John 12:24 Unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But, if it dies, it produces many seeds.
Luke 9:23 Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
I have been thinking a lot lately about these two verses of scripture. I remember when I first got saved. I was made aware of a place called Hell. I heard John 3:16. God made a way for me to not go to Hell through His Son, Jesus. Just believe in Him and everything is cool. So, I said a prayer, believed in Him, and thought everything was cool.
Now, 20 years later, I’m trying to figure out when I died. When I died, Jesus became number one on my list of priorities. He went above my family. He went above my finances. He went above my hobbies. I’m trying to figure out when that happened.
Looking back, I think it happened in stages. Stage one of me dying involved leaving “bar band” guitar playing. My whole high school life I wanted to be a famous rock guitarist. Even though I knew that was my dream, I knew it wasn’t God’s dream for me. I knew I could not honor Him in that atmosphere. Given all the temptations that life brings…I’d give in to them all. Though it was grudgingly, I’ll never forget giving up what I wanted to focus on college and getting my education. Dying was no fun at all, but it did begin to sprout a tree that would eventually bear fruit. New life began to spring up because I had finally allowed my seed to die.
Stage two of dying came a couple of years into my marriage. I was starting to get really good at golf. I shot a few rounds in the 60’s, and could often shoot around par. Somehow, golf started taking God’s place. I wouldn’t have told you that, but golf was always on my mind. Today, God is on my mind ALL the time. I look for opportunities in the most ridiculous ways to honor Him. Unfortunately back then, I was looking for ways to honor me…especially if it could be done on the golf course. I distinctly remember a time when I told God that I was sorry for putting a game in His rightful place. Another selfish part of me died that day. I didn’t like it at the time…but I’m sure grateful for it now. Here sits a guy that used to wait for frozen greens to thaw so I could hit a white ball…it would be very hard to convince me to do that today.
There are tons and tons of examples that have come to my mind. I guess the point is…dying is no fun. We all want to do what we want to do! Who wants to die to themselves? But, that is precisely the invitation that Jesus offers. He says “give up your life and the things you want to do, and place your life in my hands and do the things I want you to do.” Have you completely surrendered your life to Him?
If the answer is no, have you really “received” Him? Name one thing that it has cost you to follow Him. Has it cost you friends? Has it cost you a boyfriend or girlfriend? Has it cost you the “party” life? Has it cost you a vocabulary of foul words? Has it cost you the right to be “right” and forgive those you really don’t want to forgive? Has it cost you any money? Has it cost you any “things” that this life has to offer?
I don’t know. I just know that these verses were said by the same Jesus that said John 3:16. About 5 times you can find that Jesus says “believe in me.” About 20 times He says “follow me.” Which do you think is more important? I realize it all begins with believing. But, it sounds to me like it is 4 times more important to start following after you claim belief. Even though dying stinks, those seeds that die in the ground begin to grow. They begin to grow and produce something wonderful. Something that could only be produced if God Himself grew it. You start to figure it out pretty quick…
Dying to yourself is actually pretty cool!