What is Me?

For those of you who follow this blog, you know that I think somewhat uniquely. Today I want to take up the challenge of defining what ‘you’ are. I’ve heard frequently about how we need to die to self, because ‘you’ are not holy. I think that we as Christians need to be extremely cautious and careful with the words and definitions of those words that we choose. In one moment we can say that God loves you, and that He accepts you just as you are, so come to Him for salvation, and then we turn right around in the next statement to say that you need to die to self, you are a sinner, the sinful nature cannot please God, and all sorts of statements like this.

I have a difficult time with this.

Why is it that Jesus would come to give us life and life abundantly, and then expect that we should only die and die and die and die and die and die and die and die and die and die and die and die and die? Are these contradictions? If they are, then why do we continue to teach them? If they are not, then what exactly is being expressed?

Lets start with a simple statement.

Salvation is based upon new birth. What does that mean? The new birth goes back to prophecies like Ezekiel 36:26 and Jeremiah 31:33. Now, if we read the context, it is quite obvious that what is being spoken of is intended for national Israel. Let’s look at these two verses in specific. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel) “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Jeremiah)

When we read our New Testaments, we find the teaching of the apostles declaring that this has already broken forth. For example, “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on the tablets of human hearts,” 2 Corinthians 3:3. “He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,” Titus 3:5. “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty consciences and having our bodies washed with pure water,” Hebrews 10:22. “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” 1 Peter 1:3.

I think that this is what we’re talking about with the “dying to self” thing. We die to self, which is to say, our old man. What is the “old man”? The old man is the person that we had become before conversion, the one destined to destruction. There were habits, mindsets, attitudes, sinful ambitions, greed, lust, anger and bitterness, and all sorts of evil built up in that old ‘you’. But when we come to Christ, when we enter the Kingdom of God, that heart of wickedness is taken out and replaced with a heart of flesh – the heart that desires only to do what is good and right. Where, then, is there room for statements of dying to self? Our self is no longer evil. Therefore, Paul boldly proclaims, “He who is in Christ is a new creation; behold, ALL things are become new.”

I actually have a problem when people say that we are continually supposed to die to self. I think it is semantics, though. We are indeed to die to the flesh – that old nature – and live from the power of God. We conform no longer to the pattern and mindsets of this world, but are instead transformed by the renewing of our minds. To this I give a wholehearted amen. My contention, then, is simply on the word “self”. What do we mean by this?

David, for example, in Psalm 56 asks the question, “What can mortal man do to me?” If we really think about it, especially when we look at the context of the Psalm, man can do a lot to David. He is already being persecuted. He is already being slandered and tormented by evil men. Obviously, mortal men are already doing something to him. So, the question can’t be about whether men can harm David physically or socially. The question seems to imply a different definition of the “me” that David is speaking of. What David is speaking of is the new man. It is who David is in the deepest depths. This is who David is in God – who the Maker has created David to be.

Let us go back to the initial difficulty.

Why is there always so much language about death? It seems to me that if you’ve died with Christ and been raised by the glory of the Father that you’ve already died and don’t need to keep dying. This is true. You’ve entered into new life, and therefore you don’t need to any longer “die to self” – unless, of course, you haven’t truly died to self. So, the question is no longer about “me” at that point, but instead about the sin that lives in me. As Paul says, “It is no longer I that sin, but the sin that dwells in me.”

The ‘you’, the ‘me’, it is speaking of who Christ has made us to be. It is speaking of that deep depth of who we are. There is nothing in that that needs to be put to death. When we come to Christ, we find that we’re not living from who God has made us to be. The essence of our being has been suppressed and cast aside – covered over with masks and supposed personality traits – twice dead. We indeed were dead in our trespasses and sins, but don’t neglect that Christ has made us alive through resurrection!

What we need to ask is two things. Does my life conform to how Scripture says I am to live and act? Am I living from who God has intended me to be, instead of someone else’s projection what what “Christ-likeness” is (including my own projection)?

To conclude, then, I hope this is freedom for some of you. Some of you have been oppressed and suppressed through language of dying and always needing to repent and surrender over to God. Have I sinned today? My conscience is clear – God is my judge; I do not even judge myself. Why should I repent of something that I don’t know about? What is the point of that? And if I repent simply because I’m “supposed to”, then is it really repentance? What is more important to me is answering those two questions in regards to everything I do. Am I living out of who God has made me to be, and have I projected a false image of what that means by misinterpreting – or completely ignoring – the Scripture? At the end of the day, those two things are truly what it all comes down to. It is all based upon living out of the core of who you now are in Christ – from the new heart – which is to say, to live out of love for your neighbor.

There is no greater love than this: to lay down your life for your friends. Paul even says that “I die daily”. But there is a significant difference between the dying to self when we enter the Kingdom and Paul’s daily death. It was self-sacrifice on behalf of others – HUGE difference. The wisdom of God is manifest in that when I die, or suffer, on behalf of others, life is imparted to them. This “death” is not about dying or suffering, but about serving. It is about taking up ultimate purposes. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:6, “If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer…”

The cross is experienced in the life of the believer once and for all to die to sins, and taken up again to give our lives as a ransom for many. Death and suffering are never glorified, but rather the life and power that come as a result of sacrifice. If we are focusing upon the death and suffering, then we have left the Christian faith. The beauty of the cross is found in the power over death itself, and not in the “Jesus died for me” alone. Why is it that Jesus’ death moves us? Is it simply because He died while I was still a sinner? Or is there something beyond that? I think that what moves us is the significance of the act, and not the act itself. Through His death, He has brought life. Through His resurrection, He has secured eternal salvation for all who come to Him. Likewise, we take up our crosses and follow Him.


11 thoughts on “What is Me?

  1. Tommy, this post was very helpful to me. I think sometimes the lingo used as you stated really confuses things as it has for me over the years. What you wrote was a refreshing clarifier. I understand the daily dying and living out of the new creation reality, Christ in me, but without a clear cut seeing it does muddy the walk.
    Is there any writing or author you know of that lays this out in greater depth? Thanks, Seth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad that this helps. I’m also sorry to hear it. To be entirely honest, I don’t think I know anyone else who says this… It’s been years of wrestling with this for me before I’ve finally come to this conclusion. With that said, let me give you a couple other posts that might give a little more insight:

      The Cross as Life:

      Christmas is not about death:

      Sin and death:

      Also, my wife writes about this some:

      Unpracticing Authority:

      Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Maturity, and Heretic:

      Beyond that, feel free to contact me if you have any struggles or hopes or questions:

      Grace and peace in Christ

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Tommy, I had this thought this morning about denying self. I will try wording it how I am thinking it. It seems that each day I need to reckon myself as dead as an inner act of submission thus denying myself and picking up my cross meaning practically what you have stated. I no longer am living according to that old man who’s understanding is darkened, who lives according to the desires of the flesh, selfish and who does not seek God’s will and Kingdom to be expressed in/through me.
    Each day surrendering to the indwelling life of Christ recognizing I am for Him, made new, giving expression to His love.
    Recognizing this death daily that I once died that I may live this new life, His resurrected life which is for others. Even when solitary in ministry to the Lord, this life becomes a blessing and ministry to others by way of standing/continuing in the grace of God.
    I have more thoughts on this but I find it challenging in few words to express what I see and know inwardly.
    I read the first of those two posts you suggested and I am totally tracking with you.
    I will be looking more to the resurrection which holds the base of our hope keeping the cross in view more properly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Finally got it watched and took notes!
      I think that where I fundamentally disagree with John Piper is in this statement: “Christ was killed, we were killed in Christ, now put to death the sinful nature”. I don’t know where he substantiates that we were killed in Christ (all the Scripture references he gave as “proof texts” don’t speak to that), but it seems to me that what the Bible teaches is we were dead before we came to Christ (Eph 2:1-2). We were never alive to “die”. The “death” that is being spoken of in his references is about the old man before we came to Christ. Things like our personality, our interests, hobbies that we enjoy, etc all stem from something deeper in who we are. That deeper essence is the very person that God has made us to be. This is why some people truly love Ephesians, and others would rather read Romans. There is something in who we are the connects with a certain author or book of the BIble more than others, and that is okay. We don’t put that to death, because that was never truly alive and animated outside of God.
      Many of the verses that he quoted were out of context. (I couldn’t find reference to all of them. He blazed through them too quickly for me to keep up, and didn’t give all of the references.) Here are a few that I did catch:
      Colossians 3:5
      Romans 6:6
      Romans 8:13, 21
      Galatians 2:20, 5:24
      Yes, the verses do speak of “dying” and of putting to death sinful habits, but read the context. In every case, Paul has already established that we are free from sin, our new life in Christ is established in the freedom we’ve been given, and it is by the power of resurrection that we overcome. Our old self IS dead, and because you therefore live from newness of life, we are dead to sin and alive to God. Since we are therefore dead to sin, why would we continue to live any longer in death? We have been set free from the grips of sin, and through that freedom and resurrection power, we are now simply to overcome temptation.
      “The reality is that sin isn’t a pretty picture” – but as Christians, we have died to sin – sin is not in us. Piper deliberately ignored the resurrection through the entire message. Never once does he reference or allude to any mention of the resurrection of the believer, nor of the newness of life that we have in Christ (nor Christ’s resurrection itself). At one point he quotes Romans 6:2-3, but neglected to inform us of verse 4, which is the completion of the thought: “We were therefore buried in him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” And if Christ is still dead, and if we are still dead, then there is no hope – we’re still under the law and condemned. Just as much as he said, “Christ was killed, we were killed in Christ, now put to death your sin,” I could say, “Christ laid down his life, therefore we lay down our life, so sin can just be dead to us.” The whole point of Romans 6-8 is that sin IS dead to us. We face temptation and overcome, but temptation is not sin nature (Adam and Eve had no sin nature when they were tempted). Once again, go through the verses he quoted and look at the context. Paul is always speaking of our resurrection and freedom, and “sin nature” is the side-note. It isn’t normal for the Christian to have “sin nature”, because that nature died in the new birth. THAT is what is put to death: our old sinful man.
      John Piper says, “Jesus says to make yourself either a good tree or a bad tree.” The references would either be Matthew 7:17-18, or 12:33. In both cases, YOU are the tree – not your sin. If you are a good tree, then you produce good fruit. If you are a bad tree, then you produce bad fruit. There is no mixture. Therefore, if you still struggle with sinful nature, and you aren’t finding the fruits of the Spirit active in your life, then you probably aren’t a good tree. Any good fruit at all would indicate the goodness of the tree. Any “bad fruit” in the Christian’s life – we can say, any sinful habits or abiding mentalities from our old self – is simply dead wood that needs to be pruned and treated. Those in Christ overcome. Yes, it is a struggle, and yes there is grace to those who struggle. As the author of Hebrews says, “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet wrestled to the shedding of blood.” But once we have that Gethsemane experience, even to shedding blood in order to be overcome our sin, it is finished.
      Is this making a little more sense? When we only teach sin and fighting the sinful nature, we’re not teaching the whole gospel. If we’re not teaching the whole gospel, then we’re going to continue to dwell in death.


  3. This too, wondering how it fits in.

    “Daily Cultivate Your New Life in Christ

    God does not leave us alone to fight the battle in shame and isolation. Instead, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the soul of each believer is “vivified.” “To vivicate” means to animate, or to give life to. Vivification complements mortification (to put to death), and by so doing, it allows us to see the wide angle of sanctification, which includes two aspects:

    1) Deliverance from the desire of those choice sins, experienced when the grace of obedience gives us the “expulsive power of a new affection” (to quote Thomas Chalmers).

    2) Humility over the fact that we daily need God’s constant flow of grace from heaven, and that no matter how sin tries to delude us, hiding our sin is never the answer. Indeed, the desire to be strong enough in ourselves, so that we can live independently of God, is the first sin, the essence of sin, and the mother of all sin.” from this article http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-dead-end-of-sexual-sin

    The struggle against sin from a place of rest and victory is such an important practical topic, I hope we can volley back and forth with it a little bit.


    1. After reading this, I think where confusion might be coming is what we believe to be true about man. Our anthropology is critical. If we think that Adam and Eve had a sinful nature, then it is no wonder why we continue to have this discussion about whether we can truly be free from sin, whether we need to continually die, etc. Yet, if we believe that Adam and Eve were made perfect – without sin and without sinful nature – then what is the reasonable conclusion? Did Eve sin because she tried to live outside of God, or was she deceived? Is there a way to say yes to both of those questions? For us now, we understand that we’re no longer in that original state like Adam and Eve, but that doesn’t mean that when we come to Christ, and when we’re filled with the Holy Spirit, that we’re somehow less than conquerers. I think the issue at hand isn’t so much about whether we can overcome sin. I think it is far more fundamental than that. What we’re asking is to understand who God has made mankind to be, and after that, what is the nature of salvation? Once we have those two questions answered, our minds then turn to what I had written about. If I have come to the correct conclusion that when we’re saved, we’re set free, then what is the point of the cross? Why did Paul say that he dies daily? He writes this statement sandwiched between two extensive passages on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. Obviously the cross is crucial in the Christian life. Yet, I think in focusing so heavily upon our sin and how we need to die to self, we have missed the glory of the cross as laying down our life for our friends.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s