You want to be first? Make yourself last. (Matthew 20:16)
You want to lead? Start serving. (Mark 10:43)
You want to live? Learn how to die. (Luke 17:33)
I think the main message Jesus gives us in these teachings is that the Kingdom of Heaven, in many ways, functions the opposite of how this world is organized. Makes sense, seeing as how the person currently in charge of this world is the devil. (Ephesians 2:2; John 12:31)
I started wondering how I could tell whether I had died.
Then I recalled what Jesus says in John 12:24: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.”
The way you can tell if a seed has died is this: there’s a ton of life growing where it used to be. Ever see a field of crops? Full of life, flowing with the wind, reaching high for the sunlight? Well that’s a field where seeds died.
The defining attribute of death in Christianity is the abundance of life.
Remember John 10:10 where Jesus says “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”? Well, look at the life the Holy Spirit has brought to the world. It’s there because Jesus died.
So I think that the way to tell if a Christian has died to themselves is when you see “life more abundant” in the place where it used to be just them. Is the Holy Spirit bringing joy and peace and love and patience? That’s because the anger and depression and hate and frustration that used to be all you had is gone. Because the old you died.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:43, talks about being planted in weakness, but raised in power. He’s talking about our current bodies versus our resurrection bodies, but I think it also applies to when we leave behind our carnal lives and instead allow the Holy Spirit to flow in us and through us.
Jesus, in his death, assured the defeat of Satan. In mine, I can be a part of his Kingdom expansion. Where there was once just me, soon there will be an abundance of life.