Some Clarity on ‘Dying Daily’
By Fred Pruitt
(I am apologetic that this is somewhat long, but not that much. This is a revision and rewrite of previously published material.)
As I have grown physically older over the years so has the Spirit opened the Mystery of the Gospel more and more in my conscious understanding. It doesn’t expand so much conceptually or intellectually, as much as we begin to perceive that what we have believed –Gal 2:20; Col 1:27; John 15:5; John 14:10; John 5:19; John 17:11, 20-23; 1 John 4:17, etc. –has become God’s Living reality or “Selfhood,” incorporated into our very “being.” We have “become” the Good News, or, as Paul put it, “Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart.” (2 Cor 3:3). An epistle of Christ; the Living Good News! That is who we are!
I watched a TV preacher back in the 1970s for a while. He was called “The Walking Bible,” and at the time, I thought that was what I wanted to become. But I have since learned that there is a great deal of difference between a “walking Bible” and a “walking Christ.” If we are walking Bibles, then that gives the sense that it is the Bible that is creating Christ in us.
However, if we are walking Christs, we live where the Word comes from, i.e., the Spirit, Who ensures that we live a heavenly life in the earth. It was Paul who said, “Our conversation [manner of living, citizenship] is in heaven.” In other words, our lives originate in heaven right NOW, not later after we die.
That is why Jesus said, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38). Think on that! We go to church and are exhorted to look above, to call God “down” to us from His perch way up high in heaven. But Jesus said the Life comes from within us, not from a source outside us. If you believe on Me, Jesus says, “Out of your belly (innermost being) shall flow rivers of living water.” RIVERS! Out of you and me! We don’t have to call Him “down” every day as if He has forgotten us or we have forgotten Him. He has taken up permanent residence in us! That is, HE is ALWAYS present in His fullness.
Because of the One Who lives in us, our lives always have far more impact than we are aware of. And it is going on all the time. But our understanding always lags a bit from faith and experience, and in a sense, never catches up. Life therefore continues to be a “tension” –between how we perceive ourselves and God “now,” as opposed to the full consummation when we will see what we see with direct “sight” and not as “through a dark glass,” as it is now.
Now we’re looking here for some clarification on the oft-used phrase, “dying daily,” and others like it. So we start by looking at the word “death” and related words which appear quite a lot in the New Testament, with a variety of what can be confusing definitions. Plus people have added terms such as “death to self” or “death of self.” We are described in scripture as, “dead to sin,” “dead to the law,” “dead in Christ,” and just “dead,” to name just a few.
Paul even says he walks around “bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.” (2 Cor 4:10). He also says, “I die daily.” (1 Cor 15:31). Was Paul a morbid guy, always thinking about death? Jesus said He was born to die at the hands of men on the Cross, that it had been appointed to Him by the Father. Therefore, He came here with the intention of being maliciously put to death. Was He a morbid guy, too?
No, neither Paul nor Jesus was morbid or death-centered. They were Life-centered, and both knew and operated the principle of which Jesus spoke in John 12:24 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” The operative phrase in this passage is, “bears much fruit.”
For our sake, we’ll only cover the meanings of “death” having to do with our daily living, or spirituality. When I am speaking of any of these “deaths,” the best way to understand it is to see that deaths of all sorts are really transitions from one consciousness to another. Even physical death is that – it’s just that after that particular death, we don’t come back here anymore. The other deaths really are one consciousness coming to an end and another consciousness beginning at the same time.
By consciousness I am meaning something simple like going from first grader to second grader in primary school. I clearly remember being in the cafeteria line for lunch at school. It was the beginning of my second grade year. I was seven. While we were lined up getting ready to go in, I looked over to another sidewalk where the first graders were lined up. I clearly remember thinking how those first graders didn’t know anything, those poor little kids. Without even realizing it, I had gained a “second grade consciousness,” and had cast aside my “first grade consciousness,” which was now gone forever. That’s consciousness.
But first, I want to mention the expression, “death to self.” That was a term that has been common with certain “deeper-life” writers and others who were mainly in the past. I do not use the term, simply because we each are “a self,” (self-aware distinct person), and we cannot die to being what we are. When those writers use the “death to self” terminology, it somewhat approaches the meaning we will get to a little further on, but usually they do not get all the way there.
Fix Me God
Unlike so many of us “modern” Christians, who are constantly praying for personal blessings, for God to “fix” something in our lives, to prosper us, to heal us, to please make us feel better, to get us a better job, etc., this was Paul’s ultimate prayer: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” (Philippians 3:10). Paul is speaking of living the life of the Cross, which is an intercessory life, a life laid down that certain others would discover true Life for themselves.
Not many pray that prayer. However, to enter into the maturity of our calling, there is no other portal, because that is where the Lamb is. It is like Jesus’ famous Word to Peter in the post-Biblical story of “Quo Vadis.” (That is Latin for, “Where are you going?”)
In the story Peter is fleeing the city of Rome with many others during the persecutions of Nero. Suddenly in his path he sees the Lord Jesus, Who asks him, “Peter, quo vadis?” Jesus was not fleeing the city, but was instead headed back into the heart of it, the opposite of Peter’s direction. Peter saw it in a moment. Jesus disappeared and Peter went back into the city, where later he was captured and crucified upside down.
You don’t see many in our time in the “developed world” who talk about such things – martyrdom, suffering persecution including violence, enduring hardness as soldiers, making ourselves servants of all that all may come out of the insanity of darkness and enter the peace of God. There are some who still do, but it is not a popular message. A majority of those who say they believe in Jesus pray those “help me out Jesus” prayers, thinking Jesus’ main job is to be around to fix us and make everything okey-dokey all day long every day. He helps me cope when I can’t cope. Jesus helps me achieve my dreams. Stuff like that. (Stuff that is a far cry from Paul’s: “He works in me mightily!” And, “I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” ([1 Cor 15:10].)
It isn’t necessarily their fault that so many believers have never moved from spiritual infancy, and by no means am I criticizing that critical time in our spiritual growth. We all start there. But just like in primary school, we are not to stay in first grade. The problem is, church leaders cannot give people what they do not have themselves. “Come to Jesus for what He can give you,” was the gospel message taught in many American churches these past few decades. Need your marriage fixed, your money flowing, a better self-image and all your problems with your teenagers solved? We had the answer: it was the “Come to Jesus and He’ll meet all your needs and fix everything in your life” Gospel.
I didn’t think that way in the beginning, until the Lord put us in a church that taught that for His own purposes. The pastor was preaching that message and I bought it just like everybody else. We were trying to attract people to Jesus by offering a God with great features and benefits. So a whole generation of Christian people learned to go to churches or other meetings “expecting a miracle,” or to “get a blessing,” because they had been taught that is what church is for, since they’re “children of the king” and “deserving of the best!” I even saw someone post on Facebook recently that Christians should demand their “right to be healed!”
It would be better to be able to join with Paul when he says, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor 4:8, 9).
Or to join our names with another of Paul’s list of experiences:
“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.” (2 Cor 11:23-30).
Right to be healed!? Right to be healed!?!?!?!?!?
That’s why the crowd followed Jesus, in John 6. He had fed 5,000 of them miraculously, so they showed up the next day looking for Jesus to do it again, and to make Him King! But they all left when He told them they had to drink His blood and eat His flesh to have eternal life. That was not the deal they were looking for!
The Life Jesus IS and gives is the only One He IS and has, which is eternal Self-for-others. That’s what we “get” when we are hooked into Jesus! Eating His flesh and drinking His blood means the same thing as Paul’s word quoted above, Phil 3:10. In Him we enter an eternally laid down Life for others, including and especially anyone who might be called an enemy (like a Muslim, for instance).
It is the Cross life. His heart and His soul are satisfied in the outgoing of His Love and the very precious fruit it bears. As we drink of His blood of forgiveness it is not our own forgiveness that concerns us any longer, and as we eat His flesh it is not our own holiness or sanctity that has any weight. As the Psalmist said: “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” (Ps 130:3,4). And: “How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!” (Ps 32:2).
Cleansed by His blood we live the forgiven and forgiving life, not retaining anyone’s sins, but seeing past them to Christ in all. (Jn 20:23; 2 Cor 5:19). In the forgiven life, we hold nothing against ourselves, because God holds nothing against us in Christ! In the forgiving life, just as God holds nothing against us, we find He holds nothing against any others in our midst either! We have neither need of judgment nor a need to evaluate any one, except to find them in the grace and favor of God, if they will hear it!
Living by eating His flesh we progressively learn of what Spirit we are, not the spirit that calls for destruction and retribution, but the Spirit Who authors peace and day by day builds the household of the Living God. (Lk 9:52-56; Eph 2:18-22).
Living by eating His flesh we progressively learn by the Spirit’s teaching what it means to lay down our lives. Though it sounds as if we are majoring on death, we are really living in Divine Joy even while suffering many deaths (they are almost unnoticeable), for the sake of seeing so many resurrections! That is what we are about!
I will even be so bold to say this is the operating principle of the whole universe – the death and resurrection principle. It starts in the very inner Holy of Holies in the highest heaven, where “in the midst of the Throne … stood a Lamb as it had been slain,” (Rev 5:6), and “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev 13:8). The first scene, in Revelation 5, takes place in the inner sanctuary of God in the Heavens. What is happening there? John in the vision immediately points us to the Throne saying, “I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book … sealed with seven seals.” (Rev 5:1). Next an angel proclaims with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” Then John says he wept much for after searching all through heaven, earth, and under the earth, no man could be found worthy to open the book and look thereon. This is the book of our salvation, the manifestation of the sons of God, and it would be a tragedy with eternal ramifications, if no one could open it and loose the seals!
But then an elder steps up and says, “Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.” (Rev 5:5). And then He sees Him. John sees the Lamb.
“And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne … stood a Lamb as it had been slain … And he came and took the book …” And thus began the loosening of the seals for the ultimate blessing of God’s elect, the final consummation of this eon or age, and the full unveiling of all things.
What I find this to be, this picture of a Slain Lamb in the very innermost heart of the universe, is an eternal Cross in the very heart of God. It is a perfect image of Who God is, He Who Gives, He Who Saves, He Who causes to be, He Who suffers death only to turn it into Eternal Life.
Jesus’ Life Is An Intercessory Life ALWAYS
I think the best way to describe it is to use the three aspects of the Cross of Jesus. The Cross for me, the Cross in me, and the Cross by me for others. They are three distinct plateaus of understanding. In the first epistle of John the same thing is described as little children, young men and fathers. Childhood, adolescence and maturity. (It is not physical gender based, also.) And of course we are not really meaning that the “Cross,” as a piece of wood, did anything, but rather the ways of God that we see and experience through the Cross which Jesus bore and His subsequent Resurrection. All of that, including and especially the Resurrection, is what I am referring to as the “Cross life,” or intercessory life.
The first activity of the Cross toward us was our redemption. It was something Jesus did, exclusive to Him and unable to be repeated by anyone, as we noted when we spoke of Revelation immediately above.
“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” We had no say in the matter because we were all at one time enemies (not in God’s eyes) because of the darkening of our minds by indwelling Sin due to the Fall. Everyone and everybody became suspect, especially God. It was we who thought God was our enemy, not the other way around.
We have gone over Body and Blood quite a lot elsewhere, so we will skip that for now. I just wanted to be clear about this first point, that in this initial birthing in Christ, all we know is our sins are forgiven or we have found Life, and that it happened by grace.
One of the main impediments to my initial coming to Christ when I was a young man was the concept of grace. I could not imagine that one did not have to “work and produce” to be accepted by God and at peace with Him. And when the Spirit finally broke all the way through to me on His eternally appointed Day, I finally saw grace, because I knew a miracle had occurred, one that I simply did not expect. A joy flooded over me for no apparent reason, joy that was completely unexpected, completely new and based on nothing “tangible,” and unable to be resisted! I kept saying to myself for weeks, “I was dead, and now I’m alive!” In one sense, nothing had changed. But in a real sense, EVERYTHING CHANGED! And it hasn’t changed back in 45 years!
All I knew in those early days was that Jesus had died on the Cross for me, and risen again for me. I knew absolutely nothing about the “deaths” we are speaking about here. I vaguely knew He had “come into” me, but really hadn’t a clue for some time what that meant. Even though He was in me, I still thought of Him and looked for Him as if He was not “in me,” but was somewhere apart from me, above me. It wasn’t wrong so much as it was just a baby understanding. Babies don’t even know their parents’ names, and they don’t care. They DO know mom and dad (ideally) are the providers and doers of everything as it concerns them, and (ideally) they feel loved, while every one of their material and emotional needs are met by mother and father. For a while they do absolutely nothing except receive. (They do have some output during this time, too, but nothing to keep for posterity.)
Early on our pastor did a teaching on Romans. He was a great teacher and preacher, so it was always a delight to listen to him. I distinctly remember when he got to chapter 6, and the verse that says, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (Rom 6:3). That is the first time I remember encountering the concept of our “death” in Christ. Of course, by that time I had read Romans many times, but that “baptized into his death” concept had never registered before. When pastor moved to verse 11, I knew I did not understand what Paul was talking about. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (6:11). Although it was more than 40 years ago when I took that class, I still remember the difficulty I had understanding what it meant to “Reckon yourself dead to sin.” At that point in my life I didn’t seem to be “dead to sin.”
But by God’s design, the “dead to sin” question was put on hold for a few years, since it was not a subject being emphasized much at the time. We were deeply into “what we do to serve the Lord,” and in finding out techniques to “get the power” for ministry and miracles. Unknowingly, we had put the human self issue to the side, while we focused on activity. Understanding the workings of the human self in God is the key to almost everything, and until we see and know it, it should get top billing. But the church by and large has put that issue over to the side in a limbo-like “we don’t know what to do with it” state, while focusing on activity, politics, worldly issues, building programs, end-times, healing, reputation, and accumulation of wealth, etc.
One way to look at my past is to realize I got seven good years out of my initial “baby” understanding of God. What He did for me. The “me” part or side of things was not solved, which was my inner self, but what He Alone did FOR me I was very clear about. As far as considering “myself,” self-condemnation more than anything ruled the roost. So that had to be the next rung of the ladder.
The Inner Metanoia
The struggles that ensued from all that led to our oft-told transition out of California back to Georgia in 1980. Almost the first important event that occurred in our new life in Georgia in a brand new decade, was that it came to me to seek out Norman Grubb, whom I had met seven years before in 1973, just prior to our move to California. It was in reading his books in the summer of 1980 that I encountered this idea again of dying with Him in His death, and thus being “dead to sin.” When it had come up several years earlier, it was not my time yet to hear it. The Spirit put the seed there in that Sunday School class from my pastor. Now the seed had come up!
That was when I began, by the Spirit’s understanding, to put the pieces together regarding His Life in me. I learned and began to understand, finally, that the “old man” died through the Cross, and I was not that “old man” anymore. I had believed the opposite of that from my days in my first church. They taught that I had a wicked heart even though I was born again. What GLORY it was to find out that was not true! Christ was my heart, not darkness!
Like a lot of these things, it can be described as a consciousness that arises from a spiritual source. In the case of the old man, that identity was the product of the illicit union between our spirits and the spirit of Sin. The “identity” or “mindset” was/is a mind of independence and self-deification – we are our own god. Any god outside us we believe we “worship” is actually a joke on us, because it is only a projection of ourselves. We are, in that state, our own temporal heaven or hell. Either way it is darkness, a product of the deception of THE Deceiver.
But there’s a funny thing about consciousness. It has a life of its own, and no consciousness likes to give way to another one. The problem with this understanding, is that even though we see it plainly in scripture, I realized one day that even though I’d “reckoned myself” dead to sin a million times, my life still seemed just the opposite! How could the old man be dead, since I still “act like” and “think like” him?
That is why Romans six is before Romans seven. In Romans six we reckon ourselves dead unto sin and alive unto God and believe we are instruments of righteousness. However, we no sooner get to the end of the chapter and into Romans seven, that he has us right back in the clutches of sin! What is this about? Apparently “reckoning myself dead to sin” didn’t work, or did it?
For most people, finally it hits them. “I” died with Him in His death!” “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3a). Now, we may have gone through a conversion last week or 25 years ago. It does not matter how long it is for this to “take,” but one day, the Spirit just drops it into our understanding and it begins to become a part of our consciousness.
“Oh, I see! I really did die with Him on the Cross. That old me was put to death there, 2000 years ago.” This is our inner consciousness catching up to Truth! “Oh, I see, it happened to ME!” It is the “knowing” (not conceptual or academic) that cements our oneness. We are mixed with or “one with” that which we “know.” We realize He has become our fixed inner Truth!
I have seen people cruise for years on the simple Spirit knowing that they “died,” and found their real life in Christ Jesus. It is almost like we go away altogether when it first takes us. It is almost like there is only God and we don’t even exist.
This initial “death” is really what sets the stage for the resurrection, and the resurrection is what we are after. Because this period is not over until another death occurs, and the two deaths propel us into its third stage with power, which is described in the next verse: “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” (Col3:4).
We learned conceptually that we died to sin in Romans six. The next “death” mentioned is not what we would expect if the message of Jesus was logical. The next thing we learn is that we are dead to the law! (One might think it would be an increased vigilance against the encroachment of sin, rather than removing that which told us what sin is – the law!) And then the rest of Romans seven gives us a blow-by-blow account of one man’s struggle with himself, God, the devil and the law, until he is finally down for the count. And when he finally goes down, he is borne by the Spirit on wings of eagles to the resurrected life on the other side of Romans seven, where his new fixed consciousness is “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom 8:2).
I’ll briefly mention the Romans seven issue, but for the sake of brevity will point you to a couple other things that might give a more detailed description. The first is my little book, The Axe Laid to the Root, which you can download for free. And then a couple of articles on the blog:
To make a long story shorter, we really go through a meat grinder if we go through this struggle. Some do not experience it, and I am not saying everyone will or should. But there is plain historical and Biblical evidence that God certainly does take many this way, including this writer. It got dark in my world for a while. Like Paul, I was almost down for the count. And the Spirit came and got me again, just like He did Paul. So I am only writing what has become inner truth for me.
The whole crux of the matter occurs in Romans 7:21 – “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.” Just wow! Wow wow wow wow!! If there was one scripture in the Bible that defined sin, this would be the one. It is very subtle, this sin. Just like its author, the serpent: “Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.”
I read Romans seven hundreds of times for decades and did not see this. But then one day it just jumped out and stopped my train in its tracks. “When I would do good.” When – I – would try to … be like God!” That is the sin, and that is why he found “evil is present with me.”
The subtlety of it is that it masquerades as piety or holiness. “Should we not strive to do good and refrain from evil?” That is the deepest subtlety of it, but open your ears and hear the hiss of the snake in it!
“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” (Is 14:12-15).
This really puts the final nail in the coffin of the old me. This consciousness of independence is the last vestige of the “old me” in our consciousness. Because once we SEE this truth, it BECOMES US! (It is He Himself in us!)
When we see how we had formerly been deceived and misused in unrighteousness, now we can begin to see in His resurrection there is a new me, Christ in me, one spirit with Him, the Spirit of Christ now rightly using us for righteousness. I begin to see the meaning of Galatians 2:20 even though I may have read that hundreds of times also. It is kind of a total housecleaning, this movement in experience from Romans six through seven into the Life of the Spirit in the eighth. But now it is settled once and for all. The old me, the union of my spirit and the spirit of darkness, producing sin as our children, has died in the death and burial of Jesus Christ, a death and burial in which I am a participant, rather than being simply an historical onlooker. It is completely gone, nothing left of it.
The next “death” is when I see that even though the sin has been spiritually removed from me, I find out my helplessness to be able to produce what I believe God wants of me. He wants me to do His will and I believe I can so I try – and down I go! So the new self is Christ in me, but I remain in weakness, always living by the life of the Spirit.
There comes a day when we let our self-efforts die forever, because we cannot go another step in them. Eventually it becomes like a waterless hike in the Sahara, to shoulder the responsibility of trying to act like God. Finally we just keel over under the weight of it!
And then, by the Spirit and quite to our surprise, we begin to see the reality of Who Lives in us and as us in our consciousness. This is the beginning of a union or oneness consciousness. I was crucified with Him, but I live, but the Life is not mine but His, and yet the Life I do live, I live by HIS faith as the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me. This is LIBERATION!!!!
Like I said, there was a lot of housecleaning accomplished by the Spirit through what Paul described. We enter Romans seven knowing a few “concepts” (theories) which we think maybe we can make work. They all crash and burn until there is nothing left! Then we exit on the Romans eight side completely undone and remade – having through Romans seven coming to know the old me died, we are dead to sin, dead to the law, dead to self-effort, and finally, as Paul says in 7:18. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.”
Notice, he does not say something evil dwells there. Just “no good thing.” I find this to be in the same Spirit as Jesus’ answer to someone who said “Good master,” to Him. “Why do you call me good? There is none good, but God.” (Mk 10:18). In other words, Paul has found an inner zero, zed, where he almost does not exist, and God is All. That’s the “dead to ourselves” part, but it is not meant to be some ritual of self-denial, but more rather a description of how we operate.
We begin to see we operate just like Jesus, Who said, “The Father that dwells within me, He does the works.” (Jn 14:10). That is what I mean by an inner zero.
“How do you do what you do?”
“I don’t know, the Father within me, He does it! That’s all I know! It just comes out as me doing it.”
I Die Daily to Bring Life Out of Death
It is not unusual that after I present my case that Paul did not struggle with sin after Romans seven in a perpetual white dog-black dog war like much of the church teaches, that people will quote these two scriptures to me.
First, Jesus: “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Lk 9:23, 24).
And then Paul’s word, quoted above, “I die daily.” (1 Cor 15:31). Though people continually try to make both these passages about personal holiness that needs to be repeated daily, in actuality both passages are about living the Cross life for others. The “personal holiness” issue is assumed, because Christ Himself is our own “personal holiness.” (We do certainly need Him to be that, since we haven’t even a molecule of our own!)
The quote from Jesus could be seen to cover all the bases, the Cross FOR me, the Cross IN me, and now the Cross by me for others. The context of Paul’s word is not about his daily exercise to assure his personal holiness, but the burden of the churches and individuals in his care and nurture.
When he says, “I die daily,” he is not saying he wakes up every morning and goes through the steps again that brought him to life in union with Christ and the overcoming of sin. That is an already done deal in Paul’s eyes. “I die daily,” is the cry of Paul’s heart, at the stress and strain of all that which was upon him, much like Moses in the wilderness, who would “fall on his face” before the Lord, when certain issues and questions were brought to him. All that suffering of death is not meant to bring melancholy or fatalism, but rather JOY because we KNOW THAT WE KNOW that life always comes out of death!
So what is this sort of “death?” Plainly said, it is sacrificial. It costs. Paul repeats Jesus’ word with his own: “That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” (1 Cor 15:36). In this final stage, where we have entered the maturity of the Cross life, we take up the mantle of our adulthood.
What do adults do? They can live purely for their own pleasure, or they can provide for others, and bring new life into the world. At the adult stage in Christ, we exist to do one major thing – to participate in the travails of Christ, not just for the general salvation of souls, but that Christ might be formed in certain particular others that God makes known to us!
What we might call our deaths at this stage are simply whatever things we might have to do or to endure to bring about the resurrection of certain others that God has revealed to and in us.
One day we just put down our mirrors, quit worrying about how we feel, disregard what our health is, pay no attention to how much money we have or do not have, quit trying to enlist anyone else in a pity-party for poor little me, and take up the mantle of Christ in me as me in the world, that comes with everyone’s salvation kit! It was included in the package when you signed up, or realized you had been signed up! One with Christ, one with the Father, one with the Spirit, one with God!
We have the goods, precisely because we “do not have them.” What do I mean? I mean that we live in the Spirit, where we do not “possess” God, but rather express Him in His nature as the wind, which blows where it will, and we cannot tell where it came from or where it is going. No one may possess the wind, but he is free to ride upon it, if he can.
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.