Some of the disciples Jesus called “left everything” and followed Him immediately. I’ve often wondered what all they left behind. Families? Good jobs? Positions in the community?
But here’s a new thing to ponder: Think about everything they would have missed if they had declined Jesus’ invitation and said, “No, I just cannot.”
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me (John 12:24-26).”
Here Jesus is explaining the necessity of His death. Like a seed buried, His death would result in an abundant harvest of new life for all of us.
Did you notice that His servants must be where He is? They must follow Him even to the cross! We also must die, and that dying will bury a seed that will produce new life in an abundance we cannot even imagine.
Holding on to the old, we miss the new!
There is only one way to find the life that Christ died to give us—the free, vibrant, strong, productive life He promises to His followers. The way to that life is dying. We must give up our old lives to gain the new. Like the disciples who followed Him during His time on earth, we leave our old lives to follow Christ into the new.
There are many ways we do this. We make dozens of choices every day. Will we follow the path of our old selfish ways, or will we walk as a disciple of Jesus? His Spirit speaks to each of us, teaching us; He might be urging you to give up an old attitude or habit; He might be telling me it’s time to move away from a job or a relationship. Will we walk according to the Spirit or are we going to stick to our own ways? Are we willing to let the old life go so that we’re able to grab hold of the new?
Jesus warns that if we are unwilling to let the old die, we will completely miss the new life He has for us.
A sobering thought.
Imagine a fisherman declining Jesus’ invitation and staying home, content with his life as it was. Then he begins to realize, a few years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, what an opportunity he had turned down when he did not accept the invitation to be in the inner circle of the Son of God!
As long as we hold on to the old, as long as we love the old too much, we are that much in danger of losing the life that God has for us. The giving up of the old must be so total and so complete that Jesus used the word “dying.” It is not only our old lives but also our old selves that must die; they must be declared dead and buried deep.
But like a seed that is buried deep and soon ceases to be exactly the same thing that was put into the ground, this “dying and burying” results in a new life so different, so free, so much larger and more alive and more able to produce a desired product that no one even mourns the seed!
Yes. I am convinced of that. If we can let go of the old to take hold of the new, God’s promise is that we will find a new life so different and so big that we will never regret the dying and burying.
But if we love the old too much, we will lose all certainty of the new.
And there’s the rub. We have a difficult time giving up the old. If we desire to follow Christ, the old that must die might be cherished dreams or pet grudges. It might be false securities we’ve built around ourselves, or character traits that have been our automatic pilot for years. It could be a career we’ve spent years building. We even find it difficult to give up things that are destructive (like overeating or abusive relationships or unforgiveness) because, let’s face it, our old life is our comfort zone. And we do love our comfort zones!
I don’t think Jesus was throwing out words frivolously when he warned about loving the old life. He knows what a grip the old and familiar has on our hearts and minds. Think of Lot’s wife, who was warned to run away from her old life, run as fast as she could and not look back. We know the end of her story.
I have to ask myself: in what ways and at what decision points am I holding on to my old ways and missing out on the new life God has for me?
He is faithful!
The thing that trips us up is that the life we cling to in this world, whether good or bad, is known and thus seems much more secure (to our eyes and thinking) than giving it up for what God might give us. Aha! there’s the problem with our human thinking: that word might.
God is faithful! Might is not a word found in His promises. He will do what He says He will do. This promise of finding new life if you’re willing to die to the old is just as certain as all the rest of His promises.
Jesus has already said in a rather alarming way that if we hold on to the old we’re going to completely miss the new He can give us. That in itself is a strong warning to me. Yet He adds one more assurance, something for us to take into our hearts when we are fearful of getting up and leaving the old to follow Christ into the new life: “And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.”
I wondered, for a while, what that “honor” would look like. But such a question is just my human thinking wanting to quantify everything in earthly terms. Instead, when I hear Jesus say this now, I hear Him say, “The Father will do this. Give up the old; bury it and let it die. Dying is the way to find a new life, bigger and more free and more productive than anything you’ve ever dreamed of. Do it! The Father will give that new life to anyone who follows Me.”