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Dying to Self, Part 2

• Greg Boyd

Greg continued his sermon from last week by illustrating in three areas how dying to self makes a difference in living for Christ.

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Greg continued his sermon from last week by illustrating in three areas how dying to self makes a difference in living for Christ. Let’s begin by reviewing the perspective of reality that provides the reason for dying to self. The goal of the Christian life is to build the Kingdom of God. To build the Kingdom involves us mirroring God’s love, which comes to us, works in us, and flows through us. Living as a people marked by God’s love is a process, which Greg described in the following way: First, our life now is a probationary time, meaning that this is the period where the decision is made whether we say “yes” or “no” to God. Second, our life is a period of spiritual formation, where as women and men in training for the Kingdom, God uses everything we face to mold us into disciples of Christ. Third, at the end of our life there will be a “purging fire,” where everything that is inconsistent with the Kingdom (namely, God’s love) will be burned away. The defining variable regarding whether this process will help to build the Kingdom is whether we have died to self. As Greg talked about last week, the false self, the self that sees the world revolving around itself, must die. In its place is the life that Christ gives us and lives in us (see Galatians 2:20). This brings us to this week’s sermon where Greg contrasted a person’s response in three areas – physical life, death, and security – depending upon whether he or she was or was not dead to self.

Physical Life
What drives people who are not dead to self is the things of this world. Though in theory they may believe that there is life beyond the physical, in practice they deny it. The focus is upon material and external things (i.e. money, possessions, beauty, etc.). Their goal in life is to achieve maximum success in these areas. In contrast, people who die to self realize that the things of this life are not ultimate. Their life expresses the qualitative difference that exists between love for God and love for others. That is to say, their love for God pales in comparison to their love for others in a way similar to the absolute difference between love and hate (See Luke 14:26). When a person’s life is hidden with Christ in God only then do the things of this world hold value for than they can be leveraged for eternal purposes. Apart from Christ, all is meaningless. Greg shared that such countercultural living by those who are dead to self can cause them to feel like strangers and aliens in this world.

To the person who has not died to self, death is something to fear. In contrast, the person who has died to self realizes that in a fundamental sense they have already died, what then is there to fear? Their new life in Christ has freed them from such fear (Hebrews 2:15). Having died to self, they have eternal life in Christ; they will never die (see John 11:26). Instead of fear, the reality of physical death should give people intensity for living. Now is the time to reconcile. Now is the time to love. Tomorrow is not promised.

It is normal to desire security and peace. However, for the person who has not died to self, the drive to ensure one’s security can take extreme measures. Some people may feel that if only they save enough money then they will feel secure. Others are convinced that only when they have many material possessions will they experience peace. Still others believe that if they can control relationships so that people will like and respect them, then they will have security. However, the reality is that none of these things can bring inner peace. In contrast, the person who has died to self finds his or her security fundamentally in Christ. No longer do worldly things define this person. Instead, the reality of God’s character enables them to trust that God will sustain them (Matthew 6:25-33). The temporal world fails to deliver lasting security. Conversely, it lacks the ability to take away the believer’s experience of Christ’s persevering love (Romans 8:35, 37-39).
Greg closed by saying that for the person who has died to self and is living for Christ, there is a conspicuous levity to their life. Instead of anxiety and worry, they live with a “passionate detachment.”

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