Did you know that the words “dying to self” are not actually in the Bible? I spent a long time hunting for them because I grew up believing they were gospel. What I did find was this beautiful concept of sin and death, life and resurrection, and a grace that leads to abundant life.
While this grace the church loves to emphasize is free, an abundant fulfilled life is not which is why I want to dig deep into this concept of dying to self. If you find yourself sitting in a church pue every Sunday and yet struggle throughout the week to find peace and joy, you are not living the abundant life Christ promised us.
I feel as if I’m speaking with oxymorons here. Dying to self and abundant life, how can the two go together? My hope is to study scriptures about dying to self in their context. We are going to begin with Paul and his famous words “I die daily” which most of us would think is the basis for this study on dying to self.
I’m going to give you a spoiler alert right here. It’s not. BUT if you are really seeking the concept of dying to self or how to live a spirit led life because your current Christianity has left you feeling empty, I encourage you to grab a cup of your favorite hot drink, get comfy, and dig into God’s word with me.
Paul as an Example of Dying to Self
Paul’s famous words are found in 1 Corinthians 15:31.
I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.
But it is difficult to get the whole picture from this short sentence. We have to back up and see what Paul is talking about. If you begin reading at verse 20, Paul begins with an explanation of how death entered the world with Adam and how Jesus defeats death with his work on the cross. In the end, Jesus gives the kingdom back to God after ruling and destroying death.
Paul then makes his usual “spreading the gospel” pitch. If we are not resurrected, if we are not freed from death, what is the point of it all? If we are not living in the power of the resurrected Christ, what is the point?
He then explains that he faces death daily because of his efforts to further the gospel, to preach the death and resurrection of Christ. This is dangerous for him, but it is all worth it because he will be raised again in the last day. Death has no power over him.
Paul is living our example of an abundant life. He has no fear. He is passionate, inspired, and fulfilled. He is at peace, full of joy and excitement and anticipation of not only this life but the one to come. No wonder he preached with such power!
He faced death daily and he was ok with it because he had the confidence and faith that he was not alone and had determined to live a resurrected life now and after his physical life.
Dying Daily to Self
So, how did Paul reach this point? Are we to go out and face death daily in order to live this resurrected life? This is why we are going to get into the scriptures that point to dying to self because Paul’s life and ministry prove that he had done exactly that.
I’ve made an effort to group these scriptures about dying to self in a way that leads us through Paul’s process and hopefully leads you toward the abundant life that you desire all by way of obedience to God’s word.
Bible Verses about Dying to Self: the Words of Jesus
Let’s begin these scriptures about dying to self with the words of Jesus.
Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? (Luke 9:23-25)
Remember I said that grace is free, but the abundant life is not. If you are truly looking for a deep relationship with God, if your desire is to understand the cross and what Christ did for you, then you must closely follow his example.
Jesus tells us we must do three things:
- deny himself- put aside the things of the flesh and take on the things of the spirit (See “Be Not Conformed to This World: 5 Things We Need to Let Go Of”)
- take up his cross daily- be willing to follow at all costs whether that means standing for truth in the face of ridicule or death or simply putting him first in all areas of your life
- follow me- keep my commandments and teachings (See “Building on the Rock:10 Lessons Jesus is Trying to Teach Us”)
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:24-25)
You can’t serve God if you are running around trying to live your best life. Why? Because you aren’t listening to Him.
Many people think that we have to give up all the “fun” stuff when we follow Chirst. I guess that is the case if sin is fun, but what do you receive in exchange? This verse says you receive eternal life.
It’s so much more than that though. You receive peace and joy and contentment here on earth. When you die to yourself and take on Christ, there is a sense of fulfillment that cannot be found anywhere else.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:1-2)
Bible Verses about Dying to Self: Removing Sin
One way that we embrace the concept of dying to self is by removing the sins in our lives. Now, dying to self is not about perfection, it is about living in the spirit and less in the flesh.
Before we launch into these verses, let’s go way back to the beginning. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God. They connected with God in a way that is different than the rest of creation because they were spiritual. They talked with Him, communed with Him without the separation that we have today.
Have you ever noticed that all through the centuries man has created gods? Why? Because we were created to worship a spiritual being. Man has been searching for the connection that was lost when sin entered the world.
We must overcome the sin in our flesh in order to reach that same communion Adam and Eve had.
Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Romans 6:11-13)
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)
1 Corinthians 15:33-34
Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. (1 Corinthians 15:33-34)
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:12-14)
1 John 2:15-17
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. (Romans 6:5-6)
Bible Verses about Dying to Self: Living in Christ
God isn’t asking us to not have any fun or to stop being ourselves. He’s asking us to join Him at a spiritual level, to embrace Him as God and to make Him first in our lives. When you stop and think about it, God is asking us to return to the Gartden of Eden and walk with HIm.
Isn’t that beautiful?
You might be like “My life looks nothing like walking in the Garden of Eden”! Mine doesn’t either, but I’m pretty sure that is my fault.
We will never live in the garden physically, we will always be plagued by the fallen world. Jesus tells us to “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”. Therefore, we must also overcome the wold.
How do we overcome the world? By growing so strong spiritually that we do not dwell on the pain and suffering and frustrations that the world surrounds us with. We are so focused on God that they have less affect on us than ever before.
This is the attitude Paul had. This is how he could say that he faces death daily and chooses it.
We need to wake up. We are the problem, not life. We have everything we need to live an abundant fulfilled life and yet we don’t.
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which 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)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24)
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
1 Peter 4:1-2
Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-2)
No one wants to suffer, but suffering in the flesh brings about a spiritual abundance and God uses the most painful, heart-breaking moments to draw us close to Him.
When I lost my beautiful 8 year old daughter in an accident I thought I had died too. I was angry and broken and afraid. Looking back now, it was that brokenness that brought me into a deeper relationship with God than I had ever experienced before. It took years, but my faith grew to a level I’m not sure would be possible without deep pain.
If you are struggling, if you are experiencing a pain that you think will destroy you, cry out to God. He is drawing you unto Himself.
Ok, so there you have it! I think I could go on and on about the topic of dying to self but this is more than enough for you to think and pray about. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below. I’d love to hear them!