on one as it is enough for our purposes. However, in the show notes we will include some other references (Mark 8:34-35; Luke 14:27; Romans 6:4-8).
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25)
The context here centers on Jesus telling His disciples that “. . . He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. (Matthew 16:21)
At this point good ol’ Peter rebukes Him, telling Him this was not going to happen. It is there that the famous line, “Get behind me Satan” is uttered by Jesus. The point made was that because the will of God was that Jesus was to die, anyone resisting that would be an enemy of God and His will.
This context is what drives the rest of the narrative. So we come to the verse itself in vs 24 and it starts out with “then. . . .” So, Jesus is simply expanding on what just happened with Peter.
So with that in mind we can confidently say that the opposite of dying to self is to refuse to obey the revealed will of God for this is what Peter was doing.
The cross Jesus was to bear was quite literally the cross He died upon.
The cross Peter, and all others who want to follow Jesus, may be literal or figurative but it is real nonetheless. There is shame attached to following Christ and the Christian is to embrace it without flinching.
It is here that we get the idea of dying to self. Simply put it is a willful choice to set aside our own agenda and instead to pursue Christ and His agenda. For Peter, it was to not seek to prevent Jesus from going to the Cross. But the application of this is rather wide and that is what we want to explore.
So we identified several areas of life that each of us experience regardless of culture and background. We want to now simply develop what it might look like to die to self in these areas.
- Finances -
Jesus said that we cannot serve God and money/possessions. I am pretty sure most American believers don’t really believe that though. This is not intended to be harsh, though it may sting. But it is intended to make you think.
What are some ways you might die to self with regard to finances?
All of these categories really are categories of faith. We use our money in faith for what is promised. The same with anything else really.
- Friendships -
"Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation." (Romans 12:16)
How do you go about choosing relationships?
What are the things you are looking for in them?
Does the relationship serve to fulfill you or them?
- Emotions and feelings -
"Like a city that is broken down and without a wall, so is a person who cannot control his temper." (Proverbs 25:28 NET)
"An angry man stirs up strife, And a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression..." (Prov. 29:22 NAS)
The parallelism is striking. Emotions have consequences. You can apply this to any emotion and then consider the consequences.
When you do not put your emotions under control then they lead to destructive results. Sin abounds. You create fights.
"Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger," (Eph. 4:26 NAS)
This is a good one on dying to self.
The anger in itself is not considered to be sinful here. Later, in vs 31, there is an anger that is sinful, but not here.
Instead, it is bringing that anger under control so you handle it correctly rather than it handling you, which is the normal course of action. It is not letting your mood control you in any given situation. You come to a meeting or come home in a bad mood, and you take it out on those present.
You expect a 3 year old to deal with this poorly, but there is no excuse for a 20 year old to be this way. Parents do great harm in this area by excusing early on behavior that actually needs correction and teaching.
- Time -
"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." (Eph. 5:15-17)
Time is an incredible gift that is often squandered because we don’t understand it.
We all have the same amount each day. And we all make decisions that take up portions of that time.
We can be jealous about our time and not realize it is a commodity that is to be in the service of Christ. Being too busy to do what is right is simply sin.
Choosing what is pleasing to you over what is good for you is folly. Consistently being late says something about you as a person.
Also, it is a life of planning to be hospitable.
- Skills/Service -
Recognizing these skills are gifts to the body of Christ to serve, but not just in doing them, but training others to be better at them as well. Sometimes this means you do not take advantage of your skills, like sports or something that takes you away from the people of God.
- Pet sins that just need to die -
This is how you become useful to the body of Christ. Convenience is never the primary choice in decisions of this type. Training your eyes to look at what is needed vs what is wanted.
"You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (1 Pet. 5:5 NAS)
It is tying on the apron of a slave.
This is huge if a person simply committed for a month to prayerfully seek as many ways in his/her life to function as a slave to others.
This is where the various “one anothers” come into play often.
You are bearing the burdens of others.
You give preference to one another.
You serve one another, etc.
Some people serve others for the wrong reason. They want to be recognized or have friends. This can be a subtle sin that can be very painful for others.
If you are not recognized for your serving you become bitter.
You break friendships because they are not giving back to you what you want.
You choose to serve in safe ways so that you don’t have to serve in painful ways. Example: you give notes to a friend who is doing much folly, but you won’t actually sit and inquire about their soul and actions.
Some serve others to bring those persons under obligation, so it is really a power play.
We hope this gives you plenty to think about in your own life.
How do your life choices reflect a hope in something beyond the here and now? How do you practice saying no to your comforts and desires? How do you train yourself to look beyond yourself and to the needs and well-being of others?
Think through these things. You will become a blessing to your church leaders and those around you as you apply this in your situation. And you will see that there is much joy in dying to yourself.
Tune in next time as we continue to deal with various biblical doctrines and applications.