Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Be the seed...

I can almost hear some coach chanting to his athletes before the big game: "Be the seed. Be the seed." Well, maybe not. This morning while at the gorgeous Keystone resort in Colorado, Keith Bubalo shared his thoughts on 2 Corinthians 4.4-12. In a time of prayer and reflection afterward, the Wind of God directed me to these words of Jesus recorded in John 12.23-33:

"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
"Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name." . . .
"Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."

Jesus said that it was his death that cast down Satan (see also Rev 12.9; 20.1-3 if you're an amillenialist like me) and would draw all people to himself. And as his servants and followers whose goal is to live for and continue his purposes, we also are to carry around in our bodies the death of Jesus, in order that his life may be manifested within us (2 Cor 4.10-12).

Jesus teaches here that bearing fruit for God is contingent upon "death". A few days later after celebrating the Sedir he said, "By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. . . . These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (John 15.8-11). In other words, it is by our dying that we glorify our Father. Willingly surrendering all rights to our selfish comfort, ease, and painlessness is necessary, for our weakness allows God to display his power through us so that there's no fooling anyone as to our source of strength and competence.*

But Jesus says all of this out of love for all of his followers: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you". What did his Father's love look like? God's love sent his only Son through suffering, blows, lacerations, nails, mocking, and asphyxiation--but ultimately to the place of incomparable blessing, joy, and adoration at his right hand (Heb 1.8-9; 12.2). It was truly through the cross that the Son of Man was glorified (John 12.23). It is always his love that motivates Jesus to call us to the cross and to denial of our selves and the worldly desires that would otherwise be fully legit if the Resurrection weren't true (see Mark 10.21).

But by God's power Jesus did triumph over the grave and is reigning from heaven (Eph 1.19-23). In our dying he calls us to join him in these same unblushing rewards as he received. "Where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him." We will be with him at home forever, accepted, approved, and beloved in him by our holy Creator and Sovereign, who calls out the stars by name and is storing up great wrath to crush the skulls of those who set themselves up against his reign (Rev 6.15-17).

Jesu, may we know and believe that in his love your Father didn't spare you the cup of suffering on your path toward joy's eternal increase. With that very same love you call us to die to ourselves and share in your pains and sacrifices for the gospel and bringing all men to yourself. We must know and feel the unsearchable riches of your hesed, your loyal covenant love that surpasses all comprehension (Eph 3.8,16-19). And may our hearts' experience of it compel us to be fools for your sake in bringing the gospel to the people of Turkey, Bangkok, Michigan, or wherever else you've called us, with boldness and clarity. Amen!

*On a side note, another insight I gained from 2 Cor 4.5-7 this morning is that it is not we who have adequacy or effectiveness, but our message does! For it is the power of God for salvation for all peoples, bringing the truth of God as seen in the crucified and risen Christ Jesus.

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