I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. - Galatians 2:20
In a "previous life," I was a disc jockey on a Top 40 radio station. Every now and then a song lyric from the past comes up in my mind and seems to stay there. That happened this past week with a song that asked the question several times in its chorus, "Why am I dying to live, if I'm just living to die?" The 50 year old song was "Dying to Live," by Edgar Winter. I thought about that expression for a while. I’d like to share some of those thoughts with you today.
"Dying to Live" is a good way to understand what it means to become a follower of Jesus. He told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). Paul explained in Romans 6 that we are baptized into the death of Christ, and raised to walk in newness of life. He said our old self was crucified with Christ. That was all said to answer his rhetorical question, "How can we who died to sin still live in it?" Following Jesus begins with denying self, putting self-will to death to do the will of Christ. All who want to live with Christ and in Christ must surrender, or die to self, in order to live.
But "Dying to Live" is also a good way to describe how we live our day-to-day lives in Christ. Self-denial begins (not ends) in obeying the gospel. Remember Jesus said, taking up the cross is done daily. Paul said, "I die every day!" (1 Corinthians 15:31). He said the world had been crucified to him and he to it by the cross of Christ (Galatians 6:14). And he taught the Colossians to "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5). To live in Christ and with Christ and for Christ calls for a daily commitment of our hearts, minds and bodies to Jesus. We're "dying to live" when we live out Jesus' Gethsemane prayer: "Not my will, but yours be done."
"Dying to Live" is also how faith sees our approaching physical death. To a child of God, death is not a dead end. We may dread the unknown and cling to life as we know and love it here as long as we can. But when death comes, we are not defeated by it; we are instead freed from the pain, tears, loss and darkness that characterize life in this fallen world. Paul said it would be gain for him to die. He said it would be far better to depart and be with Christ (Philippians 1:21,23). We share his confidence that he "would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8). Revelation 14:13 pronounces a blessing on those who die "in the Lord." They can rest. 1 Thessalonians 4 shows how those who are asleep in Christ will wake up to eternal life with the Lord. Truly when the time comes, a Christian is indeed "dying to live."
There's a reflection of the gospel itself in the words, "Dying to Live." That's exactly what Jesus came to do, and what he did. He was born to die (Hebrews 2:14). He died on the cross for our sins (1 Peter 2:24). He was raised never to die again by the power of God: "We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him" (Romans 6:19). All our hope in Christ centers on this truth. When we die to self to live for Jesus, we live changed lives under his control. When our life here is over, we face death confident of the resurrection, welcomed home to live with the Lord forever.
The last chorus of that old song changes the rather dark question of "Why am I dying to live?" to something more positive and instructive: "You know I'm dying to live until I'm ready to die." That's how I want to live for Jesus every day. I want to live to glorify and serve him. I want to live life to the fullest, be ready when the time comes to die, and live with him forever. I hope you share that desire with me. If I can help you, please let me know.