Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit.
He is speaking of Himself first of all as laying down His soul, but now He extends that principle to those who shall share with Him this life, this life of ascension in God, this life which is Spirit.
We must follow the same principle that He followed, not only for our salvation, but for our identification with Him.
We do not save ourselves in any way by trying to follow Jesus. I hope you recognize the meaning of that. We do not save ourselves in any way by trying to follow Jesus, because we cannot.
The one who endeavored best to follow Jesus in the flesh was Peter. He tried hard; and he did all kinds of desperately courageous things, and there was no man so resolute, and determined as he. He was the one who stepped out on the sea in that dark and stormy night.
If ever there was a dare-devil it was Peter in the realm of his flesh. You must not minimize Peter's attributes of heart and mind as a man in the natural.
He was the man who took out his sword and was prepared to fight single-handed the armed forces that came to arrest the Saviour.
Just two swords they had, and Peter unsheathed one and was prepared to defend the Lord Jesus Christ against the world. That speaks for his courage; but he knew nothing about this other thing. He knew nothing about the impact of hell; he knew nothing about the impact of principalities and powers.
You remember the Lord (ch. 13) says - "Whither I go thou canst not follow me now,"
And Peter says: "I will lay down my soul for thy sake." But he did not know what it is to lay down the soul. He thought it was to die in the mortal body. That is not laying down the soul.
There are plenty of men with dare-devil courage who will face that, but that is not laying down the soul. And the Lord tells him: "Wilt thou lay down thy soul for my sake?
Verily, verily, I say unto thee the cock shall not crow till thou hast denied me thrice." As much as to say, You do not know the impact of Satan, and the weakness of your own moral fiber.
You will crumple up as I take My sheltering hand from over you; but I have prayed the Father that thy faith fail not, and when thou art turned again at last, and hast seen thine own weakness, then strengthen the brethren.
And it is only the brethren who have had this crash who can strengthen others, because they know the weakness of the flesh, the impossibility of any man or woman fighting their way through.
Thou shalt follow Me hereafter. That means following Him in the way of laying down your life; but we are only able to lay down that life through the operation of the Cross.
It is only as the Holy Spirit makes possible the laying down constantly of the natural life into that death which Jesus has already died for us that we can follow Him through into the Godhead, have access unto the Father in Fellowship of one Spirit in Him.
We only live in the Spirit as we are crucified in the flesh.
We only live in God as we die in ourselves.
~T. Austin Sparks~