Maturing Toward Wholeness in the Inner Life
New Life Comes Forth From Death
It Is No Longer I Who Live, But Christ Who Lives In Me
1 – “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev 21:5) God is renewing creation. He has made full provision for each of us to become a new person.
2 – Making things new is not the same as making them the first time. It is re-making them. In the fullest sense, salvation is about re-creating.
3 – What does the process of re-making something look like? 1) The old must be removed, making place for the new. 2) The new can then be formed.
4 – What does the process of re-making a person look like? 1) The old life must first die. 2) Then new life—Christ’s life—can be formed within.
5 – What are the outcomes of a person being re-made? Forgiveness of sin? Heaven when one dies? Absolutely! Is that all? No! More—much more!
6 – My sins indicate the ruined, lost person I have become. Would God work forgiveness and heaven but leave character—who I really am—unchanged?
7 – Being born again is not an end result. It is to birth a process by which I am gradually re-formed into becoming like Jesus on the inside.
8 – Two megatrends inform and empower the process: 1) I allow Christ’s death to work in me. 2) I rely on Christ to form new life in its place.
9 – I do not control my re-creation. God does. But I must choose it. I cannot speed it up, but I can slow it down by unbelief and disobedience.
10 – “Death” here has nothing to do with self-abuse or condemnation. It is a grace-filled offer for removing the effects of wrongness within me.
11 – “For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Rom 6:7) This is a death I must choose moment by moment. God will not force it on me.
12 – These two processes—1) I allow Christ’s death to work in me 2) Christ forms his new life in me—permeate teachings of Jesus and the apostles.
13 – Jesus: “For whoever would save his life will loose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 16:25)
14 – The apostles: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20)
15 – But it wasn’t just their teaching—it was also their life experience. For Jesus and the apostles, new life came forth from death.
16 – Jesus: “…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death…on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him….” (Php 2:8-9)
17 – The apostles: “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Cor 4:10)
18 – Throughout Church history Christ’s followers have discovered that the path to life in God’s Presence and Kingdom leads through death.
19 – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who stood against the Nazi terror in his native Germany, wrote, “Whenever Christ calls us, his call leads us to death.”
20 – That new life emerges from death is a principle seen throughout nature. Jesus used this observable reality to illustrate his teaching.
21 – “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (Jn 12:24)
What Must Die? The Self-life!
22 – In order to receive new life in Christ, why is choosing to die so unavoidable? Because of the root from which all sin grows—self-worship.
23 – God created mankind for a relationship with him of mutual agape love. We were the center of his affection; he was to be the center of ours.
24 – This arrangement would allow God to meet our every need directly, moment by moment. He designed for us a life of joy, meaning, fulfillment.
25 – But our first parents violated this God-intended order. They turned from God as the center of their affection and entered into self-worship.
26 – Separated from God by their own choice, they were separated from the Source who alone could meet their needs. So they relied on themselves.
27 – But they could not meet their needs by relying on themselves. They slid increasingly into neediness, and then into damage, ruin, lostness.
28 – Self-worship produced self-reliance, self-will, self-effort. Self-worship drove mankind into the darkness and lostness of the self-life.
29 – The “old man” or “natural man” of Scripture is produced by the choices, thoughts, emotions and behaviors generated in self-worship.
30 – We need to be saved from the self-life. It was formed as we sought fulfillment in all the wrong ways. It yields emptiness, pain, darkness.
31 – “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” (Rom 1:28)
32 – The ruined self-life must be put to death and replaced with new life—God’s eternal life. I must choose it, but I don’t do it—God does.
The Christian Believer Is “In Christ”
33 – The process whereby the ruined self-life is put to death and replaced by God’s new life takes place “in Christ”—a framework of God’s design.
34 – By repentance and faith we turn again to God. He then sets us “in Christ.” This is a mystery. We don’t access it by unaided analysis.
35 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor 5:17)
36 – God setting me “in Christ” creates a new reality for me. But it is up to me to access its benefits. How? By daily choices to trust and obey.
37 – What does it mean to be “in Christ?” One way to understand it: Rather than me trying to hold on to Christ, he is actually holding on to me.
38 – What does it mean to be “in Christ?” God has united me with him in his death and resurrection. When he died, I died. When he rose, I rose.
39 – “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Rom 6:5)
40 – This may feel very unreal. I died to sin? It doesn’t feel like it! I often fail when faced with temptation. I must rely on it by faith? How?
41 – “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:11) “Consider” means to rely on this being true and to act on it.
42 – “Do not present your members to sin…present yourselves to God…and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” (Rom 6:13)
43 – Our “members” are our bodily parts—perhaps also our wills, thoughts, emotions. Spiritual practices assist us in presenting them to God.
44 – To accept a truth by faith is more than cognitive assent. We make choices, take action, based on the truth. Faith without obedience is dead.
45 – As I vacillate between yielding to the self-life or dying to it, I am vacillating between choosing to live in unreality or in reality.
46 – To yield to the self-life is to obstruct formation in Christlikeness. To die to self is to co-operate with formation in Christlikeness.
What Does This Look Like In Practice?
47 – Limiting these truths to the realm of theology renders them sterile—inoperative. They must shape my choices, my actions. Some examples:
48 – #1. I allocate time to be with God—to practice his Presence. To do this I must say “no” to some things–even good things. I “die” to them.
49 – #2. I choose not to demand my own way. When my will is crossed, I lay it down. I “die” to it. I make space for my Father to work his will.
50 – #3. I “die” to desire to win over others, to be more important, more successful, more praised. I thank my Father for the life he has for me.
51 – #4. “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all the servant of all.” Mk9:36 I “die” to self and allow Jesus to form this heart in me.
52 – #5. When wronged, I may take steps to protect myself, but I reject retaliation. I accept God’s role as Judge. I “die” to anger and revenge.
53 – #6. I choose to release my felt need to control. I accept that it is God, not I, who is in control. I marvel in the deep peace this brings.
54 -#7. I choose spiritual practices that train me in dying to self. Example: Fasting shows that I need not be in bondage to bodily appetites.
55 – #8. In each situation I seek to learn how to love. Love is choosing to set aside self in order to serve another. Jesus modeled the way.
56 – This teaching must never leave us focused on death. The whole point is life. In Christ, the way of the cross is the way to fulness of life.
57 – Christ’s ways gradually mature us into a life characterized by victory. Yes, there will be failures along the way, especially as we begin.
58 – Failures offer fresh chances to “die”. I 1) admit my failure, 2) repent, 3) reaffirm being “in Christ,” and 4) go forward relying on Him.
59 – “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” (Php 3:10)
Draft: Updated—May 25, 2015
Copyright © George Miley. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in whole or in part by any means, including graphic, electronic, or mechanical without the express written consent of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles or reviews. To obtain permission to use this material, contact us.