Having your Self revealed to you is painful. Looking at all your faults with brutal honesty will literally make you sick to your stomach. You will wonder, “Is this who I really am?”
God’s grace in our lives now is revealed when he unearths our real self. God brings us to face ourselves. But God does not lead us to face ourselves for the simple goal of showing us how treacherous we really are. God reveals our heart to us so that he may conform the inner recesses of our heart to Christ. He shows us the hidden parts because they are areas of our lives that restrain our relationship with him.
God is gracious enough to draw those things out of us by exposing them. He brings us to shame so that we may feel those things that withhold us from knowing a deep intimacy with him.
God leads us and exposes us to ourselves and says, “It is this man that must die.” We turn our heads, we close our eyes, but that man remains. God in his grace draws him out until we surrender. He does this so that we might put this man to death. This old man, the old Self, the stony heart, that wreaks so much havoc and ruin in our lives, God draws out so that it might die. He wants us to put it to death.
It is painful. It is dying. All dying people will tell you it is certainly the most painful experience. All they have known, all they have treasured and held on to, is now being lost and forsaken. Their body is racked with pain. They have lost pleasure. Their senses can feel nothing but the pain. It is constantly with them.
This is where God leads us – to die to ourselves.
And when this old man is drawn out, what do we do? We must put him to death.
Putting to death the deeds of the body begins by seeing the deeds of the body. Then we must hold that Self up to the cross and there see all those sins slain, punished upon the cross, and covered in the blood of Christ. Dying to Self begins with relinquishing self-punishment. When we came to Christ, we gave up punishing ourselves.
The guilt that hangs over you for your sin, that feeling that you are unworthy to move forward, that feeling that you must never speak again, that you must hide yourself from everyone, must be placed on Christ. When you sense your unworthiness and guiltiness, you must look to the cross.
The guilt and shame from your sin restrains you from moving forward. You would remain entrapped in your conscience, sitting in self-absorbed thoughts of wretchedness. But Christ has not called you so that you would remain there. Christ did not die such a brutal death so that you would remain inactive and hide yourself among the rocks. He did not endure such hostility to create a race of cowards. No, Christ died so that he might give you the strength and courage to approach the throne of God with confidence, asking whatever you wish, asking for whatever help and assistance you need. Christ died to give you courage and strength to face the rest of mankind, clothed not in your wickedness, nor even in your own pitiful attempts to create a self-righteousness. Christ died so you could boldly face your future and the rest of humanity clothed in the very righteousness of God.
The next step in putting to death the deeds of the body is to see Christ before you heaven. When you look into your future and imagine all of your failures pursuing you down each avenue, feeling that what you done you shall remain forever, that all others may only see is your evil, you must hold Christ before you. You must see that because it is Christ himself who is standing before God in your behalf, your surety, shining in radiant perfection, saying to the Father, “When you look upon this child, treat him as you treat me now, love him as you love me now, hear him as you hear me now.”
The hopelessness that our sinful choices and actions creates would lock us in a cage of despair, depression, sorrow, sadness and eventually death. But Christ says to you, “No, this is not who I have created you to be. I did not die to no purpose. I died to give you the greatest power that you could ever experience – my very own righteousness: the Righteousness of God. Get up child, get up and face it. It will not destroy you. It may kill you, but if you die, you will gain what this life could never give you.”
When the book of Revelation speaks of Christ saying, “I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6) it goes on to show that He alone is the one who can approach the throne and open the seals. But when he approaches the throne, he brings with himself the prayers of the saints. These are the very pleas that you have delivered up to God for help. Jesus takes them to God and pleads them on your behalf. This is why we pray “In Jesus’ Name” – because it is only through Christ that our prayers have access to God.
This is how we put to death the deeds of the body: we bring the old man to Christ and see him crucified and done away with, and walk away with Christ in return. We walk away clothed in his righteousness, in a way we could never have done. When we stand before others, we are covered in the righteousness of Christ. This is what the Gospel is: “For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the Righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
You do not die to self by trying really hard to stop sinning. You die to self by bringing your sins to Christ, handing them over to him so that they may be done away with, and coming away with Christ.