Monday, April 09, 2007

The Non-Negotiable Price of Spreading

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth 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.
John 12:24-26
It doesn't get much harder than this. It doesn't get more glorious than this. Jesus at the same time has given us the most devastating news in the world and the most glorious news in the world. Sound familiar? Terribly devastating and gloriously liberating (see my previous post on this). The paradoxes abound in Christianity because this is the pattern of the cross: the most horrific of events and the most wonderful of events happening at once in the death of Jesus Christ.

I've said again and again that I am on board with John Piper when he sounds off the trumpet blast that he exists to:
Spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.
Notice the only verb in that sentence: spread. Do I really want to spread a passion for God's supremacy in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ? Because if so, I've got to know something: it isn't free. There is a cost to be paid. And I don't set the price. It's a high cost. And lest naivete overtake us, this passage makes it as plain as day what that non-negotiable cost is. What is the cost of spreading set by God Himself?
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone (it WILL NOT spread); but if it dies, it bears much fruit (it spreads).
John 12:24
And oh how it spreads! There is simply no other way. This is the way ordained by the council of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in their infinite wisdom in eternity past. This is how they get the glory.

In our spreading, we are following the pattern that Jesus set for us. We are following in the steps of our elder brother (Romans 8:29). Jesus decided that the only way for Him to spread was to die. So when He says in John 12:26a that we must follow Him if we are to serve Him, we learn two things:
  1. Following Jesus means dying (because that is what He is referring to in this context)
  2. Serving Him means bearing fruit for Him (because the one who dies bears fruit). In other words, serving Him means spreading a passion for His supremacy in all things for the joy of all peoples.
And in this, we will be honored (v.26b). This is the glorious inheritance we have. Jesus obtained the glory that He has because He suffered (Hebrews 2:9). When He died on the cross, He didn't just suffer so that we wouldn't have to suffer. In one sense that is true. But in another sense He died to call us to suffer.
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
1 Peter 2:21
And so we must follow in the steps of our perfect elder brother. We will be honored only if we go with Jesus where He is. For this is what it means to serve Him. There is no way around it. We can't change the terms.
[We are] fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Romans 8:17 (emphasis added)
We often want the honor, but not the death. Jesus says that to have one we must embrace the other. Are we willing? Do I REALLY want to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ? Or do I care more about having what I want in this life? A life free of struggling and strife? Do I care more about the comfort and conveniences that the rest of the world chases after? Both cannot be true. And my actions will show what I value most highly in my heart.
Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
Hebrews 13:13,14
And let us spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. For when we do this, we show that He is infinitely more valuable than the high cost that we pay.

So, Father, I say it again. I exist to spread a passion for Your supremacy in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. I don't care what the cost. Enable me to walk the path of Calvary that Your Son walked before me. Remove any shroud of confusion or naivete about what this means. I don't pretend to think that I'm strong enough. But that's not the point. As the apostle Paul knew so well, Christ is most strong where I am most weak. So would you allow me to fall on His all-sufficient strength in my utter weakness. Give me great rejoicing in this. Not the kind of smile that says that it doesn't hurt when I'm agonizing inside. But the kind of joy that weeps knowing that there is an eternity of joy on the other side of this excruciating pain that will make the present seem like a vapor. Fit me for that world, Father. That world where You are my glorious inheritance with Your face forever to behold. Thank You for the cross that enables this. Give me the grace to pay the cost, whatever it may be, to show that You are of infinitely greater value so that You are most glorified in me by my being most satisfied in You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

1 comment:

talischris said...

How sobering, and yet how glorious. Lord, make this the burning desire of my heart.

Amen.