Good afternoon, everybody. How’s everyone doing? I’d like to welcome those who are here for the first time or visiting in a long while.
First of all, I’d like to welcome Isaac and Sarah. We knew them as Caltech undergrads, and I knew Isaac had his eye on Sarah. So now, five years ago, they got married, and they’ve been living in San Diego for the last three years.
So, I’d like to welcome a new couple. Maybe not a newlywed, but a new couple.
We also like to welcome Kayla, who just found us on Google and dropped by today, so welcome, Kayla. Of course, we have the Limbs visiting from Hawaii with the little one here, and then we have Rich and Linda just dropping by. So good to see Rich and Linda. Wow, anybody else here for the first time? I’d like to welcome those who are joining online as well. Now is the time for testimony.
If you have a word from the Lord, if you have an encouragement, something the Lord did for you, maybe this is the last Sunday, so just a reflection on this year and the goodness of the Lord. If you have anything you’d like to share, now is the time to come forward if you have a word.
And I was sick last week, and I don’t know how I preached. It must have been preaching in tongues. I’m not sure what came out of my mouth, but feeling so much better, and I don’t think I welcomed baby Nathan.
Last Sunday, so I’d like to welcome Nathan. Yeah, I’d like to welcome Nathan. Anybody? If not, let’s read God’s Word together, and then I’ll share just a few things. John 12:23-26. John 12:23-26.
23 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. (John 12:23-24, ESV)
25 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. (John 12:25-26, ESV)
Okay, let’s pray.
Father, we avail ourselves to you in this time. We pray that you bring revelation and insight of your Word, of what it means to be a Christ follower. Jesus, we are your sheep. We pray that you would speak.
You are the senior pastor of this church and every church. We want to hear your voice, Lord. We pray that you would speak and edify your body and receive all the glory. Thank you, Lord. We pray that you would have your way in this service. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.
Because it is the final Sunday of the year, maybe we can just evaluate this year for a moment. And I think there’s at least maybe two primary ways we can evaluate how this year has been. One is, what have you gained, if anything?
What have you gained? That’s one way to evaluate this year. And another way to evaluate this year is, what have you given? What have you gained, or what have you given?
John 12:9, a few verses earlier from the text that we read, when the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.
10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. (John 12:10-11, ESV)
Jumping down to verse 17…
17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” (John 12:17-19, ESV)
So, if you want to evaluate this year in terms of what you’ve gained, I want to suggest to you that maybe that’s not what you want to ask yourself. What you have gained is a worldly mentality.
And here, we have the example of the chief priests, the Jewish leaders. And to them, Jesus was a threat. Jesus had done the biggest miracle of his earthly ministry. He had raised Lazarus from the dead. And word had spread. The crowds were assembled.
And this is how the Pharisees assessed how their year had gone. They said, “We’ve gained nothing.”
Look, the world has gone after this man named Jesus. This is a worldly way to evaluate a year or a life. What have you gained? And maybe you’ve gained a lot this year, or maybe you’ve not gained so much. But again, I think this is the wrong question to ask for a believer.
What have we gained? For you, it may be you’ve gained money, or maybe you didn’t gain so much money. Maybe you gained a position and a promotion at work, or maybe you’ve just stayed the same.
Maybe if you live in California, you’re losing money on every purchase, every time you fill up gas, but at least you’ve gained equity in your home. And so, maybe that’s one area that we can say we’ve gained. For some, maybe we’ve gained a little one, been added to the family.
But this is not how a Christian should be evaluating one’s year. What have we gained? Instead, we should be asking, what have we given? And who do we give it to? We give everything to the Lord Jesus.
23 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. 25 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. (John 12:23-26, ESV)
I think the question we should be asking at the end of this year, and every year, is: what have we given? And may it be said of us that we have given everything to the Lord Jesus. Because Jesus gave His life. And Jesus gave His life for the salvation of the world.
And why was He able to do this? It’s because He hated His life in this world. Because He did not come from this world. He came from above. And so He knows what He left.
He knows how great it was in the Father’s house. He knows how great eternity is. And so, in comparison to all that He left behind, everything in this life, even the earthly ministry that was going well up to this point, Jesus says, “I hate this life.”
If Jesus wanted to gain the world in terms of how the world evaluates success, then He’s just done it. He’s just performed the biggest miracle. And yet, after Lazarus was raised from the dead, He’s about to wrap things up.
And so, that already communicates a lot about what Jesus does and how Jesus views His life. Because if we perform this kind of a miracle and the word was spreading, this is the beginning. This is how we launch a megachurch.
Because you just keep performing miracles like this, the crowds will keep coming. And isn’t that what every pastor wants? Isn’t that what every church is looking for? We’re looking for numbers.
Same with the Pharisees. They’re just seeing their attendance numbers going down. The offering going down.
Because instead of showing up at a synagogue, they’re out in the field and out in the wilderness to hear this man named Jesus.
So, if Jesus was a worldly man, and He was a worldly man, and He was a worldly man, and He was a worldly man, and He was a worldly man, and He was a worldly man, and He was a worldly man, and He was a worldly man, and He was a worldly man, and He was a worldly man, and He was a worldly man, and He was a worldly man, then Him performing this kind of miracle should have launched His ministry. Instead, He says, “It’s time to wrap things up.”
Why could he decide to kind of wrap things up at the height of his ministry? It’s because he hated his life in this world in comparison to eternal life. And so, Jesus gave his life for the salvation of the world. And we too must give our lives to Jesus.
Primarily, I want to say, for our own salvation. Because by giving our lives to Jesus, we hold on to Jesus, then there’s a chance that you and I will be saved at the end. And maybe, perhaps, God may even use us to save others.
But primarily, when we give our lives to Jesus, it’s for our own salvation. Jesus gives his life for the salvation of the world. That is a unique cross that he had to bear. And that is unique to his identity as the sinless son of God.
But as believers, as followers of Jesus, we give our lives primarily for our salvation. And perhaps, God may use us to save others.
My encouragement to you on this day is to give your life to Jesus and may the chips fall where they may.
You may have a life that is thriving in every way. Or, on the surface, it may look like you’ve lost everything. We give our lives to Jesus. We don’t have any script. Jesus doesn’t owe us anything. We don’t have any plan or agenda. All of this, we say, we hate our lives in this world, and we give it to Jesus, and may the chips fall where they may. What blinds us to Jesus? Because if we really saw Jesus for who he is, we would gladly give our lives to him. We would gladly serve him.
We would gladly give him everything if we saw him for who he is. What blinds us to Jesus? The answer is in the second half of verse 36.
36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” 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?” (John 12:36-38, ESV)
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. (John 12:39-43, ESV)
If we saw what Isaiah saw, the glory of the Lord, and we saw Jesus for who he is, we would gladly, gladly give him everything and serve him and live for him. But there is a blinding that has happened. It is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah. If you love the praise, the glory of man, you are blinded. Blinded to the things of God. And God himself, Jesus, may be standing right in front of you. And you cannot perceive him. He is just another man, someone to compete with if you’re a Pharisee.
They could not recognize him as the Messiah, as the Son of God. And it is the same principle for us today. If you live for the praise of man, and this goes back to if you love your life in this world, it matters so much what people think of you and what you’ve gained. These are reasons to boast of what you have, of what you’ve amassed, of what you’ve accomplished.
If this is the game that you still play, if that’s the life that you still have, that means that you have not begun to hate this life. And the things of God, Jesus himself, are hidden from your eyes. For us to hate our lives in this world means I don’t live for the praise of man. What my parents say of me, positive or negative, has no bearing on my life. What the world, what my boss says of me, has no bearing on my life.
What other people in this world, my co-workers, what they say of me, has no bearing on my life. For the believer, we hate our lives in this world. This is step one of discipleship. If you want to be a disciple of Jesus, we follow Jesus’s example.
Jesus hated his life in this world. That meant at the peak of his ministry success, he says, “It’s time to wrap things up.” Likewise, for us, no matter what you gain, no matter what you’ve lost in 2023, it has to end. No bearing on the life of a believer.
For us, if we understand, I hate my life in this world. I give my life to Jesus. I’m living for eternal life, and we give our life to Jesus. It is for our salvation, and perhaps God may use us to save others. This really is all there is in life.
You give your life to Jesus for your own sake, for your own salvation, and perhaps He may even use you for other people’s salvation. We give our life to Jesus because He gave His life for us.
Okay, let’s pray.
Father, forgive us for having too much hope in this life still, that we don’t understand the perspective that you had about your life, Lord Jesus. That while the crowds were gathering and you could have launched a very successful season of ministry, it was time to wrap things up. You did not do things according to this world. You were not there to amass crowds of people who said that you’re great and respected you.
Jesus, you had a different purpose in coming. Thank you for setting the example for us. You hated your life. You proved it that on the most successful day of your ministry career, you prepared yourself to die.
Lord Jesus, we also want to view our lives with the same perspective that we hate our lives in this world. What people say of us, what we’ve gained or lost, it has no bearing. It means nothing. Lord, this is not the life that we are supposed to be looking forward to and putting our hope in. This is all preparation for eternal life.
And so, Lord, we give our lives to you, Lord Jesus, primarily for our own salvation. We want to hold on to you, Jesus. We wanna serve you, Lord Jesus. We wanna live for you so that at the end of our lives, we can have final salvation. And perhaps you may even use us to save other people. But primarily, we give our lives to you, Lord Jesus, so that we may be saved. That is your primary reason why you came, to save every last man, woman, and child on earth.
And so, Lord Jesus, we give you our lives. We surrender and repent. Lord, if we’ve been blind to the things of God because we still are running this race and trying to get glory and praise and respect from one another, Lord, forgive us. We pray that you open up our eyes for what truly is living, what truly is life. We pray that you give us a right perspective that you own our lives. You redeemed our lives. You’re the Master and Lord of our lives, so we give you what is properly yours.
We give you everything, Lord Jesus. You’re the Judge. We’re not judged by other people. You’re the Judge, Lord. We only want to hear the words from you, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Nobody else’s words matter. We’re not living for the praise of man. We’re not living to gain anything in this life.
We live for eternal life. We hate our lives in this world because that much we value eternity, eternal life that awaits us. Jesus, we give you everything, we surrender and repent.
We pray that you save us today. Save us every day that we have breath in our lungs. We thank you for your body that was broken and your blood that was shed. We pray that you meet us and minister to us and encounter us during the partaking of the Lord’s Supper as we close out this service. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.