"Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." (Romans 6:8-11)
We as Christians must always keep in mind that not only did Jesus die for our sins, but that we, in union with Christ, have died with him, and so have been removed from the dominion of sin. This death to sin -- and reckoning ourselves to be dead to sin -- is not the ultimate goal, but rather, being able to live freely for God. Francis Schaeffer comments on Romans 6:10b, "...but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God." (KJV)...
Jesus died once for all, but now He continues to live "unto God." He died, not just to die, but to be alive to God. Likewise, our calling as Christians is never primarily a negative thing. The basic Christian call is a positive thing. The first commandment, said Jesus, is to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind" (Matt. 22:37). The word "don't" does not appear in this commandment. It is true that loving God means there are certain things we will want to avoid doing. These are, for instance, spelled out for us in the Ten Commandments.
But our primary calling as Christians is a positive thing. So often Christians act as though the Christian calling is merely to have sort of an unhappy life and say no to this and no to that. But that isn't the point. There are certain negative things that are involved, which cause pain, but the calling is primarily a positive one. The calling is to be alive to God. The negative commands relate to things that hinder you from being alive to God. "He liveth unto God." And the only way to be alive to God is to be dead toward something else.
What are we to be dead to? According to what Jesus told Peter in Matthew 16:24, we are to be dead primarily toward ourselves. If we're to be Christ's disciples, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. Being alive to God does not mean being dead to a series of rules; it means being dead toward self. And this death to self is not just so that we might suffer but so that we might be alive to God.
Christians constantly say to me, "I can't seem to find a reality in my Christian life." If there is to be a reality to our fellowship with God, there is a price to be paid. In order for Jesus to be alive to God, He had to die. In order for us to be alive to God in our daily walk, a daily death is needed. We must die daily to selfishness, to self-centeredness, to self-sufficiency. The death isn't the important thing. The being alive to God is the important thing. But if I'm going to be alive to God, there first must be the death.
Jesus died and rose from the dead. We died with Christ. We will someday be raised physically from the dead. But we are to walk in the present in light of that future truth. We will not be raised physically from the dead in the future if we have not died with Christ in the past. And in the present life we are to be experiencing this, both in terms of dying daily to sin and of living daily to God.
Do you want to be alive to God? Not just in the sense of being justified. Not just in the sense of one day having your body raised from the dead. Not just in the sense of one day being in heaven. Do you want the reality of being alive with God today, as a Christian? Then there must be a death. You can be active in Christian work. You can be a missionary. You can be a pastor. You can be a theology professor. You can be a thousand things. But if you want the reality of being alive with God and in fellowship with Him day by day, there must be the daily death. There is no other way.
-- From The Finished Work of Christ, by Francis Schaeffer (Crossway Books, 1998), pp 157-58.
Image credit: photo above of the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, source unknown.