Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Jesus was soon to be crucified. He knew it was coming, but those around Jesus just couldn’t grasp what was going to take place. Some Greeks wanted to see Jesus, and when they got to Him, He talked about a grain of wheat falling to the ground. Jesus was talking about His own upcoming death, but He was also telling us that’s the way we should live. A plant doesn’t grow unless a seed dies first. That’s a funny topic for Jesus to discuss with people he just met, but He got to the point because His pathway to glory was through death. And He wanted us to know that if we want to follow Him, our pathway to glory is also through death.
The Christian life is about living–eternal life, abundant life, and new life. But it is also about dying–dying to self and losing our life so we can find it in the end. The dying part has to do with really counting yourself dead, dead to your rights, dead to your ambitions, and dead to your life goals. In Galatians 2:20, Paul writes “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” In other words, “I died and now my life is Jesus’ life.” And in 1 Corinthians 15:31 Paul said, “I die daily.” It’s like God puts up a sign for us: “Wanted: Dead and Alive.”
So what does that look like in everyday life? It can mean sacrificing time and money for others, rather than just doing what you want for yourself. It could also mean not being self absorbed, only talking about yourself and then moving on when you’re done. Instead, you listen to others and take interest in what they have to say. The things that God may call you to do might be hard, or even dangerous. It could mean loss of friends and family because you’re now a Jesus follower, loss of money because what He’s calling you to do isn’t lucrative, or loss of self because it’s not glamorous in our culture’s eyes.
For some Christians, it means actual death. A Christian guy I knew, Bart, spent time ministering to young men in a rough city neighborhood. He had one guy come and live with him for a period of time. Bart wasn’t seen for a couple of days. Two guys went to his house looking for him, and there they found him dead. The young man had killed him and took the little money that Bart had. As Jim Elliott said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Wanted: Dead and Alive.
One more example:
In the biographical book, We Died Before We Came, Stephen Foreman preached a sermon before he and his wife Emily and their family left the United States to minister in a North African country. He ended up losing his life only months later to an Al Keida gunman. This is an excerpt of his sermon:
When James Calvert went out as a missionary to the cannibals of the Fiji islands, the ship captain tried to turn him back, saying, “You’ll lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among those savages.” To that Calvert replied, “We died before we came here.” That’s my question for us again tonight. Are you dead yet? Dead to yourself, dead to your own desires, dead to fear? Are we alive in Christ? My desire is that when people see your life, when they see my life, they will see Christ, and Christ alone. Let us live our lives as if they weren’t our own lives. To truly be strangers in this world. To be aliens in this world. Our citizenship is in Heaven.
Do you have something worth dying for, living for, or moving for?