Are You Ready to Die?

Are You Ready to Die?

The following is the text of a devotional address to the members of Reformation Presbyterian Church at our annual congregational meeting, held at Calvary Presbyterian Church in Norfolk, Virginia, on January 19, 2022:

But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. 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. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again” (John 12:23-28).

The context of this passage is Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He enters the city riding on a donkey, and greeted by crowds with palm branches, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! The King of Israel!”

But when the crowds seek to see Jesus, He refuses to entrust Himself to them. He refuses to let their expectations of Him define Him or His relationship to them. They are seeking an earthly King and an earthly kingdom. Instead, He teaches His disciples what kind of King He is and what kind of Kingdom He has come to establish and build. He teaches His disciples that He will be like a grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies and produces much fruit. He then goes on to say that His kingdom will be made up of those who do not love their lives in this world, but instead are willing to die to sin, and self, and the world, in order that His name might be glorified in us, His people.

It was this message that our Regional Home Missionary, Lacy Andrews, brought to our Suffolk Bible study at their first official meeting together. Pastor Andrews challenged the families gathered there that afternoon with a question: “Are you ready to die?” He had a reason for beginning with that question. In his experience planting churches throughout the Southeast, Pastor Andrews found that in nearly every case, five years after a church was planted, the original “core group” was no longer part of the church. He began to reflect on why that pattern was repeating itself in our church plants. His conclusion was that we were making a mistake to think in terms of “core groups.” Often, a “core group” is a group of people who want to start a new church, but have a wide variety of ideas, expectations, hopes, and ideas about what they want the church to be. Pastor Andrews realized that we were starting from the wrong place—the expectations and hopes of the people starting the church, rather than the Lord’s expectations and desires for His church. He began to think that we should be planting churches on a different basis—a different principle. What principle is that? The principle of sacrifice. Instead of a “core group,” he realized we should begin with a “seed group”—a group of people united in their desire to give themselves completely and sacrificially to the Lord’s plans and purposes for His church.

As I have thought more about our desire at RPC to be a church-planting church, but also as we have begun to feel the pain that comes with that—the pain of seeing brothers and sisters who have become dear to us begin to move in the direction of planting a new and distinct local congregation of the body of Christ, I have been thinking that this is what we, too, need to be reminded of. Whatever our hopes and expectations for ourselves, the Lord is calling us to die to all these things and to follow Christ as He builds His church and allows us to participate in the growth of His kingdom.

So, tonight, as the fruit of Christ’s sowing of Himself by His death and resurrection, let me mention three ways we are being called as a congregation to be willing to die in our union with Him:

1) God is calling us to die to sin. Sin separates us from God and it separates us from one another. Christ is calling us to mortify the sins of heart and speech and life that would cause us to bite and devour and respond wrongly to one another, and instead to put on Christ, to follow Him, to serve Him in thankfulness, and contentment, confessing our sins to Him and to our brothers and sisters in Christ, forgiving one another as Christ has forgiven us, and serving one another in brotherly and sisterly love.

2) God is calling us to die to self. Christ’s focus in this passage is the glory of God’s name. God glorifies His name through Christ, and through the death and resurrection of Christ. How often does our focus on ourselves and our plans and our priorities make us unwilling to lay down our lives for Christ and for His kingdom? But what is our chief end? Our chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Only a church that is willing to die to itself and to its own unbiblical expectations and assumptions will produce the fruit of Christlikeness and selflessness that glorifies God.

3) God is calling us to die to the world. Jesus goes on in this passage to make clear what the fruit of His death will be: “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, If I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (vv. 31-32). Christ, by the Gospel, has conquered this world and it its ruler, the devil, by His death for us at the cross. But if Christ has died to deliver us from the world, why are our hearts so attached to that which we have been delivered from? Do you and I love the world and the things that are of the world? Then our love for the world will keep us from the work of calling those who are in the world out of the world and into the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters, let us die to sin, die to self, and die to the world in order that we might live for Christ, for His kingdom, and for His glory in the Year of Our Lord 2022.

 

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