I have been consumed this week by the sermon Richard Smith gave last Sunday at his church, Hope Point Church (Richard's Sermon). His sermon was centralized on John 12:23-26. It was one of those sermons that felt like I had been hit right between the eyes. And, it was a great hit at that.
All week, I have thought about dying. Not dying in the physical sense but dying to self. It is the kind of death that actually leads to life. That life is the kind of life I want to live.
Jesus tells us (John 12:24) that for a seed to live and bear fruit, it must first die. Otherwise, it will never amount to anything. In this case, death comes before life, not vice versa. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die”. Following Jesus requires death to self and I cannot find a middle ground.
Seeds have the potential to bear fruit. Once a seed dies, whatever that seed is internally is what it will ultimately produce externally. We are all seeds. The question is, are we willing to die in the manner outlined in John 12:24-26? Are we willing to give up following the world, comfort and security for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom?
John Piper states, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exist because worship does not”. For the lost world to worship, the body of Christ must engage in missions so that all peoples in all places have the opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel. The Great Commission is not the Great Suggestion. It is what Jesus calls us to be engaged in while we are on this earth.
Death, seeds and missions must work in tandem with one another. To be a seed that God uses, we must first die to self. Dying to self is required because Jesus states in John 12:26, “…where I am, there will my servant be also”. To be where Jesus is, is to end up at a cross and on mission with Christ. To follow Jesus is to be where Jesus is. Being where Jesus is, is imperative to fulfilling the Great Commission.
Facing a cross requires dying to self and total reliance on Christ. Crosses are ugly. The cross was never intended to be a beautiful piece of jewelry. Crosses will test everyone and devour those facing it on their own strength. As a result, dying to self and total reliance on Christ is imperative to face crosses successfully.
This world needs the body of Christ. They need us to die to self. They need us to be where Christ is. They need us to follow Christ to our cross, not just look at the cross of Christ for personal salvation. They need us to love them so much that we are willing to go to the ends of the earth for them, no matter what it cost us.
Death to self is imperative to fulfilling the Great Commission. Being the seed that dies so that others may live is necessary for living on mission with God. For a Christian to choose not to die to self and live for Christ may just prove who they really are.
Each one of us is a seed, a seed for Christ or a seed for the world. How we live gives evidence to our seed reality. Which one are you?
Steve Schirmer, President of Silk Road Catalyst and co-Host of Missions Talk. Least Reached Advocate. Dedicated to No Place Left.