Summary: Should our Christian faith be comfortable or conformable? What are the conformable paradoxes?

Comfortable or Conformable – 03.29.09

READ – John 12:20-32

Introduction – The Christian life is filled with uncomfortable paradoxes. Today I’d like to consider the fact that our lives as Christ followers are not necessarily to be comfortable, but to be conformable. This is a challenge to understand. On the one hand, Jesus tells us in Matthew 11 that his yoke is easy and he wants to provide us rest. In John 10 Jesus said he came that his followers might have life to the full. But in Romans 12 Paul tells us that we are not to be conformed to the world, rather (Romans 8) we are to be conformed to the image of Christ. What does this image of conforming to the image of Christ look like? And related to this, why do we as Christ followers so often experience such difficult challenges in our life? We find many of the answers in John 12.

Background - 3 key evens in last week of Jesus life that brings us to John 12: (1) Lazarus raised from the dead; (2) Triumphal entry; (3) Jesus cleanses the temple. Religious leaders looking to kill Jesus, but many others looking to meet Jesus. “Greeks would see Jesus.”

Facebook story: 175 million users of Facebook. If it were a nation would be the 6th most populous nation. Used to be for college kids, but no more. Greatest growth (24.1 million) age 35 – 49. Facebook has added twice as many 50- to 64-year olds (13.6 million) as under 18-year-olds (7.3 million). What is the question? “Will you be my friend?”

John 1 Friend Story – Andrew  Peter  Philip  Nathaniel.

John 12 Friend Story – Philip  Certain Greeks  Andrew.

What’s different? This time Jesus gives a different answer than simply “Follow me.” Now it’s: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” In other words, the end of Jesus’ ministry, not beginning.

We ask same question: How do I “friend” Jesus? Still it’s “follow me,” but with a “Conformable not Comfortable” paradox. Unexpected!

- alone, much fruit

- death, life

- hating life, loving life

- serving, honoring.

Jesus experienced all this. If we are to follow Jesus… not only behind him but his “model,” we also must experience these paradoxes.

Let’s take a closer look.

I ___ALONE___ / ___MUCH FRUIT___

“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 12:24 ESV

Because we are not farmers we don’t understand the significance of this. Jesus’ audience was agrarian and so they understood better than we do.

STORY OF ONE GRAIN OF WHEAT: Farmer plows soil, digs shallow trenches, but must drop only one grain of seed at a time. Still true. Farmers pull a “grain drill.” Notched wheel drops seed through tube exactly one grain at a time. Single grain gathers moisture and nutrients, sends tiny root hairs down into soil, then shoots a stem upward through the soil.

RESULT? Two bushel of seeds per acre – about size of a football field. Generates 40 to 50 bushels of wheat, enough for 2500 loaves of bread!

STORY OF EGYPTIAN TOMBS – Grains of wheat found in Egyptian tombs 3,000 to 4,000 years old. But this grain is utterly dead. Bears no fruit. Moral? Wheat grain dies one way or the other. One way bears more grain. Other dies forever. First way dies alone and resurrected into greater life. Second way dies with many other grains, but utter death forever!

Application? We each decide alone for Christ. It is a single, one at a time decision. We may prefer to be part of the crowd, but we could end up like Egyptian grain – all die together. Or we can decide alone for Christ, die to self, live forever. Our choice Leads us to …


“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life..” John 12:24 ESV

Unlike grain of wheat, we each possess a will. We can make the choice. Do we love this life so much that we refuse to give it up, holding on to our “aloneness in the crowd” or do we give up our life?

Admit the struggle: I experience the conflict over wanting to live so much that I’ll do almost anything for “eternal life” that it becomes my motivation. But is this what it means to “hate my life?” Isn’t it possible that I love my life so much that I’m motivated to keep it, not to lose it?

ἀπόλλυμι means to ruin or to destroy. apo – to utterly, completely

How do we bring ourselves to the point of hating our life so much that we are willing to utterly destroy ourselves? Key is in phrase, “in this world.”

World is corrupt / our native inclination is toward sin and not to God.

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 7:24

“We… groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:23

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

Because of corrupted world and our own inclination to sin, we hate this life in this world and long for the life to come:

42 “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.”

1 Corinthians 15:42-43

This is quite literally “worth dying for!” Let’s talk more about glory..


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 12:26

Jesus was a servant. Philippians 2 tells us Jesus “made himself nothing, taking on the form of a servant.” If we are to follow Jesus, then we also must serve, to take the lessor position, to give up self promotion and self honor. We must die to self.

Christ tells us that he will be with us and we will be with him. In Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, Hebrews Ephesians, Colossians, 1 Peter, we are told that Jesus is now at the right hand of the Father. This is why anyone who serves Christ will be honored by the Father. But like the others, this is a paradox. We must serve in order to be honored!

Remarkably, Jesus also tells us that those who serve him, he will call “friend.” (John 15:15) “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

CONCLUSION: Friendship is where we started this discussion. And it is where Jesus ends it. He says he is calling “all men” to himself. This doesn’t necessarily mean every person, but all kinds of people - Greeks as well as Hebrew. We “ALL” are drawn to Christ.

But we will ALL struggle with the paradoxes. Will we...

be willing to go it alone OR want to hang with the crowd?

hate this life in this world OR cling to this life in this world?

choose our utter destruction SO we might choose eternal life?

be willing to serve NOW so that God might honor us later?

Our struggle is with our motivation. Do we choose Christ and his life? We cannot do it alone. We can only do it through the grace of God because of the sacrifice of Christ, with the power of the Holy Spirit.