Surrender Part 3: What Does “Dying to Self” Mean?

tombstone in cemetery

Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?
(Rom 6:2)


These are all difficult ideas to grasp. Yet it is a repeated theme in the New Testament and essential if we want to live God’s way. We often call it dying to self.

In this surrender series, I’ve talked about why we should, why we don’t and how to become more willing to submit. Getting our minds wrapped around these biblical terms will help us learn how to truly live by dying to self.

So what does dying to self mean?

First, understand that this is done in the spiritual realm and it’s not something we do. It is something that has already been done by Christ.

The Lord Jesus has already put our sinful nature to death when we accepted Him as our Savior. At the moment of our salvation, our old sinful nature is crucified with Christ and we are given a new nature—one like His.

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. (Gal 2:20)

 …Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Cor 5:17)

Before salvation we were slaves to sin, but now we have been set free from the controlling power of the sinful nature over us. It’s a done deal. The old nature is still present after salvation, but it has been made ineffective and inactive (Rom 6:6-7).

So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. (Rom 6:11)

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities [Satan and his demons]. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. (Col 2:13-15, emphasis mine)

We have no power to overcome sin’s hold on us. That’s God’s job, accomplished by Christ at Calvary.

Our role is to recognize that our sinful nature is dead and act accordingly.

When we “die to self,” we are choosing to live out of our new godly nature. And we will want to surrender because the will of our new nature is the same as God’s will. Through Christ we have become partakers of His nature (2 Pet 1:4).

Note, that it is our sinful nature that has been put to death—not our personality, emotions, abilities, or mind. Rather, they have been placed under new management. We are transferring the right and control of these things from the old self to God. It is His right now since He bought us with His precious blood. He owns us. We are under new management—His.


So until next time my friends, take time to ponder these difficult-to-grasp principles. The Holy Spirit will give you understanding. Read all of Romans 6 and 7 where the Apostle Paul expounds on these freeing truths, and you too will be more equipped and willing to die to yourself and become alive unto Christ! 

For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. (Rom 6:4)


Please note: I am NOT saying there isn’t a struggle between our new nature and old sinful nature. The sinful nature is still exerting its influence on us. I am saying that we have the power to overcome its influence through Christ who defeated it on the cross. It’s a moment by moment battle!

Helpful Resources
Struggling as a Christian is NORMAL—We Are in a BATTLE!
Surrender Part 1: Why Should We Surrender?
Surrender Part 2: 7
Reasons WHY We Don’t Surrender & 7 Ways to Change

Except where indicated all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible: New International Version®. NIV. ® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. 
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.