(December 5, 1990)
Wheat fields lay bare, their golden yield in the bin. Each grain of seed sown produced dozens more and if the markets were good, farmers would get rich returns on their investment.
All seed is like that. One produces many. It is the law of planting and harvest, a law that farmers and gardeners take for granted.
Notice though, the seed grain had to be sacrificed for the crop. Without being put into the ground, and in a sense, dying, there would be no yield. One seed can produce many, but it has to be destroyed before the life in it is released. This is the risk of planting. If it doesn’t germinate, valuable seed grain will merely go to waste.
Jesus lived among those who depended on good crops for survival. The staff of life came from grain, and the crops depended on the fertility of single seeds, just as crops do today. Jesus used that simple concept to illustrate a fundamental spiritual truth: “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 will produce much fruit” (John 12:24) The next verse explains the implication: “He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.”
Jesus was talking about the major priority of life: our choice of who controls it, and thus how we live it. The Bible says that there are basically two ways: one is “righteous” and the other is “wicked.” We define these lifestyles differently than God defines them. For example, Isaiah 9:6 says that we are “like sheep who have gone astray, each to his own way.” By God’s definition, anything that is simply going our own way, rather than His, He calls “wicked.”
It is the nature of everyone to do their own thing, to govern their own life. Some self-directed actions may even appear very good, some can be very vile. Either way, in God’s sight, whether the fruit is benevolent or gross, it is still our “own way.” Thus He says even our “works of righteousness are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). To Him, “wicked” or “unrighteous” is anything we do in our own way, apart from faith in Him.
When Jesus said, “He that loves his life shall lose it,” He was talking about loving personal control of our own life and considering it the most precious thing. If a person considers “going his own way” more important than eternal life, then, according to Jesus, his life will be lost, eternally.
However, He also said those who hate their life, and are willing to forsake the control of their own life (because they see the direction it is taking them), and are willing to “die” to that life, are those who gain eternal life.
Jesus even says that those who yield control to Him will find their lives here and now full of deeds that have eternal value. He calls those deeds “eternal fruit” and “righteousness.”
In other words, putting one’s faith in Christ means everlasting life in heaven with Him... plus significance of all that is done in His name while here on earth. Scripture says that only His life in us can produce “gold, silver, and precious stones” while going our own way will result “wood, hay and stubble,” things will burn in fire on the day of judgment, and be lost forever.
Look out at the fields. Some of them have lain barren all year, some have produced a bumper crop. What about our lives? Are they barren and unwilling to give control to Christ? Or are they producing lasting fruit... because the seed was willingly sacrificed?