Summary: A look at what it means to die to our selves.
I began this message showing the video of the Monty Python sketch, The Dead Parrot. Obviously wouldn’t work in many churches.
Death isn’t always that funny, as a matter of fact even the passing of a Parrot is seldom amusing. It isn’t always an easy subject to talk about and if you’ll pardon the pun there is no easier way to kill a conversation then to start talking about death. Our death, their death or anyone else’s death. It’s just not a fun topic.
But there is a certain finality to death, we know that death is an end. At least to a particular segment of life. When you are dead you are dead, you normally don’t get up from your death bed it is usually a pretty permanent situation. Which probably why Paul uses it as an analogy for the believers dealing with the sinful nature in their lives.
In the Bible we read this remarkable statement that Paul wrote, it’s in 2 Corinthians 5:14 Whatever we do, it is because Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for everyone, we also believe that we have all died to the old life we used to live. Now isn’t that a charming thought? We have died to the old life we used to live.
Now to be frank most of us have problems with dying once in a lifetime let alone having to die a couple of times. It was Robin Williams who said, “Death is nature’s way of saying, Your table’s ready.”
And David Niven who said “I won’t go, I’ll kick and scream and make a terrible fuss” And oh how human was Woody Allen’s thought when he said “I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” And yet Paul is saying, “We need to be willing to die to our own way of life, it needs to be voluntary.”
So what is Paul saying, what does he mean by “we have all died to the old life”? Surely he doesn’t mean “die” in the strictest sense of the word which means “To stop living, to become dead” I mean really, let’s think about this, that would get a little old wouldn’t it, actually falling over dead? Paul frequently uses the analogy of death in his letters and that is probably because he was so familiar with the concept.
Very few churches would be interested in Paul as a pastor. He was forever in trouble with the law, being run out of town and if he wasn’t being scourged he was getting stoned. A man like that in the pulpit, well he just wouldn’t do the image of the church any good at all.
So it was in a very real sense that Paul encountered death on a daily basis and if you talk to people who go through those types of experiences they will tell you that in order to cope they either ignore the possibility of their demise or they face death and come to grips with the reality of their own mortality. And so maybe when Paul talks about dieing to self he simply found a way to deal with this constant spectre of death that hovered over him.
However if we look at this one statement in the context of some other scriptures we see a trend.
Romans 6:6 Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. or Romans 6:2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? and in Galatians 2:19 . . . I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ. I would suspect that Paul was speaking of something greater then a literal death, and something infinitely more painful then mere physical death. You see I think that what Paul was experiencing was a daily crucifixion of self.
The scripture that we are looking at today is found in 2 Corinthians which is the eighth book of the New Testament. The Author was Paul who had also written the book of 1 Corinthians. Both of these letters were addressed to believers in the city of Corinth, which if we pull down our trusty map discover was situated in the country of Greece. The book was written around AD 55. The reason for the letter was to address the strife that plagued the church in Corinth.
Paul understood what strife and bickering in the church was primarily caused by and that is the dual nature of humanity. In various places in the Scriptures Paul refers to our natural self as the “Old Man” that is what many would call our carnal spirit. As well we read scriptures that refer to the believer as being a new creature, putting on the new man experiencing the new birth or becoming new.