Are you willing to give your life?
John 12:25 “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. “
By Eliot Kleinberg Palm Beach Post Staff Writer Updated: 12:29 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010 Posted: 2:10 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010 BOYNTON BEACH — Jeriah Woody executed two men who made the mistake of preaching religion to the 18-year-old, a witness has told police. Woody, who turned himself in to Boynton Beach police Wednesday, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the Saturday night deaths of Stephen Ocean, 23, and Tite Sufra, 24, near the Boynton Beach city library. He was expected to be taken to the Palm Beach County Jail later today and have a bond hearing Thursday. Boynton Beach spokeswoman Stephanie Slater said this afternoon he was still being questioned and she would not immediately provide information about a motive. A woman who identified herself as Ocean’s sister, but did not want to give her name, said the two men, best friends, were ministers who were ordained last year and had turned their lives around after run-ins with law enforcement. She did not want to identify the church with which they were aligned. “They go around and minister to boys and say where they came from,” the sister said. “They did that all day and all night.” Jail records show no adult arrests for Sufra. Ocean was arrested in 2003 on robbery charges and in 2004 for violating probation on previous battery and petit theft convictions. He was arrested in 2006 for carrying a concealed firearm and resisting an officer. Jail records show no adult arrests for Woody. According to a Boynton Beach police report, a person who was with the two slain men told police that, about 8 p.m Saturday, the three were walking through the neighborhood, preaching, and encountered Woody under a tree. They had been preaching to him for about 15 minutes when he received a call on his cellphone. The three heard him tell the person on the phone that he was “right down the street.” He then told the three preachers he had to go. As the three began walking east, they noticed Woody running toward them. The friend said he saw Sufra walk toward Woody; he then saw a flash and saw Sufra fall. Ocean began running and was dropped by a shot to the buttocks, the witness said. He said Woody then walked up to Ocean and shot him in the head execution-style. The third man was able to flee and call police, the report said. Officers found the two lying in the 100 block of Southwest Second Avenue. On Tuesday, a source alerted detectives to a man with the street name of “plug” who matched the description of the shooter. The man who’d been preaching with the two other men picked Woody out of a lineup, the report said.
This news story that broke Wednesday helped me to focus better on the scripture which I had been studying for a message this week. This story gave me insight into the Gospel of John 12. There was a plot to kill Lazarus, you will remember, because he was living testimony that Jesus Christ was indeed God, as Jesus had raised Him from the grave in the presence of many witnesses. We enter back into the story where Jesus has just been sought by the Greeks, which is reflective of the rejection by the Jews and the fulfillment that through Abraham’s seed the nations would be blessed.
The Good News is a worldwide phenomenon and is for all people everywhere that would believe. We enter here in the final week of Jesus on this earth, and the cross is looming large in his thoughts as he ministers to His disciples, which makes this passage even more significant. We need to break down this verse phrase by phrase, word by word to truly understand what it means, because the teaching here is so deep and instructive how we ought to live our lives in Christ Jesus, and this makes the impact of one-grain wheat dying in order to bear much fruit, as Christ said in verse 24.
He that Loveth his life This is literally translated whoever has a friendship (phileo) love relationship with his psuche which is soul, me, myself. Whoever has a love relationship with his own life, his own self has a problem, because he shall lose it apollumi, that is, it will perish, be destroyed, cease to exist. This word is used to explain the doom of the sinner. In other words, if we love ourselves, the life that we have in the natural, our unredeemed soul and all of its trappings, we will lose that life. If we do not recognize this life as a gift from God, and we look and love only ourselves and our life and not God, then we will surely perish, be surely lost, be destroyed utterly. This does not mean that those who love their lives will have an immediate punishment of death, but life is also not seen by us as only this temporal life. Life is eternal and destined for either punishment or reward. So this phrase has temporal if even eternal consequence. Many who look at this verse see simply the physical trappings of this world, and they are partially correct. But it is not just a temporary consequence. If we have a friendship with our unredeemed soul, one that has not been cured and cleansed by the truth of the Gospel, we will be destroyed.
If we are in love with ourselves, we can never hear from Christ, will never be converted, and never have our sin forgiven. The book of John in Chapter 3 describes this as loving darkness rather than light. Many people love the darkness of their soul, the trappings of their flesh, the lusts of this world so much they will never turn to Christ for cleansing. The earthly reality is that anybody so focused on self will be destroyed for lack of vision. The eternal reality is that they will perish, experiencing the second death in hell, and ultimately in the lake of fire. Worse than that, our life is a temporary entity. If our focus is on this life, this life’s pleasures, or even this life’s pains, then we. like all other men, will eventually come to an end. If we have placed no thought in eternity, if we do not see outside of this window, then our life as we know it will indeed come to an end.
Perishing is no small deal, for as my friend John likes to remind people when he is preaching that at least in this life we have pain medication. Imagine being burned for just one moment. Imagine if you had no salve if you had no pain medication. Imagine if you were dehydrated, yet had no water. The promise for those who do not have their sins forgiven and do not have new life in Jesus Christ, indeed who are not found written in the lamb’s book of life, whose primary affection is self, they will lose that thing that they love, their very life. And they will lose it for eternity, feeling the very wrath of God in Hell.
The opposite of all of this is he that hateth the word, miseo translated hate is the opposite of agape This can indicate anything from a casual disregard all the way to an intense hatred of the object. We see in 1 John 2 this same phrase, meaning that if you, as a Christian, have a casual disregard for your brother, you do not walk in the light, and you are a murderer. In the positive, as far as this verse, it is the man or woman who has no regard for his life, does not place any trust in it, does not have it as his primary focus or love shall keep it unto life eternal. Let us understand it this way, in this context. If you hate your life meaning that you understand yourself in truth; that there is nothing good about you except Jesus Christ and His Spirit and Character being developed in you, that your heart is deceitfully wicked outside of Christ and His saving work.
Nowhere is Christ calling you to be a gnostic here, in other words looking at your physical flesh as evil and seeking to destroy it. He is not calling you, as ancient monks believed, to flagellate or to discipline yourself physically with a whip. It is our natural man, our flesh, that soul that makes up our personality that must be mortified, or put to death so that we can walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh. This is the call of Christ in our lives! It is a call for revival, a call to obedience, a call to holiness, a call to repentance! If we have been loving our lives so much that there is no room for Christ, we will lose that life; eventually physically and potentially spiritually! But if we, by the power of the Holy Spirit, lay down our lives, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these things- food, drink, clothing- things that concern us for our lives that worry us and frustrate us in the provision of them will be provided for us.
Jesus is saying here as in Matthew 6:33 that we ought not to worry about our lives, indeed, we should have a casual disregard for them, laying them down as we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. God at that point will provide both- our daily physical needs AND his righteousness as we walk according to the Spirit and not the flesh. It is only in this laying down of our lives that we get to keep them. It is only in the casual disregard, in the hatred of our lives, in humility and brokenness that Christ can save them.
These young men who were preaching when they were shot were formally criminals themselves. As the story tells us, they had been converted after run-ins with the law. Their ministry was warning young people about the temporal and eternal consequences of transgressing God’s law. The Gospel had changed their lives, and they were on the same streets they had broken the law on to witness Christ’s love and promise of conversion to the young people who were going down that path they formally were traveling. They had gone from death to life, and they were sharing the good news with anyone that would listen. They no longer loved their life and the trappings of their life. They had died to their old way of life, and they had given their bodies as a living sacrifice to Jesus Christ. They no longer were concerned with anything but the righteousness of Christ, and the preaching of Christ and Him crucified.
It is easy to admire these young men, but this is a challenge to all of us who name Jesus Christ as Lord. Is Jesus Christ elevated to such a point in your life that He is the most precious, the most desirable thing in your life? Or do you instead elevate temporary things to God in your life, even your own comfort, your own style of life? Where has that gotten us? Before I was saved, drugs, sex, alcohol, clothing and my free time surfing and skateboarding consumed my entire life. Those things marked my life, they are what I loved, what I elevated. Deeper than that, I had a view of myself as a pretty good person with some minor flaws that the god of my understanding would overlook because I was religious. Then I was saved; having become aware of who I was in truth before God. These things all became secondary to me, for I had found Christ. I became an evangelizing fool, sharing with everybody I could. But in our lives as Christians, like the church at Ephesus so long ago (Rev. 2) We have fallen from that place, and the cares of the world have taken over our lives. So many of us have replaced God again with our lives, our flesh, which makes us feel comfortable. We need to heed the call of Jesus and return to those works we did at first, indeed, return to our first love. In Evangelism, many of us in the church have gotten lazy, uncaring, or we have substituted the truth for a more soft, gentle gospel where we feel safe and cozy, and the sinner does not understand that he or she has offended God and needs the cleansing of the Gospel.
26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honor.
Where is Christ leading? His life is going to be laid down at the cross. We need to lay down our lives at the cross, dying to ourselves so that we can truly live. If we disregard our lives, trading them for the life of Christ, then we will truly live. These evangelists did so, are you willing to die for Him?