not donkeys or elephants
God has chosen the local church (that’s you and that’s me) to reach the world with the message of His love and the way of salvation. He is seeking and reaching the lost through us. He has not chosen a government agency or charitable organization to be His hands and feet. He is not riding the backs of donkeys or elephants — the symbols of our seats of power — to do His work. He has chosen us; He has chosen Life Bridge Church to reach into the vast expanse of our community to meet real needs and meet the greatest need. We want to change the narrative at Life Bridge. We want, not to talk about how well our church is doing, but rather how we can reach our community. God has promised He will spare no resource to reach them. We want to aggressively ask how can we be MORE for Him. We want to saturate Downriver with the message of Jesus Christ.
the death of “you”
The truth of God’s economy is that life is not produced without death. To be clear, we’re not talking about your physical death, but there is something which needs to die within you in order for new life to be produced.
Jesus is preparing to celebrate Passover for the final time with His disciples and although He has told them several times, they still do not understand He is about to die, be buried and rise again. Listen as Jesus explains His plan once again to the twelve who are gathered with Him:
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”
John 12:23-26 (NIV)
The disciples must have been excited as Jesus began. The hour has come for Him to be glorified. “WOW! Can you imagine what that will look like!” you can just hear them think. And then Jesus drops a seed on them. “Huh?! A kernel of wheat, you say?! What does this have to do with you being glorified? Did I fall asleep for a minute and miss something?”
Jesus is using a truth of the created world to illustrate His truth to those who have chosen to follow Him. Scripture says that nature declares the glory of God, and indeed it does. Consider a sunrise and all it speaks of the One who created it.
His constancy (a new sunrise each morning)
His patience (the sun rises slowly, it does not simply appear)
His creativity and beauty (have you seen a sunrise that takes your breath away?)
Your life in Christ is like the kernel of wheat. Unless the seed of your life apart from Him falls to the ground and dies, your new life with Him cannot exist. If you hold on to your kernel, it will only ever be that kernel — it cannot produce new life. The death of “you,” leads to new life in Him. Jesus’ death (the one He has tried time and time again to tell His disciples about) makes this all possible. Without His death, yours has no power. But His death alone does not birth new life within you. You must choose for your kernel to fall to the ground. You must accept the need for it and you must decide to do it.
the death of “us”
It is as true of churches as it’s true of you. You can drive around Downriver and see churches of all shapes and sizes. Some are in interesting locales, begging the question whether their surroundings are an integral part of their story. You will see small churches that have only ever been so, and large churches with a smaller “life” than befits their physical capacity. It makes you wonder whether the dying that produced their growth stopped happening at some point. Did leadership or did the people begin to become content with their own kernel. Did they stop dying, and as a result stop growing. Our kernel at Life Bridge will only ever be a kernel unless we let it fall to the ground and die. Our hope and prayer is that we will never stop dying. And that in our dying, new life will burst forth.
the last Word
So let’s let the Word have the last word. The verses in John 12 are not the only scriptural reference to these truths. Consider the following as the last Word on this truth of dying:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Colossians 2:20 (NIV)
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
Luke 9:23 (NIV)
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Galatians 5:24 (NIV)
And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
Matthew 10:38 (ESV)