Falling to the Ground
In Isaiah 61:10 it talks about the joy of the Lord. He says:
Isaiah 61:10 – I delight greatly in the Lord. My soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
We want that kind of praise in our life; we want that kind of life. We want a life wrapped in righteousness and holiness with jewels shining. But we have to enter the garden. Verse 11 says:
Isaiah 61:11 – For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.
We have to enter into the garden. We have to plant the seeds and we have to receive the seed and we have to fall to the ground and die. A true faith in Jesus Christ first brings death before it brings life. Most people try to avoid the dying process and claim the life. Most people will want verse 10 without going to verse 11. And we want to be a people going to the cross, falling to the ground and dying.
Let’s go to John 12:20. Faith in Jesus first gives us the crucified life before it gives us the resurrected life. Faith in Jesus Christ, to begin following Him on this earth means that we have to walk toward Jerusalem where we must die. Faith in Jesus gives us trials before it gives us peace. It’s in nature in the way that the seeds are planted within a garden or a weed is planted within a field. You first have to put the seed into the ground and the seed has to die before you can expect to find life. In John 12:20 it says:
John 12:20 – Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast.
These are God-fearing people. These are people who want to worship the Lord.
John 12:21 – They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request . . .
And they come with humility, they come with grace, they come with faith and they say:
John 12:21 – . . . “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”
And there’s a lot of people in churches today coming with worship, coming with attitudes of humility and respect. And they come saying, “I want to see Jesus Christ. I want to know who He is. I want to discover the living God.” It says in verse 22:
John 12:22 – Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
And they come to Jesus but Jesus doesn’t respond outwardly in a fashion that we would call normal. It says in verse 23:
John 12:23 – Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
It would be as if I went up to somebody and said, “I want to visit with so and so,” and the person goes in and says, “Tim’s out here and he would like to talk with you.” And the person turns and says, “Now is the time for me to be glorified.” We would say, “What does that have to do with the question or the request that I presented before you?” And what Jesus is showing all mankind is that if we want to see Jesus Christ, if we want to view more than a historical Jesus or a physical Jesus or just a religion called Christianity, then this is how we see God and this is how we see Jesus and this is what we each must go through.
John 12:23 – Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
To see God’s glory we must live verse 24.
John 12:24 – I tell you the truth . . .
We’re going to stop here in a moment and look at that one sentence, but for now Jesus is getting our attention. This is how each of us must come to see Jesus if we are to really have the honest Jesus. The way that we see Jesus is this way:
John 12:24-26 – . . . unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
In this body we’ve examined pretty well what it means to hate one’s life. We’ve examined the need for obedience to serve Jesus where Jesus calls us to go. But today I want us to look at the wheat that falls to the ground and dies. Because all of these things are necessary in order to see Jesus. In John 12:24 it says this:
John 12:24 – I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
Three things must be in place to see Jesus Christ. Three things must be present in our walk before the Lord:
The first thing is that we must have the truth. We must have that seed, that wheat, that presence of what is really true and honest in Jesus Christ and we must hold on to that.
Number two, with each kernel we must do something. It must fall to the ground. It must fall in humility and brokenness.
And number three, it’s not enough just to fall to the ground. It’s not just enough to say that you have the truth. The third thing that must happen is that we must die and that’s the place that most people will not go.
Let’s go to John 1:15. Let’s back up and listen to Jesus’ word when He says, “I tell you the truth.” You can’t just pick any kind of Jesus that you want to lay hold of. It has to be the living God. And in John 1:15 it says:
John 1:15-16 – John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.
The first thing we need to realize is that men all over the world receive blessings from God. The pagan, the worst pagan you can think of, receives sunshine and light and food and air. He has the earth to walk upon and he can see the flowers and trees, one blessing after another blessing surrounds mankind. And so when you find people in church saying, “I worship God and I know He’s blessed me,” that’s almost nothing more than what the world experiences. Those in the world experience the blessings of God and indeed, as they walk in the world and enjoy the things of the world they are taking the blessings God has given them and they use them for self. That’s how most people are who claim to be Christians. Receiving blessings means very little. What we do with those things and what that leads to tell the difference. Verse 16 again:
John 1:16-17 – From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
And Jesus Christ has told us the truth that if we want to see Him that we must become like a kernel of wheat and we must fall to the ground and we must go into that ground and we must die. All of those things have to be present before you can say the life is even starting. In verse 18 it says:
John 1:18 – No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
How is Jesus Christ telling us that we can see the Father? How can we see the Father in our own life? How can we tell somebody else to see Jesus? When people come to us and say, “I want to understand this Christianity,” or “I want to keep an open dialogue about the Christianity that you live,” what we need to turn to them and tell them is that, “You will not understand anything about what we are telling you unless you are willing to be wheat that falls to the ground and dies, a seed that is willing to be buried.” That’s how men see God.
In John 17:17. You don’t have to turn to it, but Jesus says:
John 17:17 – Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
And what Jesus is telling us today is that the word of God is like seeds, it’s like a wheat seed and we are to take one seed at a time. And we are to take that seed and we’re to take it in and see these three things be present until we produce fruit, until we produce wheat.
Let’s go to Luke 19:17. Because if we accept the truth, the fact that we must simply fall to the ground and die and allow it to grow. And the second thing that we must do is allow the wheat to fall to the ground. A man who takes in the seed, who takes in one seed and holds on to it and will not let go of it to fall to the ground and die will never get to a place where he can participate in that truth, where he can eat from a harvest of it. In Luke 19:17 it says:
Luke 19:17 – “Well done, my good servant!” his master replied. “Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.”
Think of a kernel of wheat, it’s very small, very insignificant at first. And so ask yourself this very simple question, “How well do I repent of the small things in my life?” To know whether you’re really taking on the wheat of the Lord and the seeds that God gives you, how well do you repent of the small things? The very small things in your life? Look at verse 17 again.
Luke 19:17 – “Well done, my good servant!” his master replied. “Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.”
He knows what our sinful nature is. Usually we focus in on the major. Usually we say, “Well, I’ve got this major problem over here,” but we refuse to take the small thing and cast it to the ground that it might die. We refuse to take the truth in relationship to our sin, match those up, throw them to the ground so that like a seed where the husk dies off so that the seed can come to life, we refuse to do that so there is no life that takes place. Instead we whine and complain that we have all these problems over here but we never begin with the small things. We never confess the small lies, we wait till we’re discovered in the big lies. We never confess the small areas of lust in our lives, we wait until they are so large that everybody sees them and then there’s the requirement to repent. “You’ve been very trustworthy of the small things, now take charge of ten cities.” Think of how small that kernel of wheat is and then ask yourself, “How well do I repent? How deeply do I repent of the small things?”
You know, everybody in the world wants to clean up their life in relationship to the big problems they have. That doesn’t mean they want to give up the root cause or the seed or the sin that is there.
Let’s go to Matthew 12:39. Again, in order to see Jesus Christ I have to fall to the ground in humility. I have to take the seed of truth and I have to say, “That is true and this is who I am,” and then in humility I fall to the ground. I let that seed do its work. In Matthew 12:39 it says:
Matthew 12:39 – He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign!”
As you look at the church today, what is everybody in love with? The miracles. The current Christian walk is to be known by a course of miracles and what everybody experiences and what we can feel and what miraculous things take place. That’s a wicked and adulterous generation because what Jesus Christ is asking us to participate in are not miracles but to fall to the ground, to go into silence, to become very humble before God. He says:
Matthew 12:39 – . . . But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
Now look at what He says in verse 40.
Matthew 12:40 – For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
He is a seed falling to the ground and He is showing us the way to see God. He is showing us the way to be conformed to His image. He is showing us the way to be like Jesus Christ and it’s not by looking at the miraculous, and it’s not looking to our feelings. It’s not looking to all the answered prayers. How are we to be a people who can see the living God? By entering into what? The soil of the earth, the belly or “the heart of the earth,” as He puts it. Going where it’s dark and damp and dungy. Falling into the soil so that what? That death might take place that life might happen.
In Mark 8:31, let’s turn to that and think again of falling to the ground. It must sink deep into the ground where it’s warm and where it’s fertile and where it’s quiet. You know, soil is something that is very alive. When the seed first falls into the soil it has to begin a process of dying. The outward shell of that seed has to rot off in order that the seed might produce life. So in the same way we fall in our humility before God, surrounded by His grace, fall into the soil, but where it’s quiet and where it’s dark and where you have faith and dependence upon God. And then He works the new life.
Mark 8:31 – He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.
Jesus Christ must become out of sight and hidden in the tomb. He must go through the dying process where the shell of a man is broken. Where He’s tried by Pontius Pilate. Where He’s drug through the city. Where He’s whipped and beaten, where He is nailed. And then He is put into the tomb where what? That dying process must begin to take place. He must be hidden away from man so that God might work. And God draws us away from man and from mankind in order that He might deal with us that we might be hidden in His hand. And there in that tomb you wait upon Him to resurrect you and to give you the new life.
Let’s go to Isaiah 8:16. Think of a seed that is in the ground. It doesn’t know how it produces new life but it happens. If I were to ask you, “How does God deliver you from sin?” you would not be able to tell me. You would be able to tell me everything that leads up to that point, perhaps. You pray about it, you become humble, you become broken, but there becomes that fine moment when no man can tell you what takes place or how God does it, but He transforms and He produces life because you wait upon Him and He does the work. And we can’t always explain why some people change and some people don’t change because outwardly they might do all the right things but there’s something God sees within their hearts that doesn’t allow the new life to take place. In Isaiah 8:16 it says:
Isaiah 8:16 – Bind up the testimony and seal up the law among my disciples.
This is the only time in the NIV that the word “disciple” is used in the Old Testament. And God speaks to us as disciples who know that it is a process of falling to the ground and dying. Verse 17:
Isaiah 8:17 – I will wait for the Lord . . .
He is hidden in the earth, He is hidden just as a seed is hidden in the ground.
Isaiah 8:17 – I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob. I will put my trust in him.
And so there comes that point in time when you’ve humbled yourself and you’ve confessed your sins. There are those times when you’ve accepted the word and what God has to say and what the truth is. And you’ve fallen to the ground and you’re in the soil, it is at that point that you need to continue to wait but that is precisely the point when people don’t want to continue on with God. They get tired of waiting and they don’t allow the rotting process and they don’t allow the husks to die and to disappear into the ground. They don’t want that new life to burst forth because it would mean a losing of everything in order to have it.
Let’s look at Lamentations 3:23. Isn’t it amazing how many people that are in disobedience always do a lot of talking. You find somebody that is engaged in a lot of disobedience before the Lord they will talk and they will talk. But those that are waiting upon God to crucify them and to put them to death, wait in the soil, wait in the tomb, wait where it is dark, wait where it is quiet in order for God to do his work. In Lamentations 3:23 it says this about God’s faithfulness:
Lamentations 3:23 – They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Now in verse 24 he says:
Lamentations 3:24 – I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
When you go into the ground and when a farmer plants the seed, what does he have to begin to do most of all, but wait? He has to wait and be dependent upon God for the rain and the sunshine and for everything to be its place. He has to trust the Lord that there will be no floods or nothing will come along to destroy it. “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Most run to miracles or gimmicks or steps or programs but refuse to go into the ground to die.
Lamentations 3:25 – The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him,
Now look at verse 26.
Lamentations 3:26 – it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Like I said, there are people that I know in their disobedience they come to me and all they do is talk about how they’re seeking God and they’re crying out after Him and they’re doing the best that they can and I kind of smile on the inside knowing they don’t have it yet. Because when God begins to do the work, when I fall to the ground and when I begin to die, when I’m hidden in the soil, I become very, very quiet and contemplating about what the Lord is doing. I don’t run in self-pity wearing my emotions on my sleeve, going to the world and saying, “Oh, how rough it is to be a Christian. And how tough this walk really is. And how hard the word of God really is.” You don’t whine and complain, you become very quiet to wait for the salvation of the Lord to do its work. Just as a farmer takes that seed and he plants it in the ground and he waits quietly for it to begin to produce life. Most of us hinder God and stop Him because we’re in the soil but we’re doing all the talking, we’re doing all the striving, we’re doing all the work. Therefore I will wait for Him.
Lamentations 3:25-26 – The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
It is not good to be whining and complaining and praising and worshipping and jumping up and down and doing all kinds of things, but to sit alone in silence in the heart of the earth in the warmth of the ground to let Him do His work. Verse 27:
Lamentations 3:27-28 – It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence . . .
What does a seed do when you put it in the ground? It is alone there in its silence producing nothing, looking like nothing is taking place. It is laid in the ground and there is rich hope but there is no guarantee. A bird or a predator may come along and remove that seed. You put that seed in love and hope that it will produce life. So we take the word of God and we guard it in our heart. We put it in the soil and we fall to the ground and we die and we pray and we ask God to produce life because it can be so easily taken from us. And how many there are that say, “Oh, it was just a small seed. It wasn’t a big issue. It was just a small inkling of God’s truth. I have other seeds over here.” But it was planted and it was in the soil and it was meant to produce life and you let somebody snatch it and take it away. It is good to sit alone in silence. Even Jesus when He talks about a man who finds a treasure hidden in a field, it says he buries it again and goes off to buy the field. He doesn’t talk excessively. He doesn’t tell everybody about the treasure. He is very treasuring of the treasure. He knows it’s precious. And when God gives you a seed to begin to produce life in you to crucify your sin and your flesh, get very, very quiet and listen to what He’s trying to tell you.
Lamentations 3:28 – Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him.
If it is the truth that has laid it upon you, if it is Jesus Christ who has presented it before you, then let Him do the work and begin to become very quiet. I was just on the phone with someone this morning talking to them about some areas of their flesh and all they did was keep talking and finally I just said, “Shhhh, get quiet and listen.” We do so much talking we can’t hear what God is trying to work. And yet we know that He’s a God who brings grace and who brings blessing, one thing upon another, but we’re so busy talking that we won’t allow Him, that we won’t fall to the ground and die. Verse 29 says if you can’t keep your mouth shut:
Lamentations 3:29 – Let him bury his face in the dust—there may yet be hope.
If you can’t shut up, put your face in the ground and do some talking. Put your face in the dust and begin to open your mouth and breathe. The dust will keep you from talking. It’ll get you quiet before the Lord. Bury your face in it, there may yet be hope. Don’t say that there is hope. Say that there is every danger. How many fools I know who take the truth of Jesus Christ, think they have it and think it is a finished deal. It would be as if a farmer went out in a field and he planted all of his seeds and he backed up and said, “Oh, I have a large harvest. It’s already done, it’s already completed.” That farmer while he waits impatiently for God to work and for the harvest to come is anxious for his fields, is defensive for his fields.
I remember as a young kid we were at camp and we were out in the woods somewhere and we were hiking through and we had gotten lost on some river trip or something. And this man had a large corn field and we were walking through it. We finally found his house and walking through this cornfield we had stepped on some stalks of corn. And the first question they asked us after we got there after they let us use the phone was, “Did you harm any of the plants?” Unfortunately, we lied. But he was protective of his fields because he knew it was valuable. The promise was there but he hadn’t yet had the harvest.
“Let him bury his face in the dust—there may yet be hope.” Do not run around saying, “I have it, it’s completed and it’s mine and I’ve overcome it and I’m sure that it is there.” Wait quietly in the earth. Wait for God to do the work and to bring about the resurrection. It would be as if Jesus Christ were in the tomb and two days into it he steps out and he says, “Are we ready yet? It’s mine.” It’s too early. Verse 30 goes on to say:
Lamentations 3:30 – Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him . . .
Look at the contrast here. This isn’t the lone ranger kind of Christianity. You’ve seen that. Somebody says, “I’m not going to talk about it because I’m just letting God deal with my sin.” They’re so noble and they’re so holy and what? Running from the light. Let him sit alone, but as he sits alone:
Lamentations 3:30 – Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him . . .
Let him sit alone but turn to somebody and say, “Strike me and hit me and show me anything that you see. Let’s break off the chaff, let’s break off the husk that is there that the seed might produce life.”
Lamentations 3:30 – Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace.
How well do you repent of the small things that are in your life? Are you filled with disgrace? One fleeting thought of lust and you take that and fill yourself with disgrace as if it were a complete act of adultery. Isn’t that what Jesus Christ told us to do? And when we talk out of turn about another man’s character where the Holy Spirit has not led us to do that, do we fill ourselves with disgrace? You know the test of this is very simple. If you see nothing more than what a man tells you about sin in your life, you’re trampling on the blood of Jesus Christ. Verse 31 says:
Lamentations 3:31 – For men are not cast off by the Lord forever.
There’s a rich promise here. You will not be cast off, he will not hide his face always. Three days later you’ll be resurrected and in his timing you will produce a harvest. It will take place for those who come to Him with noble and good hearts. Verse 32 says:
Lamentations 3:32-33 – Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.
In other words, by the time you’re falling to the ground and dying you’ve forced God’s hand. And so don’t bring any justifications before him. By the time he comes to you to deal with you, and he is the one dealing with you, you’ve already pushed him to the limit.
Let’s go to the book of Job, chapter 14, verse 13, because Job was more right than he knew. Job had within the essence of his speaking and all of his turmoil and all that he went through the essence of the crucified life. You know when he got up to heaven and there was the Book of Job and he’s reading through it and going, “Did I say that?” And as he watched Jesus Christ unfold and the message of the cross came out he began to see the glimmers and the taste that he had there and he didn’t know it.
Job 14:13 – If only you would hide me in the grave . . .
Is that not what we ask the living God to do to us? He comes with conviction, He comes to crucify us, He comes to purify us. And we want to run and we want to hide. Let us run to the grave where we can die to the sin.
Job 14:13-14 – If only you would hide me in the grave and conceal me till your anger has passed! If only you would set me a time and then remember me! If a man dies, will he live again?
Job didn’t know what we know. Jesus Christ had not appeared. We know so we should not whine and complain and be faithless. We should say, “Yes, a man will live again if he dies because of Jesus Christ.”
Job 14:14 – . . . All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come.
If he was willing to wait and he knew nothing of Jesus Christ, why should we then be in self-pity about what is happening in our life? Why should we not embrace the message of the cross? Why should we not fall to the ground and die and give up what we’re holding on to? If he could say this, if this could ring out and he knew nothing of the hope that we have, even on our worst day we should be rejoicing fully.
Job 14:14 – If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come.
Look at his hope. It is an honest heart crying out to God no matter how many years he must wait upon the living God. He will not turn to some other comforts. He will not even pay attention to his wife who told him to curse God and to die. He will wait for the living God to bring him renewal. So if we want to see Jesus Christ we must fall to the ground, we must go into the ground, and we must wait there in the darkness for him to bring life. Verse 15:
Job 14:15 – You will call and I will answer you;
Look at the need he has to be obedient, to want to be obedient, to do the right thing. His heart is having the heart of Jesus Christ. What does it say about Jesus? I am here to do your will. Job wasn’t saying he would become a better religious man or that he would mock back the things of God. He says:
Job 14:15-16 – You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made. Surely then you will count my steps . . .
Now look at this. This is just as poetic as it can be.
Job 14:16 – Surely then you will count my steps but not keep track of my sin.
He dies and he waits and he hides in the grave. And he says, “Though my sins are always with me in my tracks you will not count those. You will not follow those. You will see my track running toward you but you will cast aside my sin. You will put them into a container never to be opened again.”
Job 14:17 – My offenses will be sealed up in a bag; you will cover over my sin.
Why? Because he was willing to wait upon the living God no matter how much he was tormented, no matter how much he was convicted. No matter what questions he had, no matter what turmoil he went through, no matter what things he had to struggle with, all the anxiety and all the things, even his friends coming again him, he was willing to wait upon God to bring him renewal. We must fall to the ground. With all of our doubts and all of our questions and all of our struggles and all of our wondering how He does it and how He can accomplish it, we must be a people that say, “I will wait for the living God to act and to bring renewal.”
Let’s go to Deuteronomy 11:13. You must fall into the ground and wait upon God’s timing. If the rains are late then we must wait. If the showers that we would hope for and expect do not come right away then we must be a people waiting. If it’s cloudy and we need sunshine we must wait upon Him to bring the sunshine. If the sun is too hot then we must depend upon Him to bring more rain. If we are planted in winter then we must wait until spring for the harvest to come, for the growth to take place.
Deuteronomy 11:13-14 – So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul—then I will send rain on your land in its season . . .
You plant wheat at different times you expect harvest at different times. This is what Jesus calls us to go and to look at.
Deuteronomy 11:14 – . . . both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil.
But we are far too impatient, we want our answers now, we want our righteousness at this moment. But Hebrews and scripture and James tell us that what? We must be patient as a farmer is patient to get our harvest at the proper time.
In James 5:7, James says it very clearly. He says:
James 5:7 – Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits . . .
Go and look at the farmer. He doesn’t plant a field and then the next day expects to find a harvest.
James 5:7-8 – . . . See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.
I want you to turn to James 5:9 and read that with me. Because as we wait for God to bring us the righteousness for which we hope. As we struggle we think, “Why doesn’t He deliver me today from this sin? And why hasn’t the seed produced what I thought it would produce immediately?” In our impatience it’s very easy to become impatient toward one another. Because who can strike at God and win? And when we’ve prayed, and when we’ve confessed sin and when we think we’ve done everything, we’ve accepted the truth, and yet the harvest of righteousness isn’t there and it doesn’t seem to be happening we can’t strike at God because He’s too far away. So what we strike at is one another. Instead of being filled with disgrace what do we do? We become defensive and we put off our brothers and sisters and we begin to grumble against them. As they seek to pray for us and as we struggle together with one another what does it say in verse 9?
James 5:9 – Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged.
It is so easy when we’re coming before the Lord to fall to the ground and to die that when he doesn’t bring the harvest immediately that we begin to grumble against one another because we can’t strike at Him. It says:
James 5:9-10 – . . . The Judge is standing at the door! Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
Then look at the next example he gives to us, the one that we just read from.
James 5:11 – As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
When he calls us to look at perseverance, of going to the ground and dying, who does he point to? The book of Job. I don’t think if we had our choice that would be the book we would look at. Job was a righteous man and Job loved the Lord. And yet there was a spiritual battle waged between him and Satan and he was a pawn that knew nothing of what was going on behind the scenes. We’re talking thirty years or many years of Job’s life where he had to endure all kinds of suffering, both physical and losing his family and losing everything, and yet he waited patiently for the Lord to deliver. Even as his friends argued against him.
Let’s go to Hebrews 10:9 because I want to really get to the most important part of what we’re looking at today. Jesus Christ says, “If you fall to the ground and die. . .” Most people I know will accept most of what is being recorded here and being looked at today will accept everything but the part about dying. You know, if Jesus Christ were still dying on the cross we’d be doomed. And this is precisely the point that most people fail at. They refuse to die, to give it up. They’ll accept the truth. They’ll even fall to the ground in humility and they’ll be in the soil, they’ll be in a good church where the soil is warm, in a place where they could be productive, but they will refuse to die and to give it up. To honestly be transformed. They’ll copy it, they’ll mock it, they’ll go through the motions. They’ll say that they want it, they’ll do all that there is but they won’t give it up. In Hebrews 10:9 it says this:
Hebrews 10:9 – Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second.
Now verse 10 tells us this:
Hebrews 10:10 – And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
It would be as if Jesus Christ went through the whole process of being judged by Pilate and Herod in the world, of being whipped by the authorities, of being made to carry His cross through the town. Probably going on before everybody else and everybody looking at Him being crucified. It would be as if we go through and we’ve given up everything and they’ve gambled for our clothes. They lay us upon the cross and they put the nails in. They lift up the cross with our sign up there saying this person is being crucified and this is his crime. And we’re lifted up on the cross and we’re still up on the cross dying, day after day after day, refusing to die. And that’s how many of us are. We go through all the pain and we go through all the suffering, we go through all the sacrifice. We acknowledge that it’s all true and we say that the message of the cross is true and we keep going on and on and on and on and we’re up on the cross and we’re dying and we turn to everybody and say, “See how I am suffering? See how I am dying? See how I am trusting in God? See how I’m crying out to Him?” But you refuse to die. And if you stay in the position of just being on the cross all the time you will eventually give up. Jesus Christ is not still on the cross. He died once and for all. And there comes that point in time with that one thing in your life, that one kernel of wheat, that one seed of truth that He’s given you that you have to go all the way to the point of complete and total death in order for there to be life. There must be an overcoming of that one thing. Because if you stay on the cross day and night, never dying, you will get tired of the pain and you will quit and you will give up. Do not underestimate what I am telling you. I know many, many people like this.
Hebrews 10:11 – Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties;
Do you understand? Someone who is being crucified all the time, what do they find this gospel call to be? Legalism. And they find it to be laws. And they find it to be death because they’ve never died. Because the rules stand against them. The gospel is always confronting them and they always have the guilt of what they are not doing and why it is not complete. Because they would not surround all and die. And the reason they feel that this is so narrow and so hard and so rough is because why? Every day you’ve got to go through the religious motions of offering the sacrifice. Of going to the cross and talking about the nails and going on but they don’t go on to die in order to get the resurrected life.
Hebrews 10:11 – Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
I know many people who are taking the message of the cross and day in and day out, over and over again, they’re saying, “It’s the message of the cross and I’m dying and I’m suffering and I’m going through all these things. See the nails, see the whip marks, see the crown of thorns, see all that I go through? I publicly humiliate myself.” And they’re just dying all the time. But it never takes away their sin because you can never give them a certificate of death. You can never say they gave it all up. You can never say the surrender was there. But they go, “I’m on the cross, the nails have me nailed on. I’m being crucified. Don’t you see the pain that I’m in?” But you won’t die. You’ll just hang there tormented. Verse 12:
Hebrews 10:12 – But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.
There has to come a point when we enter the same Sabbath-rest. Where there are sins in our life—it might be small—it might be one kernel of wheat that has gone all the way through the message of the cross unto being in the tomb and being resurrected. But it has to be that one that will bear more fruit. Verse 13 says:
Hebrews 10:13 – Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool,
Still that waiting upon God to complete it. Don’t come to me and say, “But I’ve done it with this one sin here, I must be in.” Jesus Christ is still in the process of waiting for His enemies to be made as his footstool. I am still waiting for me to be made perfect in Jesus Christ. I am still not complete. I still have a lot more to press on to. Paul will say that he has not already achieved this and so he goes to the cross. But what happens is you take one kernel of wheat and you learn, “Okay, this is the process that I go through. This is how I fall to the ground and die, this is how I go to the cross. This is how I get the resurrected life. I have tasted that. I have overcome in that, now I’m going to take this over here.” And pretty soon you’ve got a whole handful of seeds in your hand and you’re planting those and pretty soon you’ve got a whole field and pretty soon you have a harvest of righteousness. And there’s always the waiting upon God to bring more and more. Verse 14:
Hebrews 10:14 – because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
In the process of being made holy. He has shown us how to see him. It is to fall to the ground and die. And some of you have discovered that if I take the one seed and I go to the ground and I die and He brings new life and it produces the fruit of more wheat. I’ll take some of those seeds and I’ll plant those again and you can keep growing more and more, receiving one blessing after another blessing. But if you’re not dying, you’re trampling.
Look at Hebrews 6:4. If you’re not dying you’re trampling on the blood of Jesus Christ every single day. Because you are forcing Jesus Christ to go back to that cross again and begin the process over and over and over.
Hebrews 6:4 – It is impossible . . .
You underline that word and take it to heart.
Hebrews 6:4-6 – It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
You may want to go to the cross over and over again, you may want to hang on there forever and ever and never giving up your sin, but Jesus Christ died once for your sins and He’s shown you the way and you have to go to that cross and you have to take that kernel of wheat and you have to begin to die. And it has to go all the way to death. To transformation. To being made different. It can’t be a word game and it can’t be a mocker. Because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. All you tell people when you hang on the cross and never die to it is that Jesus Christ is powerless to change people’s lives. And when you stand there, and I guarantee you, when you talk to people in the world and you know not what this means and they look at your life all they do is walk away from you going, “That Christianity is worthless.” They won’t tell you to your face. They’ll flatter you to your face. And they’ll tell you everything is fine but in the secret parts of their heart they are saying to themselves, “They don’t have anything of any significant power or change.” We may lie to ourselves and fool ourselves but we can’t lie to everybody else and fool them.
Hebrews 6:7 – Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it . . .
No man can ever say that he came to the Lord and the Lord just gave him a drought every single day of his life. When it comes to the message of the cross, when it comes to a kernel of wheat falling in the ground, God sends rain often. You might think you’re parched. You might wonder what’s going on in that darkness, but He’s sending the rain.
Hebrews 6:7 – Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.
You see, the self-centeredness is taken out of it. Who is the crop for? It’s for God. Many people saying that they’re receiving blessings for God are blessings for themselves. They’re not useful to God. Now verse 8 says:
Hebrews 6:8 – But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.
It may not be fully ready for being burned and there may be a few good things of wheat growing up among the thorns but in the end it will be burned up because the field is of no use. So I ask you, in your fellowship with people in this body, when people reach into your life to fellowship with you, do they get stuck by the thorns of self? Are they able to reach in and to embrace and to hold you and to fellowship with you and when the thorn comes up you’re able to tear it out and pull it out of your fields? Or do you strike back and do you prick and do you say you will not go into that area? Do you hide in the darkness and when someone or God reaches in to draw you into the light all they reach is a crown of thorns that repels the hand that seeks to hold them? Are we soft and teachable? Are we falling and producing things that are worthwhile.
In 2 Corinthians 3:18 it says about the Christian life, it says:
2 Corinthians 3:18 – And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
You take one kernel of wheat, take one small aspect of your life and take the kernel of truth, take the kernel of wheat, and lay it in the ground of your heart and deposit it in soft soil. And let it die and you die with it and self be crucified and put to death and let it begin to produce life. And then when you’ve succeeded in that one small area, when you have taken whatever it is, been filled with disgrace, set alone, when you have gotten this all down and you have accomplished this kind of victory with one small thing, then go to two. But no wheat plant ever just produces one seed. Does it? This thing grows and grows until your whole heart is a heart of wheat. Something useful for the Lord. Something others can even eat from and there’s still room to plant, and there’s still seed to plant the next year. And more fields. Until the whole harvest is full for the Lord.
Let’s go to Leviticus 11:37. Because Jesus Christ says if it dies it produce what? Many seeds. If we can just take one thing in our life because it requires a full heart to do this, and go to the ground and fall and die producing one stalk of wheat, it will produce many seeds. If you could see the depth of self and sin in one thing in your life there is hope. If you can go all the way down into the grave, if you can sit there in the tomb in faith in God, if you can persevere with that, if you can surrender all unto death to self and have but a small, one small seed of the resurrected life, there is hope. There is hope that you will produce many seeds. But without it there is no hope, there is no guarantee. And with one stalk that is produced that comes to harvest there is only hope, you have to keep pressing on.
Leviticus 11:37 – If a carcass falls on any seeds that are to be planted, they remain clean.
So we come with the message of the cross. We have the seeds in our hands, we have all of self, we’re basically dead carcasses walking around. It’s just a matter of time before we die. We have all of our schemes and all of our justifications, we have all our reasons why we do things and don’t do things. We have all the excuses and everything is all laid out. We have that carcass we carry around, it’s called ourselves. And you have the seeds, you have the word of life. So basically you have a bunch of dead men carrying around a bunch of seeds. “If a carcass falls on any of these seed to be planted, they remain clean.” But verse 38 says this:
Leviticus 11:38 – But if water has been put on the seed and a carcass falls on it, it is unclean for you.
If God has begun the water of life, if he’s sprinkled on some of the river of the water of life on those seeds, if the water that has been poured on those seeds has begun to produce life and we take the old man and we take the death and we take all of our excuses and we take all of our justifications, if we take that carcass called ourselves and we lay it upon those good seeds it becomes unclean for us. It may not become unclean for the psychologists out there and it may not become unclean for the worldly and all their wisdom but for us we know that those seeds will be tainted and they will be unclean. They will have thorns in the field and they will have thistles in the field along with the wheat because the carcass of self has tainted it and it’s going to produce death.
Do you know what causes wheat seeds to produce life? Water. The H2O enters into the seed and begins a reaction that produces life. But if we take the carcass of ourselves and our wisdom, if we come in with the duplicity of our nature and our shadows and our schemes, all the fruit, all the wheat that is produced is unclean. Verse 38 again.
Leviticus 11:38 – But if water has been put on the seed and a carcass falls on it, it is unclean for you.
You might run around saying, “Oh, see, there’s some wheat in my field.” I have people do that to me all the time. “See, look at this field I have out there, there are a couple of pieces of wheat out there. I know that I’m okay.” But the carcass of the flesh is all over the place and the thorns and the thistles are there and you’ve tainted it and you’re the one that manipulated it and you’re the one that caused it to grow and you’re the one that guards it with all the weeds and all the bushes and all the junk that is in the field. And we who know the grace of God and we who know the Master Gardener and we who know what produces life, it is unclean for us when man has helped it along. We know we are to wait in the tomb until He resurrects us, until He tells us we are clean.
Instead, we take the seed and we run around saying, “I am clean,” and we plant the field and the water begins to produce life and we begin to say, “I have a harvest and I’m holy and I’m clean and I’m right before the Lord,” and the Lord has not said such a thing. The Lord has not brought us forth from the tomb. We are Lazarus trying to get up out of the grave ourselves trying to say, “See, I’m really alive.” When we apply the death of self to the seeds that God has given us where He begins life it is an unclean thing. And you might be able to say, “These are the seeds of God, these are the seeds of wheat,” and I’d have to agree with them. That is the message of the cross. That is truth. “And I applied it and I planted it,” and I’d have to say, “Yes, you applied it and you planted it and you put all the things there and everything was in its place and you prayed and you were in anxiety. You did all the things that a man is supposed to do. But a carcass has touched it. You have touched it. And though it produced some wheat, it is unclean.” We must go to the ground and die and wait for Him to do the work.
And finally let’s end with Matthew 13:31. Jesus said that:
Matthew 13:31 – He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.”
In the next verse, look at what it says: “your seeds.” God must have some seeds that are smaller among mankind. The smallest of our seeds is the mustard seeds. We can put the smallest of seeds that God has and be made into the image of Jesus Christ, that’s how powerful it is and we won’t die. We won’t go to the ground and hide and let Him do the work. We talk, we justify, we pray, we run, we hide.
Matthew 13:32 – Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree . . .
“A tree.” It becomes something larger than itself. How do I know when the carcass has touched? Because the person that is blessed is the only one that’s blessed. They only prove to themselves that they’re a Christian. Nobody else can perch, nobody else can sit there, nobody else is really blessed. They can’t turn to anybody else and say, “This is how you die.” They don’t have the scars in the hands and the feet. There are no signs to help anybody else, but they’re blessed.
Matthew 13:32 – . . . it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.
When the seed is through with you people will be able to perch on your arms and in your life. They’ll be able to depend upon you. What the church needs now are men and women that have gone through this dying process and have tasted the resurrected life and they can turn to other people and say, “This is how you overcome sin and it’s a good thing and it’s the best way and it’s the way the Lord intended.” A lot of the reasons why people are struggling today is because where can people go in the church to talk to somebody about the message of the cross and how you die?
I was just on a radio show this week for two and a half hours on a Christian radio station going through talking about all the things you talk about that Christians do. And the last fifteen minutes he goes, “Okay, you’ve got four minutes to explain everything that you want to.” And I went through the process and I talked about dying to self and the message of the cross and finally he goes, “What do you mean by ‘the message of the cross’? What do you mean about ‘dying to self’? What do you mean by that?” He should be able to be on radio saying, “You fall to the ground and you die and this is how it happens and this is the pain” and so on. Each of us should have our own story to tell. A sermon can’t do it justice. You must be able to declare with your life and then have the words, you must be able to show somebody else because you have been there. Because how does Jesus Christ show us? By having been there. Everything else is just a book and a story and a fable. Let us fall to the ground and let us die. Let us be honestly transformed and made different so that when people look at us they say, “I see Jesus Christ.”
Let’s go ahead and pray.
Father, men everywhere ask us to see Jesus or to show them Jesus. May You show Him to us first that we may be able to point to where He’s at. May we turn to Andrew or to Philip if we cannot show them. May we go down, Father, to find those who can point the way. Grant us grace, oh Lord, and true hearts and purity that we may not always be hanging on the cross suffering in agony but committing to Your hands, Father, our spirit. And to wait in the tomb for You to resurrect in Your good timing, to produce a harvest of righteousness when You see fit. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
This transcription has been edited to a reader friendly format. Every effort has been made to be true to the speaker’s original message. Any mistranslations are unintentional.