Dying to Self

Mar 13, 2014Tom Ellsworth

Colossians 3

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Col. 3:1-4 (NIV)

When we acknowledged Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior something dynamic happened internally. I doubt that you felt it, but it was monumental – you died! When we were baptized into Christ, in that moment just beneath the surface of the water, it was as if we were transported to a watery cemetery where we witnessed our own committal service and burial. What happens when death occurs? A void is created. If you’ve lost a loved-one to death, then you understand the emptiness that follows in death’s wake. The closer you were in life, the greater the void in death. Consequently, we seek to fill that void with something that will ease the pain of emptiness. Some people try to fill that void in some bizarre ways. Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), the English utilitarian philosopher, had some very decided views on what should happen to bodies after death. He even wrote a book on the subject. ​

Bentham, who had been a founder of University College, London, bequeathed his body to the college so that his remains could be used for medical research. That was done, but the college authorities went a step further. Bentham’s skeleton was reconstructed, given a wax head, dressed in a suit of Bentham’s best clothes, and placed in a glass case. Thus for many years the deceased Bentham presided over meetings of the college committee – and was always described as “present, but not voting.” Unbelievable! The last thing I want to do when I die is attend another meeting.

When you die to self spiritually, there is a void that is created in your own soul, but that void is immediately filled with a presence far greater than what just died. As you break the surface of the waters in baptism coming up, death is no longer the dominant theme – resurrection is. Notice what Paul wrote in the chapter before. Colossians 2:12 (NIV) having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. His new life fills the void created by your death. You cannot divorce these two concepts: commitment to Christ is inseparably linked with death to self. If the old person doesn’t die, the new person cannot be born.

Jesus said a man cannot serve two masters; you’ll love one and hate the other. Jesus cannot be your savior or Lord until you are willing to put to death the sinful and self-focused nature inside of you. When a person had died, the Greeks very commonly spoke of him as being hidden in the earth. Paul reminds here that when we die spiritually, we are not hidden in the earth, but hidden in Christ. We are literally surrounded with Christ, just as in baptism we are literally surrounded by a watery grave. It is with that principle in mind that Paul makes this application. Since you have died, and since you have been raised with Christ, your thinking must change. Remember, you have been separated from the old you, so you can no longer think like the old you! Since we have been raised with Christ and he is our life, then we need to refocus our minds. “Set your minds on things above…” Get your mind off the mediocre and mundane. As you come up out of the water you are looking up. So focus your mind on those things above – God’s love, grace, hope and principles for living.