Jesus was near the end of his earthly mission. He had raised Lazarus, been anointed for burial and entered into the city of Jerusalem a humble but conquering king in the eyes of the people (John 12:12-14). The cross wasn't far off, but in this moment there was great revelry for what the Messiah was doing.
In the midst of this celebration, several Greeks came to meet with Jesus. They had heard of his miracles and wanted to see the man so many called Lord (John 12:20-21). They were expecting a demonstration of his power, but what they got was far greater than a single action. They received the hard truth of following God:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. (John 12:24-25)
Christ began with the example of the corn of wheat. He told the Greeks and his disciples who were present that the corn is useless if it does not return to the earth. It may have produced, but if it does not give back with sacrifice, the corn will have nothing to show for its production. This was used to herald his impending crucifixion, but there is something in there for us as well. We know this from the following scripture. Let's examine that scripture before we see what the corn of wheat has for us.
At this point, Christ has changed the phrasing of his edict on losing our lives. Like other times before, you can feel that-while he is addressing the Greeks-he is talking to his disciples, his close followers. He's altered the phrasing of the statement not to be different, but because the lifestyle is one that develops over time. Let's examine:
Loving and hating instead of saving and losing.
The terms saving and losing intimate a feeling of need. We try to save things that we need and we lose things that we don't need. By the time Christ has gotten to Jerusalem, he has broken his disciples of the need for the temporal things of this life. They are not bound to this world to where they rely on it for their sustenance. They have put their faith in God to see them through and supply their needs and so should we.
Note, this is not to say that we automatically abandon jobs or go live off the grid or believe that each day a sandwich is going to fall out of the sky for us to eat. In this life, you will have to find provision for yourself. However, when we give ourselves over to God, we rely on Him to lead us in how we pursue the needs and wants of our lives. We let him lead us to the job we should have (Paul became a tent maker). We let him lead us to the city we should live in (the apostles were stretched from Rome to India before all was said and done with). We let God lead us to what we should do and then we do it. The disciples knew this and when we get an LYL mindset, we will as well.
Christ had broken the need for this life in his followers, but now a different enemy faced them. The desire of the world. Love and hate are feelings of desire and want, not necessity. We can move beyond needing things from our past, but the desire still looms. The need for a cigarette or alcohol or drugs disappears after a month, but the desire for the sensation can linger for a lifetime if we let it. The same can be said for the desire for possessions and societal status can drown us spiritually (the rich young ruler couldn't let go of his desire for money and power). Even certain ministries and "spiritual" status (John and James wanted to sit beside Jesus in heaven). The love of this life can wrap itself around us like a boa constrictor. Before we know it, the spiritual life we've established in God is squeezed to death, not under the necessity for things, but the desire of them.
We must choose. Will we, even in our pursuit of God, look to accrue the cares of this life. Will we focus on the fancy cars and houses over Bible Studies and bus routes? Will we reach for titles and positions in business more than for relationship with God and lost souls? Will we get caught up the politics of church rather than the power of the Holy Ghost moving through us? Will we love this life or hate it?
An Eternal Promise
The last point on this verse and its change of phrasing is that Christ further explains what we will get when we give up the pursuits of this life. We will keep ourselves unto life eternal. That is, we will protect our spiritual reward in heaven. Christ has told us that we will have a purpose on this earth and that he will shape our mindset about it as well as protect us and provide for us as long as we live here. However, there is a greater reward than anything down here. It is a reward the enemy desires to steal from us. When we give not only our needs to God but our desires, He puts a hedge of protection around our spirit that the enemy can't penetrate. Will we face the attacks of the devil and his minions on our soul and spirit? Yes. They will try to tear at the foundation and fabric of our faith with everything they've got. However, none of it will prosper because we have the Almighty surrounding us with his love and grace that keeps us unto eternity. Your soul will be saved. You just have to give your desires to God and not this world.
Back to the Field
With this further perspective on the LYL lifestyle, we can now revisit Christ's example of the corn of wheat. First, let's look at it through the sacrifice of Christ. Jesus offered himself up to suffer and be crucified. He died and went into the earth. His emergence from the tomb, ascension into heaven and returning of his Spirit to fill his followers with power and providing the field with the laborers for the harvest.
When we choose to sacrifice our lives for the cause of Christ, it as though a part of us dies. During that period, God works within us to make a new thing, a beautiful thing. When we emerge, we are transformed and empowered with His Spirit to do great things. As we go forth into our neighborhoods and communities, we work as the witnesses for God's Kingdom. We become the corn of wheat, providing the world with the opportunity to receive Christ. If we do this with true love of the life God wants and not the life the world wants or we in our flesh desire, we will see the results Christ's disciples witnessed. We will watch as multitudes stream towards God and become future laborers, future corns of wheat. God will do it through us if we will choose the LYL lifestyle.
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.