No. 19: Dying to Live and Living to Die
“She poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair.” John 12:3
Again Jesus is sharing a very special moment with His Bethany family, as they are having a celebration party for Lazarus’ life. They are so totally overwhelmed by the amazing love of God shown to them, through Jesus, that Mary does not give a second thought to taking her most valuable perfume and pouring it over Jesus’ feet. This perfume could have been her dowry, so she would have been literally pouring out her future at Jesus’ feet. She was so thankful for God’s love that nothing was too costly. Her whole home would have been filled with the smell of her sacrifice and Jesus would have been blessed and encouraged.
This perfume was the equivalent of one year’s earnings. If you had saved up money to this value and the Holy Spirit spoke to you about giving it away, are you so grateful to God for giving you new life that you would obey with joy?
Judas’ reaction to this beautiful action just shows up his hypocrisy and greed in always looking after his own interests. This is his last opportunity before the Passover Feast to get his heart right with Jesus and so to break the curse over his life and not betray the Son of Man who had been so kind, loving and merciful to him.
“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” John 12:13
The Pharisees started to panic as they felt that the whole world was following Jesus and the people were about to make Him King. (Read John 12:19.) Lazarus had become a celebrity! The people came to see him to confirm their faith in Jesus: that He really was the Son of God. (Read John 12:17.) They had decided that the only way forward, to escape the oppression they were under, was to make Jesus their King. Then He would supply their every need.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies…” John 12:24
God has a better plan. Jesus explains to His followers that He must die. He is distressed at the idea, but reminds Himself of His reason for coming to earth and of where His destiny lies. (Read John 12:27.) He explains that as He is “lifted up” (crucified), He will draw all people to Himself. He does not make His service attractive. He must be the attraction. (See John 12:32.)
Jesus says here that, if we do die to the world, we will produce fruit from God. Wheat is made for soil. When it’s planted, it can release its potential. In the same way, human beings were made for God and, only when we die to our own selfish ideas, can God develop us to our full potential. We must not forget that seeds need frost, snow, wind and rain, along with sunshine, to bring forth fruit! As Christians, we have our part to play in choosing to yield (Romans 6:13-16) and surrender (Romans 12:1) our whole lives, spirits, souls and bodies to the Holy Spirit. As Jesus shows us here, the way of death is the way of the cross and it guarantees victory. If we are going to grow in Christ, we need to make a decision to follow our Lord and Master. Some of us walk about 75% of the Christian life by going along with God in most things, but the time comes when we need to agree with the Holy Spirit’s conviction that only 100% is satisfactory. That is when we choose to put “self” to death. Every day, we must “die” to our own way and will (Matthew 10:38-39; Luke 14:26) and become totally available for the Master’s use.
The cross always precedes real power. It is dying, not doing, that produces spiritual fruit that will last. The “way of the cross” is not about suffering sickness, disease or lack of money, but about deciding to do what God asks of us, even if it means being rejected for our faith in Him, receiving no thanks for work done, being misunderstood, suffering loss of relationships with loved ones or standing against the flow. Until we are willing to be involved 100% for God, we do not belong to Him completely. We need to realise too, that what God asks of us is only for our best and brings great rewards. Until we are prepared to be utterly taken up by whatever He chooses for us, we are not free. It’s tempting to substitute Christian work for the “way of the cross”. This not only makes us self-centred, but it can also feed pride, instead of stressing holiness and the cross. “He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He that finds his life will lose it, and he that loses his life for My sake will find it”. Matthew 10:38.
“I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” Gal 2:20.
- Choose daily to take up your Cross so that people see Jesus. “We are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest.” 2 Corinthians 4:11.
- Obedience is the key to the “death-life”. “Whatsoever He says to you, do it.” John 2:5.
- Do not hold onto the things of this earth, (Philippians 3:8-11) or put others before God, Matthew 10:37-39. “The man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:25.
- Yield all parts of your body to serve Christ. Do not hold back in any area. “Present your body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.” Romans 12:1.
- Deal with sin. It is poison and the root of sin is rebellion against the authority of God in your life. “Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you.” John 12:35.
- Deal with your mind by choosing to think on “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy.” Philippians 4:8; Colossians 3:2. “The mind of sinful man is death.” Romans 8:6. Feed your zeal for God by setting your affections on things above and killing apathy. (Compare Proverbs 23:7.)
- Rejoice in the opportunity to die to self; to be out of the way so that Christ can be seen in you. “Reckon yourself dead unto sin (your own ways) but alive unto God.” Romans 6:11.
- “Take this baby and nurse him for me and I will pay you.” Exodus 2:9. The “fruit” of a Christian is another Christian – a disciple or “natural” child.
- “But, if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24. Feed others on the Word. It will make you diligent in the study of the Word and you will be encouraged as you see them grow.
- “Be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18; Romans 8:5-8. This is a daily walk, a daily death, and a daily victory as we are filled to overflowing with Jesus.
- “You are not your own: you were bought at a price.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. “Holiness – without which no one will see the Lord” Hebrews 12:14.
- “Enter into and share the joy which your Master enjoys.” Matthew 25:21. Jesus had joy because He knew what He was aiming for in building His Church.
- “Christ lives in me.” Galatians 2:20. I am still ME! I have not lost my identity, personality or individuality. What I have lost is my sovereignty. I am no longer self-centred but Christ-centred. It is my “right to myself”, that I choose to crucify. Romans 6:5-14.
John said that Jesus would “baptise with the Holy Spirit and with fire… gathering His wheat into the barn.” Matthew 3:11-12. Only as the Holy Spirit cleanses us of “ourselves” can we be totally filled with “Himself“. Jesus is calling us to be one with Himself, so that He can build His Church. All He wants is available “vessels”. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7. Someone has said that revival is: “choosing the cross out of love, so that the nations will see the resurrection of Jesus living through us”.
Home challenges for Power Up! – No. 19: Dying to live and living to die
1. a) What excited and challenged you most about the previous study?
b) Did you decide to change anything? – What?
2. Read the notes, “Dying to Live and Living to Die?” What do you think of Mary’s actions and Judas’ actions?
3. a) When considering the grain of wheat dying, do you feel you are dead to the world and alive to Christ once and for all?
b) This has dealt with the root of the problem, but is there a problem you would like prayer for?
Prayerfully consider possible areas which have not yet been totally yielded to God. Give them up now: your partner; children; your future; finances; self-will; ministry; time; abilities; friends; desires; possessions. Close your eyes. Mentally yield each part of your body (your eyes, speech, actions, energy), your soul (that is, your mind, will and emotions) and your spirit to the Holy Spirit. Remember: you belong to the Lord.
4. a) What personal rights do you feel you deserve? – “I’ll do it my way”!
b) In what areas of your life do you refuse to give in?
c) After looking at this study, have you changed your mind?
Read John 12:37-50
5. Give two examples from previous studies of the “miraculous signs” that the crowd had seen.
6. When we stubbornly refuse to believe, what happens to our spiritual senses and why? John 12:37-41.
7. Why did the leaders not come out publicly and tell of their new faith? John 12:43
8. Do you think they are like the man who loves his life and loses it? John 12:25. Explain your answer.
9. What does Jesus say is His main purpose for coming into the world? John 12:47
10. This is Jesus’ last public message to the people. Can you sum up in a few words what He is saying and show how He is still reaching out in love?
Read John 13:1-20
11. a) What did Jesus know was about to happen?
b) Who was in control?
12. What did Jesus do to show the full extent of His love? John 13:1
13. What tasks do you think are equivalent to foot-washing today?
14. a) How do you think Jesus felt when He washed Judas’ feet?
b) What did Judas feel like?
15. Is there a personal challenge in here for us today? (What is it?) John 13:14-17
16. Was Peter being humble when he refused to allow Jesus to serve him? John 13:8
17. Do you find it difficult when people want to do something for you? Why do you think that is?
18. a) Choose one verse from the above passage and memorise it.
b) Try and sum up what you have learnt in one short sentence.