IT IS SO GOOD TO DIE
Vandana U. G.
As a new believer in Christ, I happened to hear a message a few years ago on ‘dying to self’. The preacher was in tears, telling people that she had to die a thousand deaths daily. As a novice, I could not envisage myself going through such distress – her tears suggestive of the agony in her soul to my then carnal mind. There were many things that terrified me about Christianity, like the afflictions of Job, teachings such as dying to self, suffering for Christ, etc. So, I skipped the Job chapters, wished with all my heart that such sufferings were only for the elect of God like Paul, Job, etc., and strongly believed that God had excluded an ‘ordinary’ believer like me from the tortures of such ‘harsh’ teachings.
As a carnal minded Christian, I was prone to teachings that would make my walk with God effortless. For some time in the past, I was under the sway of the teaching that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ,” and no matter how many times I sinned, I would still go to heaven. (People who try to find solace in these words should also read the whole chapter – Romans 8.) Paul also writes that there is no condemnation for those who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit; those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God (Rom.8:14). I could not hold on to it for too long.
Years later, the truth in the Gospel began to seep into my conscience and I could no longer turn a deaf ear to the word of God, however hard it was for me to assimilate it. Unable to shed my old ways, I found myself in the place of ‘struggle’ which Paul describes in Romans 7:19, “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.” We all know that submission to God’s word is not easy; nonetheless, obedience to it is imperative in our walk with God. When we fail to obey, our heart condemns us and we lose our confidence toward God (Jn.3:21); we find an unrest in our soul. As children of God, we know when we commit a sin willfully. Our heart condemns us when we have hate toward our brothers, our heart is in turmoil when we are caught in the fetters of bitterness and our soul imprisoned in the pit of hate. We then find ourselves caught between the desire to please God and the desire to gratify our sinful nature. How do we then overcome this struggle? Paul gives an answer to this struggle in Romans 8:13. We have to put to death sin through the Spirit in order to find life.
There is a rest that is promised for our souls. The Lord Jesus calls us to find and enter into the rest for our soul (Matt.11:28). We are asked to strive to enter into the rest of God (Heb.4:9). God’s word tells us to do everything possible to enter into the rest ‘‘so that we will not fall by disobedience’’ (Heb.4:11). Paul urges us to strive to enter; the Lord also mentions a ‘yoke’ and says that it is easy to carry it, implying that we need to do something to enter the rest.
We strive to believe and not fall into unbelief, to forgive, to not hate, to keep away bitterness, to keep lust away, to not worry, to walk in love and to do all to enter the ‘rest’. We cannot enter this ‘rest’ when we are ruled or overcome by sin. We enter in by dying to sin/self, surrendering our will to His will. Amazingly, even this is not in your hands, “for it is He (God) who works in us to will and work according to His will” (Phil.2:13). It is He who ‘makes’ you lie down in green pastures; He who ‘makes’ you walk beside still waters, and it is He who ‘restores’ your soul (Psa.23:2,3,4). You will, a little later in your walk with God, come to an understanding that after you have experienced the new birth, it is not viable to also live in the ways of this world. The Spirit also constrains you when you are tempted, and you will yield to the Spirit and thus die to self.
River Of Life
And who has yielded to the Spirit more than David, for God to call him a man after His own heart? David compares the condition of his soul to the likeness of a weaned child, “My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quietened my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and for evermore” (Psa.131). In other words, a yielded soul would say, “I hope in the Lord, my heart is not concerned with the things of this world, I have calmed and quieted my soul now that I understand that the world is not for me.” Your soul is now like a weaned child within you, always hoping in God and allowing Him to do His will in your life.
When your soul is so conditioned by the Spirit, it is not too difficult to say ‘no’ to this world or to self and pick up His yoke, which is, in the words of Jesus, light and easy to carry, with His help in every phase; for it is by grace you are saved, kept and presented before God (Eph.2:8;1Thes.5:23,24;Jude 24). On your part, you carry the yoke, that is, you have to ‘work’ out our own salvation (Phil.2:12) ‘draw’ from the wells of salvation (Isa.12:3), ‘keep’ yourself (1Jn.5:18), ‘draw’ near to Him (Jas.4:8) and ‘come’ to God’s throne of grace in times of need (Heb.4:16).
Enter His Rest
Sin works like slow poison. We may not know or suffer its consequences immediately. Of course, momentarily it gives pleasure to our senses, and it may seem absurd to hold the tongue, to close the eye, to clasp the hand and to refrain the feet. Only God can reveal the snare set for a sinful soul. We have all sinned several times and we have sought and received forgiveness of sins. There is also forgiveness for sins that we might commit in future. Even better, we could use our authority to rule over sin and escape the snare for our soul. You will find this place of dominion and authority by far a superior place, of that of a conqueror and not the defeated. This is the place of rest that is promised for our soul, and once you enter into it, you realise that it was good to die (to sin/self). Our daily struggle against sin shall cease (Rom.6:14) and we will enter His rest. “He who has entered His rest has himself ceased from his works as did God from His” (Heb.4:10).
Spelled out in my words, “I wished with all my heart to obey God; I could not. I knew in my mind that I had to do the right thing; I could not. Sin had absolute control over me. I was in a mess. Thank God, through the Spirit I died to sin. Now, sin has no hold on me. I am free to obey God!”