21 May 2017 | The Lord’s Day AM
John 12.20-33 | Following Jesus
[To announce my intentions to resign from my then-pastorate]
Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks.
21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’ But for this purpose I have come to this hour.
28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”
30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine.
31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.
32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
A PARABLE TO LEARN [a PARABLE about FOLLOWING]
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
When Jesus employs this short parable in verse 24, He is actually using it to illustrate two examples of FOLLOWING.
 First of all – this parable is His own personal testimony of FOLLOWING His own Father’s will and instructions to come to our earth – be planted in death in our earth by dying on His Cross – and then being raised again in resurrection to save us from our sins.
If He had just come and lived a perfectly sinless life of obedience to His Father – but had not died – He would have just remained alone in His sinlessness.
But then again, if He hadn’t been planted in the earth in death, He wouldn’t have been sinless – because His death was His supreme act of obedience in following His Father’s will.
John 10.17-18 – “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
The Father had sent Him here to us – and commanded Him – to die on the Cross as punishment for our sins.
Jesus says in verse 23, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”
This “hour” – this event had been appointed to Him by His Father. And the time has come for Him to FOLLOW His Father’s will and wishes to His Cross.
Philippians 2.8 – He became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross
And so – He FOLLOWED the Father’s commands and will and purpose – and FOLLOWED the Father’s will all the way to the Cross.
He Himself explains this parable as it applies to His FOLLOWING: verse 27 – “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour…”
verses 32-33 – “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
And so, this grain of wheat seed that falls into the ground and dies is, first of all, Jesus Himself dying on His Cross – to bear the guilt of our sins upon Himself – to be punished for the guilt of our sins – and then to be raised again from death to show that our sins had been actually forgiven and taken away.
This “much fruit” that He bears is all of us whom He saves when we believe upon Him for the forgiveness of our sins – and the free gift of eternal life
And, He did this to FOLLOW His Father’s will and commandment.
But, there is also another reason why Jesus employed this parable.
 This parable also illustrates how He is calling each of us to FOLLOW Him and give Him the service of our lives – wherever He wants to plant us to live for Him and serve Him and bear fruit for Him.
A PRIORITY TO APPLY
He explains how we FOLLOW HIM in the very next verse, verse 25: [read verse 24 again just to set it up and connect it… Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.]
verse 25 – Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
“Whoever loves his life…”
To “love your life” means that you want to keep your life to yourself – and live it the way you want to live it. You are NOT following Jesus Christ – you are following yourself. You are NOT serving Jesus Christ – you are serving yourself.
You retain ownership of your own life. You reserve all the rights to your own life to yourself.
You don’t want to confess that Jesus is Lord – and give your life to Him to serve Him – and follow Him and obey Him in everything you do.
“Whoever loves his life loses it…”
If you insist on keeping your life for yourself – then you will lose it…you will lose your life during this lifetime – and you will lose your life forever separated from God. Your life will wasted during this lifetime, and you will be wasted for eternity.
“Whoever hates his life in this world…”
On the other hand, if you “hate your life” – that means that you don’t consider your life as belonging to you…you turn over the title and ownership of your life to Jesus Christ – to belong to Him, to obey Him, to serve Him, to please Him. You FOLLOW Jesus.
Acts 20.24 – But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God.
When you do that, Jesus promises you will keep your life to life eternal.
A LIFE-PLAN TO FOLLOW
So, let me give you three simple rules for living a life worth living. You’ll find these three simple steps in the next verse:
1. FOLLOW JESUS
“If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me.”
To “serve” Jesus means that you confess that He is Lord – and Lord of your life, and you obey Him. You live your life at His pleasure. You read His Word – you learn His will…what pleases Him…what He wants from you and for you…you learn from Him what He commands you to do, and you do it. [Matthew 11.25-30]
And, in so doing, you FOLLOW JESUS. When you FOLLOW JESUS, you do what He commands you to do. You go where He wants you to go – Jesus gives all life assignments. We just follow…
2. SERVE WHERE JESUS WANTS TO WORK THROUGH YOU
His next words are: “…and where I am, there will My servant be also…”
“But, wait…” you say, “I thought Jesus was everywhere!” He is.
But, when Jesus says “…and where I am, there will My servant be also…” – He means to say that He leads us and places us and assigns us to serve Him wherever He chooses to be working through us. That is how “where I am, there will My servant be also…”
Jesus can be everywhere at the same time – but we cannot. We can be in only one place at a time – so we want to be in that place wherever Jesus has led us…and we have followed Him there.
Also, we cannot do – not even one thing – on our own. We cannot do anything – except what Jesus Himself is doing through us. He tells us in John 15.5: I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
So, if we are going to do anything – it must be where He Himself is…living and working through us. And so, we just want to be where Jesus wants us to be:
- so we can be doing whatever He has given us to do
- so He can be working through us
- to accomplish what He wants to do through us
1 Corinthians 15.10 (Christian Standard Bible) – But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
And so, FOLLOW JESUS to be sure you are where He wants you to be – and where He wants to be working through you to do what is pleasing to Him.
And then, that brings us to the third step in FOLLOWING JESUS…
3. YOU WILL PLEASE THE FATHER WHEN YOU FOLLOW JESUS
Jesus gives this blessing on whoever FOLLOWS Him: “If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him”
That is strange language, isn’t it? You mean: “God, our Heavenly Father, will HONOR us when we serve Jesus?” Yes. That’s what Jesus says.
How does the Father HONOR us when we serve Jesus?
The Father honors us by BEING PLEASED WITH US – He honors us with HIS PLEASURE. The greatest honor our Heavenly Father could ever confer upon any one of us is to say to us:
- “Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your Master’s joy!” [Matthew 25.23 CSB]
- “You did good!”
- “I’m happy with you!”
- “It wasn’t perfect – but you did what I gave you to do – and you did it the best you could with the gifts I gave you to use!”
You want to please the Father, don’t you?
Nobody pleases the Father like His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 8.29 “And He who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him”
Three times, the Father audibly spoke and thundered from Heaven [as here in John 12.28] and said: “This is my much-beloved Son – HEAR HIM [listen to Him, obey Him, serve Him, FOLLOW HIM!]”
And so, the Son PERFECTLY pleases the Father, and everyone who follows the Son pleases the Father also.
“If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him!”
I want the Father to honor me by just giving me the assurance that He is pleased by my serving His Son, Jesus Christ – and FOLLOWING JESUS where I believe Jesus is leading me – and being where Jesus wants me to be and doing what Jesus wants me to be doing…by His working through me.
And so, having said all this about FOLLOWING JESUS – let me give you just a word of testimony about FOLLOWING JESUS…and then I want to make an announcement about FOLLOWING JESUS…
A WORD OF TESTIMONY about FOLLOWING JESUS
Debbie and I came here to Thompson Road Baptist Church 35 years ago – the end of February, 1982. Upon our arrival that week, I preached that Sunday night, 2/28/82. We believed we were following Jesus Christ to come here. And, we believed we were following Jesus here to serve Him here.
We believed that this is where Jesus wanted to live through us and work through us – and hopefully to please Him.
When we came here, we fell into this part of the earth and died – in the sense that we have given the past 35 years of our lives here…to Jesus Christ, to this church, to you, and to this community.
For whatever good or lack of good we may have done – Christ will be the judge of that. For whatever fruit – or lack of fruit – we may have borne along the way, Christ will be the judge of that also.
But, what we have done is given our lives away to anyone and everyone who either asked for it – or whom we thought needed what service we have had to give.
If we had loved our lives, we could have tried to keep more of it for ourselves. But, we haven’t…we have been willing to give it all away…and we have.
Everyone may judge the effectiveness or fruitfulness of our service according to their own perceptions – and perspectives – but those judgments don’t count – and won’t count in the end. Neither will my own perceptions and perspectives on my own service. The only evaluation that will count and stand in the end is the one Jesus Himself will give each one of us in the Last Day.
But what we would say is [in the words of Paul…] 1 Corinthians 4.1-5 – This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
But, we believe that the time has come for us to FOLLOW JESUS somewhere else. We just believe that whatever Jesus led us here to do – and whatever we followed Him here to do – we believe that that work has been fulfilled & completed.
It is time for the church to move forward under new leadership. We are recognizing that.
And so – I HAVE AN ANNOUNCEMENT TO MAKE about FOLLOWING JESUS
I am giving the church a one-week’s notice that I will be presenting my resignation to the church next Sunday – to resign from my position as Senior Pastor. I will be asking the church to recognize and accept my resignation next Sunday morning.
I know this is sudden and abrupt – and surprising to some of you
- I apologize that we haven’t been able to give everyone a personal head’s up… and advance notice.
- But, I will have to make the announcement for the first time…some time – and now is that time.
- Also, as much as possible, I wanted to be as fair as possible to you all and tell everyone at the same time.
This is not a sudden decision and commitment. We have arrived at this decision after many weeks and months of praying, fasting, and seeking to know where Jesus is.
Jesus says: “And where I am, there will My servant be also…” Every time an event would transpire – every time some development would occur – we would join our hands and pray and ask: “Jesus, is this You? Jesus, are You leading in this? Jesus, is this where You are going? Is this where we need to go to follow You?”
It has never been easy. It has always been unsettling. But, we are very much at peace with where we believe Jesus is – and where we believe Jesus is leading us and we are following Him.
So, next Sunday morning, I will formally present my resignation to the church body and that service will fulfill and conclude my ministry among you.
Everyone of you needs to know that our love for every one of you – and all of you – and for Thompson Road Baptist Church – has not changed and will not change. Our mutual love will go on. And, our friendship will go on. And, our personal relationships and fellowship will go on. And not just for our lifetimes here, but for ever and ever and ever. And, as I have told you repeatedly over the past several years – “forever and ever and ever is a very, very, very long time!”
And, I will continue to pray for…and seek the blessing, favor, and approval of God upon you.
“May the LORD bless you and protect you;
may the LORD make His face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
may the LORD look with favor upon you
AND GIVE YOU PEACE.”