Have you ever had an outer body experience? It is a bizarre – yet common – occurrence, typically taking place during sleep. It is the sensation, dream or even the belief that one is floating away from their physical body. At times a person can watch themselves from across the room; but generally, the person believes they have died as their spirit leaves the body and the physical world behind. Many have also reported moving towards a light during their experience.
Although it sounds like science fiction, the experience is so real that it can change some people’s whole approach to life. Believe it or not, the Christian walk isn’t much different from an outer body experience: leaving the “old you” behind, moving towards the light and a renewed lease on life. However, there is a final piece that completes the puzzle. It is the part about death. Now, before you exit this blog, consider these scriptures: “Anyone who finds his life, will lose it; but anyone who gives up his life for My sake, will find it (Matt. 10:39),” “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me (Gal 2:20)” and “Lay aside your old self and put on your new self (Eph. 4:22-24).” Dying to self is essential to a fulfilled Christian life; but what does this mean? Surely, we don’t have to die to be a Christian, right?
Let’s start with leaving behind the old and stepping into a new life. When a person decides to become a Christian (Rom. 10:9), this is exactly what occurs. While there are a multitude of reasons why people choose Christ, the one commonality is that we all want something different, a new beginning (2 Cor. 5:17). Of course, once we become Christians, our lives do not change immediately. Lining your life up with the Word takes time, discipline and consistency (Psa. 34:10, Heb. 11:6). The book of James speaks of “perfecting” the Christian life through hearing the Word and executing it. This process, known as renewing the mind, will take place for life as you become more like Jesus (Phil 2:12-13).
“Walking out” the Word segues into moving towards the light. The more Truth that operates in your life, the more light you will walk in. 1 Peter 2:9 says that God called us out of the darkness into the marvelous light. The more you see, the more you know. Living as a Christian forces you to look at life from a very different perspective. You no longer see things as just “physical.” You acknowledge the spiritual side of things and realize that there is a greater agenda at work. You cannot help but to feel more like a part of the whole rather than the whole world revolving around you. A self-centered life no longer jives with Christianity as you become more aware of your assignment of promoting God’s Kingdom. A modern phrase for this is being “woke.” Just make sure you’re “woke” to the truth of Christ.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the greatest challenge a Christian will ever face is the process of dying to self. In layman’s terms, it is imitating Jesus in every situation regardless of how you feel. Although God gave us our emotions to comprehend many aspects of life; if left uncontrolled, emotions will be the biggest enemy to your progress. It is tough to go against how you feel, but it is essential to the success of any Christian. Satisfying you emotional state may be the “comfortable” choice in the moment, but always seeking the easy way out and hanging out in the comfort zone is a hinderance. It was not comfortable for Jesus to deny the aid of the Devil when He was in the desert for 40 days (Matt. 4:1-11) or to ask forgiveness for those who mocked and beat Him (Luke 23:34) or to sacrifice His life on a cross for billions of sinners (Luke 23:46). The ability to push yourself aside and do the will of God is only possible by the Grace of God. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Phil. 4:13).
Dying to self includes, but is not limited to … forgiveness, humility, fasting, trusting God to be your avenger against those who attack you, keeping your tongue from speaking evil, staying away from gossip, abstaining from sexual situations (as an unmarried person), submitting to your spouse, loving/ praying for your enemies, honoring those in authoritative positions (even when you don’t agree) and training your child in the way of the Lord (even if they “hate” you for it). Dying to self is very much like exercising for those who despise it … like myself. Focusing on exercising is depressing and keeps me from staying motivated. In some cases, I have skipped exercise because I meditated on how much I detest it. However, if I have a distraction like listening to music or watching a movie, I can more easily push through and do what I need to do. Do not focus on how hard it is to deny yourself sometimes. Instead, focus on what you can accomplish for the Kingdom if you follow Christ’s lead. You may fail at times; but just get right back up and begin again. God is a rewarder of those who live for Him, both on Earth and in Heaven … and believe me, the reward is totally worth it!
Kirby N. McKinney