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By dying, Jesus opened the way for you to enter eternal life, beginning now. But it only stands to reason, if Jesus had to die, so do you. If Jesus had to die to open the door for you to have eternal life with him, you must die to enter that door.
But what kind of death, and who or what must die? The short answer: Self. Your Self must die. You must put it to death. Jesus was straightforward about this. His death—your death. His cross—your cross:
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever is willing to lose their life for me will find it. (Matt. 16:24-25)
Allow me to add some color commentary to this:
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny their Self and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their Self will lose it, but whoever is willing to lose their Self for me will find it.
“But I do not want to die! I like me. I like myself. Besides, I am not that bad. Couldn’t I just get a little polishing up?”
No, you and I need a whole lot more than polishing up. And it is a big step to realize this, and open up to it. This is the first step towards the door into the Kingdom.
To drive this death-to-Self point home, the Apostle Paul gets very personal in his letter to his friends in Galatia:
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)
Paul says “I” four times. Because “I” is what has to die, for “I” to no longer live. “I” must be crucified if you will. Then and only then can the new “I” live the life that is truly life. The old I dies, the new I can now start to live.
Now for a modern example or two.
Your spouse pops off at you. You can pop back, or you can die to Self. Your choice. I find myself doing it both ways. When I pop back, I often pull out the evidence file to show Dina why I am right and she is wrong.
Her response is often, “Oh thank you, Sam, for straightening me out. I am so lucky to have you around, so you can fix me!”
Uh, not so much.
My popping back always further the conflict. Always. But if I die to Self, the situation always improves. Always.
Or you want things to go a certain way. You tell yourself it is the best way, and the most efficient way. Perhaps you are right. But the bottom-line fact is that it is the way you want it to go.
But someone else plans it a different way. Assuming it is not a truly critical issue – which is 98% of the time – you can either die to Self, or not.
It is always a choice you can make. It takes a lifetime of practice. And I fully admit I am grading myself about a C, which therefore is likely more like a C- to a D. But I learn each time which choice is the path to peace.
Your choice: The path to further conflict or the path to peace.