The Importance of Death in Raising Fruit

Steve Viars April 15, 2000 John 12:

- A couple of years ago my wife and children bought me a real nice gift for my birthday.
- I have a mountain bike, and I like to get out and ride it....
- so they bought me a little device that mounts to your handlebars which tells you the time, how fast you’re going, how far you’ve gone, and other data like that.
- it’s a great present for a bike rider, it was very thoughtful of them to do it....
- but, it required a bit of installation, which meant finding time to read the little manual and actually doing the installation.....
- well, I fiddled around with it one afternoon and couldn’t get anywhere....and here’s the bottom line.
- to this day, I haven’t used the great gift they gave me.
- for all practical intents and purposes, I’ve made the gift they gave me “of no effect”.

- my guess is that many of us could go home today and find similar examples in our closets, dressers, pantries, or garages.
- someone gave us something, but we just never got around to doing anything with it.

- now, why would I raise that possibility this morning?
- friend, do you know that the Scripture says that it is possible to do that with the death of Christ?
- to live in such a way that you have made his death “of no effect”?

- Paul said in Galatians 2:21 - I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.
- in the King James version that reads, I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

- now, it’s one thing for me to live in such a way that makes a gift that my family gave me “in vain” or “of no effect”....but it’s something entirely different, and entirely worse, to live that way, in relationship to the death of Christ.

- the reason I raise that possibility this morning is because for the past several weeks we’ve been doing a study on the fruit of the Spirit.....
-  but we also find ourselves in the calendar at that time of year where we especially remember the death , burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ....
- and I’d like to suggest this morning that those two ideas dovetail perfectly, because we’re going to study a passage of Scripture this morning that teaches that one of the primary reasons for the death of Christ was the fruit He wanted to produce in those who would follow Him.....
- but for any of us who lack spiritual fruit...or who are not developing that fruit in the way God desires, or at the rate God desires....to that same degree, it is possible that we have nullified the grace of God, and made Christ’s death to be “of no effect”.

- with that in mind, I’d like to ask you to open your Bible to John chapter 12.
- the question we’re raising this morning is:
How Important is Death in the Process of Raising Fruit?

- John 12 records the events that took place 6 days before the death of Christ.
- as we read these verses, I’d like to ask you to focus on the various people who are mentioned, and what is motivating them either to be interested in Jesus, or to hate Jesus, or to love Jesus, or to believe in Him....[there are examples of each category in the text].....
- but then please notice how our Lord draws their attention to both the centrality of His death [which is different than why most of the people in the text were interested in Him]....
- but our Lord draws their attention to the centrality of His death, and the purpose of that death, namely the bearing of fruit.
- READ John 12:1-26

- As I said a few moments ago, we’re asking the question this morning, How Important is Death in the Process of Raising Fruit?
- from our text, I’d like us to see 3 right responses to the topics of death and fruit bearing.

I.  We Should Place a High Value on Jesus’ Death.


- I’d like to suggest to you this morning that these verses give us a strong contrast between many people who placed very little value, or importance on the death of Christ, and a few people who valued His death greatly.
- I hope when we’re done, we’ll be more convinced than ever that We Should Place a High Value on Jesus’ Death.

A.  Unlike Judas - v. 4
- When Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with costly oil, which was a standard practice for someone being buried, Judas’ response was one of pious callousness to what our Lord was about to suffer.
- and Judas, if anyone should have known about that, and been sensitive to it.
- He had been with Christ many times when He had taught about His coming death.
- He should have known all of the Old Testament promises about the suffering of the Messiah.
- this should have been a very tender time, and a very humble time, a very sober time for anyone who valued the importance of the death of Christ.
- but instead, Judas came up with this pious statement about selling the ointment, and giving it to the poor.

- and please mark it down, this passage is not about the poor.
- God has great compassion on the poor and wants his people to have compassion on the poor....
- but John makes it clear, that sometimes when people talk about the poor, its not because they love the poor, its because they don’t love Jesus....
- and they don't want to admit that they need a Savior to die for their sin....
- and they don’t want to believe that Jesus Christ really was the incarnate Son of God...
- and they don't want to surrender their lives to him as their Lord and Savior...

- so even when it sounds pretty pious, sometimes its simply a case of not valuing the importance of the death of Christ.
- of course, in Judas’ case, ultimately the text says, it was because Judas was a cotton-pickin thief [the cotton-picken is my addition], and he held the bag.
- so I’m suggesting that  We Should Place a High Value on Jesus’ Death, unlike Judas, and also:
B.  Unlike the multitude - v. 9
- what does verse 9 say was the reason the multitude wanted to see Jesus?
- was it because they wanted to see the sinless Son of God?
- was it because they wanted to see the One who was sent to die for their sin?
- was it because they wanted to repent and believe on Him?

- no, it was because they wanted to see the show.
- they wanted something that might excite them or stir their emotions.
- in verse 12, another multitude, perhaps comprised of this same group of people, were waving palm branches and welcoming Christ to Jerusalem as their Messiah.
- but in just a few short days, another multitude, again perhaps made up of these same persons, were shouting “Crucify Him”, and “we have no king but Caesar”.
- now, was the multitudes interest in Christ intrinsically wrong?
- no, one of the reasons our Lord performed miracles was to prove his claims and put people in a position to believe on Him.
- but that’s why he turns their attention in the next few verses to a discussion about His death.
- because fundamentally speaking, He didn’t come to do miracles....he came to die for their sins....
- and they needed to move from valuing the miracles to valuing His death.
[could develop --- the same response during the feeding of the 5000 and the subsequent teaching about his being the Bread of Life].

- so we’re to value the death of Christ, unlike Judas, and unlike the multitudes, and also....
C.  Unlike the chief priests - v. 10
- verse 10 is one of the many clear examples of the pure folly of unbelief.
- read 10-11 again.
- what strikes you as being rather silly about that plan?
- if they were worried that Lazarus’ testimony of being raised from the dead was a proof of Christ’s deity, what did they think Jesus would do if they killed Lazarus so he died again?
- did they somehow think that Jesus could raise Him once but not twice?

- we should also value Christ’s death....
D.  Unlike the rulers - v. 42
- one of the sadder verses in this passage is verse 42 [READ 42-3]
- these rulers were exercising some kind of belief in Christ but they were not confessing Him...they were not making any kind of public proclamation.
- and the text is clear as to the reason.....they loved the approval of men more than the approval of God.

- now, let me ask you a theological question....were these people saved?
- were these people truly regenerate, were they on their way to heaven?
- was this faith of theirs “saving faith”?
- and while I think we always have to be careful to draw absolute conclusions about someone’s salvation unless we have clear biblical warrant to do so, I think it’s interesting to compare what’s said here to Romans 10:9-10

Romans 10:9-10 - that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

- and again, I’m not sure that we have enough biblical evidence about these rulers in verse 42 to draw an absolute conclusion, but we can at least say this....
- there is real reason to question the genuiness of their faith....and we can also conclude that they didn’t place much value on the importance of the death of Christ, because if they did, they would have much more vocal about it, whether that earned them the approval of men or not.

- so we’re to value the death of Christ, unlike Judas, unlike the multitudes, unlike the chief priests, and unlike the rulers.
- however, there’s still some other people in this text....we may need to word this next group like this....
- we’re to value the death of Christ....
E.  Possibly like the Grecians - v. 20.
- you might say, PV, that’s hedging your bets.
- I am committed to saying things about the Word of God that are absolutely clear in the text.
- I hope you don't mind a pastor who at times says things like, I’m not sure about this, this doesn’t seem perfectly clear in the passage.....

- there seems to be a difference in the way these Grecians come to the disciples.
- they said, sirs, we wish to see Jesus.
- they’re separated out, maybe just because of their nationality, but maybe because their interest was more sincere.
- regardless, it was in response to that event that Jesus made the statement in verses 23-25....[READ]

- see, what is the clear issue in this text?
- how much do you value death?
- if a grain of wheat doesn’t fall into the earth and die....it what?  [remains by itself alone]....
- it is of no effect.....it accomplishes no purpose....

- that’s why our Lord said --- if you love your life [if you live for your goals, your purposes, according to your rules and standards]....if you love your life, you lose it....
- it slips through your hands and its gone.
- but if you hate your life....that is, if you die, if you surrender your life to the plan and purposes of God....you shall keep it to life eternal.
- and that would have started with these Grecian individuals understanding the importance and value of Jesus’ death.....
- this wasn’t a side show....
- this wasn’t a time to make a shallow and emotional commitment....
- this wasn’t a time to be ruled by the fear of man....

- this was a time to come face to face with the value and importance of the death of deaths, and place their faith and trust in that One who was preparing to die for them.
- that’s why, in contrast to everyone else in this text stands Mary [or should we say, kneels Mary]
F.  Definitely like Mary - v. 3
- John 12 is a contrast between the way many others thought about the death of Jesus Christ, and the way Mary thought about the death of Jesus Christ.
- and she took out a costly ointment, and began to wash His feet....part of their customary preparation of a body for burial....and she wiped his feet with her hair.
- she stands as a powerful example of how followers of Christ ought to value the importance of His death.

- now, you might ask, how do we do this today?
- here’s three quick answers:
G.  By understanding that His death was our only hope.
- when we were in Florida a couple of weeks ago we happened to go by a church from a very liberal denomination and the title of the pastor’s sermon for that coming was going to be “Why We Need Myths.”
- that may sound pretty tame, but that’s one of the words that the liberals love to use to describe everything we’re studying this morning.
- the substitutionary death of Christ was a myth, all that the Bible says happened during this event was a myth, culminated by the greatest myth of all which is said to occur 3 days later, namely his resurrection.
- the liberals like to say that we all need these myths, so we can tell the stories without believing them....
- its talking about Bible stories with your fingers crossed behind your back.

- friends, that’s the same attitude about the death of Christ that is being illustrated and condemned by many groups in this text.
- if Jesus Christ was not the sinless Son of God, if He did not die a substitutionary death on the cross for our sin, if he was not raised from the dead....as Paul said, we of all men are most miserable.
- because we understand that we are sinful, and we understand that God is Holy, and we understand that only the cross of Christ can bridge that gap.

H.  By understanding the details of Christ’s death.
- I would encourage you to look for opportunities this week to read the chapters at the end of each gospel about specifically what happened during the last days of Christ.
- we simply don't have time to go into the detail we might want to this morning.
- if you have a good study Bible, I would encourage you also to read the explanatory notes.
- you might want to consider reading a brand new book entitled “The Murder of Jesus” by John MacArthur.
- I’m suggesting that part of appreciating something is knowing more about it.

I.  By finding ways to keep this event central in your thinking.
- friends, I don't know how you’re going to respond to this statement, but I believe Christians ought to think about the cross every day.
- we ought to rejoice in our salvation every day.
- we ought to be thankful for the empty tomb every day.
- Mary didn’t do what she did in this text because she started thinking about Christ’s death five minutes before the event.
- she did what she did because she had sat at those same feet, and listened to the teaching, and made her Lord and Savior a central part of her life.
- friend, I think the questions that flow out of the text are pretty obvious this morning.
- of these different groups and individuals that we’ve studied, who are you most like?
- and how would God want you to respond to the study?....what decision might He want you to make?

- now, let’s push this one step further....yes, I.  We Should Place a High Value on Jesus’ Death, but the text also makes it clear that:


II. We Should Place a High Value on Our Own Death.


- now, you might say, what do you mean by that, PV, is this some sort of suicide cult?
- let’s think carefully about what Jesus is saying.
- please look at verse 26 - READ

- in what sense are we to follow Christ?
- the answer is, just as He had to die, we have to die.
- just as He did not “love His life”, we must not love our lives.
- just as “hated his life in this world”, we must hate our lives in this world.
- if we’re going to study statements of Scripture in their context, that’s what “serving and following Christ” in verse 26 has to mean.
- II. We Should Place a High Value on Our Own Death.

- now, the obvious question is, in what sense is this true?
- these are powerful words, what exactly do they mean?
- there are two senses in which we are to value our own death.....

A. Positionally.
- when studying the Scripture, it is very important to make a distinction between positional truth, and practical truth.
- for sake of time, I’ll just put this next passage on the screen....but it is very important.
Colossians 3:1-4 - If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

- this verse is telling us about our union with Christ.
- when a person admits their sin, and places their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, positionally speaking, there is a death.
- God no longer views you as an alien and a stranger, being dead in your trespasses and sins....
- now He views you as one of His adopted children....
- who was translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.

- there’s also a death of what the Bible calls your “old man”....that composite of sinful habits that you were enslaved to.
- that’s why the Bible says in II Cor. 5:17, If any men be in Christ....

- that’s speaking about our positional union with Christ.
- and, this explains why many people do not grow in the genuine fruit of the Spirit.
- there’s never been a positional death.
- they have never been born again.
- they have never come to the place of looking at themselves, and acknowledging their sinful condition, and saying....I can’t save myself.....this “self” must die.
- I need a Savior and I need a Lord.
- its in that sense that a person must value their death.

- and many people run around saying they’re Christians, with very little demonstrable fruit, and this is exactly why.
- there’s never genuinely been a positional death.
- and friend, if you’re here this morning and you’re not sure where you stand on this matter, we would invite you to make sure about that today.

- we are also to value our own death....
B.  Practically.
- the growth process after a person trusts Christ is a daily process of identifying sinful habits and ????? [putting them to death]
- that’s why the apostle Paul said, I die daily.
- that means submitting my ideas to the standards and principles of the Word of God.
- and if there is a thought in my mind that does not stand the test of Scripture, I put it to death.
- and if there is a friendship I’m involved in that is not helping me spiritually, I get out of that friendship.
- if there’s a kind of music I’m listening to.....
- if there’s a TV show.....
- if there’s a habit.....

- [develop - incidentally, what we’re studying the morning is only the first half of a two stage process -- putting off what’s wrong and replacing it with what’s right --- that’s where what we’re going to study next week fits in]

- you could say it this way, for some people, Jesus is the one who exists to make their life more complete.
- Its me, with Jesus making me better.....I must increase, and Jesus is to help.

- the opposite is biblical living.....He must increase, and I must decrease.
- if we’re doing it right, our lives are less about us all the time, and more about Him.
- anything less is not true discipleship.

- now, what’s the third idea here, and how does this dovetail with what we’ve been studying in our series on the fruit of the Spirit?


III. We Should Live in Light of the Purpose of Both.


- we often say around here that God never tells us what we should be without telling us why.
- and He is very clear in this text about the purpose of His death, and the purpose of ours.
- cf. verse 24 - READ
- if the question before the house is, How Important is Death in the Process of Raising Fruit?
- the answer is, you can’t have fruit without a death, both the death of Christ, and both the positional and practical death of the believer.
- the purpose of all of this is to produce beautiful, delicious, juicy, God-honoring fruit.

- and the question then becomes, are we willing to put things to death in order for God to produce His fruit in us?

1) Develop --- those serving in the passion play.....
- may have all sorts of others things they’d like to do this week.....but what’s going to happen to all of that?
- it gets put to death.


2) Those inviting others to the Passion play....
- might be afraid of inviting someone....what has to be done to that fear?
- it has to be put to death.


3) Those working on our building.....
- many have served and served and served....
- why, willing to put some things to death.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video