Three Prospective Followers

SCRIPTURE: Luke 9:57-62, NLT

57 As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

59 He said to another person, “Come, follow me.”

The man agreed, but he said, Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

60 But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”

61 Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”

62 But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

INTRODUCTION

As you can clearly see in today’s text, three people are challenged with the thought of following Jesus. Two volunteer and one is asked but none of the tree pan out. Today we are going to look at these three individuals and learn from their experience and the words of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I. THE FIRST MAN IS AN ENTHUSIASTIC VOLUNTEER

He said, “I will follow You wherever you go.”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with what he said, the problem is that he spoke before considering the cost. How do I know this? Because of Jesus response…“Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

Jesus knew the man was volunteering on the emotion and excitement of the moment. The idea or concept of following is…the follower will encounter and experience the same thing as the one to whom he is following.

Let’s say that I set my face toward Augusta and the Master coming up next month and you commit to follow me. I must tell you that I am going through Atlanta, Georgia on I-20. This means heavy traffic, the potential of road rage, wrecks, traffic jams and unsafe exits after dark. If you follow me, all these things will be a risk.

This man was memorized by Jesus no doubt but did he understand where Jesus was going. Jesus was not headed toward health and wealth; He was headed for Gethsemane and Golgotha. He was not going in the direction of fame and fortune but shame and death. Jesus was telling him the truth: if you follow me, you will be homeless, despised and rejected.

I admire Jesus: He does not soft soap the message, He does not water it down, He does not lower the standard. Jesus demands our all, anything less than total self-denial will not work. Jesus did not say, “Great, it is a piece of cake. Following me is easy, it will not cost you a dime, anyone can do it.”

Discipleship is not for the faint of heart or for those who are half-hearted. With Jesus, it is all or nothing. In light of Jesus honesty, Warren W. Wiersbe says, “No wonder the labors are few.”

II. THE SECOND PROSPECTIVE FOLLOWER CANNOT DISENGAGE FROM THE WORLD

He said, “Yes I will follow you but “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

Burying the father was the responsibility of the oldest son and there is no indication that the boys father is any where near death. He is willing to follow Jesus but not willing to make it a priority. It’s almost like saying, “Yes, I will follow You someday but not today. I have some pressing matter to take care of but when I’ve taken care of my business, I will follow You.”

Jesus reply teaches us that Discipleship has a higher priority than even family obligations. The man had siblings who could take care of his father funeral. He may have been worried about collecting his inheritance before following Jesus.

Folks, we cannot follow Jesus until we sever all ties with the world.

III. THE THIRD PROSPECTIVE FOLLOWER CANNOT DISCONNECT FROM THE PAST

“Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”

His answer does seem bad to us but Jesus knew his heart. We take our read from what Jesus said in response…Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” The third man finds it difficult to cut ties that bind him to the past. He lacks the decisiveness and commitment to fast the future. In order to plow a straight row, the plowman has to focus his eyes on a distant goal, like a tree or a post.

The Apostle Paul has the right attitude as is expressed in Philippians 3…I don’t mean that I am exactly what God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal. But I continue trying to reach it and make it mine. That’s what Christ Jesus wants me to do. It is the reason he made me his. Brothers and sisters, I know that I still have a long way to go but there is one thing I do: I forget what is in the past and try as hard as I can to reach the goal before me.  I  keep running hard toward the finish line to get the prize that is mine because God has called me through Christ Jesus to life up there in heaven.

I ran track in college. Although I ran middle distance and cross country, I heard Coach Franks preach to the sprinters– the cardinal sin for a sprinter is to look back…you never look back.

 In 1904 William Borden graduated from a Chicago high school. As heir to the Borden family fortune, he was already wealthy. For his high school graduation present, his parents gave 16-year-old Borden a trip around the world. As the young man traveled through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, he felt a growing burden for the world’s hurting people. Finally, Bill Borden wrote home about his “desire to be a missionary.”   One friend expressed disbelief that Bill was “throwing himself away as a missionary.”
     In response, Borden wrote two words in the back of his Bible: “No reserves.” Even though young Borden was wealthy, he arrived on the campus of Yale University in 1905 trying to look like just one more freshman. Very quickly, however, Borden’s classmates noticed something unusual about him and it wasn’t that he had lots of money. One of them wrote: “He came to college far ahead, spiritually, of any of us. He had already given his heart in full surrender to Christ and had really done it. We who were his classmates learned to lean on him and find in him a strength that was solid as a rock, just because of this settled purpose and consecration.”
      During his college years, Bill Borden made an entry in his personal journal that defined what his classmates were seeing in him. That entry said simply: “Say ‘no’ to self and ‘yes’ to  Jesus every time.” Borden’s first disappointment at Yale came when the university president spoke in a convocation about the students’ need of “having a fixed purpose.” After that speech, Borden wrote: “He neglected to say what our purpose should be, and where we should get the ability to persevere and the strength to resist temptations.” Surveying the Yale faculty and much of the student body, Borden lamented what he saw as the end result of an empty, humanistic philosophy: moral weakness and sin-ruined lives.
  During his first semester at Yale, Borden began a prayer group that started with himself and one other student but the morning prayer group gave birth to a movement that soon spread across the campus. By the end of his first year, 150 freshman were meeting weekly for Bible study and prayer. By the time Bill Borden was a senior, one thousand of Yale’s 1,300 students were meeting in such groups.
  Borden’s outreach ministry was not confined to the Yale campus. He cared about widows and orphans and the disabled. He rescued drunks from the streets of New Haven. To try to rehabilitate them, he founded the Yale Hope Mission. One of Bill Borden’s friends wrote…“He might often be found in the lower parts of the city at night, on the street, in a cheap lodging house or some restaurant to which he had taken a poor hungry fellow to feed him, seeking to lead men to Christ.”
      Borden’s missionary call narrowed to the Muslim Kansu people in China. Once he fixed his eyes on that goal, Borden never wavered. He also challenged his classmates to consider missionary service. One of them said of him: “He certainly was one of the strongest characters I have ever known, and he put backbone into the rest of us at college. There was real iron in him, and I always felt he was of the stuff martyrs were made of, and heroic missionaries of more modern times.”
    Upon graduation from Yale, Borden turned down some high-paying job offers. In his Bible, he wrote two more words: “No retreats.”

      William Borden went on to do graduate work at Princeton Seminary in New Jersey. When he finished his studies at Princeton, he sailed for China. Because he was hoping to work with Muslims, he stopped first in Egypt to study Arabic. While there, he contracted spinal meningitis. Within a month, 25-year-old William Borden was dead.
     When the news of William Whiting Borden’s death was cabled back to the U.S., the story was carried by nearly every American newspaper. “A wave of sorrow went round the world . . . Borden not only gave (away) his wealth, but himself, in a way so joyous and natural that it (seemed) a privilege rather than a sacrifice. 
      Was Borden’s untimely death a waste? Not in God’s perspective. Prior to his death, Borden had written two more words in his Bible. Underneath the words “No reserves” and “No retreats,” he had written: “No regrets
.”

William Borden grabbed the plow and never looked back: this is what it takes to follow Jesus…“Say ‘no’ to self and ‘yes’ to  Jesus every time.”

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Second Passion Saying

Scripture: Luke 9:43-45

While everyone was marveling at everything He was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Listen to me and remember what I say. The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies.” 45 But they didn’t know what He meant. Its significance was hidden from them, so they couldn’t understand it, and they were afraid to ask Him about it.

I want to make some observations based on the scripture and the commentaries I have studied.

1. It is one thing to be an enthusiastic admirer and another to be a loyal disciple.

There is nothing wrong with admiring Jesus. I admire Him for his courage, love and many, many other attributes. Matter of fact, I go beyond admiration, I worship HIM. He is my hero, my best friend and my Sovereign KING. Many in the world admire Jesus but He wants more from me than mere admiration. Jesus had a large group of disciples who followed as long as He was giving away free fish and hush puppies but when Jesus got into the hard sayings, they stopped following.

[John 6:66-69] As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”

This is the second time that Jesus has brought up His death and being handed over to His enemies and the disciples did not want to hear it. The first time Jesus mentioned His passion, Peter rebuked Him and we know how well that went over. The flesh draws back at death and the cross is an instrument of death.

2. Hearing is one thing, understanding is another.

My hearing is not all that bad but my comprehension is awful. Jesus was speaking the words aloud and they they were hearing but it was not sinking in. This is why Jesus said, “Let these words sink into your ears.”

We cannot understand everything but I am very sure we could learn more if we listened better. When I study scripture: I pine and pray. I go over the same verse or passage again and again. I read every translations I can get my hands on. I realize that we still have KJV only folks out there but you can learn more from reading different translations than you can from commentaries. Most people read parts of the bible but they never read it through and that is sad.

Why do I read all English translations? I don’t want to miss anything and I am telling you that these translators have spent hours exegeting these words which is a tremendous help to those of us who do not have that expertise and time. I want to know the truth. I do not want my entire theology built on a bad translation verse. 

I want to know and I am not afraid to ask.

3. God reserves the right to act in ways that we cannot comprehend.

The last thing I want to hear is a preacher who knows everything. Be weary of he who acknowledges no mystery. I would not want to worship a god that some preacher could carry around in his little box of brains. My God is incomprehensible. He is too great to be imagined and He surely cannot be explained. You will either accept my God by faith on His terms or not at all. 

I see this as the major problem with the Reform movement; they are pseudo-intellectuals, they think they know more than God. They have an explanation for everything. I don’t want an explanation for everything.

4. We are fear driven instead of faith driven.

[Luke 9: 45] But they didn’t know what He meant. Its significance was hidden from them, so they couldn’t understand it, and they were afraid to ask Him about it.

Lets be honest, we get uncomfortable when Jesus begins talking about suffering and the cross makes us queasy. We don’t want to think about a cross, His or ours. By keeping the cross safely locked away in some remote doctrine, focused on the past, we ignore the excitement of living the Christ life in the present . We have no idea what it means to follow Jesus. We refuse to deny ourselves and take up our cross. We make the cross a religious relic of the past and thus isolate ourselves from a hurting, dying world.

The cross is not a relic, not an adornment for the sanctuary; its not a good luck charm we wear around out necks–it is a way of life. It is the only way to follow Christ.

{Unfinished and Unedited, posted for easy access}

What Is In It For Me?

Text: Matthew 19:27-30, NLT

Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?” Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”

INTRODUCTION

We live in a “Me Culture”. If we would take the time to look into our hearts, we would see that our ultimate concerns are about our self. We are preoccupied with our comfort, entertainment and bank accounts. None of these things are worthy of our devotion and yet we exalt these temporal things to the level of deity. These things become our god. John warned us {I John 2:15-17, The VOICE}…Don’t fall in love with this corrupt world or worship the things it can offer. Those who love its corrupt ways don’t have the Father’s love living within them. All the things the world can offer to you—the allure of pleasure, the passion to have things, and the pompous sense of superiority—do not come from the Father. These are the rotten fruits of this world. This corrupt world is already wasting away, as are its selfish desires. But the person really doing God’s willthat person will never cease to be. Wow, this needs no commentary. Don’t fall in love with this Christ hating culture. The only thing they can offer is [1] seduction to sin [2] a passion for greed [3] and a spirit of pride.

When Peter witnessed Jesus in conversation with the Rich Young Ruler, his first question after the young man walked away stunned and in grief was: We have left everything to follow you, what’s in it for us.” That guy just refused to leave his possession behind but You promised him a treasure if he gave them up, well that is what we did, we gave them up. Now what should we expect?

Three things I want to say about this selfish question…

[1] I am not amazed at the question but I am amazed at Jesus response. It is a self-centered question that reveals a selfish motive.  I am shocked and stunned that Jesus did not chew Peter out for being so self-centered. I suppose Jesus understood that Peter was simply articulating what all of them were thinking. We have given up everything, what are we going to get in return? Do you ever think such thoughts? What is in this for me? I concluded years ago that either I am a lot like Peter or else he is a lot like me. I talk too much and listen too little. I always have an answer even if it is wrong. Remember the proverb, “Remain silent and folks may think you are a fool but if you speak up, you remove all doubt.” Hey, I remove the doubt. In this story we have impetus Peter at his best, talking before thinking. Surely had he given thought and meditation to what he was thinking, he would not have asked Jesus such a selfish question. I bet the other disciples cringed thinking…Peter is fixing to get it again. The last time this happened, Jesus told him he was full of Satan. But Jesus does not rebuke Peter. Maybe this is a question that we humans cannot help but ask: perhaps it is our nature. Whatever, Jesus does not go off on Peter.

About three years ago our staff was traveling together, two men and two women, and we stopped to eat. Of course it was my favorite restaurant and I knew what I wanted. The waiter got our drinks {tea and coke} and came back to take our order. “Are you ready to place your order or do you need more time?” I blurted out, “I know what I want,” and my son who is my associate gave me a funny look. I said, “What?” By this time both the ladies in our party are laughing. So I repeat, “What is so funny, what did I do?” My son said tactfully, “Its customary to let ladies order first.” Then I said, “But I am paying for the meal.” He said, “It doesn’t matter who is paying, to be polite, you let the ladies order first.” I didn’t like what he said but I knew he was right and I felt a bit of shame, very little,  I suppose, because it did not effect my appetite. So, I decided that day to make a change. LORD, with your help, I am going to give preference to others and go last. Long story short, it has been a struggle.

So Peter ask a self-centered question that reveals a self-centered nature. It is not like we are shocked but the gentle way that Jesus deals with Peter is amazing.

[2] I am equally amazed that Christ would share His kingdom. Jesus said, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. As a matter of fact we find an amazing verse in Luke 12:32…“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.” Can you believe this? God has already made a decision to give us the kingdom. Luke 22:28-29…You have stayed with me in my time of trial. And just as my Father has granted me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right 30 to eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Tonight we are going to get into Chapter 20 and the story that Jesus tells to illustrate the Father’s nature in giving. The parable is an illustration of God’s infinite and gracious generosity. God is generous to the infinite degree. Let’s say that together…God is generous. God gives and gives and gives again. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 8:9…You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. In 2 Corinthians 9:6, Paul teaches us about giving… Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.  You cannot out give the LORD of the Harvest. You have no chance of being more generous than God. The more you give, the more He gives and He has deeper pockets.

I like 2 Corinthians 9 in the VOICE…The same One who has put seed into the hands of the sower and brought bread to fill our stomachs will provide and multiply the resources you invest and produce an abundant harvest from your righteous actions. You will be made rich in everything so that your generosity will spill over in every direction. Through us your generosity is at work inspiring praise and thanksgiving to God.

I want you to think about the resources that God has blessed you with.

There are over 7 billion people on earth: 68% have a net worth that is less than $10,000…23% have a net worth of less than $100,000 which due to debt would include some of us…7.5% are under the 1 Million dollar mark and .5% are over 1 Million. I’m not sure how accurate these stats are: we have several multi-millionaires in Morgan County.

Anyway you cut it, we are rich. The Democratic Republic of the Congo {Zaire} has an average annual income of less than $300 per year for a family. You are rich and so am I. Why did God allow us to have such wealth? For the same reason He gives us the ability to work, it is so we can give. In Ephesians 4:28, Paul said, If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. God has blessed us with wealth so we can give generously. We are never more like Christ than when we give generously. {Block Party}

[3] The third thing that amazes me is the rate of return that Jesus promised-100 fold. No one pays those kind of dividends. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. Jesus said, “I will multiply your investment into my ministry 100 fold and then I will throw in ETERNAL LIFE as a bonus. Folks, you cannot beat an offer like that. If you have $10,000 in your 401-K and you got blessed 100 fold, you would have a million dollars. If you have $100,000–you would have 10 million dollars. Before you misunderstand, I need to clarify something, Jesus seldom pays in cash but He is good for His word and you will reap 100 fold.

I left home when I was 22 years old. I moved from Athens, Alabama to New Orleans, La. where I enrolled in Seminary. I’ve been gone 43 years. My Father retired the year after I left and he lived 20 more years after retiring. I missed his retirement years but fortunately I was only 45 miles away. All my siblings see each other every Sunday, I see them about 4 times a year. When I surrendered to the ministry, I thought I was making a sacrifice but looking back, it doesn’t seem like a sacrifice at all. I can say that Jesus has blessed me 100-fold. I’ve had a mother on every church field and a good one. I have had father figures on every field and some very good ones. I have countless brothers and sisters. I pastored a church in rural Mississippi for 18 months way back in 1973-4 and just last month, three of my dear sisters came for a visit. I talked to another friend in that same church today. Just last Friday, the church I pastored right out of Seminary called and ask me to meet them at the Amish Restaurant which is near Danville. I went up and spent more than an hour with these friends.

We are going to talk about God’s generous nature tonight but let me say in closing: you, nor one billion like you are going to out give God. Your pockets are not deep enough to out give Jesus Christ. Listen, everything in this creation belongs to HIM. If He wants something, He can take it or create it out of nothing. You and I are not trying to bail God out when we give to His kingdom. What He really wants from us is our heart. He wants a clean and pure motive. He does not want us to give to get but to give to get to give again so we can be like Him.

The Message No One Wanted To Hear

Scripture: Matthew 16:21-26

From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. 22 But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” 23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 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. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
 

INTRODUCTION

I want to preface this message with a couple of announcements [1] This is a message that no one is going to like. It will not be pleasant to the hearing or the heart. [2] This message contains the hard gospel: the gospel Jesus preached, Paul preached but few preach today. You will never hear a sermon like this in a seeker church. This message is not designed for consumer Christianity. The Disciple did not like this message and you are not going to like it either. God will hold you accountable if you refuse to listen simply because the subject matter is unpleasant.

 

I. THE REVELATION…

From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. [verse 21]

Jesus took His disciples on a retreat to Caesarea Philippi so He could be alone with them. At this time in history, Caesarea Philippi was a pagan metropolis. It was a mega-center for pagan temples and had a strong Gentile influence. The Pharisees and Scribes would not dare go to such a place. Here Jesus gave His disciples the hard cold facts and He talks to them plainly so all can understand. Jesus is going to Jerusalem, He will be arrested, tried, convicted and executed. This was not what His disciples wanted to hear. Instead of getting revived, they got depressed. Peter, the leader, took it upon himself to correct Jesus…“Heaven forbid, Lord, this will never happen to you!”  So after making the GREAT CONFESSION in verse 16…“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Peter makes the GREAT GAFFE in verse 22…“Heaven forbid, Lord, this will never happen to you!” In a matter of seconds, Peter goes from inspiration to insubordination. Peter, being a Jew, believed strongly in the sovereignty of God and he had no conception of a God who submits to man. Peter had just confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God and Jesus had affirmed Peter to be correct. Peters view of God was that He transcends human suffering. In his mind, it was unthinkable that Jesus being God could suffer and it was certainly unacceptable to Peter and the twelve that Jesus would submit to a cross. So one minute Peter is a rock you can stand on and the next, he is a rock that you can stumble on. One minute he is blessed and praised by Jesus and the next he is sternly rebuked. One minute is a helper and then next, he is a hindrance.  A day that began so brightly has suddenly come under the dark shadow of a cross. The disciples are not thrilled with Jesus declaration that a cross awaits Him in Jerusalem, they are chilled. This cannot be: it is surreal.

 

II. THE REPRIMAND…

 But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”  [verse 23]

Just a word of advice: it is not a good idea to reprimand Jesus but Peter was simply following his human nature; he was thinking  like a man and unfortunately in this instance, like the devil. We all want to live pain-free lives. We all shun suffering and we certainly do whatever it takes to avoid a cross. Instinctively, we look for the easy way out and the safe way.  Up to this point, the disciples are under the impression they are following Israel’s next king. In one paragraph, Jesus destroyed this myth.

We can see here in this story the infinite gap between the way men think and the way God thinks. Peter was thinking about SUCCESS but Jesus was thinking about SUFFERING. Suffering always proceeds glory in God’s order. Peter was thinking about LIVING but Jesus was thinking about DYING. Peter was thinking about a CROWN but Jesus was thinking about a CROSS.

To bring this home, think of it like this…Jesus could have said to Peter, “You are not thinking like Me” and that was true. How many times a day, would Jesus reprimand us?…Jack, you are not thinking the way I think. Wow, the very thought convicts me. Was Peter wrong to correct Jesus? Yes! Was He wrong in his thinking? Yes but so are we. Jesus corrected Peter once, how many times would He correct us?

III. THE REALITY

If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 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. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? [v.24-26]

This painful revelation that Jesus would suffer and die was a downer. Jesus could speak history into being just as He spoke creation into being and the disciples knew His predictions were sure to happen. It was indeed a chilling moment: the kind we do not like. This is the setting for Jesus presentation of the real gospel, the one we seldom hear preached because it is not popular. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it.” In other words–we must say “No” to our imperious sinful ego–which not only puts itself first but makes safety the primary issue. We must be willing to suffer the same indignities and humiliation that a condemned man has to suffer and this is exactly what none of the twelve have any desire to do. Jesus presents this in the form of an invitation…If anyone wants to be My follower…there is no force applied, no coercion.

Peter had no problem with Jesus being a King and no problem with Him being God. He was more than glad to confess this truth but the cross thing threw him for a loop. [1] First of all, Peter was repulsed at the Idea of Jesus bearing a cross and before he could adjust his thinking to the concept of a Suffering Messiah, Jesus hit him with a second shock wave….If you follow me, you will have your cross, your own personal cross…which in time, Peter does embrace. Peter knew what a cross meant: it meant death, slow, painful, agonizing death. The cross is a death by process where as beheading or hanging is instantaneous. Death on the cross is a long and lingering process. Jesus was simply driving the first nail. It would take the disciples years to come around to Jesus way of thinking but they would get there. So…

  1. There is a self to deny
  2. There is a cross to bear
  3. There is a life to lose

…and all three are very difficult for humans. We are selfish, we shun pain and suffering and we cling to life. After Jesus was finished with this challenge, I imagine the disciples were thinking, “What else will He come up with?” This is the gospel that will not go well in the seeker churches; actually, it is unappreciated in all churches.

IV. THE REAL LIFE IN CHRIST

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.

[verse 25]

Paul gives us some commentary on this in Colossians…. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all His glory. [Colossians 3:3-4] But here me, the truth is–when the old sinful self is repudiated, put down firmly, great though the agony of soul may be, man’s true self, the “Real Life” that Paul mentions in Colossians 3:3 will emerge and for such a discovery, no price is too high. Jesus said, it is a gain that is greater than the whole world. It is the priceless pearl. The real life, the true you cannot be discovered unless the old is laid down. If we cling to the old, we will surely miss the new, just as the Jews clung to Judaism and missed Christ.  No one, upon discovering this life will have any desire to go back to the old. I have had the privilege of talking to several Messianic Jews and none them have ever indicated to me that they want to go back to Judaism.

CONCLUSION

  •  Christ was real…can we agree on this? He was true blue through and through. He could think out loud and not be embarrassed. There has never been a man more real than Jesus. He was perfectly real. No tinsel, no pretense, no guile, no deceit: Jesus was pure in mind and body.
  • Do you think it is His will for you and I to be real? I can imagine that we agree on this as well: He wants us to be real and deep down we want to be real. Here is the problem, the real YOU is hidden like a treasure. The real you is hidden in Christ underneath Adam. Eventually, the real you will be revealed. Jesus came to save us from hell and our sins but He also came to help us discover and uncover the real true self, not the selfish self but the noble self.
  • Do you dream of being selfish or noble? All this is good stuff and pleasant to the ear but the truth is, the real you can not arise, come out until there is a death to the old you. You cannot have a resurrection without a death. You cannot wake up until you go to sleep. This is the unpleasant part that the disciples did not want to hear.
  • No one got excited; there was no revival, no shouting or jumping pews. Jesus had delivered a message that no one wanted to hear. It was depressing to say the least. No one talks about the REVIVAL at Caesarea Philippi, because there was no REVIVAL. They were on the verge of a DEVIVAL and Jesus knew it, so He gave an invitation–If any of you want to be My follower…You must turn from your selfish way, take up your cross and follow me.”
  • The Spiritual Death that Jesus talked about is a process, thank God. We have a gentle and patient Savior. The first step in the process is to decide to follow. Do you want to follow Jesus knowing it means a cross? The cross is the bad news but you get to discover your real life in the process, that is the good news which makes the cross good news also.

 

 

Normal Christianity

Matthew 10:37-39

37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

INTRODUCTION

What does it mean to be a Christian? Many people believe that being a Christian means attending church once a week but is that a good definition of Christianity? What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ or a follower of Christ? Are all true believers followers of Christ? Did Jesus teach nominal Christianity? Did He distinguish between a believer and a follower? A study of the gospels reveals that Jesus made the same demands on all followers. There is no category for non-following believers. In the GREAT COMMISSION Jesus emphatically stated…”Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The demands of the kingdom are so offensive to a world already convinced of its rightness that they provoke that world’s hostility.

In a moment, we are going to look at three extreme claims that Jesus makes on our lives but first I want to tell a story. Recruiters for all the armed services were given one hour to make presentations to the student body of a certain high school. The Army recruiter went first, then the Navy and then Air Force. The problem was that each one of them too more than their allotted 15 minutes and that left the Marine recruiter with 3 minutes to present. He stood and spoke loudly and clearly: I have less than three minutes to speak but I don’t need three minutes. Most of you can not handle being a Marine; you don’t have what it takes. In a group this size, there are probably a half dozen that can make the grade. I want to see you six at my table as soon as the bell rings. Guess who had the most applicants? The Marine told them the truth and that challenged a select group.

When it came to enlisting followers, Jesus was tougher than a Marine. Three things Jesus says if we are to follow HIM…

  1. WE MUST GIVE HIM PREFERENCE. He must be our highest priority. He can not be given a place; He demands preeminence. If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. Jesus must be your greatest love. No one can come before HIM, no one. Many of us want Jesus to be first in our lives but we have learned as did Peter that sometimes our heart deceives us and we don’t love Jesus as much as we thought. My intention is to put Jesus first in everything. I read a story about a woman who loved Jesus with all her heart. She was married to an unbeliever who was also a jerk. He resented her going to church every time the doors were open but she loved the worship and fellowship of her church and she never missed. Finally on a Sunday morning, he gets fed up with this church business and he tells her as she walked through the den and headed for the garage that she is not going. She hesitates briefly but continues to get her coat and the car keys. By the time she is ready, he is standing between her and the door. “You are not going to church today, you are staying home and spending time with me” he said. “No,” said she, “I will have all evening to spend with you but this morning, I am going to church.” With that he pulls a pistol and puts it between her eyes. In a rather sarcastic tone of voice he says, “Now where are you going?” She said without a blink, “If you pull the trigger, I’m going to heaven; if you don’t I am going to church.” I love that story…I’m cheering her own…you go girl. Jesus has to be number one: your greatest love.
  2. WE MUST TAKE UP OUR CROSS AND FOLLOW JESUS. Theologically, there is no such thing as a Christianity without a cross. The cross was the Roman instrument for death and of course Jesus took our sins to the cross. Our forgiveness and atonement is directly related to Jesus death on the cross. If you take the cross out of Christianity, our sins are un-atoned for and we have no forgiveness. The cross is not a piece of jewelry or a good luck charm, it is death to the flesh, to our self life. Paul told the Corinthians that he suffered death daily. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. Matter of fact, Paul said to the Galatians that he was a living dead man…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, that would mean dead but then he says, nevertheless I live but it is not I but Christ in me. So what is Paul, living or dead…he is both. He is a living dead man. He is dead to self and alive to Christ.
  3. WE MUST WILLINGLY SURRENDER OUR VERY LIVES. The demands of the kingdom are so offensive to a world that they provoke that world’s hostility. JESUS does not want to be a part of our life, not even the best part: he demands our life itself. Whoever counts his life of so much value that he will preserve it by sacrificing his opportunity to follow Jesus, or will renounce his faith to save his life, will find in the end that he has lost his soul forever for the sake of a few fleeting years; while he who gives up all things, even life itself, will find an abundant reward in the life eternal. All self-seeking is self-losing. The Divine law is always to give in order to receive. We keep nothing that we have not given away. The only thing you will retain in the final outcome is that which we did not clink to. It’s not that important that we live long upon the earth; it is important that we be faithful as long as we live. If we want to be followers of Jesus, we must be ready to die. If I value my life in this world more than I value Jesus and the life of the next world, I cannot be his disciple. Admittedly, we are afraid of persecution. We see what the world did to Jesus and we do not want to bear that kind of reproach. We do not want to be marched down main street with a cross on our shoulder while the crowds is mocking and making fun of us. Our very nature instinctively cries out for us to preserve our lives, to clink to our life and that would make sense if this life was all we had.
    • If this life is all there is, no more studying all day on Saturdays…I watch football and eat stew.
    • No more trips to Guatemala and no more money given to missions…I will use that to buy me a new tractor with a front end loader.
    • Sacrifice is stupid if this life is all there is.
    • If this life is all there is we should live it up not give it up!

CONCLUSION

The demands of the kingdom are so offensive to a world that they provoke that world’s hostility. We live in a world that is anti-Christ and the hostility toward Christ and His followers is growing. I think it is very possible that a more severe persecution is on the way, one that I fear the West is not prepared for; one that I’m not sure I am prepared for. All of the 12 Apostles were martyred except John.

  • James the brother of John was killed with a sword by Herod.
  • James the less was stoned to death by the Jews.
  • Andrew was crucified on an X cross in Greece.
  • Matthias was stoned by the Jews.
  • Mark was dragged to death in Alexandria, Egypt.
  • Peter was crucified on a cross in Rome. Upside down by his own request.
  • Paul was beheaded by Nero in Rome.
  • Bartholomew was crucified in India.
  • Thomas was run through with a spear in India.
  • Luke was hung on an olive tree in Greece.
  • Simon the Zealot was crucified in Britain.

The bad news is that this world will hate anyone who openly confesses Christ and they can kill the body; the good news is they cannot touch the soul.

Discipleship

Matthew 8:18-23, NLT

18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he instructed his disciples to cross to the other side of the lake.

19 Then one of the teachers of religious law said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

20 But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

21 Another of his disciples said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.”

INTRODUCTION

This passage reminds me of another in Luke 20 where the Scribe comes to trick Jesus with a question on taxes. He approached Jesus with what he thought was flattery but you and I know that it is true…this is what he said…Teacher, we know that you’re honest and straightforward when you teach, that you don’t pander to anyone but teach the way of God accurately. {Luke 20:21, Msg.} Whoever this Jew was, he got it right: Jesus was honest and straightforward and He did not pander to anyone. In other words, He did not kiss up, did not try to please of appease but told the truth in love. This brief story concerns the cost of discipleship. I do believe that Jesus wants followers. He commanded us in Matthew 28:19-20…Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. Why would Jesus command us to make disciples if He does not want disciples? At first glance, you would assume by the tone of the text that Jesus is discouraging discipleship but actually He is just being thoroughly honest.

Three things you need to be a disciple…

  1. YOU NEED TO KNOW JESUS PERSONALLY. If you will look carefully at the text, you will notice that the Scribe addresses Jesus as “Teacher” or Rabbi. Some translate it master: the Greek word is didaskalos which means teacher. You will also note that the person referred to as one of His disciples addressed Him as LORD {kyrios} which means he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; the possessor and disposer of a thing;  the owner; one who has control of the person, or as in the state, a person’s sovereign. As you can clearly see, there is a huge difference between acknowledging Jesus as Teacher and acknowledging Him as LORD. Long story short…If Jesus is not your LORD, you are not His disciple. Jesus must be more to you than a good man or a good teacher. Before becoming His disciple, we have to come to know Him as Savior and LORD.
  2. YOU NEED TO KNOW THAT DISCIPLESHIP CALLS FOR COMMITMENT. Jesus said in Matthew 16…“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” Jesus told the Scribe…”Foxes have dens and birds have nest but the Son of Man has no where to lay His head.” Jesus had a headquarters in Capernaum of Galilee but He wasn’t there much. His mission demanded that He be on the move. After He left Nazareth, He literally had no home. He simply wants the young man to think this thing through: is he really ready to surrender his life to Christ. Jesus also said in Matthew 16…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.”  Was this young Scribe ready to give up his life and lose it for Christ sake. Jesus is not trying to discourage him but He does want him to count the cost. Jesus is not glorified by short-term disciples. He wants those who will endure the hardships of discipleship. He wants those who stick with Him to the bitter end which for the believer is the sweet beginning. We have all seen these “Flash in the pan” disciples: they do more harm than good. Jesus honestly calls for honest commitment or surrender.
  3. YOU NEED TO KNOW THAT JESUS MUST BE PREEMINENT IS ALL THINGS. Jesus must come first. The disciple said, “I will follow You but first let me bury my father.” It is doubtful that the boys father is actually dead and the funeral is in a day or two. In Jewish life, the eldest son had an obligation to take care of his father. The young man is probably telling Jesus, “I want to be your follower someday but first I must fulfill my family obligation.” Jesus answer was no, “You let the dead bury the dead.” I don’t know for sure what Jesus meant but for years I have assumed that this was a reference to those who were not called to be disciples. This boy probably had siblings that could take care of his father. Some think it is a reference to the unregenerate…unsaved people can take care of their parents. Perhaps that is what Jesus meant, perhaps not but one thing is sure: when He calls we lay everything aside and follow. Jesus becomes our life. He is our LORD, our Sovereign and we are at His bidding.

Personal Testimony

I struggled with this when God called me to preach. I was not a model child. I was a bit on the rebellious side and got into a little mischief to boot. I didn’t really begin to appreciate my parents until I was an older teenager and then God called me to preach and I left and never returned to live among my folks. Forty years ago, June and I packed up for New Orleans and Danville is as close as we’ve been to home since. I missed most of Mother and Daddy’s retirement years because I was away, yet I knew and they knew that God had called me away. Neither of my parents ever questioned my loyalties. They knew that I loved them but my ultimate commitment was to Jesus. In the early years, I thought I was making this huge sacrifice but I don’t feel that way anymore. Life is short here on earth and I am glad that by His grace, I chose to serve Him. I always comforted myself with the thought that in heaven, I would not be restrained by time and there I could enjoy my parents. I don’t think my parents thought that my following Christ meant that I loved them less. I’m not going to say that I was the greatest son in the world because that is not true, I know several that will put me in the shade. I have one friend who calls or checks on his mother everyday and I was not that good of a son but I did try to show my parents that I loved them.

I am trying to say two things: [1] I don’t regret following Jesus although it did mean living a part from my precious parents. I was blessed with six siblings who could help them when I was not available and I am thankful. I sure it would have been tough had I been the only child. [2] I don’t feel like I’ve made a sacrifice at all. Ten, perhaps fifteen; most definitely thirty years ago I would have played my little violin…poor pitiful Bro. Jack, he gave up so much to follow Jesus; now I am ashamed that I ever thought such cockamamie thoughts. Serving Christ has been more wonderful than I could have ever imagined. I have seen things and heard things that I would not have dreamed would happen in this world. I could not have sat down and dreamed up a better life. To think that as a boy, I wanted to be the next Johnny Unitas. I wake up with bed sweats when I dream about that now. Can you imagine being chased by a man that is 6’8″ and weights 380 and runs the 40 in 4.9 seconds. God is good and I have no regrets about spending a life time in His Son’s service. Thank You Jesus!