Trials: On Death and Dying
Death is a reality of life. To some, death is a horrible unknown. For others, it is a time of relief or rest. Death is a defeated enemy, yet we must all face it sometime.
I think about death every day—at least I ought to. Jesus said that we should die daily. We must take up our cross and follow him. That is what it means to cast our lot in with the Crucified One. We follow a Messiah who laid down his life for others and commanded us to follow him.
Called to be losers
We don’t save others in the way that Jesus did, of course, but we are still called to give our lives. Jesus said, “Those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39, New Revised Standard Version). We are called to be losers—and only if we are losers will we be finders. The only way to live with Christ is to die with Christ. “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
Have you given your life for Jesus Christ? “All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death” (Romans 6:1). We may have given our lives to Christ many years ago—but we need to renew our death every day. Paul told the Christians in Rome, “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13). We are to crucify the passions of the flesh (Galatians 5:24).
Paul said that we are living sacrifices, and the problem with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar. Old habits come back, and they must be killed again. So we need to say, Heave, ho, back on the altar you go. We need to examine ourselves to see whether our deeds are of the flesh, or of the Spirit.
I am willing to die today
Each day, we need to think about dying, about putting to death the deeds of the flesh, about plunging selfishness back into its grave. Whenever our ego is hurt, we need to remind ourselves, I died many years ago, and I am dead. They can’t hurt me any more. I am willing to die today, too, because Christ died for me. I died with him, and I am dying with him right now. I choose to give up my pride and live not for self, but for Christ.
We must all come to the point of resignation: Not my will be done, but God’s. We accept what he gives, no more, no less. This is not a doormat personality, of course, where we are willing to do what anyone wants. We obey God’s will, not anyone else’s. We serve others only as it is God’s will.
Our daily death is not the end of personality, but it is the transformation of the will. It is a voluntary choice to be more like Christ—and thank God, we do not do this on our own. We have already admitted that our own way leads to death, so this transformation is not something we can do on our own. Rather, it is Christ at work in us, living in us, creating us as new persons.
The old and the new are side by side, competing for our time and our lives. We must choose which to obey: the old person with its lusts, or the new person with its willingness to serve, its willingness to copy Christ, its willingness to love others. It is a daily struggle, and a lifelong one.
We must crucify the way of sin, the way of self-reliance, the way of lust and pride. As we know, some sins are easier to forsake than others. We enjoy some sins more than others, but all must go. We have been bought with a price, and our bodies are not our own. We cannot do with them as we please, but we must seek to do what Christ wants. It requires thought, it requires self-sacrifice, it requires patience.
Continue resisting sin
The Roman Christians died with Christ when they accepted him as Savior, and yet Paul still exhorts them to continue resisting sin: “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions” (Romans 6:11-12).
Remember who you are, he says. When it comes to sin, remember that you are dead, and that your new life is for Christ Jesus. Sin has no power over us to force us to do its will—we can, with Christ in us, choose to do right. But it is not automatic, nor is it easy, nor is it possible to be perfect.
We are freed from the fear of condemnation (Romans 8:1), and exhorted to “become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18). We obey because we want to, because the Spirit leads us, not because we are afraid of God. After all, he loved us so much that he sent his Son to die for us. We are motivated by his love, confident in the eternal life that he purchased for us.
The reason that we can sacrifice selfishness is because we have faith that God has something far better for us. We are willing to die each day because Christ lives in us, doing what he has done before: obeying the Father’s will.
Today, think about dying—and about living with Christ Jesus in you.
Author: Joseph Tkach