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“Lord” Jesus Christ also means “Owner” Jesus Christ
Surrendering your life fully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ is no small or simple matter. But I’m sure you are painfully aware of that by now. It requires making the conscious choice each day to deny our natural desires and humbly submit to His leadership and control. And that’s where it begins to chafe. We love the Lord Jesus— but we probably love the “Jesus” part more than we love the “Lord” part. But as Jesus commanded, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself (ouch), and take up his cross daily (double ouch), and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). He sets the requirements for discipleship, not us. And as with just about everything in the Christian life, it’s all or nothing— life or death, hot or cold, light or darkness, narrow gate or wide road, walk by the Spirit or the flesh, good fruit or bad fruit, you get the idea. He says to follow Him, we must first deny ourselves and then die to ourselves. This is what baptism symbolizes. Dying to self, being buried with Christ, and then being raised into the new life in Him. Ok, we got that. But what does it really look like in practical terms to “die to self” daily?
Dying to self goes much deeper than just giving up a few activities we enjoy or taking on extra chores around the house. It requires renouncing the deep-seated notion that our lives still belong to us and embracing the Biblical reality that we now belong entirely to Christ (Gal. 2:20). When He died on the cross for our sins, He purchased us with His blood (1 Cor. 6:19-20). And purchase speaks of ownership— which means our lives are no longer our own. Dying to self means joyfully relinquishing all rights we think we have to our lives to the One who sacrificed everything to save us. It means enthroning Him as the rightful Lord and Owner over every area of our lives.
What Does Denying and Dying to Self Look Like
Concretely, this dying to self plays out through both the small and large choices we make each and every day. It may mean choosing to leave your lucrative career that provides comfort and prestige to pursue full-time ministry at a fraction of your former salary. Or regularly apologizing to your spouse in humility when conflict arises, even when you don’t think you were in the wrong, in order to restore peace and unity in the relationship by putting your spouse first.
Dying to self often requires passing on purchasing something nice we can afford and believe we deserve in order to generously meet an urgent need in someone else’s life. It could mean taking time away from a beloved hobby or habit that is absorbing too much of our time and attention at the expense of God’s priorities or sacrificing the time we spend with our children. Each new situation presents an opportunity to once again surrender our will and way to Christ’s desires and plans for us. We simply must be open and willing to put Him first, and everything about us less than first.
To walk in a life of continual self-denial and dying to self, we must abandon the notion that we know what’s best for our lives, almost on a daily basis, and embrace the fact that God’s purposes and priorities are better and higher than ours (Isa. 55:8-9). It requires admitting we don’t have all the answers and desperately need the guidance of the Holy Spirit each step of the way. As Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ; 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 for me” (Gal. 2:20). The old rebellious, stubborn, selfish nature must die so that the resurrected life of Christ can reign fully in us, transforming us into His image (Rom.8:29).
Of course, practically living out this surrendered, crucified life will look different for each of us. It may mean humbly serving others in lowly ways when we’d rather kick back and relax or be the one being served. It may mean we have to bite our tongue instead of firing off a heated text message or email we can never take back. We may have to learn how to receive life-giving correction from others without reacting in a defensive manner or making excuses. Or, saying “yes” to something that stretches our faith when we would rather stay home where it is safe, warm, and secure. Each new situation requires a fresh dying to our fleshly reactions so that we can respond as Jesus would. This is the substance of self-denial and dying to self. And these are the two prerequisites for following Jesus (Matt. 16:24). Read them yourselves.
While often difficult and uncomfortable, dying to self daily is the only pathway to experiencing the full and abundant life Jesus promises (John 10:10). It is the key to the Higher Christian life we have talked about. As we surrender control of our lives to Christ’s capable hands, we are set free from the grip of sin, filled with supernatural joy, and experience deep intimacy with Jesus as maybe never before. Remember, Jesus said it was to those who willingly lose their lives for His sake that will find true life (Matt. 16:25). And isn’t true life what we are all longing for?
Dying to Self is the Only Way to Live the Abundant Life He Promised
Dying to our natural selves is admittedly not easy or painless. In fact, it may be the hardest thing you have ever tried to do. But the rewards are eternal and far outweigh any temporary suffering it involves. As we yield ourselves fully to Christ each day, we gain an imperishable inheritance in heaven (1 Peter 1:3-4) that cannot be diminished. The trials that come from daily surrender to Jesus produce everlasting glory that is beyond comparison (2 Cor. 4:17).
So let’s take up our cross today and every day, whatever that looks like for us in our specific circumstances, and push forward towards the life of total surrender. Say “no” to self-will and “yes” to the new resurrection life Christ purchased for us. Because walking the crucified life with Jesus is the only path to experiencing lasting joy, freedom, and purpose. And it is a vital step in surrendering your life totally to the Lord.
So begin that process today. Say “no” to you and “yes” to Him.