We traveled north down some winding roads. There was a spectacular show going on outside the windows of our vehicle.
The beauty of autumn surrounded us.
I said, “Isn’t it amazing that all this brilliant color is a result of dying”? My husband nodded.
Autumn in its brilliance looks spectacular, beautiful, vibrant, lovely and all because of death.
I think that’s true of us in a Spiritual sense as well. I’m thinking of the act of dying to self that Jesus was referring to in Matthew 16: 24-25 and Mark 8: 34-35.
When we die to self and come alive with Christ we are being transformed into something beautiful. Just like the autumn trees.
It’s not because of anything we have done but everything that Christ has done and we simply decide to yield to His life in us.
It’s the exchanged life and an act of putting off the old self and putting on the new self. See Ephesians 4:22-24.
The leaves are in the process of death.
We are in the process of dying to what we once were and becoming like Christ. It’s not an overnight miracle but the more we put off what belongs to our old self and put on more of Christ the more vibrant we become.
As we allow Christ to have more of us everyday, we become more attractive as believers. There will be a Christ-radiance that will emanate in us and through us.
Dying daily to our selfish nature isn’t easy. That’s why it’s often called a process.
Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)
So the goal in death is LIFE–here on earth and on into eternity.
The exchanged life cannot be seen more clearly than in Saul of Tarsus (who later became known as the Apostle Paul). In regard to putting off his old self and putting on the new…what a contrast!
He went from hatred to love, killing to offering life, and from persecuting Christians to becoming one of the greatest Christian teachers of all time. There isn’t another person in all of scripture, apart from Jesus, that shaped the course of Christianity more than the Apostle Paul. His conversion story is in Acts 9.
Paul, even with his strong personality, yielded his life to Christ. Yet he also admitted that he was in process and that he hadn’t fully arrived.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3: 12-14
And Paul even referred to himself as the chief of sinners in 1 Timothy 1:15-16.
He was shown mercy but he was in process, daily choosing to take up his cross and follow Christ by dying to himself.
How do we do this thing called ‘dying to self’?
I think it comes with practice–the practice of throwing off our old tendencies and putting on a new way of life–the Jesus life in us. The more we do it, the more likely it will become easier, but I don’t think it’s about changing our personalities.
Look at the disciples. They were called by Jesus but had their own distinct personalities and gifts. I think it’s more about dying to self-will, control, ego, pride and anything that places us on the throne of our life and at the center of the universe.
Anytime we feel the pain of rejection, heartache, disappointment, experience something bad or unpleasant, illness, hardships, trial, suffering, when we’re treated unfairly–we can choose to throw off our old way of reacting with pride or ego and die to ourselves. We die to sin and self. We throw off the old way of reacting and respond in a new way.
So this autumn as I enjoy the beauty of the dying leaves on the trees, I’m reminded that the more I keep choosing to die to self the more beautiful I’ll become–not from outward appearance but by what comes out from within. Death brings life and dying is beautiful.
Written by: Nancy Janiga©2014