What kind of question is that? It’s not one to be asked lightly, as there is deep significance to this question in scripture. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25,26 What was he talking about? All men die – or do they? I believe in Jesus’ eyes, death is embodied in separation from him. What we call death is only a step to another dimension of life; real life. Belief in him assures us of eternal association with him, everlasting fellowship, life unending.
So what does Paul mean when he says, “I die every day”? 1 Corinthians 15:31 Not just physical deprivation and death, although both were constant threats in his life; but the intentional laying aside of self. (See Colossians 3:2-10 & Romans 6:6-11) The “death” of selfish desires to do what we want, to be comfortable, to be pleased rather than being pleasing. The ability to be “self” controlled, which consists of putting aside our sin nature and serving others as we serve Christ. Actually, not self-controlled at all but rather Spirit-controlled, and therefore led to God’s will for our lives. Paul concurring with Christ’s assertion that, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4; while maintaining that, “The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:17 (In faithfulness to the promises and expectations of God – expressed in obedience.) As a result of his word being our daily bread; that which sustains us, and our faithfulness to that word; which motivates us to be and do – we become immersed in him. He takes control of our will and we find that, “…in him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28
That won’t always be easy nor will doing right be our first inclination. In fact, as exemplary as Paul would appear to be, he fought daily with his own inconsistencies and failures; confessing, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” For, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep doing… So I find this law at work. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind…” Romans 7:15-23Affirming Jesus’ declaration that “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Matthew 26:41 And yet, the Christian lifestyle demands that, “We live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 Faith in God’s provision of salvation through his Son generating faithfulness to his Word and Will. We won’t always understand the situations we find ourselves in, life won’t always be fair or easy, the steps we are asked to take now won’t always make sense to us at the moment – but will as we step out in faith and comprehend more.
You may be thinking, ‘But I can’t do that! It’s too hard.’ Exactly! Now you’re right where God wants you, “…for (His) power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 When we don’t know what to do, when we don’t have anywhere else to turn, when we just don’t understand how things can possibly work – that’s when God can be his most effective; impressing upon us most his ability to do what no one else can. But that’s not natural. How can the opposite of what I want to be, be what I need to be? How can being weak be good for me? First of all, God isn’t calling you to be weak in faith, character, knowledge or resolve. When Paul declared, “…when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10, he was talking about God’s power being channeled through him rather than having to depend on making it by himself. When he pulled himself back out of the way and allowed God to work in and through him, God was able to work for his own and Paul’s greater good. That took a conscious, determined effort on Paul’s part. He knew that the old sin nature, the selfishness of “I” must be done away with if we are to genuinely follow Christ. As in, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Galatians 2:20 (See Galatians 5:24 as well.) In fact, Paul’s desire to live in the presence of Christ became so strong that he could declare, “…to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21 He was completely committed to doing God’s will while on earth and totally prepared to go to heaven at any moment, for “…whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” Romans 14:8
Scripture clearly states that our attitude should be the same as Christ’s, that like-mindedness prompting us to live self-sacrificing lives of obedience to God’s word and ministry to others. (See Philippians 2:1-8) Paul asserting that, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example...” 1 Peter 2:21 Jesus was willing to share in humanity through an earthly existence (Hebrews 2:14), doing so at least in part to fully experience the power of temptation and the allure of sin. (Hebrews 2:17,18 & 4:15) He fully identified with us so that we can now fully identify with him. As a result, “…just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” 2 Corinthians 1:5 This identifying process graphically illustrated in the observance of baptism; a powerful “acting out” of the total sharing in the life, death and rebirth we are called to. For “…don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead..., we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” Romans 6:3-5 (see also Philippians 3:10,11)
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