Dying as a Means of Loving
Dying as a Means of Living.
November 30, 2008
We must all be prepared to stand before “The Judgment Seat” of Christ to give account for our lives – our thoughts, our words, and our deeds. This is Henry Blackaby’s theme in the August 29th reading in Experiencing God Day-by-Day.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or bad.—2 Corinthians 5:10
There are many motivations in the Christian's life. One is our awareness that one day we will give an account of our lives to Christ, as He sits in judgment upon humanity. It is much more comforting to believe that Christians will be ushered into heaven with no questions asked about our faithfulness upon earth, but that is not what Scripture says will happen.
Paul cautioned that in the final day of judgment every Christian will give an account for his or her actions. This expectation terrified Paul and motivated him to strive to please God in everything he did (2 Cor. 5:9–11). Paul knew that although he might ignore the Spirit's quiet voice during His life on earth, a time of accounting would come when he would have to explain why he had rejected God's instructions. Paul never carelessly assumed that, because of all he had done for God's kingdom, God would overlook his sin. Instead, he understood that to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).
God does not force His will upon us. He will ask us to answer for the way we responded to Him. Christians have been pardoned by the sacrifice of Jesus. We are not condemned. But because God is absolutely just, we will be called on to give an account of our actions. The Christian life gives a tremendous freedom, but it also brings a pervasive sense of our accountability to God and to others. We can learn from Paul that accountability is healthy; it gives us a powerful motivation to please God.
Our key passage for this morning from John 12 focuses on the cross, the reason Christ came to earth. As advent starts today, and we start the four weeks of fixing our thoughts on Jesus first coming, we must never forget why He came. John 12:27 states Jesus’ purpose clearly. Listen to what it says: "Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. I love that phrase, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” But I have to always remember as I sing “Oh, Come let us adore Him,” that my adoration has to move from the cradle to the cross; without the cross, I wouldn’t be standing here. And you wouldn’t be sitting there! Our faith and hope are built on Jesus coming to die for our sins. So, today’s message focuses on our new birth through His imminent death. Let’s look at John 12, verses 20-26 together – please turn there now. Jesus knew His crucifixion lay ahead, and because He was human, He dreaded it. He knew He would have to take the sin of the world on Himself. He wanted to be delivered from this horrible death, but He knew His Father sent Him into the world to die in our place. I believe crucifixion was heavy on His heart and mind as He spoke to these Greeks who sought Him out through Philip. Let’s read John 12:20-26. Now there were certain Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; these therefore came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came, and they told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, saying, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him."
Winter is for doing what these Greeks wanted to do. Verse 21 says they came to Philip and said, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Winter is for seeing and showing Christ. We want to see Jesus, they said. And I say, I do too. That is what I want to happen in my life this winter. I want to see him so clearly and so powerfully that I am changed from one degree of glory to another into his image so that I can show him to others more compellingly. Christmas is such a wonderful opportunity for us to point people to Jesus, and to grow closer to Him ourselves. As we buy gifts, we remember He is “the indescribable gift.” (2 Cor 9:15)
So did they get to see him—these Greeks? Most likely they did. But the way Jesus handled the request is probably not what they expected. They said, "We wish to see Jesus." So Philip and Andrew came and told Jesus (v. 22). Does he show himself to them? Yes he does. The same way he shows himself to us—with truth about himself that becomes a truth about us. This is the way Jesus appears in power: he gives truth about himself that exposes truth about us.
He says in verse 23,
So there are Greeks who want to see me? Here is the truth about me that matters for Greeks who want to see me and know me: The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
I am on my way to glory. I really will be something to see. They are right to want to see me. I will be the most glorious person to behold in the universe when my Father raises me from the dead and gives me a name which is above every name that at my name every knee will bow—including the Greeks and the barbarians. Yes, they are right to want to see me—and even want to be identified with me.
But here is a truth that they may not expect. Verse 24:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. This is a beautiful picture of the necessary sacrifice of Jesus. All you who are farmers know, unless a kernel of wheat is planted, it will not reproduce will it? Jesus had to die in order for His life to be reproduced in us, didn’t He? In order for us to bring glory to Him, he chose a pathway to glory through death. He said, “I will indeed bear much seed —including Greeks—But I will not and I cannot bear this seed any way but through dying. Tell the Greeks that I will not come to them now, because I have a hard work to do so that I might bear them as the seed of my life and ministry. If I leave the road I'm on to go and be seen by men, I will remain alone and you and the Greeks will not be saved. But if I go and die on my way to glory, then I will bear much seed—you will be saved and the Greeks will be saved, and all who believe in me will be saved.” This is what He wanted them to see. See Him dying. See Him bearing seed.
That is the truth about Jesus that he reveals to the Greeks. But now it also becomes a truth about us. Jesus' self- revelation is always a confrontation. He says in verses 25 and 26: my dying for your salvation is also my design for your imitation. If you want to see me, be prepared to become like me. This is what happens. Do you mean it? Do you say, "I wish to see Jesus"? Do you want it this morning? Jesus says, If you mean it — if you want to see me — prepare to become like me. Prepare to follow me on the road I am going.
So he says, (v. 25): He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me [Where? To Gethsemane and to Calvary and to the grave]; and where I am, there shall My servant also be [in the presence of my Father in glory]; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.
So Jesus begins with truth about himself—the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified and this will happen by the grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying. Then he makes the truth about himself a truth about his followers. Will we hate our lives in this world? Will we follow him on the straight and narrow path to Calvary? Will we serve the Son and reproduce? Will we let the truth about the Son of Man become truth about us? Will we plant the good seed of the gospel so others become His disciples?
This is the way we see Jesus and the way we show Jesus. He reveals himself to us as a Person who goes to glory and bears much seed by dying—by hating his life in this world. That's what we see. And then he says, Follow me. Die with me. Hate your life in this world with me. Serve me. And if we do, we show Christ to the world. Christ means to be seen by the Greeks and by every other people group in the world. And the way he means for it to happen is by our becoming like him so that others may see him in us (2 Corinthians 4:10).
Two things are unmistakable here. One is that this is hard. And the other is that this is glorious. Don't miss either of these. If you only see the hard part, you will miss the power and the freedom. If you only see the glorious part, you will minimize the sacrifice. So let me show you four hard things and four glorious things.
First, the hard things:
1. Verse 24: the grain of wheat must die. "Unless the grain of wheat fall into the ground and die . . . "
2. Verse 25: Jesus calls us to hate our lives in this world. "He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world . . . "
3. Verse 26a: Jesus calls us to follow him—on his Calvary road, leading to death. "If anyone serves me let him follow me . . . "
4. Finally, verse 26b: he calls us to serve him. To take the role of a waiter at his table to do his bidding, no matter what the demand or how lowly the status.
Now that is what it means to be a Christian, a disciple of Jesus. And it is hard. Jesus knew it would be hard. That's why he said in Matthew 7:14, "The gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few." It is hard to die to self. It is hard to hate your life. It is hard to follow Jesus on the road that leads to self-denial. It is hard to take the role of a servant in a world where servanthood is under-rated.
But it is also glorious. And the glory compensates for the hardness of it all. In fact the glory turns the hardness into the most significant life imaginable. Recently I was reading about the search for significance. Do you know the post-war baby-boomers are now between 50 and 65? And someone in Canada will turn 50 every 3 minutes. So the books are rolling off the press, because one thing we Baby Boomers know is how to do is cash in on our life-stages. Virtually all the books address the theme of significance. You're 50. You've made it in your career. Right Cheryl? How do you feel about it? Not so great. Well then, go for significance not success. That's the message.
It's a good message. The good news is that you 20-year-olds don't have to wait till you're 50 for a life of significance and you 70-year-olds don't have to think it's too late. The life Jesus is calling for here is deeply significant. It is glorious!
Here's the glory:
1. Verse 24: Yes the seed must die, but "if it dies it bears much fruit." The death is not in vain. It is significant. It bears fruit.
2. Verse 25: Yes, if we love our lives, we will lose them; and yes, we must hate our lives in this world. But why? What will be the outcome? That we may keep it to eternal life. "He who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal." What we lay down for Christ he will put in our hands again with glory. You cannot out-sacrifice his generosity!
3. Verse 26a: Yes, we must follow him to Calvary. But with what outcome? "And where I am, there shall my servant be." Jesus used those very words one other time (John 14:3), and he meant heaven: "I go to prepare a place for you that where I am there you may be also." If we follow him to Calvary, we will be with him in heaven.
4. Verse 26b: Yes, we must become his servants. But what does the Father do to his servants? "If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him."
So don't miss the glory in this hard life of being a Christian.
1. We die;
2. we hate our lives in this world;
3. we follow Jesus on the Calvary road;
4. we become servants.
And when we do, what we find is that
1. We bear much fruit;
2. we keep our lives for eternal life;
3. we join Jesus where he is in glory;
4. the Father honors us.
At least for this just - past-60-year-old, that sounds like the way I want to live the few remaining years I have left in this world, and how I want to spend eternity. I invite you to join me. It won't be easy, but it will be significant.
We are praying for revival in our fellowship and across Saskatchewan and around the world—that God would come in great self- evidencing power and make his church vibrant and strong and bold and joyful and radical in allegiance to him. When today’s key text (John 12:24–26) came to me, it came with the force of a warning and an invitation: beware of praying for revival. Why? Because before there will be revival, there is the dying to self. Beware of praying for great fruitfulness in ministry and in your personal life. Why? Because only if the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies does it bear much fruit. Know what you are asking. But if you are willing, I invite you to seek this. This is the most significant life there is on the planet. Not many are willing to even think about it. But I offer it to you in Jesus' name – significance! Real significance!.
So I have been asking myself earnestly, and I want you to ask yourself this morning, "What in me must die?" What must die for my life and ministry to bear more fruit? Is there a corporate dying that we have to go through in order to bear more fruit as a church? What in our church must die for us to bear more fruit? It's a scary question—personally and corporately.
It has a lot to do with love. Love is the topside of this dying. That is, what lives when all else dies - love. The more I thought about this issue of dying for the sake of fruit-bearing, the more I felt I needed to see the bigger picture of what it means to be a Christian. This word about dying and hating your life in this world is a central word. So let me show you what I mean.
There are two central points. First, if you are a Christian, you have already died. Dying is not a second or third stage in the Christian life. Dying is the meaning of becoming a Christian. Here is the key text: Galatians 5:24: Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Note the tense: if we belong to Christ (that is, if we are true Christians). Our flesh—that old rebellious, unbelieving, self-centered person we were apart from Christ—was crucified. That is, when we put our faith in Christ, we were united to him and what he experienced, we experienced. Romans 6:5 says: For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. His death became our death so that his life might become our life.
Don't panic here, thinking, "O that can't be, I still have some very rebellious, unbelieving, self-centered tendencies." Yes, me too. But do not let your experience become the main authority here. The Word of God says, "Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh." That is something we are called to believe and live by. But we are all in process. Right! God ain’t finished with us yet! Right? We are all being made holy by God. This is called sanctification, being set apart. And it is God’s work in us. And, He is faithful to do it. How do we know this? Turn to 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Consider the word in Colossians 3:3, You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
This is what happened to you when you became a Christian. This is the meaning of your baptism into the body of Christ.
We have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. Turn to Romans 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Becoming a Christian means death to the old and a newness of life, walking by faith with Christ. Paul put it like this in Galatians 2:20: I am crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.
My old unbelieving self died; the me that lives, lives by faith (moment-by-moment) in Christ.
So when I ask myself and you about dying as a means to revival, we must understand that we are not talking about becoming Christians all over again. We are not denying that something glorious has happened to us already and once for all time. It has. We have been joined to Christ by the Holy Spirit and we have died with him and are walking in newness of life in him. Our life is hid with Christ in God. Something eternal and magnificent and supernatural has happened.
So what am I asking, when I say, "What in me must die that I might be a more fruitful father and husband and pastor? What in us must die as a church for us to be more fruitful?" I said a moment ago that there are two straightforward points. The first was, if you are a Christian, you have already died.
Now the second one is: If you are a Christian, God calls you to die daily. Where do I find this second point in the Bible? First, I find it in the words of Jesus, Luke 9:23, If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. If you don't like paradoxes, God calls us to experience practically what is true about us positionally in Christ. In Christ we are dead to sin and our lives are hidden in Christ in God. Now because that is your position, put it into practice by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The word "daily" shows that following Jesus means a daily dying, not only a once-for-all dying. Each day I must experience in practice what is true positionally in Christ. I am once for all "crucified with Christ" and I have nailed my passions and desires of my sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there (Gal 5:24). That's my position. Therefore I must believe this reality and act on it and experience it. I must become in practice what I am in my position. The practice confirms the position.
In summary, Paul's letter to the Romans says in chapter 6, verse 5 that we "were united with [Christ] in the likeness of his death," and after saying in verse 6 that our "old self was crucified with him," he says in verse 11, "Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus." In other words, you are dead with Christ—that is your position; therefore demonstrate your position by your practice.
It's the same in Colossians 3. He says in verse 5, Therefore put to death the members [of your sinful body] immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed.
I want you to glory in what it means to be a Christian. You do not become a Christian by working away at all the things you must die to. You became a Christian by a decisive work of God. Your job is to make a decisive surrender to Jesus Christ through which, by faith in him, he becomes your your Lord. Then comes a life-long experience of becoming in practice what you are in position.
So what I am asking myself and you is this:
1. Is there something God is calling me to die to that I might experience more fully my position in Christ; that I might see Christ more clearly and show him to my neighbors and friends and family more compellingly?
2. Am I striving against my very nature as a Christian by trying to keep alive something God sentenced to death when I became a Christian?
3. Are my weaknesses as a father or a mother or a husband or a wife owing to something that needs to die in me—some old habit, some secret sin, some root of pride, some fear of looking silly, some desperate need for approval, some desire for wealth?
The Lord is showing me that loving each other is what this dying is all about. This morning let's just soberly ask ourselves the question: is there something that is hindering my fruitfulness in Christ—something that keeps me from seeing him and showing him—something that I need to die to? Lord, show us what it is; and we will obey Jesus and put it to death by the Spirit.
Now, have you used the Roman Road to salvation to lead someone to Christ this week? Have you shared it with an unsaved person this week? Have you at least thought about sharing it? The Great Commission of Jesus Christ in Matthew chapter 28, verses 19 and 20 is this: Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age." These are the actual words of our Savior – this is not a suggestion, it’s Jesus command. If we love Him, we will obey. If we don’t obey we are sinning. We show that we don’t love Him. We have a choice here – which will you choose?
Instead of reviewing the Roman Road to salvation again, I would like to introduce you to something new. Would the ushers please come forward and hand out these tracts to each person here. Keep in mind that, just like using the Roman Road, this is just a method to lead people to Christ. If you have a better method, keep on using it. If you don’t have a method, consider using this one. When you’re using “Steps to Peace with God, give one tract to the person you’re witnessing to and keep one yourself. Let’s go through it together now.
Our Father in heaven, we pray in the holy and mighty name of Jesus that you would grant us, your people, all boldness to speak Your Word. We pray that freedom of utterance be given us so that we would open our mouths to proclaim boldly the mystery of the Good News of the Gospel – that Jesus came to die for us, and He was raised from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:3-4) and that we might declare it boldly as each one of us knows we should.
Father, we believe that we receive that boldness now in the name of Jesus. Therefore, we have boldness to enter into the Holy of Holies by the blood of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Because of our faith in Him, we dare to have the boldness to approach You with freedom and without fear. We can draw fearlessly and confidently and boldly near to Your throne of grace and receive mercy and find grace to help in our every need. We are bold to pray. We come before Your throne with our petitions for our own needs and for the needs of those who do not know how to ascend to your throne.
We will be bold against Satan, his demons and evil spirits, sickness, disease, and poverty for we submit to Jesus as the Head of all rule and authority – of every angelic principality and power. Jesus disarmed those who are against us, Jesus made a bold display and public example of triumphing over them. We are bold to say, “Satan, you are a defeated foe, for our God reigns!” James 4:7)
We take comfort, encouragement, and confidence as we leave this place today. You are our helper; we will not fear or dread or be terrified. What can man do to us? We dare to proclaim the Word toward heaven, toward hell, and toward earth. We are bold as lions for we have been made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. We are complete in You, Lord Jesus! Praise the name of Jesus! Amen.