Today we'll further explore why we should follow Jesus no matter what time of year it is. In John 12:25, Jesus says, "Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."
Just what does this mean?
It means we must recognize that living for ourselves will never supply what we really want out of life. We could gain all the material abundance this world has to offer, praise from millions, and worldwide recognition, but in the end, we'd have nothing. As the saying goes, you can't take it with you. We must die to self and surrender our lives to Jesus. We must have an eternal focus.
It isn't about having our best life now. Did Paul enjoy his best life now when he was beaten, imprisoned, stoned, shipwrecked, and martyred? Or what about Jesus? Did He enjoy His best life now when He was beaten, flogged, mocked, and crucified? And what about the martyrs down through the ages? Definitely not!
We must battle the desire for more possessions, more recognition, an easier life. If we love the things of this world instead of loving Christ, John says, the love of the Father is not in us (1 John 2:15).
We must daily take up our cross and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). We must refuse to be self-centered and become Christ-centered. We must embrace humility and set aside pride. We must live for God's glory by submitting our thoughts, words, and deeds to the lordship of Christ.
Because believers are new creations, we can live this way. But it isn't a one-time thing. We must be on guard every day. A. T. Pierson said, "Getting rid of the 'self-life' is like peeling a life-long onion: layer upon layer—and it's a tearful process!"
Jesus is the ultimate example of living a self-sacrificial life. Paul says this in Ephesians 5:2, "... walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
The world sees love as self-serving. But love isn't about self-fulfillment, and it's not self-seeking. It's self-sacrificing. It's a commitment that seeks the highest good, which many times requires dying to self. Only believers can love this way because this type of love is the mark of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (John 13:35; Galatians 5:22) within.
What does this kind of love look like?
First, we must recognize that we are not the ruler of our own life. First Corinthians 6:19-20 says, "You are not your own; you were bought with a price." Even before we became believers, we were not rulers of our own life. We were slaves to sin, slaves to the father of lies, the devil. But because of Christ, we've been purchased by His blood. We now belong to Jesus. Our lives are His.
The first step in experiencing true life is surrendering our so-called claim to ourselves and surrender everything to Christ to do what He says. It's shattering our plans and ambitions. In ways, it feels like death—because it is. It's dying to self.
Secondly, it's actually dying to self. We must constantly work on doing what's right in God's eyes. The more we die to self, the easier it'll be to do so. Then, we will begin to experience greater joy and peace that nothing can take away. We'll be able to love people we never thought we could love. We'll be able to do this because Christ increasingly becomes the Lord of our life.
Jesus uses the symbol of a grain of wheat not only to describe Himself but also His followers. Think of wheat for a moment. What if that grain could choose for itself whether to be buried in the cold, dark earth? If it decided it loved itself just as it was, it would never reach its full potential. Nor will we.
Three thousand-year-old wheat was found in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs. Upon examination, it was unchanged after all that time. It even began to grow after it was planted. Sometimes, change doesn't happen for a long time, but it can still happen.
But what if that grain decided to believe it could become more? What if it allowed itself to be buried? It would still be dark and lonely. At times, as change took place, it would be confusing and painful. But one day, it would notice a small white sprout that hadn't been there before. Things were truly changing. The grain of wheat was transforming.
And soon after, the young plant would push through the soil and feel the warmth of the sun. It would continue to grow and change, moving toward its full potential. And when that stalk of wheat reached maturity, the grains of wheat it produced would eventually become a field of wheat, spreading out farther and farther.
That's the life of the believer. That's the life of self-sacrificial devotion to Christ. We die to self, and not only do we experience great joy and peace from Christ but also the seeds of the gospel spread through us.
We must ask ourselves some questions: Am I willing to wake up every day and be who Christ has called me to be? Am I willing to turn over my life to the will of God day by day? Am I willing to follow Christ, not only when I experience His blessings but also when life gets hard? Am I willing to die to self to display the love of Christ to the world?
Dying to self is a hard calling, but it is the only way we can reach our full potential. As Christians, the Holy Spirit gives us the desire and the ability to do so a little more each day. We must look to the Lord—and His Word in order to take up our cross and die to self.
"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" (John 12:24).