What do we make of the King's command that we should die every day? He
said, "He who
does not take his cross and follow after Me, is not worthy of Me. He
who finds his life will lose it; and he who loses his life for My sake
will find it."(mt10:38-39)
Later He said, "If any man desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever will lose his life for My sake will find it."(mt16:24-25)
Mark included an extra detail (8:34-38): "Whoever wants to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; and whoever will lose his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it." Notice "the gospel's..."
In Luke 9:23, we learn to die every day: "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me." Then in Luke 14:27, Jesus spoke it in the negative so that death becomes an absolute requirement of discipleship: "Whoever does not bear his own cross, and come after Me, cannot be my disciple."
Finally in John twelve, King Jesus spoke of His death, then in a metaphor invited us to do the same: "Most assuredly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life will lose it. He who hates his life in this world will keep it to eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me."(vv24-26)
We turn to Paul for help. How is it that without dying, no one follows Jesus, and how could dying possibly be done daily? The Apostle Paul went beyond our King's metaphor of a dying seed. Paul said our ritual-dunking (baptism) was more than just a metaphor. Paul said in Romans 6:3-7, "Or do you not know that all we who were baptized into King Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 We were buried therefore with Him through baptism to death, that just like the King was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, we will also be part of His resurrection; 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be in bondage to sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin."
Recall how in Romans 5, Paul taught that the Last Adam (King Jesus) had defeated our former rulers named Sin and Death. Then in chapter six, Paul said King Jesus did more than set us free from King Sin: Jesus made a way for us to die. If a slave escapes his first king named Sin to enter a new kingdom, then his former king still has a rightful claim to that slave; and indeed we were slaves to sin. So King Jesus did not merely provide a temporary escape from the domain of darkness. King Jesus made a way for us to die because "he who has died has been freed from sin." King Sin has no right or authority over a dead slave.
Baptism opens the way for us to die. King Jesus commanded believers to be dunked (baptized). We who believe in His authority (Jn20:31, Rom10:9, 1Jn4:15, 1Jn5:1) obey His authority by turning to Him and being dunked in His name (act2:38). Paul explained in Romans 6:3, "...we who were submerged (baptized) into King Jesus were submerged into His death." We did not literally die. Scripture does not teach that our bodies, souls, or spirits went to hell or hades when we were dunked. But God declares us as having died in baptism: "we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death"(rom6:5).
One may ask, "How can I be declared by God as having died when I have not died?" Because those who believe Jesus is King become part of His kingdom. When someone becomes the citizen of a kingdom, the authorities of that kingdom declare the new citizen has rights and responsibilities. American authorities declare every new citizen has freedom of speech before the new citizen speaks anything as a citizen. How can the new citizen have freedom of speech before he says something? He has it because the authority declared it, and the words of the authority have power.
When someone enters the Kingdom of God, the authority (God) declares that person has died. As Romans 6:6 puts it, "our old man was crucified with Him (King Jesus), that the body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be in bondage to sin." When we were dunked, our bodies went into the water like the body of Jesus into His tomb. Not only did we take part in a similarity, but God has declared that in our dunking, we were "united with Him in the likeness of His death"(rom6:5). Verse six clarifies our old identity (sinful identity) died with Jesus.
Romans 6: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 May it never be! We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all we who were submerged into King Jesus were submerged into His death? 4
We were buried therefore with Him through submersion to death, that
just as the King was raised from the dead through the glory of the
Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, we will also be part of His resurrection; 6
knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of
sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be in bondage
to sin. 7 For He who has died has been freed from sin. 8 But if we died with the King, we believe that we will also live with Him; 9 knowing that the King, being raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no more has dominion over Him! 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin one time; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Thus count yourselves also to be dead to sin, but alive to God in King Jesus our Lord."
We come now to Luke 9:23 where Jesus said we must take up our crosses daily. Notice Paul specifically said in Romans 6:6 we were "crucified" with King Jesus. Jesus commanded us to take up our cross, and Paul said we were crucified with the King. Then Paul commanded us in Romans 6:11 to count ourselves dead every day: "Thus count yourselves also to be truly dead to sin, yet alive to God in King Jesus our Lord."
If a new citizen of America tells herself she has no freedom of speech, she will not likely speak out on important issues even though the authorities have declared she has freedom of speech. Suppose she came to America from a repressive dictatorship where no one dared to speak out. She may have to remind herself everyday what the new authorities declared. Everyday she can tell herself, "I have freedom of speech! The authorities said I have freedom of speech, therefore I truly have it!" If everyday she counts herself as having freedom of speech, her actions will reflect that freedom. Counting free speech to herself does not change the fact that she has free speech, but counting it to herself changes whether her actions will reflect that freedom.
In the same way, the new citizen of God's Kingdom has a bad habit of believing sin has power over him. The new citizen of King Jesus has heard other believers say, "I'm just a sinner saved by grace." The new citizen finds it easy to believe his identity is still in the domain of darkness and that he too is "Just a sinner." The Apostle Paul cries out in 6:2, "Certainly not! We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer?" Paul explained that God declared the sinner as having died by being dunked into King Jesus. Then Paul commanded the new citizen to declare the same thing God declared. Just like a newcomer to freedom might have to tell herself, "I have freedom of speech because the authorities declared it," so too the newcomer to God's Kingdom should daily count himself as, "truly dead to sin, but alive to God in King Jesus our Lord." Counting ourselves free from sin's power does not change whether we are free from sin's power. Counting it to ourselves changes whether our actions will reflect our freedom from sin's power. We renounced our citizenship in the domain of darkness; we are no longer citizens of sin. We are now foreigners traveling through this world of sin. Our identity is no longer in Sin; our identity is in the Son.
In conclusion, Paul commanded in Romans 6:11 (just as King Jesus commanded in the many verses above) that we whom God declares dead to sin through dunking must daily count that truth to ourselves. Every citizen of God's kingdom has been commanded to "deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow (King Jesus)." We do not count ourselves as "Just a sinner saved by grace." We count ourselves "a new creation" and "born of the Spirit."
Since the Bible instructs us to do all things in prayer (1th5:17), we count these things to ourselves in prayer. Paul said, "Thus also count yourselves to be truly dead to sin, yet alive to God in King Jesus our Lord." So we pray something like, "Father according to Your declaration, I died to sin, but You raised me up with King Jesus to be alive to You, not alive to sin. I am not a sinner because my 'old man was crucified with' my King. I have been born of Your Holy Spirit who does not want to sin, therefore I do not even want to sin because I am 'in King Jesus our Lord.'"
When I sense temptation, I return in prayer to the command of Romans 6:11 and Luke 9:23. When I sense temptation, I count myself again as #1 dead to sin, #2 alive to God, and #3 in King Jesus our Lord as Romans 6:11 says. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we count to ourselves what God has accounted to us, therefore as Romans 8:13 says, "by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body." Hallelujah!
When we sin, we confess our sins in prayer, then lay aside the sinful identity in prayer, telling God He has made us new. To die daily, we deny the old self, then take up our crosses by counting our sinful identities as crucified. We deny ourselves daily, take up our crosses, and then follow the King by prayerfully counting ourselves in prayer as "in King Jesus our Lord"(rom6:11).
"Happy Times Funerals" by Matthew Bryan was first published at www.matthewbryan.net on August 3rd, 2013. All rights are reserved.