Life Through Death Sermon Series Sermon #2 January 3, 2016
Sermon: “Life and Fruitfulness Through Dying to Self”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
“Unless you lose your life, you will die, but if you let go of your life and your self, you will have true and eternal life.” That sounds like a strange paradox, but it is what Jesus Christ teaches us. Our Lord Jesus Christ says to us that unless you die and lose your life, you will be unfruitful and you will not experience the real life that you were created for. What did he mean?
Last Sunday I began a series entitled “Life through Death.” In the gospel of Jesus Christ, we find that what the world thinks is essential must be thought of as rubbish, and traded in for what the Lord says is full of true joy, glory, and riches. That is, we need to find true life in Christ by dying to the things which can never give life. Last week we looked at the parables of the treasure hidden in a field and the pearl of great price in a message called “Reconsider your Treasure.”
Today we want to get to the heart of this Biblical principle of Life and Fruitfulness through Death, specifically through dying to self.
Look at John 12:23-26 23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone [only a single seed]. But if it dies, it produces many seeds [it bears much fruit]. 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”
I’d like us to focus on v. 24. Jesus is taking a natural principle that we know from gardening and farming and teaching us a deeper spiritual truth that applies both to Himself and to all who follow Him in faith. For by dying in the ground, the life contained in that single seed is unleashed, as it comes alive, and becomes a plant that bears much fruit. Some of us experience this every summer when we plant seeds in our gardens. By burying the seed in the soil, the seed decomposes, only to sprout up into a plant that amazingly bears hundreds of pieces of delicious vegetables (with hundreds of more seeds inside each one!)
This process is so familiar to us that we are blind to this mystery! Think about it: in this world created by our life-giving God, we know that life comes through death, and death is the means of life and fruitfulness!
But this principle of life though death is clearly seen not only in our gardens; it is also seen in the death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ, and it is something that we ourselves have experienced, as we have died to ourselves and found a new and fruitful life in Christ!
Turn to 1 Cor. 15:36. The Apostle Paul is rebutting those who deny the resurrection, and so he writes: “You fools! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” Paul goes on to use the same argument from nature, regarding the necessity of a seed dying in the ground, in order to come to life and produce fruit. Paul argues that in the same way, those who have the life of Jesus Christ in them by faith, will rise from the dead, when their bodies are “planted” in the ground, after they die, when Jesus Christ comes back in power and in glory.
And while the apostle is speaking especially of the resurrection of the body, yet in so doing he enunciates a wider, more universal truth, that death is the way to life, and that the dying to self and self-righteousness is the way to salvation and fullness in Christ’s life.
“What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” Strange words—and most marvelous truth! Yet this is one of most obvious of nature’s laws; so that a man must be a fool, if he has not seen that law in the every-day processes of sowing and springing. And as it is with the seed, so is it with man himself.
It is by means of acknowledging our own darkness that we see Christ’s light.
It is by humbling our sinful pride that God raises and exalts us.
It is by sinking down into the depths of the valley that we find our way up to the mountains of immortality beyond.
It is by dying that we are made to live—to live forever. The life that lasts—the life that is truly immortal and eternal—is only obtained by dying: dying to self, to self-righteousness, to sinful pride…as we trust our gracious God to raise us anew, in the resurrection of His precious Son.
Going back to John 12:24, we see that it is not merely life that is reached through death, but fruitfulness as well, that is reached through death. Death to self is the parent of fruitfulness, while seeking to hold on to your ego-centered life is to remain unfruitful. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop.”
Horatius Bonar said in a sermon (in 1867):
It is as if Jesus said, “Look at that grain of wheat; it contains in it both life and fruitfulness; but these are locked up, imprisoned in it; nor can they be set loose, so as to unfold and multiply themselves, except by death. The fruitfulness which is in it must remain all folded up and lost, unless death comes in to break up its prison. It is life which is keeping it from living, and multiplying, and replenishing the earth. The outer life is imprisoning the inner life, and not until that outer life has perished can the inner life flow out upon the world.
Thus death to self is God’s instrument for opening prisons and unloosing chains.
John White, in his book, The Cost of Commitment, writes that “Jesus is going to win power not by grasping for it but by laying down his life for others. Indeed throwing away one’s life is the only way to find it.” Jesus is not teaching that suffering is in itself virtuous. His conduct was guided by obedience to the Father and love for mankind. Both principles demanded that when the time was ripe He had to face the cross. He was ready to “hate” his own life; that is, to value something else infinitely more than physical life itself.
“Faced with a choice between preserving your life and obeying God you choose obedience. You choose it because your relationship to God is more important than life.”
So I urge you to ask yourself: Am I willing and ready to die, for Christ? Am I willing to lose what I am trying to hold onto, for the gospel, and for my gain? Is it because I am afraid of dying to self and losing what I have in this life that actually makes me spiritually anemic?
Remember the words of Paul in Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives within me.”
Therefore unless you lose your life, you will die, but if you let go of your life and your self, you will have true and eternal life, in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.