Some of Christ's hardest teachings are found in the 12th chapter of John's Gospel. This is undoubtedly where He lost a lot of his followers. What was so repulsive about His message? Find out now.
Here Am I, Lord . . . Bury Me
It was early in the morning, July 4, 1952, with fog hanging thick in the air, when a young woman named Florence Chadwick waded into the water off Catalina Island. She intended to become the first woman to swim the channel from the island to the California coast...Later she said in an interview, "If I could only have seen the land I might have made it." It wasn't the cold or exhaustion, or fear of sharks - it was the fog.
I am convinced that the reason more and more Christians are asking to be taken out of the waters of growth and challenge is not because of exhaustion, or cold or the fear of sharks or lack of support - but because a fog has settled in.
A fog that has obscured our vision of God's goal.
We are, as Howard Hendricks once said in class, like a poor photograph. The Christian community is overexposed to the light and underdeveloped. The blessings can become a curse. We are inundated today with books and seminars and conferences and sermons and tapes and pamphlets and lectures on the how to's and the wherefores and the whatsoevers. Underneath it all we've lost sight of the goal.
We need to clear the fog and go back to God's basic goal.
John chapter 12, beginning with verse 22 serves as a Divine fog remover - it clears the picture perfectly and from this chapter TWO IRREVOCABLE GOALS clearly discernable.
GOAL #1 - God's goal for His son is that He experience death on a cross. GOAL #2 - God's goal for His children is that they experience death to self.
Now if you remember in our last discussion, the Greeks had come to Jesus for an in-depth discussion of his Messianic claims, perhaps wondering if Gentiles had any place in that Messianic Kingdom.
Jesus responds by saying, 23. "The hour has come. . ." Now that's a change from what we've heard Him say in our previous studies.
In John 2:4, Jesus said, "Mine hour is not yet come."
In John 7:30 we read that "They sought to seize Him, but no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come." In John 8:20, "They wanted to seize Him but didn't because His hour had not yet come." NOW! John 12:23"The hour has come."
For what? Well, Christ says, "For the Son of Man to be glorified." Now you would expect Christ to say, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be crucified." Right?! But He says here, "for the Son of Man to be glorified." Jesus Christ was looking past the crucifixion to the final outcome.
Look over at verse 27. Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, "Father, save Me from this hour?" But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28. "Father, glorify Thy name," There came therefore a voice out of heaven; "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." 29. The multitude therefore, who stood by and heard it, were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, "An angel has spoken to Him." 30. Jesus answered and said, "This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. 31. Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be case out. (that is, Satan's chief weapon against fallen humanity -death - is about to be defeated forever) 32. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." Notice John's explanation in verse 33. But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.
In other words, Jesus is saying, "You lift me up from the earth onto a Roman cross and you will not silence me - in fact, that cross will become a lighthouse beacon that will extend a worldwide invitation to follow me as Messiah.
Everything else aside, my goal for coming to earth was to die on a cross. . .and I'm going to accomplish it.
Now, Jesus in three brief sentences, and three principles, forever removes the fog of what God's goal for His children is...what it means to follow Him.
Principle #1: If you want a flourishing life, you have to be willing to die. Oh, how Jesus turns the world's wisdom on its ear!
v. 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.
The truth is, God's children are like seeds. Left alone we are small and insignificant, but His life is within us and when we die to ourselves our lives flourish with fruit.
:the fruit of the spirit :the fuit of evangelism
:the fuit of disciplehsip :the fruit of salt and light producing effects
BUT GOD, I don't want to be a seed.
Do you know why? Do you know why it's somewhat frightening...intimidating to say "Here am I Lord, bury me?
I believe there are two primary reasons it's difficult to volunteer to be one of God's seeds.
First of all, your giving Him the right to determine what kind of seed you are and what kind of fruit you will produce.
Down the street from where I live, a family has recently planted a garden. It's a perfect garden - everything is neatly arranged and kept...I thought later, imagine all those seeds in the ground, just after he's planted them - if they could talk - can you imagine hearing a tomato seed over in the corner talking - "I don't want to be a tomato plant when I grow up - I want to be a corn stalk now that's living high in the garden; man the corn stalk grows strong and tall - we have to be propped up with sticks; they make me itch; the corn bears more fruit than we do and it's closer to the sunlight; people notice corn - Oh I want to be corn, I think I can, I think I can...
Lord, I'm your seed - you've determined what kind I am and what I'll produce - you've made me quiet instead of vocal, you've obscured me from sight rather than put me up front - Here am I Lord bury me."
The second reason it is difficult to voluntarily become one of God's seeds: is because you are then giving God the right to plant you wherever He wants.
"You want to bury me where?! Lord I'm comfortable with my little life - I have a little seed house, a little car to carry me and all my seedlings around in. . .you want to take me out and bury me?! Surely there must be an easier way to bear fruit!"
And some of you are hiding from God the gardener - oh, not overtly, not indignantly, but you have communicated a message from your heart that reads, "This seed is not for burial". And keep away from my little seedlings as well - I want them close to me where we can all enjoy our fruitless, barren lives together.
Perhaps if a little seed could talk it would complain about being put into the cold, dark earth. . .but that's the only way it can ever fulfill it's created role . . . the only way flourish with fruit!
On January 12, 1722, Jonathan Edwards, whose preaching brought about the first Great Awakening, wrote in his diary: "I have been before God, and have given myself, all that I am and have, to God; so that I am not, in any respect, my own...neither have I any right to this body or any of its members - no right to this tongue, these hands, these feet; no right to these senses, these eyes, these ears, this smell, or this taste. I have given myself clear away and have not retained any thing as my own."
Edwards was saying, "Lord, I'm volunteering to be a seed in your hand. . .even though I might want to be somewhere else, doing something else, becoming someone else. . .here am I, bury me.
Principle #1 - If you want a flourishing life, you have to be willing to die. Principle #2: If you want a fulfilled life, you have to be willing to forfeit control. Notice verse 25.
You need to circle the key word "life". "He who loves his life loses
it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal.
Now this verse is difficult to understand simply becuase the english reader is at a disadvantage. The word life, which appears three times in this verse is actually two different original words, with two different meanings.
The first two times it appears it is the word psuche, which refers to the life of the mind, emotions and will - we refer to those as functions of the soul. The last time it appears it is the word zoe which, when joined with the word, eternal, refers to divine life.
So Jesus is saying, "He who loves his own mind emotions and will -that is, his own plans, ambitions and self-interests, will destroy himself.
Now you may have noticed the use of strong words: "He who loves his life. . .He who hates his life..." The words, love and hate and opposites extremes. Jesus used the same terms when he said in Matthew 10:37, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
What does He mean. First of all he is using the language of exaggerated contrast. Hate means simply to "love less." "Love" simply means to place first.
So we could expand this verse with what we've just learned into this amplified translation; Jesus is saying this, "He who gives first place to his own mind, emotions and will destroy himself; but whoever gives first place to me will ultimately experience life worth living forever."
George Mueller lived in England several generations ago and founded orphanages. . .Once, when he was asked the secret of his ministry he replied, "There was a day when I died - died to George Mueller, his opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame of my friends; and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God. What did Mueller do - he forfeited control, and ultimately lived a fulfilled life!
Lord, I'll abandon my will to yours, but first let me see how it balances in my checkbook; let me see some guarantees that your plans will really work better than mine.
The interesting thing is that Jesus Christ never adopted the popular methods of recruitment. Modern recruitment tells you that if you will sign, enlist, join, you will get what you want. Jesus is telling us that if we want to serve him we won't get to do what we want, we get to do what He wants. And we discover that in doing what he wants we actually accomplish what we really want -and following Him liberates us from our selfish society and self-centered natures that constantly advertize for us to do what we want, be what we want, and go where we want, and live for what we want.
Think of what he could have said: Follow me and I'll show you some amazing miracles. Follow me and you'll walk on water; follow me and you'll see things you've never seen before.
No! Instead of majoring on the benefits and blessings, the thrills and excitement, the adventure and advantages of being His disciples, Jesus said, "Do you want to follow me?" Yes Lord! "Then are you ready to die to your own ambitions, are you ready to forfeit personal control. . .?!
He is asking for everything!
J. Oswald Sanders included in his book on discipleship a story of a German village organist..."My name is Felix Mendelssohn."
Ladies and Gentlemen, we must allow our Master Creator - Musician to slip onto the bench, pull out the stops at His will, select the musical score, determine the speed and volume, press the pedals, glide his hands over the keyboards - He is the only one who can really make music out your life. . .so get off the bench and let Him play!
That's what hating your life means; that's what being buried means - you abdicate the bench and let Him play.
Principle #3: If you want to be honored as royalty, you have to be willing to live like a slave.
If I could add to your notes three summary words it would be these:
v. 24 in one word is expendability. Here am I, bury me.
v. 25 could give us the word - priority - my will is despised in
comparison to your will.
v. 26 would provide the word - ownership - the key words in this verse are "my servant".
Let's read it - v. 26. 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.
Did you notice what does a servant do - he serves his master - first part of verse 26 and then he follows his master.
It's a matter of ownership!
We're facing the results of a subtle shift that has now taken the Christian community by force. A generation ago, the average Christian would pray, "Lord, use me. Today the average Christian prays, "Lord enrich me." Fifty years ago the common prayer was, Lord, consume me according to your will" Today, "Lord, bless me according to my will."
The principle of ownership is when God makes the demands and we do the obeying.
The reason I believe we have it turned around is becuase we expect that wherever we decide to go - God will failthfully tag along. Whatever we decide to do, God will loayally stamp it with His approval. If that is true, then God is our servant! Oh no, wherever He goes, we follow, whatever he decides, we approve and obey.
At a conference in South Carolina, a young woman was giving testimony to her commitment to serve God. In the course of her testimony she held up a blank sheet of paper, saying that it contained God's plan for her life. The only writing on it was her signature at the bottom. Then she said, "I have accepted God's will without knowing what it is, and I am leaving it to Him to fill in the details."
That woman had become a slave to the ownership of God's will -the eternal truth is, she will one day be honored as royalty.
Now after hearing all of what Christ demands from this passage, you and I could tend to be discouraged - being a disciple is a long haul - its a rugged task based on abandonment to God's will -that's why I believe Jesus slips in a couple of incentives:
Incentive #1 is the promise of a special communion
v. 26a. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be.
Now school just ended. My dear wife has our three elementary kids on top of our 7 month old daughter. Summer is here; it's an exciting time for Mom's all across America. So, in order to get the first week of summer started off right, I suggested that to my kids that is they behaved, I'd take the three of them to the golfing range - not just for me - our family loves to play putt putt golf. You should see us - five fiercely competitive people - we add up the score every other hole to see who's winning. Last time out I won both times. I kept the score. They have been begging me to teach them how to hit a golf ball off a tee. And I did -sure enough they hit it just like me - it starts out straight and then it begins to curve toward the woods and then lands just in front of the ladies tee. I like'd playing with my kids - I could hit it further than they could.
Now, if my children had misbehaved all week and run their mother to the ragged edge - they would not have ceased to become our children - a tempting thought - they would have lost an opportunity for some special communion between father and child.
They would have regretted and even more so - I would have!
Theyhad been looking forward to it all week - Saturday came - RAIN came. . .we drove over the rain . . .
We had a blast.
You want special communion with the Lord - look at the condition in verse 26 again, "IF anyone serves Me, let him follow, and where I am,
there shall My servant also be."
Special fellowship for servants only.
Incentive #2 is the promise of a coming, special commendation!
Look again at the last part of the verse - 26b. "IF anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him (future tense)."
Now I believe that there will be degrees of rewards in heaven just as I believe the Bible teaches there are degrees of punishment in hell.
Those of us who've invited Jesus Christ into our lives as Savior may live more obediently than others. God notices and has determined what we call the bema seat to reward us according to our deeds.
For some, they will see their lives burn up before them as wood hay and stubble - that is their lives amounted for nothing and never brought any glory to God.
Others will receive rewards of precious gems; crowns to give back as gifts to our Sovereign Lord.
That's the incentive Jesus uses here for prospective seeds; "if anyone serves Me, the Father takes note & will honor him."
Honor is the word "timao" which refers to reward; compensation; esteem.
The best way to illustrate this thought is from the graduation line -Now everyone who graduates is excited - everyone of our graduates last weekend that we had in our church were honored -because they graduated. But walking down that graduation line there were some in the line who had cause for special joy, because they had received the reward of honors (cum laude); high honors (magna cum laude); highest honors (summa cum laude). And then from among them was one who received valedictorian. There is a different depth of joy altogether.
We will all be thrilled to be on the border of heaven - but there will be special commendation for some!
Expendability, priority and ownership.
Those three words have the unique capability of clearing away the fog.
EXPENDABILITY - "I'm expendable - do with me what you want. You've given me a spiritual gift to be used in your assembly - your church - I haven't been doing anything but sitting - I'm willing to serve."
PRIORITY - "You become my priority so that I can say, I will seek first your kingdom, not mine." You've given me financial resources to be used in the ministry of your church - I haven't given anything really - I'm too busy financing my own kingdom - I'll start financing yours - you're first."
OWNERSHIP - "And you take ownership of me Lord - You are no longer treated as my servant, I am yours"
And Jesus says, if you will do these things, one day, My Father will honor you - He will reward you."
And for all of eternity you and I will be forever glad for the day we said,
HERE AM I LORD. . .BURY ME! BURY ME!
I Have Decided to follow Jesus. . .
The world behind me, the cross before me. . .