Dying to Live
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11 NIV
In my addiction medicine clinic, it’s often apparent that a patient needs to go to inpatient treatment. In his current living environment, it’s simply impossible for him to stay sober. He doesn’t want to abandon his freedom to go to treatment though and I can’t force him into it. Yes, he wants change, but he’s hoping for an easier fix. The problem is that he’s taken ten thousand steps in the direction of his addiction. That isn’t undone in one doctor’s office visit. If he wants the new life, the old one must die and that means making radically different decisions.
Most of us want the easy fix. We have a self-destructive habit and so we ask God to remove it. In today’s passage though, Paul taught that it may not be quite as painless as that. Paul wrote that to know Christ and the power of his resurrection meant identifying with his suffering and death. In doing so, Paul found life. He knew that to truly live, he had to die.
We may say we want the new life, but often, we’re simply afraid of losing the old one. We want change, but we don’t want to lose ourselves in the process. According to Paul though, the only way to truly find ourselves is to abandon our way for God’s.
What does it look like to put the old life to death? If I’m addicted to drugs, I got here with ten thousand steps in this direction. To undo this life, I need to take the same number of steps in the opposite. I need to go to treatment. Abandon destructive relationships. Go to meetings and make new sober friends. If I’m struggling with pornography, I need to confess to my spouse and get help. I must abandon my access. To crucify the old life is to daily do whatever it takes, no matter how difficult, to kill it. This will be painful.
While I’m doing this, I’m not left alone. As I abandon me, I pursue Christ. Daily, I must read, pray, meditate, and spend time with him. The new life is found in knowing God and it is only in knowing him that my appetite is miraculously transformed. It is only in abandoning me that I find myself. This isn’t a once-and-done process. As long as I’m on this Earth, I must continually put the old life to death to experience in the new one. It is in only dying that I truly live.