Thought for the Week - 15th AprilPastor Gareth Watkins
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies,
it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
Last week I listened to a former religious correspondence speak of her illness on the radio. The illness hadn’t gone away. She wasn’t grateful for the illness, but still was able to go to God for answers. I was confused. She kept on going back to God for explanations and answers. Sometimes we don’t get answers – we’re not meant to know. She wasn’t allowing herself to die before God; she wasn’t truly trusting God because she kept on going back to Him to ask why. If she did release all her trust onto God, then the promise of that scripture is that her life would bear much fruit, light and blessing.
If this grain of wheat goes into the ground and dies it bears much fruit. We never hear much of the opposite to that in Church – where we refuse to die to self, and therefore die alone. Refusing to die on a subject means we’re not trusting God on something. The consequence can be that we die alone, without fruitfulness in our life.
Christ wants us to die to the natural things around us, so that the life of God can come into us and bear much fruit.
Dying to self starts when we’re young, when we find God and when we decide to say over our own selves we’ll go God’s way. Christ Himself says to pick up your cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23). When you start to die to self – when you start to die to your own selfish desires and purposes – that’s where the picking up of the cross starts. We release our own purposes and plans.
Dying to self bears much fruit. That’s God’s way. Satan on the other hand, doesn’t like anything to do with God. He wants people to hold onto their sins and be selfish. He wants people to have their own plans. Then those people die. We either die bearing fruit, or we die alone. Those who die to self, go into that ground, and God Himself brings a situation of greater blessing upon them.
The greatest example of dying to self is Christ Himself.
There are many Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah. Reading these we can see the examples what Christ had to go through to be the Messiah. Because Christ died to self, God brought out of his life much fruit. In the Psalm below, David thinks he’s writing about himself, but He’s actually writing of Christ. Only Christ could fulfil these details:
I have set the Lord always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope.
For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
We see in this prophecy that Jesus was going to follow God’s path rather than His own: “I have set the Lord always before me”. We also read: “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol”. Christ had to be punished and take our sins upon that cross, going down into hell. If Christ didn’t die and go into hell, then we wouldn’t have salvation. We read “You will show me the path of life… At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore”. Christ had to trust God with everything that God was saying for Him to do.
Would we trust God with all that? Christ is trusting in God before He even came. What man could have done this, to trust God in this entirety? Christ was able to put his life into that ground and die to His own selfish thinking and thoughts, so that God’s life could come through it.
Hosea wrote similar things hundreds of years before Christ:
Come, and let us return to the Lord;
For He has torn, but He will heal us;
He has stricken, but He will bind us up.
After two days He will revive us;
On the third day He will raise us up,
That we may live in His sight.
Let us know,
Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.
His going forth is established as the morning;
He will come to us like the rain,
Like the latter and former rain to the earth.
He knew he was going to have to die to himself.
Hosea is writing of the Christ. He had to know He had to complete them all, and in order to complete them, He had to die to self. Before He came He knew he had to be torn. The rain we read of is the rain that God Himself would bring as a blessing, a fruitfulness from this man. That rain is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of that time was for certain people, not the gentiles. But following Christ, the Holy Spirit was to be for everyone.
Christ knew He would have to allow Himself to come, be stricken and torn, be taken out of God’s sight, and then trust in God to be revived and that the Holy Spirit would be made available for everyone. These are the things that Christ had to die to upon in order that much fruit would be brought from His life.
Jesus knows these things. He identified Himself with us. We’re saved by identifying ourselves with Him. Our salvation and our future is identifying ourselves in Him.
If we want the blessing of God we need to learn how to die to our own selfish life. God Himself will bring much fruit out of our lives. We will die. We can die and bring forth much fruit, or we can die questioning, complaining and alone.
What subjects are in your heart and your life that you need to die on? We can choose to hold onto them, or we can trust God by handing them over to Him. What do you need to hand to God and trust Him to deal with? Are we prepared to choose to die to self, that we would have much fruit?
Christ is the greatest example of how to die to self. He knew these things before He came. He did these things so the fruitfulness of God could bless His life and the whole of humanity, and the Holy Spirit would come through.
Our lives are important to God. He wants us all to die to ourselves.