One aspect of repentance that the world despises is dying to oneself. We are a selfish society, a sinful society. Engaging in sin is a self-serving pursuit and a self-destructive pursuit as well. Dying to sin, however, is the antithesis of self-service. It denotes suffering, and suffering is part of the faith. There’s no escaping this reality.
Servants Are like Their Master
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.” (Mark 8:34–35)
This exhortation to take up one’s cross is reserved for Christ’s disciples only. Those who come to faith have a new life, new priorities, and a new nature—and this new charge. This means disciples must learn from their Master Jesus and follow His example. Jesus came to serve and honor the heavenly Father. So must we. “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26).
We confess Christ as the King of kings, and although believers are called a royal priesthood, we labor as servants in His kingdom. We are lowly and despised by the world. This should not bother the Christian, for we follow in the footsteps of our great Lord Jesus. Jesus daily denied Himself to minister to others. Christians in their duty of service and life of sacrifice deny themselves to serve their God and King.
Living as new creatures in Christ, we deny ourselves in another way. We abandon self-serving pursuits, we flee from the pleasures of sin, and we follow Christ. We will have to leave careers behind if they do not honor Christ. We will have to break off relationships if they do not honor Christ. We will have to give up positions of rank and forsake former reputations if that is what it will take to honor our God with our whole life. We will endure hardships of many kinds to bear witness to Christ.
Peter reminds us that we are strangers in this world—refugees who wander—for our eternal home is not here. Our treasures are not in the world but in our glorious God whom we worship and adore. Jesus died on the cross, making payment for sins; therefore, we take up our cross, denying the pursuit of sin and dying to self.
Dying to Oneself
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Phil. 1:21)
Daily we die to ourselves. We no longer live for sin but for our God who redeems us, loves us, and changes us.
To lose our life, we forsake that former life of iniquity and rebellion. We die to ourselves and surrender all for God’s glory. We are accounted as sheep ready for the slaughter. Christians recognize that their lives are not their own. Their bodies are not their own. Everything, including our very selves, belongs to the Lord who created us and re-creates us.