There is a concept conveyed in Christian circles that many call "dying to self". I don’t know about you but when I hear someone say you have to "die to self", I think I am supposed to kill off part of me that God doesn’t like or the part that I don’t like. The problem is that the phrase "dying to self" doesn’t occur in the Bible. Neither does the concept of me killing off part of myself.
What is clearly conveyed in the bible is the part of me that wants to do life apart from Jesus has already been killed.
Romans 6:6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;
Your old self was crucified with Jesus. You can’t kill it because it is already dead. It is a gift of salvation just as important as the gift of righteousness. You don’t have a part of you to kill after you receive Jesus because it was crucified with Christ. You do have a choice though of either living out of death or life.
You now no longer have an excuse for being stuck in sin patterns. This act of killing our old self and putting us under grace and out from under the law is what sets us free from obedience to sin. Look at the last part of verse 6 and all of verse 7 in Romans 6.
Romans 6:6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.
You have actually been set free from the reign and rule of sin over your life. That means that sin no longer comes from who you are but it is now a choice and you don’t have to choose it. So why do we continue to sin? It is because we are deceived. It is proof we do not know yet who we really are in Jesus.
2 Corinthians 11:3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
Our whole identity changes when we receive Jesus. We are no longer sinners but saints. We are no longer sinners by nature, we are righteous by nature. When we sin, as followers of Jesus, we are actually acting contrary to our true nature.
Romans 5:17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
Our mind has to catch up with what actually has happened to our identity. We went from death to life, from sin to righteousness, from condemned to saved. That is why we are told to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. When our mind gets renewed to everything that took place through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we will start to reign in righteousness over sin through Jesus.
Everything changed at the cross. We spend the rest of our lives either living out of our new life or trying to live out of the part of us that died on the cross. All of the pain and frustration we experience is a result of trying to live out of a life that was crucified. I believe this is the concept that the phrase "dying to self" is trying to get at. It is just an awkward way of saying what the Bible actually says; "Consider yourself to be dead to sin".
Romans 6:11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Living out of a reality of what God has already accomplished is much different than trying to kill something that God doesn’t like. When the temptation to live out of sin comes, it is much different to see that I am already dead to that behavior because it is no longer who I am than believing that I can kill that behavior through effort on my part. One is righteousness conscious and the other is sin conscious. One is operating out of self-effort the other is operating out of the power of the Hoy Spirit.
Whatever we focus on grows. The more I see myself as righteous, I will choose righteousness and the more righteous my behavior will become. The more I focus on killing what I perceive God or I do not like about me, the deeper in sin I will be trapped. I’m actually putting myself back in bondage to the very thing I am trying to overcome.
Romans 6:16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?… 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness
I can never become what I don’t believe that I am. If I believe I am a sinner I will act like a sinner. If I believe that I am righteous in Jesus, I will start to become more and more righteous.
If I choose to live out of the righteousness that Jesus gave me, I will have to say no to sin through the power of the Holy Spirit. At times this will feel as painful as death because I am not totally convinced yet as to what gives me life. When the enemies whispers cause us to desire something that we think will fill the emptiness we are feeling at the moment and we decide to say no, there will be a tug-of-war in our souls over the choice of life or death. It will feel like part of us is dying. But this act of choosing life, even though it feels like death is actually producing life.
Luke 9:24 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25 For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?
God cannot bless death. If I try to live out of the part of me that is dead, I will not experience the abundant life that Jesus promised. Life abundant is only found in Jesus.
Colossians 3:3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.