The secret to successful Christian living

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 Tim. 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?”

Nope. 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).

Double-minded Christianity

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. What is your old self? It 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. Past tense. 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. 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. (Gal 2:20)

Extracted and adapted from The Gospel in Ten Words

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29 Comments on The secret to successful Christian living

  1. Denise Capra // August 22, 2019 at 1:34 am // Reply

    Excellent- THX

  2. Yes! 🙂

  3. Paul, this is a most critical truth for Christians to grasp and I need reminded of it every day. Thanks for doing that for me today 🙂

    I do believe that Jesus’ words “deny yourself…” apply to us today. But for us, we are to deny self in the sense of denying anything that would get us to look away from Jesus and who we are in Him, so as to look to ourselves instead. As you said, “die to self” is not in there but we need to walk in the reality that we died because His cross was our cross. Then we can experience His resurrection life now.

  4. Earl Hendricks // August 22, 2019 at 3:09 am // Reply

    I recently retired as a pastor, but I have to let you know that I still so enjoy getting deeper insights from you for what it means to be a truly liberated believer whose trust is in the finished work of Christ alone. Thank you Paul!

  5. It really is that simple. Thank, Paul!

  6. I want to make sure I am still supporting your ministry… Please let me know!

  7. John W Reed // August 22, 2019 at 5:30 am // Reply

    Amen, already dead, Romans 6 confirms it. Buried with Him in baptism and raised to newness of life. We who believed are walking in newness of life. It isn’t any longer none of me and all of You but rather all of Him IN all of me. We are not separated or divided from or disconnected from God.

  8. I literally read this part of your book just yesterday and I was thinking that I have to think more about this. And now you have a post on it today.
    Enjoying the book. And I enjoy reading other people’s comments on articles, too.

  9. Sharron Christy // August 22, 2019 at 6:23 am // Reply

    This is such good news! I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to reform my flesh, when all I really needed to do was renew my mind and focus on what the Holy Spirit was telling me in my born-again spirit. My focus was all wrong. I was taught that I needed to crucify the flesh. That put my focus on me and DOING instead of BEING led by the Holy Spirit in me.

  10. Well stated, Paul, let by Father in risen Son, Thank You
    As I read Gal. 2:21 after verse 20, I see wht it had to be he went to death first. It was for us all to turn to Father in belief to be revealed all truth that sets us free. I needed this reminder today, as I have struggled in works, trying to do what no man can do, but Son as Jesus Christ himself did once for us all. Amazing truth, to not have to do to get. Actually be given and just do, being ready in everything in season and out of season, settling, settled with in me, Luke 21:14-15. So I daily am learning, being reminded I am dead to self and alive to God in Christ the risen thanks to God himself, For Jesus pointed to no one but Father. Father made Jesus sanctified, by the resurrecting him as so, making him High Priest for us to never die again. Amazing grace this is given to us to be new in and not of self, otherwise we have reason to boast. But not before God
    Thanks for the hunility
    Howard Schultz

  11. ibejoyful@aol.com // August 22, 2019 at 8:22 am // Reply

    This is so liberating!!!! Yay 😁

  12. New Creations, in Christ! Thank you Paul for reminding us of this HUGE liberating truth.

  13. Hey Paul. Love your posts. Just purchased, “The Gospel In Ten Words” book. Keep em coming. Cheers

  14. Sarah Harris // August 22, 2019 at 10:18 am // Reply

    Great piece! So freeing!!

  15. Paul, you always have a good read for us. So meaty!
    Also interesting to note… Gal.2:20 in some translations says “.. this life I live I live by the faith OF the Son of God…”, which is VASTLY different from living by faith IN the Son of God.
    One sounds like me “trying harder”/ “lifting my game” so I believe better
    VS.
    allowing the Christ who lives in me as me to rise up and flow out of me as I receive His revelation (a lifting of the veil to bring into view what is already there, “confidence in what we can’t see with our natural eyes”) that my old self was crucified and died when Christ did (before the foundation of the earth), all because He loves me that much and is for me so much that he set me up for the ultimate win in every. possible. way… without even asking my permission!
    That kind of revelation of our already-complete salvation, that there is no “self” left to deny, is not possible except by the faith of Christ freely operating in us. Anything else seems to be human effort to extinguish a quandary that exists only in our own minds… a striving we’ve been fully released from, one billion percent.

  16. Wowow! This is so so powerful. Thank you

  17. Kathleen Stuempfle // August 23, 2019 at 2:01 am // Reply

    One of the best things you have written. Simply, quit trying to die when your dead. That truly is the secret of the Christian life.

  18. Jenny L Beauchamp // August 23, 2019 at 3:44 am // Reply

    Thank you Paul, great reminder and very timely!

  19. Wow this is so so good. Why can’t I get this truth to stick in my head? I’ve read this book of yours Paul, and it’s like no amount of studying can permanently undo the error I was taught- I always end up defaulting back somehow, and one way is because every church I’ve tried preached mixture.

    What do you do Paul if you can’t find a pure grace church? We have our whole family in one currently but they preach a mixture of law and grace like every one I’ve tried. So we just stayed put for now. I mean is it helping or hurting my kids when I really thinks about it?

    • Hi Bow, that’s the $64,000 question. On the one hand, it’s important for your kids to be connected to church and be taught God’s Word; on the other hand, toxic mixture can be deadly! I will not presume to tell you what to do, but I will direct you to this article and this one.

  20. Jared Westendorp // August 23, 2019 at 12:24 pm // Reply

    I would rather focus on the old self being dead too. The Spirit says the old nature is dead and it’s wise to agree with Him. I found a version or translation that says something about having a focus on the old nature (man, self, etc.). And the the translation says it completely Jewish so you know it’s 110% accurate.
    “For those who identify with their old nature set their minds on the things of the old nature, but those who identify with the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”
    ‭‭Romans ‭8:5‬ ‭Complete Jewish B‬‬Ible

  21. Joy Brothers // August 24, 2019 at 12:29 am // Reply

    Paul, thanks for constantly teaching the truth of the bible. It is such a blessing, and in short supply. Loved the post on grace, was moved to tears that you and others had left fellowship over it. I left due to false teachings, my fellowship comes from Vision radio and what God leads me to online.
    Thankyou for the time and effort you expend to bring us the truth.

  22. I see this: First and foremost, by Son’s done work for us in his death, he then took away sin all sin from his sight, not this world’s or any flesh and blood nature.

    It Is Finished (John 19:30) he took all sin that brought death out of the way. So once Father sanctified Son for us in his being risen back to life. Is where and when the new life to be given began for us, that began at Pentecost. First risen life seen and testified to this truth is from true disciples. Messaged to us all, the message is the reconciliation to us from God himself in and by Son the two as ONE.
    Reached out at Pentecost, in the same Spirit that led Christ his entire life here on earth as the one and only one that was ever perfect for us to get this given to us by belief, Faith alone to this done work for us

    Col. 1:21-23 tells us this truth from God to us all. Does not tell us to fight, tells us to stand still and know God. If others do not see, okay, relax, God is working on them too, as has been with you.
    There is no condemnation in Spirit and Truth of Father for us in risen Son given us.

  23. It’s so simple now. I can’t believe i used to struggle with this. Thanks again Paul!

  24. Great work. It’s the essence of the Gospel. A real shame it’s a “secret.” For Martin Luther, our death with Christ was the key that set him free. I’m following and sharing.

  25. Amen ❤ this has been a hard concept to grasp thru my life but thank you for taking the time to talk about this ☺

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