To be just like God in His death means an effort to suppress or turn off the will of flesh, which is against God’s will in someone’s life. This is an action to suppress someone’s personal future goals and ambition, and then to fully direct himself to conduct God’s will. This also means that willingness to lose every rights for the sake of God. All of these refer to a true process of Christianity life journey. Therefore, before we die physically and get buried, we should previously enter the death process of old self.
The death process of the old self precedes the new birth that the Lord gives or it can happen simultaneously. In Lord Jesus we become a new creature or a new being. The Bible says that we have been born of God.1 We should not consider this matter as ordinary so that we ignore it. We should consider this matter as extraordinary. By His grace we are enabled to be born of God with a new nature. Born of God is the biggest grace that can be received by man. Certainly this matter happens because of the sacrifice of Lord Jesus Christ. It is because only by His redemption we become the children of God. The adoption of child is validated by mark or seal, which is God puts Holy Spirit within us.2 The important thing to become the children of God is not only that we have the status as children of God, where we have assurance of His providence, protection and blessings, but also we have a new nature. In addition to being as the seal, the Holy Spirit also acts as a buddy who helps us growing in the new nature, where we reach to the death of old self through a long process. This is a process of death before death.
The call to experience the death of old self aligns with what Paul said: becoming like Lord Jesus in His death. This applies to all believers.3 Becoming like Him in His death is basically a life directed for the interest of the Kingdom of God entirely. The word “death” in this context is originally thanatos (θάνατος), the same word used in Colossians 3:3; namely for you died. Thanatos wants to show the separation of body from spirit. Why does the Bible choose the word thanatos? Because this word wants to show us that after becoming children of God then our purpose of life is differentiated from the children of the world. If previously our purpose of life is just like the children of the world, then now it should be different. Surely this separation does not happen in one day but through a long process. Therefore, the renewal of mind – where we are not just like the world – should take place every day.4 In this case only the Word of God can do such separation.5
This separation is happening in phases, but for certain. In this process, each individual needs to be active. The process is not something that will happen automatically, thus every effort should be made seriously. How far someone can experience separation from the world and become a new creation depends on the work of each individual. From this matter, the seriousness of someone to deal with God in responding His grace will be obvious. It is a fatal mistake when someone thinks that man should not put his effort in giving response since all efforts are made by God according to His determination. But Paul clearly said, “I want to … becoming like Him in His death”.6 In this statement Paul shows that to become like God in His death, someone has to have own willingness and determination and to work on it. Next, Paul also said “… but one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”. 7
1) John 1:13; 2) Ephesians 1:13; 3) Philippians 3:10; 4) Rome 12:2; 5) Hebrew 4:12; 6) Philippians 3:10; 7) Philippians 3:13-14.