I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. . . . Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain – perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. (1 Corinthians 15:31… 36-38)
St Paul notes that he dies to himself daily in order to serve the Lord Jesus. He is, of course, speaking in a spiritual sense about death rather than in a literal sense. We die daily when we choose to deny ourself and take up our cross to follow Christ. We die when we admit to our sins and repent of them. We die to ourself when out of love we put another ahead of ourself and meet their needs rather than our own wants and desires. We die to ourself when we forgive others rather than demanding they pay their debts to us. We die to ourself when we humble ourselves and openly admit when we have done something wrong and acknowledge our own guilt. We are changed by our spiritual lives, by living in love for others— our old self dies and a new self is born. We become Christ like. This is St Paul’s version of the Lord’s own words that we who follow Him must deny ourselves, take up our crosses to follow Christ.
To be a disciple of Christ requires us to change our hearts and minds (repent!), to walk in the way of the cross rather than to follow our own desires. Biblical scholar Nathan Eubank, referring to Matthew’s Gospel, writes about what it takes for us to be Christ’s disciple and to enter into God’s Kingdom:
For Matthew, however, entering the kingdom requires actual transformation: ‘I say to you that unless your righteousness abounds more than the scribes and Pharisees you will never enter the kingdom of heaven‘ (5:20). One must become perfect (telios) like the heavenly father (5:48). It is not enough to call Jesus ‘Lord’ and do mighty works in his name; one must do ‘the will of my father who is in heaven‘ (7:21; see also vv.22-23). Those who do not turn and become like children ‘will never enter the kingdom of heaven‘ (18:3).
Those who do not imitate God’s willingness to cancel the debts of others will not have their debts canceled (18:23-35). As the narrative moves closer to its conclusion it becomes clear that disciples must imitate Jesus by giving their very lives in order to be repaid with resurrection (16:24-28; 19:16-29). Even when Jesus says that he will give his life as the ransom price for the many he is demanding that the disciples do likewise. For Matthew, ‘entering the Kingdom’ is not the result of a financial transaction between Jesus and God that leaves ‘the many’ as mere bystanders in their own salvation; it requires one to become like a child, like Jesus, like God. (WAGES OF CROSS-BEARING AND DEBT OF SIN, pp 203-204)