If Anyone Serves Me, Let Him Follow Me

"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor."

John 12:24-26

Jesus said this after He arrived in Jerusalem shortly before His crucifixion. I think it's pretty plain what the first sentence implies. Jesus is speaking of His death, saying that it's necessary that He should die in order to produce much grain. What is that grain? It's nothing less than our life...both abundance of life here on earth, and also that eternal life we all look forward to. The fruit that His death brings is the reconciliation of man and God, the defeat of the sin and death that separates us from Him.

As an aside, I find it very interesting that in the gospels Jesus explained deep spiritual truths using pictures here on earth. At this time Jesus was hinting at His crucifixion and ultimately what it would accomplish...so what does He do? He tells them a little story about farming to convey this truth. This is the mark of a brilliant communicator: using simple illustrations to make very complicated and abstract truths accessible (and applicable) for the average person. No one was (is) better at it than Jesus.

As for the second sentence in our text, I wanted to see if I could get a little more out of the verse by looking up some words in the original language. Sometimes doing this will yield a certain richness in the verse, something that is hard to pick up due to a deficiency in the English language. The only thing I really found was this: in the first two instances of the word "life," the Greek word "psuche" is used, but the last instance where Jesus speaks of life eternal the Greek word "zoe" is used. What's the significance of this? I don't know...at least not yet. And that's another aspect of studying the Bible: sometimes to unlock certain mysteries in the scriptures that you don't understand takes awhile. I think it stems from the fact that we don't need to know everything before or while we follow Jesus. As a matter of fact, there will be things we don't quite get that we just have to take by faith. Perhaps we don't understand this or that, but we just have to trust Him.

This second sentence though did remind me of another verse. I went searching for it and actually found it in two different places in Matthew:

"He who finds his life will lose it; and he who loses his life for My sake will find it." Matthew 10:39

"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" Matthew 16:24-26

Although the wording of these verses are slightly different than the text in John, they convey the same truth. I find it significant that these verses are found in the same gospel. When things are repeated like this, it's good to pay a little closer attention.

I take these verses to mean that as a person lives his life for himself, consumed by his own pursuits, his life is shallow and hollow, having little meaning or significance on the eternal scale of things. But as a person lives out Romans 12:1,2, presenting his life to God for His use (thus dying to his own pursuits), it is then that he finds out what it means to truly live. His life, being found in God, has true meaning and significance.

As a school teacher, I see a lot of young people get encouraged to go for this dream or that dream, get asked, "What do you want to do with your life?", and so on. But for me, it's not so much a matter of "What do you want to do with your life?" as it is God speaking, "I want to do something with your life. Do you trust Me to do it? And do you believe that if you die to your own pursuits, you will find out what it means to truly live? And if you do this, do you believe that you will bear much fruit?"

The last sentence of our text in John says that if anyone wants to serve Him, let him follow Jesus. Where? Follow Him into death. It then goes on to say that the servant will be where the Master is. Where is He? His death led to His resurrection: He came into that true life He had been speaking about in the previous sentences. And as the servant follows Him into death, so also will the servant be following Him into life. And if anyone serves Him in this fashion, we have the promise that the Father will honor that servant.

A number of years ago my wife and I felt a call to go to California to Bible college. Living in Indiana that was a big thing for us. We were just starting out in our married lives together. We had bought a house, I had a teaching job, and she had a job doing hair. So what did we do? We got rid of our car, our house, and our jobs, bought an '83 Coachmen motorhome (complete with orange shag carpet!), and moved to California. On the way out the engine blew and we had to spend over half of what we had saved to buy a new engine. Nevertheless, we got there and lived in that thing for several months.

We believe God honored us greatly because of that act of faith (which on the outside looks like a really stupid thing to do). We now live in a house that I built (one of my childhood dreams was to build a house) that is three times as large, I have that same job back, and my wife is blessed to be working with her mom at her business. We have truly been honored for our obedience.




Anyone who Trusts in Him is Acquitted

When studying God's Word for treasure, it can be really helpful to look at other translations. Lately I've been mosying through John, looking at some difficult scriptures, thinking them through, and trying to get an idea of what Jesus is saying. Oftentimes I find myself saying the same thing as Nicodemus: "What do you mean?" (John 3:9, NLT)

Check out what The Message (more or less a paraphrase rather than a literal translation) says in John 3:17, 18:

God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

Wow! What a cool way of putting it: anyone who trusts in Him is acquitted. The phraseology actually reminds me of the fundamental teachings of Romans. How cool.

Here is a definition of acquitted I found on www.dictionary.com:

"declared not guilty of a specific offense or crime; legally blameless"

How awesome it is to know that as I put my trust in Jesus that I'm acquitted of all I've done. His blood causes me to be "legally blameless," and because of that, I can enter into the kingdom of God!




A Prayer

In Acts 6:7 it says (in the KJV): "And the word of God increased; and the number of disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly...."

Lord, I ask that Your word be increased here in this area...and may New Life Fellowship be a part of that. Lord, use us to increase Your word greatly in this community, and as a result, may the number of disciples in Lagrange county multiply greatly. We look to You in humble dependence to do all these things through us, as we can, of ourselves, do nothing.



Whatever He Says to You, Do It

As I was reading John 2 this morning, I thought about Jesus' miracle at the wedding feast. It was there that He performed His first miracle, turning water into wine for a wedding party that had run out.

Mary came to Jesus and told Him about it. Jesus said something to her about it not being His time to be revealed. Then Mary turned to the servants who were in charge of serving at this feast and said something very simple, yet profound: "Whatever He says to you , do it."

I love what is written next. Jesus said, "Fill the waterpots with water." And they filled them up to the brim.

What a neat little picture of full and complete obedience. Jesus said fill them up, and they did....not halfway, not 3/4 full, but up to the brim.

In the NLT, the verse that follows says, "He said, 'Dip some water out and take it to the master of ceremonies.'" So they followed His instructions.


Obedience is easy to talk and write about, but when Jesus gives us a directive, how incredibly difficult it can be to listen and obey! May our hearts be similar to those servants' hearts; not asking questions, not doubting, and doing what we've been asked to do with full and complete obedience. May we also follow His instructions as He gives them to us. May we say to our Lord, 'Yes, I'll do it," and then actually do it.