Scripture: Luke 9:23-27, NLT
Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 25 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? 26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels. 27 I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God.”
Jesus was the truth teller sent from God. Everything Jesus says is backed with divine integrity but he did say some hard things. I have faced a lot of challenges in life but never one more difficult than following Jesus. Being His disciple is a life time of learning, obeying and practicing spiritual disciplines.
Luke 9:21 marks a turning point is Jesus ministry. He is in the extreme North, Caesarea Philippi and now He is turning South toward Jerusalem and toward a cross which He talked about in verse 22, “The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”
To this point, His ministry has been teaching, healing, and performing miracles. These things have been attracting great crowds but now Jesus will do fewer and fewer miracles as He prepares Himself and His followers for the cross. Many who had followed Him to this point, cannot process His hard sayings and they cease to follow.
Today were going to look at some of the most challenging things Jesus taught. A DISCIPLE is a follower, a learner, an apprentice. The disciples learns not only by listening but also by doing. There are four things the DISCIPLE must practice to be a TRUE FOLLOWER of Jesus Christ…If we process and put in to practice (daily) these four things, we will be blessed.
I. DENY YOUR SELF [Turn from you selfish ways]
The first and most difficult battle is to die to self. Paul said to the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ,” crucifixion means death so Paul is saying, “I died with Christ, I no longer live.” So Paul admits he is dead but then he says, “BUT Christ lives in me.” So which is he, dead or alive. He is dead to self and alive to Christ. Paul is a living dead man.
This is the challenge to each of us as believers, to live dead to self and alive to Christ. Someone said, “There are two trees in everyone’s garden: the tree of self and the tree of life or Christ and each and every morning, we choose which choose the tree from which we will partake. Perhaps, you are thinking, “I don’t choose, I don’t even think about it.” No choice is a choice: are default setting is on ‘Self’ and it you do not think or pray otherwise, you will live for self.
Simon Peter was having an agonizing battle with self on the eve of Jesus death. He made a bold prediction [“Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.”] but it came from his flesh. Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” In Peter mind, denying Christ was inconceivable but the flesh cannot be trusted. It will fail you 100% of the time when it comes to doing God’s will.
When Peter sleep in the Garden instead of praying fervently, Jesus said, “Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” The flesh is strong when it comes to protecting self or gratifying self but it is weak when it comes to pleasing God.
II. TAKE YOUR CROSS
Note: Jesus did no say, “Take up My cross.“ You and I could never bear Jesus’ cross. Jesus death was atoning. Because of His perfect obedience and His perfect fulfillment of the law and the Old Testament, Jesus became a perfect sacrifice. He lived a life we could not live and He died a death we cannot die. We die because of our sins, Jesus died for the sins of others; He had no sin.
- Your Cross is a personal…take up your cross. Several years ago, I was reading one of the Voice of the Martyrs devotions and it told about the persecution in Japan. Francis Xavier carried the gospel to Japan in 1549. It was received well for a few years but within a century of it’s coming to Japan, government officials felt threatened by the rapid growth of Christianity and they initiated a brutal persecution. Over 30,000 Christians were executed. Some were crucified including children. The story is told of one young teenage girl, who being lead by the Japanize guards, came to the cross marked by her name. “Is this my cross?” Asked the young lady, “Yes, said the guard!” She kneeled to the ground and begin to kiss and embrace her cross. Steve Green, the son of a Missionary wrote on song with this thought in mind:
Embrace the cross
Where Jesus suffered
Though it will cost
All you claim as yours
Your sacrifice will seem small
Beside the treasure
Eternity can’t measure
What Jesus holds in store
- Your Cross is daily…it is not once and done, it is an everyday responsibility and privilege. In the Greco-Roman world, the cross was not mentioned in polite conversation–it was considered offensive and vulgar. Can you imagine humans wearing a necklace with a gold electric chair. The world despises the cross then and now but Christians see it as a symbol of VICTORY.
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.
In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.
III. LOSE YOUR LIFE
We of our strongest instincts is self-preservation. Our default setting is to look out for number one. Most people give in to this instinct which runs counter to everything Jesus taught. The person who disregarded Jesus teaching on denying self and laying down their life tries to gain the whole world. This doesn’t mean the wealth of all the world, it means we try to attain the standard set by the world–A house, boat, cabin on the lake, UTV, SUV, 70 inch TV. This is what Jesus means by the whole world: materialistic success, getting everything you want. To get those things, you have to devote your life to getting them. You cannot be devoted to Christ and to getting all these things.
This is way some are totally baffled at a person surrendering their life to missions. Have you ever met a rich missionary? Have you ever met a sad one? For a person to lay down their life in service of people who can not repay them, is insane to the natural man.
But as Jesus taught, a person is more than a body needed to be clothed; we are more than a stomach needing to be feed. We believe in a future that transcends death. There is a present reality (where the natural man lives entirely) and there is an ultimate reality that the natural man does not consider.
Abraham never owed a home. He was the steward of great wealth but he never built a house. He lived his entire life here in tents. Why? Because he knew that life here is temporary. We are not here long. A lot of people enjoy camping at State Parks. They drive in with campers or tents and build themselves a ‘camp site.’ People don’t drive by and say, “Would you look at those fools, they are putting up a tent for the weekend.” But what if some poor idiot brought a load of lumber and starting building a house for the week end. Then people would drive by and say, “What an idiot, building a house for a weekend or a week.” Some people are building a house on a camp site.
We are so selfish that we cling to our life and in doing so, we lose it. Remember what Jonah said to the pagan sailors, “Salvation is of the LORD.” Let me ask you a question, can you actually save your life? You can’t save physical life and you certainly can’t gain eternal life. Stop trying to save yourself, it cannot be done. Let go, lay your life down and Jesus will give you a better life but the only way to receive this truth is by faith. Until you trust Jesus, you will by nature cling to your life and you will lose it.
IV. CONFESS YOUR FAITH
If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels. [verse 26]
To be ashamed of Jesus is to be unwilling to acknowledge Him under social, political, or economic pressure and this could include the threat of death. Many, many years ago, I heard a Missionary who had escaped a threatening situation in South America. He confessed publicly that the only way to get out of the country was to pretend that he was not a Christian. He rationalization was: “I was no good to God dead.” I was a young man at the time but that did not fly with me. I didn’t hear anything else the man said, “He had just confessed being coward.” Some things are universally abhorred and being a coward is one of them.
I am not going to make a bold statement like Peter but I will say this: my prayer, my hope is never to deny him even if it cost my life. I pray that He will grace me with courage when the time comes. It is easy to confess Him here but it is tough out there in the world where He is hated and despised. With that said, “Here, it the place to start.” If you can’t confess Him before the church, you will surely deny Him before the world.”