As we dig our teeth into Christmas baking, we are enjoying the fruit of fall’s harvest. Every September of my childhood on the farm, the combine hopper would fill with bushels upon bushels of grain. It never ceased to amaze me that each single seed of grain buried in the ground in spring could yield up to 30 kernels at harvest time. Every summer across the Prairies, acres of golden grain fields remind me of Jesus’ metaphor that through death abundant life begins.
Jesus delivered this golden kernel of truth as a sort of pressure relief statement while the public hysteria of his arrival in Jerusalem that fateful Passover reached fever pitch. The story of Lazarus’ resurrection from the grave spread far and wide. People saw greatness in Jesus; they had great plans for him.
A different plan
Yet, as in so many incidents, Jesus had a different plan. A plan that would change the course of humanity. A plan that would involve death so more abundant life could grow in its place.
In John 12:24, Jesus is referring to his own death and resurrection that would be the source of true life for all who believe in him.
But this metaphor extends beyond Jesus’ death. It becomes an image for the transformative work in the life of a Christ follower. The apostle Paul picks up this theme of death giving way to new life: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4).
Change always requires the death of something. “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy,” writes French novelist Anatole France; “for what we leave behind is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another.”
Change necessitates that we lay to rest a former pattern of operating so a new way of being can take its place.
Change is really what the Christian life is all about.
It is through death – to our former practices, old habits and bad attitudes – that the Holy Spirit remodels our life. Paul celebrates this rebirth when he writes, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Think about the way Paul describes spiritual growth in 2 Corinthians 3:18: we are “being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” Being transformed signals that the process is ongoing; it unfolds indefinitely this side of glory.
Yet how often do we resist change? In our personal lives and in our corporate life as the church too: we’re reluctant to get to know the new neighbour because we miss the ones who moved away; or we dig in our heels against the church leadership’s new ministry initiative. We are quite content to remain where we are, the way we are. We even wage battle with every resource at our disposal to fight the death of what we know.
But the life of following Christ embraces change. It embraces the notion that we as individuals and the church are always in need of radical reshaping. The Holy Spirit is continually making us new as we die to old behaviours and thought patterns, so that in their place new life can take root.
Jesus knew full well that death was required for new life to begin. He willfully laid down his life so that the power of his resurrection could transformed us. He invites us to follow in his footsteps.
Are you dying for change?
May God’s Spirit enable us to embrace the transformation he longs to bring about in our lives and churches. And may we see exponential growth as new life sprouts up.
Darren Petker is pastor of adult ministries at Ross Road Community Church, Abbotsford, B.C. He is joined in ministry by his wife Judi and their four children. Darren is nearing completion of a MACS degree through MBBS.