When we moved from Florida to North Dakota, I was surprised at the number of official documents we needed to change.
Driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations and insurance, health insurance, mailing address for all our bills, information for the IRS and other matters entailed hours of paperwork that had to be submitted.
In addition, we changed our wardrobes. Clothing appropriate to Florida’s climate was only a drop in the bucket to North Dakota winters. I only owned one pair of socks, and I didn’t even understand what a heavy coat was. We changed the kinds of shoes we wore. We changed how we cared for our dog, a shorthaired, warm weather-loving animal. We even changed the kind of oil we used in our cars and had to put block heaters on the engines.
We died to being Floridians and became genuine NoDakers. Even our accents changed.
When, however, the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans that the old self must be crucified, he wasn’t just talking about an external part of an individual. Crucifixion entailed the whole being. Everything about the old self had to be put to death and left behind in order to walk in newness of life.
Crucify self? This concept seems extreme. Why total death to the self? What about self-expression? Self-actualization? Self-esteem? Our society does a lot of self-valuing.
Paul answers that too in Romans 6:6-7: “… so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.”
I was talking with a group of ladies recently who struggle with drug addiction. They were discussing the motivation behind their drug usage.
“We use drugs because we have the freedom to do what we want,” one said.
“Yeah,” another contended, “that judge can’t tell us what to do. I love that feeling of being able to make my own choices. I can just be myself.”
In one moment, they spoke of drug usage as a freedom they choose, yet in the next breath, they sobbed about the horrible slavery their addictions had caused in their lives, acknowledging the full extent of the corrupted tyrant of self.
Perhaps you don’t have a drug addiction, but you may be a slave to fear, anxiety, pride, bitterness, depression or anger. When we choose to follow Christ, we must die to all these forms of slavery.
“For one who has died has been set free from sin,” Paul continued in Romans 6:8. “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.”
Once we have died to sin, we not only change our eternal residence. We also become a whole new creation. Instead of dressing, acting and being identified as a citizen of hell, we now think, love, speak and act like a citizen of heaven. We live with Christ, and our identity is in Him.
Watching the struggle of drug addicts to crucify the old self makes it poignantly clear how difficult a step this is for all of us who have been slaves to sin. It is much more difficult than the identification and wardrobe changes we made when we moved.
But there’s good news to those who turn to Christ, Paul noted in Colossians 2:13-14: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses … God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
As Jesus said in Matthew 19:26, “With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sarah Dixon Young is the author of God on a Shelf, available on Amazon.)