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What Did Paul Mean When He Said, “I Die Daily”?

  • Emily Massey
What Did Paul Mean When He Said, “I Die Daily”?

“I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31, NASB).

Our fallen human nature is completely and utterly selfish. We are born wanting all our needs met (right now!) and if we are not careful, we will continue living like self-centered, immature children. But as Christians, there is a higher call to put off our old nature and put on the “new man” (Ephesians 4:22-24, Colossians 3:9-11).

The apostle Paul’s exhortation to the believers in Corinth gives us a glimpse of his aim in life:

“ I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31, NASB).

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What does it mean to “take up your cross” and “die daily?”

What does it mean to “take up your cross” and “die daily?”

I think it is important to focus on the life of Christ and the finished work of the cross as our example. The apostle Paul encourages believers in Philippi:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:3-8, ESV).

As Jesus’ disciples, we are called to follow Him. That was Paul’s mission in life – to imitate Christ. And it is what he and the rest of the apostles literally gave their lives to preach to the world through their words and actions. We may not ever get the honor to literally die for Jesus Christ because of our faith in Him, but by God’s grace, we can imitate His selflessness every day.

How do we imitate Christ in our everyday life? Here are three ways Jesus lived a selfless faith on earth. 

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1. Jesus humbly approached the Father through prayer.

1. Jesus humbly approached the Father through prayer.

Even though Jesus was God in the flesh, He still leaned upon God the Father for everything He said and did while He walked this earth. Jesus would rise early to pray and seek God for His will for the day.

There isn’t anything extra Biblical or holy about the time of day you have quiet time with the Lord, but there is something special about giving God the first part of your day with prayer and time in His Word, which renews our mind. We must make it a top priority to carve out time in our day to get alone with God and commune with Him. The more we cultivate a relationship with the Lord, the more He begins to transform our life, and we become more like Him.

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2. Jesus obediently submitted Himself to the will of the Father.

2. Jesus obediently submitted Himself to the will of the Father.

Each day, we are faced with the temptation to satisfy our flesh and go outside the boundaries of God’s perfect will. We discover what that will is when we read the Bible and study it for ourselves to learn God’s ways. We are not perfect, but thankfully Jesus was, and because of His sacrifice on the cross, we have been given the precious gift of the Holy Spirit as born-again believers.

We read in Luke 22, when Jesus was praying in the garden on the night before His crucifixion, He cried out to the Father: “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22: 42, NKJV).

At His most desperate hour, He yielded His life to God’s plan, even when it meant that He was going to die a very painful death. Yet, He knew that wasn’t where the story ended; there would be a resurrection.

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"The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth..."

"The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth..."

The same power that raised Jesus from the grave is the same power that lives in us, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth, convicts us of our sin when we fall, and empowers us to obey God and to overcome temptation when it tries to overwhelm us. God always provides a way out.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV).

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3. Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve others.

3. Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve others.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NKJV).

“Ministry” is from the Greek word diakoneo, meaning “to serve.” Jesus ministered to thousands upon thousands of people during His time here on earth. John 22 tells us that if all the things Jesus did were all written down, the entire world could not contain the books that would be written!

Who is God asking you to serve?What selfish desires do you need to lay aside to put someone else’s life before your own? Are you too busy or too distracted to serve others?

I know as a mom and wife, this is something I am challenged with 24/7. I am given countless opportunities to set aside my wants and give my love, time, and attention to the needs of my husband and children. Pouring yourself out like that on a daily basis can sometimes be physically exhausting; I find myself praying for supernatural strength often! At the end of the day, my heart is always full.

This Biblical principle of dying to yourself has always been true, but I didn’t always live it or even understand it.

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Living for Myself

Living for Myself

I was born to worship, but for such a long time I worshiped myself and anything else in my life that helped numb my pain.

As a little girl, I was fascinated with the stage. Looking back, I now see that my obsession with perfection and performance (to prove my worth and value) probably had something to do with that. It wasn’t a coincidence, then, that many years later I would study theatre and dance in college. During my senior year, I had made up my mind that I was going to move to Los Angeles to become afamous actress. “Everyone will regret the way they treated me when they see who I will become! I'm going to be a star,” I would say to myself.  I craved approval from anyone who would give it and was so drenched in pride and selfish ambition. As I neared graduation, I focused all of my attention on making a name for myself as I networked with professionals in the entertainment industry.

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"It’s not about Jesus anymore when it’s all about me, myself, and I!"

"It’s not about Jesus anymore when it’s all about me, myself, and I!"

Since I didn’t understand that I could find true joy and security in Jesus, I was constantly running away from my problems by filling my life with more relationships and more parties (and sin) and more career plans – idolatry to the one-millionth degree. I was the center of my own universe.

What is so disheartening is that during this time of my life, I considered myself a Christian. Instead of living my life to fulfill Christ’s plan for me on this earth, I somehow tried to use my faith in Christ to fulfill my plan for my life. Jesus was merely an accessory to my existence to make me feel better about myself. Since I focused so much on performance, it was natural for me to live with a works-based faith. “I do better” equated to “I am a better version of me.” This is what I like to call “the gospel of me.” Sadly, this is a very popular message in our culture, even among other (often influential) Christians. It’s not about Jesus anymore when it’s all about me, myself, and I!

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Learning to Die Daily

Learning to Die Daily

Thankfully, God changed my heart, and just a few months after college graduation, I found a life worth living. It wasn’t mine at all; it was Christ’s. The abundant life that He promises us in John 10:10 became my reality. God gave me the eyes to see my sin and selfishness and filled my heart full of genuine repentance. I was desperately ready for a new life with Jesus as the King of my life. Over time, I learned what it meant to take up my cross and truly follow Jesus (Matthew 10:38; Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; Luke 14:27).

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"Dying daily definitely isn’t easy, but it is worth it..."

"Dying daily definitely isn’t easy, but it is worth it..."

That shift in my life happened 10 years ago, and I haven’t look back since. What I have come to realize in these last 10 years is that we must choose God’s way over our own every moment of every single day and every moment of every single day, we are faced with great resistance. Not only will the enemy bring opposition and temptation, but our flesh and our soul (mind, will, and emotions) do not want to deny itself of anything!

Dying daily definitely isn’t easy, but it is worth it because Jesus promises us that whoever loses his life will find it and find it abundance (Matthew 10:39/ John 10:10)!But remember, we cannot die daily in our own strength, friends. The Holy Spirit is who empowers us to choose God’s way through the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). With each passing day, by God’s grace, we mature and cultivate a life worth dying for, a life found in Christ alone!

Emily Rose Massey began writing short stories and poetry as a little girl, entered the blogging world in her early 20's, and published her first book, Yielded in His Hands: Becoming a Vessel for God's Glory (eLectio Publishing, 2015) before the age of 30. She now enjoys freelance writing while being a stay-at-home momma. Believing she has been forgiven of much, she loves much, and desires to point others to Christ and His redemptive and transforming power. If you would like to connect with Emily or learn more about her ministry, you can visit her website: www.emilyrosemassey.com.

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This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin and history of specific verses within Scripture context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.

"Pray Without Ceasing" 
"Fearfully and Wonderfully Made"
"Faith Without Works is Dead"
"Trust in the Lord with All Your Heart"
"All Things Work Together for Good"
"Be Strong and Courageous" 
"Train Up a Child in the Way He Should Go"
"Love Your Neighbor as Yourself"
"Take Every Thought Captive"
"Do Not Fear"
"God is Love"
"Eye for an Eye"
"Wolf in Sheep's Clothing"
"I Can Do All Things Through Christ"
"The Lord is my Shepherd"