“My disciple must…deny self…”
Vladimir Lenin likened communists to “dead men on furlough,” men committed from the beginning and ready to die for their cause. To such men each new day is seen as an unguaranteed reprieve.
In a similar manner the Christian is called to live life like that. From the get-go the way to Christ begins with life surrender. We “give Him our life” and in return He gives us His! “For you died,” Paul writes the Colossians, “and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:3).
New birth, it seems, requires old death. How them do we live yet be dead? Paul explains, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20).
But this death is not an instant death, just as crucifixion does not occur instantly. There are daily battles to be fought, “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other” (Gal. 5:17). We fight these battles at every small crossroad many times each day: Will you choose anger, or forgiveness? Giving or withholding? Indulgence or self-control? Like newly formed rivulets of trickling water each action grows the flow deeper, wider, till at last it becomes a rushing river.
So much so was Martin Luther’s identification with Christ that he once commented “The moment I consider Christ and myself as two I am gone.” For Luther, he had no identity except his identity in Christ… the identity that God, working in him by the indwelling Holy Spirit, was conforming more and more each day to the image and likeness of Christ. As Paul travailed in prayer for the Galatians “until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19).
To hear and heed that “still, small Voice” behind you saying “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isa. 30:21): this is what it is to “walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16)… to walk away from the way of the flesh, leaving it off to die, and making Christ’s life living through you your chief desire.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (v.24).
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 nkjv)