“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another” (John 13:35).
Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Our first thought is to place this to a time when the church is under great persecution, a time when the church was familiar with martyrdom. We are comforted in the fact, this was some other time, and some other place. Brothers and Sisters, let our hearts be opened to a far greater purpose than the physical aspect of this passage.
John, the beloved cast a whole new light on laying our life down for the brethren! “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loves not his brother abides in death” (1 John 3:14). “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us, we ought to lay down our life for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). John tells us in verse 14, our love for the brethren is contingent upon passing “from death unto life”. He goes on to say, “we ought to lay down our life for the brethren. These two passages bring us to a far greater understanding of laying our lives down. Notice the word “ought” in verse 16, God will never force us to lay our life down, it must come from our own free will. True life comes from passing “death unto life”. Jesus gives us a good illustration of how this should be accomplished; “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone; but if it die, it brings forth much fruit”. He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal” (John 12:24-25). Jesus, by using an example of the germination process of wheat, it attempting to reveal to us what it really means to lay our life down. Let’s examine this spiritual type. Man is a threefold being, he consists of a body, soul and spirit. Within the soul of man is his heart, the heart is the seat of affection. The heart is also where our volition (free will) resides. Proverbs says this about the heart; “keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov 4:23). The heart is where Love comes from, “since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love on another from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22). The heart is like the grain that falls into the ground, a grain of wheat has a hard outer shell that must decay and break open before the stalk can begin to grow. The heart of man also has a hard outer shell called “Self Will”, commonly know as the carnal man. When we yield to the hand of God every aspect of the “self life”, it will decay, allowing the true life of Christ to come forth. Once the outer man is broken, the rivers of “living water” can flow out, thus giving “Life” to others. God’s word consists of many paradoxes, what a paradox! “Life comes from Death”.
Adam died when he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (spiritually). He put on a new life, the life of “self will”. We became an inheritor of his “self will nature”. God provided a redemptive plan to reconcile man back to himself, by way of the cross, “for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body you will live” (Romans 8:13). Man was placed back in good standing with God by identifying ourselves with the death of Christ, and allowing that death to work in us. Paul tells us how the death of Christ worked in him, “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Cor 4:10). “For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor 4:11). “So death works in us, but life in you” (2 Cor 4:12).
The death Paul was speaking of was not a physical one, it was the work of the cross in his own body at present time. The death of Christ was at work in him! He identified himself with that death. The great work of the cross is not only the “life” of Jesus working in us, but also his “death”. What do we die to? “Self Will”. It is here which separates the wheat from the tares.
Just before Jesus had been betrayed, he prayed “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me, nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done”. Jesus knew he was about to suffer, it was not his will to do so. There was something deep within the inner most part of his heart that chose the way of God rather than his own human will. Jesus asked two sons of Zebedee if they were able (notice it did not say “willing”) to drink of the cup that he was to drink from, they replied “we are able”. Jesus said to them “you shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with”. The cup he spoke of was that of suffering, and the baptism was that of being identified with his death. Each child of God must answer in their heart the same question, are we able to drink of the cup he drank of? Will we choose the path of righteousness or the path of self righteousness. Are we able to lay our lives down for the brethren? Paul said in 2 Cor 4:12, “So death works in us, but life in you”. The Kingdom of God is advanced by brethren laying down their lives, that others may live! Jesus made it known in John 12:25 that we must hate our life in this world, that we may keep it unto eternal life.
What greater love could there be than one not tainted with “SELF”. A love that has no ulterior motives, one that seeks the benefit of others before itself, one that is willing to enter warfare with the darkness of this world until others have been conformed into the image of Jesus Christ, a love that seeks not the praise of men, rather the glory of God. Paul had this love for his brethren; “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you” (2 Cor 2:4). “Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31).
Someone approached Jesus and said to him “Behold, your mother and your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to you”, Jesus replied “who is my mother and who are my brothers?” He went on to answer, “For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother” (Matt 12:50).
Let us lay down the life of “self will”, and do the “will of the Father”, that we may prove fit to be a member of God’s family. The work of the cross is the center of all truth, the hub in which all other revelations are hinged.
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and the loved not their lives unto the death” (Rev 12:11)
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