There is a secret to living this Christian life, and it’s a secret most Christians don’t know.
If you knew this secret, it would set you free from dead works and insecurity. Here it is:
This is a faithful saying: For if we died with him, we shall also live with him. (2 Timothy 2:11, NKJV)
If you don’t know that you have died with Christ, then you won’t really live. Instead, you will spend your life trying to die; dying to self, dying daily, and crucifying the flesh.
“But isn’t following Jesus a matter of dying daily to ourselves and our desires?”
The phrase “die to self” isn’t even in the Bible.
When Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt.16:24), he was showing us the way to salvation—it’s through the cross. If you would follow Jesus, then follow Jesus. Jesus died once and he will never die again.
It’s the same with us.
We were crucified with Christ once; we need never be crucified again. You do not need to die daily. Once will do the trick.
“But didn’t Paul say he died daily (1 Cor. 15:31–32)?”
Paul was referring to the dangers and hardships he faced in preaching the gospel. “I fought wild beasts in Ephesus!” He was not preaching a works-based theology of dying to self.
We died to the law (Rom. 7:4, Gal. 2:19)—including the law that says you must die to self.
The problem with any message on self—even a noble-sounding message on self-denial—is that it promotes self. It fuels self-centeredness which lies at the root of all our problems.
In the church self-denial is usually packaged as a spiritual discipline. Don’t touch, don’t taste, don’t handle.
But in truth it is nothing more than the age-old practice of asceticism, the belief that we can attain spiritual goals by abstaining from physical pleasures.
The truth is that you can do nothing to save yourself or make yourself pleasing to God. Jesus does it all.
True gospel preachers understand this which is why they will never distract you by preaching messages that glorify self or self-effort. Like Paul they will say, “We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord” (2 Cor. 4:5).
Christians who do not know they have died with Christ end up living two lives. On the one hand they are trying to walk in the new life they have received in Christ, but on the other they are trying to reform the old life they inherited from Adam.
This is a recipe for misery.
No one wants to be one person on Sunday and another on Monday. Live like this and it’ll tear you apart.
The cure for double-minded Christianity is not to “try harder” or “lift your game” or “follow these ten steps to a new you.” It is a revelation that your old self was crucified with Christ.
Your old self is the person you used to be before you met Jesus. It is who you were in Adam before you were put into Christ. Paul wrote that “we know that our old self was crucified with him” (Romans 6:6). Look at his choice of words; was crucified.
Done and dusted.
Dead and buried.
Do you see how liberating this is?
The old man was unfixable. He was broken, corrupt, and completely screwy. He was a slave to sin and no amount of reform could fix him.
But the good news is he’s dead. That incorrigible old so-and-so was nailed to the cross with Jesus and he no longer lives.
The end of the old man
Watchman Nee called this the gospel for Christians. “The self you loathe is there on the cross in Christ.”
If the average believer could grasp hold of this truth—I died—half of our church programs would cease immediately. (Pastors would be set free!) We would stop trying to reform the old man because the old man is dead.
Want to live, really live with Jesus? Then let this truth take root in your heart:
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 gave himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)