From dying to self to living for Christ — Alf James

If the material is of negligible spiritual value, earthly possessions have no heavenly worth, and we lose all we have in the world at death, then we should heed missionary Jim Elliot’s statement that “he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose”.

At the same time we should learn to walk in the Spirit while we are still alive by changing our material measures for the Spirit’s values (1 John 2:15-17).

As the caterpillar goes through a process of renewal and metamorphosis to become a butterfly, we need to focus on our metamorphosis from matter to spirit by sacrificing the flesh for the Spirit, now!

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This will only be achieved by dying to self and living for Christ, helped and guided by the Holy Spirit, for as Pastor and author Francis Frangipane says: “The key to everything spiritual is found in the pursuit of Christ’s likeness”.

Achieved in spite of our self
To walk in the spirit while still flesh and bone, is not something we can achieve in or of our self, rather in spite of our self.

It is only by God’s grace through faith this metamorphosis will take place, which is both a one-time spiritual event and life-long process that cannot be accomplished by the effort of our will, only by God’s unmerited favour.

This death to self, rebirth, and renewal in Christ is a transformation dependent on faith, as we cannot see our goal, which is unlikely to be valued by the world around us.

However, although the spiritual treasure we seek has no worldly worth we are encouraged by the Lord in Matthew 6:19-21 to Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

The journey of transformation demands Christ-focus, disciplined action, obedience, submission, surrender and the strength to overcome the sensual in order to acquire the spiritual, which is most likely not without pain, but joy too, sometimes even in the midst of the hardship.

Furthermore, it is primarily in the Lord’s presence that the transformation takes place, so prayer and living in His awareness is crucial, we should walk with God like Enoch and Noah.

The Lord’s Word promises us in Isaiah 40:31 that those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not feint.

Holy Spirit conducts transformation into Christlikeness
The Holy Spirit conducts our transformation into Christlikeness by working the mind of Christ in us and aligning our values and ways to those of Christ.

As we are told in 2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Frangipane says for all that the Holy Spirit has come to establish in our lives, whether through gifts, virtue or power, His highest purpose is to lead us into the presence of Jesus. The Holy Spirit labours ceaselessly to establish intimacy between ourselves and the Lord Jesus.

“The Scriptures tell us that Christ is the vine, we are the branches; He is the head, we are His body; He is the Lord and we are His temple. From start to finish, the bible declares the Lord not only has a dwelling in Heaven, but that He also abides perpetually in redemptive union with His people. The ever-present focus of His activity is to guide us into oneness with Himself.”

However, Frangipane says while Christ dwells within us, He is standing behind our walls.

Held hostage by sin
“Indeed, there are many ‘walls’ between us and the Saviour, and all of them are consequences of un-renewed minds and hardened hearts. We have barricaded ourselves behind fears and carnal attitudes; we are held hostage by sin and worldly distractions.

“Yet these barriers can be eliminated. To the degree they are removed, we possess functional oneness with Christ; we experience true spiritual advancement.

“Even now, let us pursue the removal of these barriers.”

Frangipane reminds us that the pure in heart see God (Matthew 5:8).

“If we repent of our wrong attitudes and sins; if, instead of shame and fear, we clothe ourselves with the garments of praise and salvation, the barriers between ourselves and the Lord shall be removed (Psalm 34:3-5).”

Christlikeness barriers are within us
The barriers to Christlikeness are not external, but within us — hardness of heart, unforgiveness, anger, resentment, pride, coveting, lust, greed, unkindness, bitterness, unfaithfulness.

It is self, our self-centred, egocentric attitudes and carnal desires, that stand between us and Christ, so our metamorphosis to Christlikeness is an on-going process of recognising, controlling and overcoming our self-centredness and physical appetites as described in Philippians 3:12-14: Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Baptism is also central to the metamorphosis of dying to self and its sins, being born again cleansed and living to Christ, as it is a sacrament that is both a symbolic and a spiritual identification with Christ in His death and resurrection — we are immersed, die and are buried, then we rise from the water reborn, resurrected and alive in and for Christ.

After baptism, instead of being motivated by our carnal desires, we are determined by our commitment to glorifying God and doing His Will in Jesus’ name.

Jesus made it clear that the giving up of the material life of self for His sake would lead to the eternal life of Spirit (Matthew 16:24-25).

Perhaps the most important aspect of dying to self and living to Christ is that the entire process is controlled by Jesus being at the centre of our life and at the heart of our experiences.

He controls the metamorphosis during which self dies in us and the mind of Christ grows in us as He reveals Himself to us and His character is reflected through us.

Constantly forgetting Jesus
However, if you are anything like me, then you are constantly forgetting Jesus as you are distracted by yet another fascination in the busy rush of our lives in the world.

So, the act of remembering and refocusing is critical to Christlikeness and our Father’s Will being done through our every-day lives.

We need to constantly remember Jesus, remind ourselves of Him — literally re-member — consciously become a member of His body again and again and again — every time we forget.

“The Christian lives always and everywhere in a Christ-filled world”, says William Barclay in The Gospel of Luke — The Daily Study Bible.

When our focus on Christ grows to the extent that we are conscious of Him no matter what we are experiencing, because Jesus is at the centre of the experience, then we are approaching the point of “giving-up what we cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose”.

Then we have become conquerors — of nobody, but our self — victorious, nonetheless, in submission, obedience and surrender to Christ, grateful for His meaning and purpose in our lives.

Darkness has turned to light.

In the world but not of it
We are in the world, but no longer of the world.

Self is finally 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).

However, we have not “arrived”, for there is no end to our learning about the Lord, He is always more than we know, think, or experience, therefore we should never stop in our quest to know him better and serve Him more — and be transformed by this process.

However, remember this happens best in the sanctuary of His presence, so commune with Him daily, first during a time that you sacrifice to worshipping Him, then throughout the day no matter where you are or what you are doing.

Our life with Christ is a wondrous and never-ending journey, the wonder of which is the journey itself, drawing closer to Him and appreciating more of God’s glory: Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

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