As I write this, it’s springtime. We’ve just gone through a long, wet winter and people are getting excited for warmer weather. One of the signs that give us a clue that the season is changing and that the sun is moving further into the northern hemisphere is flowers blooming, trees sprouting leaves and the grass starting to grow.
It’s also time to start thinking about the garden. If you know me, you know we usually do a pretty big garden with a big focus on tomato plants. Last year we had approximately 40 tomato plants. We can hundreds of quarts of tomato sauce and green beans every year. Often times I start the plants myself from seed. I order my seeds online, a variety that grows well in our climate. I made a little seed starting station with a warming bed and a light that I can adjust in height as the plants grow. In fact, it’s time for me to order seeds and get the plants going. Probably past time.
Most plants start as seeds. This process is called germination. There are certain conditions that have to exist for this to happen. The soil has to be moist enough for the seed to absorb the moisture to get the process started. The soil has to be warm enough. The soil has to have the right nutrients. The seed transforms from a lifeless thing into a living plant. While the seed is in the packet, it remains just a seed. It has all the potential for life, but it doesn’t produce life until something changes. The seed has to die.
The seed goes into the ground where it dies so that the new life within the seed can grow. If the seed doesn’t die it can’t receive the water, warmth and nutrients it will need to come to life. But if it dies, the seed sprouts and within a short period of time the plant will pop up through the soil. That’s always such an anxious and exciting time for me when I’m growing the plants. The seeds are small and if you plant them too deep in the soil, they may not have enough strength to get through the soil and get to the light they need to being the process of photosynthesis.
If I do my job well, if I water the right amount (not too much, not too little), warm the soil and so forth, the seeds pop up. As long as the summer cooperates, we can expect to have tomatoes within a few months and sauce we can enjoy for the next year until we have more tomatoes.
But, how do we know that the seed has come to life? Because the plant pops up through the soil, right? If the plant never makes it to the surface, we assume that this particular seed didn’t germinate. The visible plant growth is evidence of transformation that the seed has gone through. In other words, the transformation of the seed is visible in the life that is produced after the seed dies.
We’re wrapping up this week on 1 John 4:16-18: “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
We’ve talked quite a bit about the phrase: “The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love.” So, I’d encourage you to go back through episodes 112-115 to get an understanding of that phrase.
Today, I want to finish up this concept by talking about the visible life of love that must be produced in those who believe. Transformation doesn’t stop at intention. It must change our actions. The seed that has intentions alone remains a single seed. It’s the seed/the life that dies to itself that can become a life of love.
We take our example from Jesus himself. We just read in our Bible reading this morning this passage from John 12:23-26 – “Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, 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. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their 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.”
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. If you’re not familiar with the storyline of John 12, this is the last chapter before John shares Jesus’ upper room discourse. Jesus said this just 3-5 days before his crucifixion. When Jesus said “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” he was talking about the fact that he was about to be cursed by hanging on a tree to pay for the sins of the entire world. He was going to die. If He didn’t, we couldn’t come to life. But if He did, billions of other seeds could come to life.
Earlier in chapter 4 we read this: “This is love: Not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” This is love. That’s what it says. Love sacrifices itself for the betterment of others. Love lays down it’s own life so that others may come to life through their sacrifice. Just like Jesus had to lay down His life, if we are going to be like Christ, we have to lay down our lives so that love can come to life in us.
When love comes to life it’s visible. Love must be seen and experienced otherwise it’s not love, it’s a single seed waiting to come to life. Love must walked out not just talked about.
Love led Jesus to walk out of the garden to be arrested. Even though He had just begged the Father for a different way, His love for us led Him to walk out of that garden right into the hands of his betrayer. Because love walks. Love led Jesus to walk from trial to trial, from scourging to beating to mocking. They never dragged Jesus or carried Jesus against His will. Because Love walks. Love led Jesus to walk, to carry the cross he would be crucified on and when his strength was almost gone and someone else needed to carry the cross, he kept walking towards his own execution. Because love walks.
Jesus’ blood purifies us from sin, but it wouldn’t if Jesus hadn’t walked up Calvary. Would Jesus have loved us if he stopped short of the sacrifice that He had been sent to earth to offer on our behalf? No. Love sacrifices itself.
The way we walk does not purify us, only Jesus’ blood does that. But, the way we walk testifies to the transformation that the purification of Jesus’ blood has had in our hearts. The way we live testifies to the condition of the the seed of life God has placed in us. If sacrificial, self-denying love isn’t being walked out in my life, the seed of life God has put in me is still just a single seed. All the potential for life is there, but it has to die before it can come to life.
For love to be perfected in us, love must go beyond thought and talk to walk. This is how we see God. This is how unbelievers around us see God and are drawn to Him. They have to see the life of love growing, becoming mature and complete, lacking nothing.
How do you know when a plant is mature? When it is producing fruit. Are you producing the fruit of love in your life? If so, you have nothing to fear. If not, then we need to go back to the beginning and see if the seed of God’s love has come to life in our lives.