“And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)
If we have been risen with Christ, our call is to “walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:4) What does this new life look like? It is a life unto God. “… But in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.” (Rom. 6:10) In Romans, Paul contrasts living unto God with living for sin; in Corinthians, he contrasts it with living for ourselves.
These two – living for God vs. living for ourselves – are the only two modes of existence. They are in direct conflict with each other. You cannot live for God and yourself. The true disciple makes his choice for Jesus, and against himself. “… Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
Self-denial is not optional for the follower of Jesus Christ. Those who will not deny themselves, will end up denying the Lord. “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.” (Luke 16:13) To love one’s own self is to hate God. To love God is to hate one’s own life. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
New life in Christ translates us out of a self-centered world into a God-centered world. Our first thought is not what pleases us, but what would please God. We are not automatically dedicated to the pursuit of our pleasures, and the avoidance of our pain. We are willing to forego what we would like if it clashes with what God likes. We are willing to endure pain and suffering if it is found on a path of obedience.
We are not only dead to sin, but we are dead to ourselves. The old “us” only knew one thing – what we wanted. Above any other, we were for us. Salvation put an end to the old “us.” The new “us” is no longer geared to self-pleasing; the very basis of our life has shifted. God is now on the throne of our life. He is Lord and Master. Making Him happy is the essence of our existence.