April 5, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Phil Choi, Gracepoint Hsinchu

John 12:20-28

Reflect on the link between glory and becoming “a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies” as it applies to Jesus’ life.  How does the Christian understanding of glory differ from the world’s definition? The Christian understanding of glory differs drastically from the world’s definition of glory. According to the world, a person’s glory is usually his own personal accomplishment. For example, an Olympian might achieve glory by winning a gold medal. On the other hand, Jesus’ understanding of glory involves his personal sacrifice. He became a kernel of wheat that dies so that it might produce many seeds. Jesus was glorified because he gave up himself out of love for other people.

What are some ways I have embraced the life of becoming a seed that falls and dies? One way was leaving our family, friends, and jobs to come to serve in Taiwan long-term. From a worldly point of view, it makes no sense for people our age to pick up and go when you could stay and build your career or settle down and start a family. But the call of the Gospel was too great, and so we left to share the Gospel here. Also, I think doing college ministry involves “becoming a seed” every day. I mean, why would anyone want to eat at cafeterias, play board games, or meet young people who sometimes don’t even want to hang out with you? And yet we embrace this kind of life because it’s one way we lay down our personal rights out of love for others. It’s how people loved me when I was a college student, and it’s how I want to love in return.

What are the ways in which people “lose” their life because they “love” it too much? I think one way is when people focus so much on getting things or accomplishing things that they miss out on relationships. For example, they love their own lives so much that they chase after a high paying job. Maybe that was their dream ever since coming into college. They always wanted to be ______ [fill in the blank]. And if that opportunity comes up, they wouldn’t blink an eye to accept that chance, even if it means moving away from friends and family, or even the church. And yet it’s not hard to imagine such a person becoming a slave of that dream. They constantly live on the move, company trips, working 50-80 hour weeks, and while they may be achieving their “dream,” they miss out on experiencing genuine, trust relationships that can only be developed when you stay put and spend time with people. And at the end of their lives, what do they have to show for it? A million dollar retirement fund? A manager title? But I believe such a person would regret not spending more time with people, or not loving people as well as he knew he should have. At the end, it’s all about people. And if that’s the case, then the person above loses a lot in life because he loved his life too much that he gained something temporary but missed out on something more important.

What does it mean to “hate” my life “in this world” to “keep it for eternal life?” Ultimately, it means that we should live for heaven, and not earth. Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Likewise, Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.” To hate this world does not mean detaching ourselves from things here. But we should be clear what is temporary and what is eternal, and not waste our lives chasing after things that we can’t take with us. The only thing that we can take with us to heaven are people we love, who love us, brothers and sisters in Christ, etc. It’s people that matter most. So whether I hate my life in this world or not is really a perspective on life: what am I going to do with this one life that I have? Either I’m going to cling onto it because it’s my only chance to make something out of myself, even though it’s all going to fall apart when I die, or I’m going to see this one life that I have as the one chance I have to make a difference, to love people, to win souls for Christ. Can’t have it both ways.

John 12:42-43

What was the problem of these leaders “who would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue?” Their problem was that they loved praise from men more than praise from God.

What fears prevent me from making my faith public? I think this is an apt description of why we are afraid to make our faith public: we care more about what people think about us than what God thinks about us. When I try to share my faith, there is that fear, “What is this person going to think about me? Will he think I’m weird? Is he still going to want to be my friend after he finds out I’m Christian?” But I’ve learned that these fears are usually greater in my mind than in reality. And now after reading Satan and His Kingdom, I’ve learned that these are lies that Satan tells me to prevent me from sharing my faith with people. What does that mean? That means to Satan, it’s dangerous that I share my faith. Romans 10 – “How can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” I often think of this verse because it reminds me that this friend in front of me can’t know Jesus unless I open my mouth and share the Gospel with him. Can someone else do it? Can’t God use someone else? Of course. But why not me? And if I give into my fear such that I’m not making my faith public, then it’s only going to be harder the next time to overcome my fear. I have so many justifications and excuses to fall back on. So all the more it’s important to fight against my fears with God’s Word and push through them. And I’ve found that each time I push through my fears, then the next time it gets easier.

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Submitted by Chris Lee, Gracepoint Berkeley

John 12:20-28
Reflect on the link between glory and becoming “a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies” as it applies to Jesus’ life.  How does the Christian understanding of glory differ from the world’s definition?  In what ways have I embraced the life of becoming a seed that falls and dies? – Jesus’ glory was in suffering and dying on the cross to bring salvation to man.  He performed powerful miracles, amazed people with his teachings, but His glory was in dying a senseless death that would result in salvation for man.  Few even understood the significance of his death at the time.  It was seemingly a waste in every way.  But his death resulted in eternal life for many, just as a kernel of wheat that falls and dies, and produces many seeds.  The world’s definition of glory is to distinguish yourself from everyone else, to rise above them, to be the envy of everyone by maximizing your potential and resources.  This world’s understating of glory is not something that is realistically sustainable in light of truth about my sinfulness.  I would have to intentionally overlook many dark truths about myself to seek this kind of glory.  Yet, the deceitfulness of sin sometimes causes me to desire it.  However, if and when I do receive any kind of recognition or praise, I quickly realize how undeserved it is.  Occasionally, I might do something good that deserves recognition, but that represents only a small slice of my life.  For the most part, my life is marred by sin and struggle.  …  The Christian understanding of glory is to die to myself through full surrender to God so that others can experience life and blessing through me.  One way in which I have embraced the life of becoming a seed that falls and dies is by committing to put away reluctance when I have an opportunity to do something that can be a blessing to others.  Such opportunities usually come suddenly or on short notice.  My immediate tendency is to get irritated or grumble about having to do something unexpected.  But more and more, I am able to pause, set aside my bad attitude as I remind myself that I can bless someone through what I am doing, and eventually turn my heart around to want to give my best as I respond in obedience.

What are the ways in which people “lose” their life because they “love” it too much? People strive with all their strength to attain a secure, happy life.  Many invest all their resources to achieve financial security, a tight and harmonious family, and luxury to be able to enjoy a leisurely and comfortable life.  This is the life which they work hard to attain and hold on to.  They “love” it too much in the sense that they are determined to not allow anything that could disrupt or destroy this style of life, including God’s invitation to follow and serve Him.  Unfortunately, even if all things go according to plan – which usually isn’t the case – at best such life will be like a kernel of wheat that remains a single seed, holding on to what little they have.  In trying to guard this life, people end up “losing” life because their lives get filled with anxiety and fear as so many things become threatening, including God’s claim upon their lives.  And, in the end, they can’t hold on to anything anyway.  As we get older, we are stripped of everything, one by one.  Our health deteriorates, our children grow up and leave home, we are not able to do the things we used to do.  As I get older, as I see the lives of people around me, I am more convicted that God really knows how life ought to be lived.

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Submitted by Michelle Sun, Gracepoint Berkeley

32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

Jesus became the one who was lifted up for everyone to see so that through his death, many will come to life.  He was not only humiliated and treated with contempt, he was put to death in a painful way.  His death was displayed for everyone to see and is talked about again and again by people throughout the ages.  He was literally lifted up for everyone to see.  The kind of death he was going to die was no ordinary death, but one through whom others will come to know life.  And the previous verse says, “25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”  Jesus died this gruesome death, and then he says we have to follow him if we want to serve him.  I think about the fact that I wanted to lifted up in my own way, want to make an impact in this world through Christianity.  I believe with all my passion that this is the only way and that it deserves all of my energy.  However, do I really want to follow in his footsteps and actually be lifted up to become the source of salvation for many? I want to be lifted up through success and through approval.  I wanted to be lifted up through competence and through victories.  I wanted to lifted up through achievements and through personal and corporate triumphs.  However, Jesus was lifted up on the cross, in a shameful way, through his complete surrender to God.  He asks me to do the same.  God plans to use my death, rather than my life.   I want to be lifted up in my own way, through what I can do, but God has a different idea for me.  The way that he wants to lift me up is through my death, death of ego, death of self..  Living out my Christian life will mean many deaths for me.  I will have to continue to die to my ego, my own preference, my inertia to be comfortable and lethargic, my own ideas of what is good for me.  God wants me to be lifted up.. Lord please use my life, so that I can follow the footsteps of Jesus.

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