March 18 I Thursday
“Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” —John 12:24
Christians often talk about the abundant life they receive in Christ, yet the main symbol of Christianity is a cross, one of history’s most brutal instruments of execution. Many come to Jesus because they are looking for self-fulfillment, strength or provision, but He said, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Here is the paradox of the Christian life: the means to wholeness is through brokenness, the means to victory through suffering and the means to life through death.
Jesus described this paradox using a metaphor of a seed that dies to bring forth life, which He applied to a particular issue and a general principle. The particular issue was, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23). Jesus said this a few days before His crucifixion. He was willing to go into the ground and die so, like a planted seed that dies, there might be fruit of new life.
The general principle is, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25). “Hate” in this verse means “to reject one thing and choose another.” We must be willing to die to ourselves—to give up our way, our plans, our ego and our agenda to live for Christ’s agenda. As Paul explains, “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’s sake, so that His life may also be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Corinthians 4:11). It is by daily dying to ourselves and to the plans that so often preoccupy us that Jesus’s life is released in us.
Jesus’s physical death was preceded by His own personal death. He said in John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven not to do My will but to do the will of Him who sent Me.” Jesus died daily to His own agenda, only ever doing what the Father commanded. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He prayed in anguish that the cup of God’s wrath be taken from Him, He ultimately said, “Yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
There is a cost to becoming and being a Christian. Salvation is free in the sense that we receive it entirely based on God’s grace, but it takes daily dying to ourselves to receive this new, paradoxical but wonderfully simple life. Once we have settled that it is God’s will, not our own, that rules us, we can begin enjoying the fullness of life that results from letting God direct our paths.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross so that I can have newness of life. I choose to die to myself today, and every day, surrendering my plans for Your agenda.