Lose your life in this world to keep it forever
Series: The Gospel of John
As we continue our adventure through the book of John, this week Pastor Matt unpacks the seemingly conflicting Big Idea that one must Lose your life in this world to keep it forever. However, in true Jesus fashion, we learn how freeing “losing our life in this world” can really be, and how God will use it for the ultimate good.
Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, by D.A. Carson
Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel According to John, by Andreas Kostenberger
The Tony Evans Study Bible by Tony Evans
Expository Thoughts on John by J.C. Ryle
The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung
What do you hope your life will be like in 5-10 years? What do you want to get out of life over the next 5-10 years? If you’re a somewhat driven and organized person, what are your goals? For the less goal-oriented, how would you like your life, or yourself, to change and be different over the next five years? I’m going to do something a little unusual this morning, and give you thirty seconds to briefly assess your knee-jerk answers to these questions.
Ok – one of the most important things that I can tell you today is that the Lord Jesus Christ has thoughts on the matter. Jesus has a three year plan for your life. Jesus has a goal for your life. Jesus has thoughts on the matter and his thoughts on the matter: John 12:25-26 – 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. Jesus has thoughts on the matter and those thoughts form what I believe is the Big Idea of our passage: Lose your life in this world to keep it forever.
Jesus’ five and fifty year plan for your life is to lose your life in this world to keep it forever. Now, NT scholar Andreas Kostenberger points out that the love/hate contrast in John 12 reflects a Semitic idiom, pointing to preference and priority rather than actual hatred. Therefore, hating your life and losing your life to keep it forever means preferring eternal priorities over temporal ones. At a different time in his life, Jesus put it this way: Luke 9:23-24 – And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. Jesus’ agenda and goal for your life is that you will lose your life in this world to keep it forever. Back in John 10, when Jesus said that he came that we may have life and have it abundantly, this is what he had in mind. When you take up your cross daily and follow Jesus, when you live for eternal priorities rather than temporal ones, when you lose your life in this world to keep it forever, you experience the abundant life that Jesus promises. Lose your life to keep it forever.
Now, I want you to consider what it might look like for you to lose your life in the world to keep it forever. What might it look like to prefer eternal priorities over temporal ones? It’s actually simpler than you might think. For example, losing your life might begin in the morning. When you get up you could look at your email first and get a jump on work. You could open social media or your favorite news app first and get a jump on the information or entertainment of the day. You could hit snooze. Instead, you can prefer the eternal value of spending time with Jesus first thing. You can read his Word, talk to him, and sing a song or two of worship. Simple principle: don’t do anything on your phone (except turn on your alarm) until you’ve spent time in personal worship. Lose your life, lose your morning, to keep it forever. Let’s fast forward to work. You can get ahead by bending the truth, you can be accepted by joining in the gossip and complaining, you can avoid embarrassment by keeping your faith to yourself, and you can save trouble by doing the bare minimum, and you can save time by just focusing on yourself and your work. These are all ways to keep your life. On the other hand you can lose your life by telling the truth despite the consequences, not joining in the gossip despite how odd you’ll seem, by sharing your faith or offering to pray at risk of embarrassment, and you can do your work as unto the Lord and even take time to help others with theirs, despite the time commitment. Lose your career to keep it forever. Ok – work is done and you’re at home working on your budget – just that is a victory. You decide to not go on that extra trip that you really can afford, you decide to stop buying coffee out, or you curtail eating out so that you can give more money to the church, to international missions, and to help the poor and the marginalized. Lose your money in this world to keep it forever. Fast forward to Wednesday night – Citygroup night. For personal, educational, work, or family reasons, you’re strongly considering skipping – keeping the family at home. But you remember that the Bible says to encourage one another every day as long as it is called “today” so that no one will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). You lose your life and go and encourage others to keep it forever. Now it’s the weekend. So many options for what to do with your time. You could have “you time”, family time, sleep time, or another weekend adventure. But you remember that the Bible says not to neglect assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the final day drawing near (Heb. 10:25). You go to church and lose your weekend to keep it forever. Friends, the opportunities are endless to lose your life in order to serve your family, your church, the materially poor, and those least reached with the gospel around the world. Lose your life to keep it forever. Prefer eternal priorities over temporal ones. Now, I imagine that at the top of your five year plan wasn’t losing your life to keep it forever. Why should we lose our lives to keep them forever? The answer from our passage is my one and only point for this morning:
THIS IS THE PATTERN OF JESUS (20-36)
The reason why we lose our lives to keep them forever is because this is the way of Christ. For Jesus, glory came through death. He had to die before he could rise. He had to hang on a cross before he sat on a throne. He had to experience utter humiliation before heavenly exaltation. Listen to how Jesus put it at the beginning of our passage. John 12:23-24 – 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. For Jesus, glory came through death and it’s the same for us. It’s the pattern he’s left us to follow. True life comes through death. Lose your life to keep it forever. Jesus lost his life to keep it forever and this is the pattern he has left us to follow. Lose your life to keep it forever. I want to give you a closer look at this pattern of Jesus. I want you to see the fruit that he promises his death will produce.
John 12:27-31- “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. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. Look at the glory that comes through Jesus’ death. By dying and going into the ground, by losing his life in this world on the cross, Jesus both casts out the ruler of this world and draws all people to himself. That’s glory through death!
What does it mean that Jesus cast out the ruler of this world by losing his life in this world? Well, the ruler of this world is Satan or the Devil. And when Jesus died on the cross, Satan was cast out. I don’t think that means that Satan is now powerless to harm us. After all, the Apostle Paul devoted considerable space in his letter to the Ephesians to teaching us how to put on the full armor of God so that we can stand against the Devil’s schemes. The cross didn’t not cast out Satan in the sense of making him harmless. The name Satan means accuser. His name evokes images of a courtroom where an accuser brings charges against a defendant before a judge. Satan accuses us before God because of our sins. But when Jesus died on the cross, when he lost his life, when it looked like he was defeated, he was actually accomplishing something truly glorious: he cast Satan out of the heavenly court. If you’re in Christ, there is no condemnation for you because Christ was already condemned for all your sins. No accusation can stand against you because they were already counted against Christ. Satan has been cast out of court, his accusations are out of order, and it’s all because Christ lost his life in this world.
Not only that, when Jesus loses his life in this world, he draws all people to himself! When Jesus says that he will draw all people to himself by being lifted up on the cross, he’s not saying that through his death he attempts to draw all people to himself, and only those who choose to believe come. We know from the way that Jesus uses the word “draw” throughout John’s Gospel that his drawing overcomes resistance and is effective. We also know that Jesus does not draw every individual person who ever lived to himself through his death, because Jesus’ death certainly didn’t draw Judas to himself. No, what Jesus means is that through being lifted up on the cross and losing his life in this world, he draws all of his sheep, all of his people, his elect, to himself, overcoming their stubborn resistance so that they will surely believe. He does not just draw Jewish people but his sheep from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.
Do you see the pattern? Jesus’ glory comes through his death. Jesus lost his life in this world to bear fruit forever. He lost his life to keep it. And that’s why we, as his followers, eagerly take up our crosses and lose our lives in this world to keep it forever. We lay down our lives daily for God’s glory because that’s what Christ did and we follow Him. This is the pattern that Jesus has left us, that we would follow in his steps. Lose your life to keep it forever.
THE BOOK OF GLORY
Now, you may have noticed that there are a lot of verses in our passage that we haven’t touched yet and that’s because the rest of the verses in John 12 are profoundly transitional and sort of stand alone. The Gospel of John breaks into two major parts. The first twelve chapters are often called The Book of Signs. These twelve chapters cover years of Jesus’ life and record the different signs Jesus did to show that he is the Christ, the Son of God. The final nine chapters are often called The Book of Glory. Rather than covering years, these chapters cover just days – the Last Supper, Jesus’ death, resurrection, and Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance. And the rest of our passage this morning covers the transition from the book of signs to the book of glory. And in this transition John, the author of this Gospel, wants to explain why so many people didn’t believe in Jesus despite all his signs and give them one last chance before he turns his attention to just his disciples. Let’s begin with John’s explanation for widespread unbelief.
John 12:36-43 – When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
40“He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them.”
41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
Did you notice the two reasons why they don’t believe? The first reason that John provides is that they don’t believe is so that the sovereign plan of God revealed through prophet Isaiah would be fulfilled. They don’t believe in Jesus because God sovereignly planned it that way. Though this can be hard to accept, it is what the word of God clearly says. These verses teach what theologians call the doctrine of reprobation. Reprobation refers to God’s passing by the non-elect and ordaining them to wrath on account of their sins (Westminster Confession of Faith 3:7). The first reason they don’t believe is because of God’s sovereignty. But do you notice the second reason why they don’t believe, why they don’t lose their life to keep it forever? The second reason is human responsibility – they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. I love the Bible. It just places God’s absolute sovereignty and human responsibility right next to one another without flinching. It’s almost as though these human authors had help! The second reason why they don’t really believe – in the end their faith proved false – is because they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. Do they not believe because of God’s sovereign plan? Yes. Do they not believe because they love the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God, yes. I want to say a word about this second reason.
Friends – one of the best reasons to believe in Jesus, one of the best reasons to lose your life to keep it forever is that the glory and honor that comes from God is so much better, weightier, and long lasting than the glory that comes from man. Yes – you can keep your life in this world and people will give you glory. Heck, you can even be religious and people will applaud you because you’re one of the decent people and thank goodness someone still goes to church on Sunday. You can amass wealth just like the world, consume entertainment like the world, complain like the world, parent like the world, spend your time like the world, ignore the plight of the physically poor and spiritually lost like the world, you can keep your beliefs to yourself like the world, and still come here on Sunday and you will get the glory that comes from man. But how long will that last? And how weighty is that approval? On the other hand, you can follow the way of Jesus. You can lose your life in this world every day and enjoy the honor and glory that comes from God that lasts forever. You can lose your life and hear those gloriously weighty words from your Father, “well done good and faithful servant.” Losing your life to keep it forever means daily loving the glory that comes from God rather than man.
Final part of John 12, this transitional passage, concludes with the Lord Jesus giving the crowds one last summary of his teaching that the Father sent Him into the world to save it and giving them one last chance to believe. This is urgent. It’s urgent for you. Appeal for conversion.