The Cost of Following Christ, part 1 (Mark 8:34-38)

Sunday, October 13th, 2013
Sermon Series: Mark

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The Cost of Following Christ

The Gospel of Mark 8:34 to 38–part one

 

He was a former drill sergeant in the Marine Corps who took a new job as a high school 
teacher. Just before the school year started, he injured his back and was required to wear a plaster cast around the upper part of his body. Fortunately the cast fit under his shirt and wasn’t noticeable.

On the first day of class, he found himself assigned to the toughest
 students in the school. These students already heard he was a former Marine and were leery of him, and he knew they’d be 
testing his discipline in the classroom. This is how he solved the problem. Walking confidently into the rowdy classroom, the new teacher opened the
 window wide and sat down at his desk. When a strong breeze made his tie flap in the wind, he picked up the stapler off his desk and stapled the tie to his chest. The rest of the year went very smoothly.

Now that’s tough, that’s committed–or at least it appears so. Sadly, real toughness–even the appearance of tough is missing today from Christians. Each of us who’re true believers are actually fully committed. All genuine believers are crazy committed. There is no such thing as an uncommitted Christian in the Bible.

There is a toughness to following Christ that is missing today—a cost that’s paid by every genuine Christian that’s being ignored, but it is in fact required of every true believer, non-optional. And if you’re not committed in heart to this degree, you’re not a genuine believer, period. Not a perfect commitment, but a genuine sold out commitment.

It is not enough to confess Christ as the Son of God. It is not enough to embrace Christ’s death and resurrection as true. It is not enough to pray a prayer, make a decision or sound sincere. If you follow Christ you have, and you will pay a price.

Now get this straight–it is not something you work for, but the willingness from a new heart. It is not something you earn, but a part of the gift of salvation. It is not a commitment you work up, but one that’s put into you. It is true for every single genuinely born again believer, because God has now given them a heart that is willing to pay this price. It is the cost of following Christ–a price you pay. Do you work it up? No! Is it given to you? Yes!

What is the cost? What does it look like? What commitment must I have to truly be saved? It is found in Mark 8:34 to 38—turn there and take out your outline. And let’s stand in honor of the Word of God, and allow me to read verses 34 to 38, “And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.’”

Let’s pray–help us understand what a true Christian is. Give us the courage to evaluate our own hearts in light of Your Word. And give us Your wisdom to share this truth with others who think they’re saved, but do not demonstrate a committed heart. And most of all, help us see You, Christ, Your cross, and Your call to commitment for every Christian–all for your glory.

This passage describes the heart of Christian discipleship, and it is the deathblow to the self-centered false gospels that are so popular in contemporary Christianity in our area. It leaves no room for the gospel of getting, where God is treated as a genie who gives believers at least three wishes. It closes the door to the gospel of health and wealth, which asserts that if a Christian is not healthy and prosperous, he simply has not exercised his divine rights, or else does not have enough faith to claim his blessings. The passage today also destroys the gospel of self-esteem, self-love and high self-image, which prostitutes the humble brokenness and repentance which marks the gospel of the cross.

To come to Christ is to receive and to keep on receiving forever. True salvation is abundant life now and eternal life forever. But Jesus, through His instruction during His earthly ministry, and through His apostles in the rest of the New Testament, makes it clear–there must be a cross before the crown, suffering before glory, and sacrifice before reward. The heart of Christian discipleship is giving before gaining and losing before winning. So today’s passage is not unusual, unique or rare. The high cost of being a true disciple of Christ, a genuine Christian, is everywhere in the New Testament.

Matthew 10 and Luke 14 say, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.” Christ will tell a wealthy young man in Perea in Mark 10:21, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Jesus says in John 12:24 and 25, “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. 25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.”

But there is a problem with these truths–that clear teaching runs contrary to the Judaism of Jesus’ day, just as it runs contrary to the popular quasi-Christianity today. Like most of their fellow Jews, the twelve expected the Messiah to throw off the Roman yoke, dethrone the Herods and powerfully establish God’s earthly kingdom in all its glory right now. As a result, it was difficult for them to embrace Jesus’ teachings about humility, sacrifice, and dying to self.

Jesus did not act like the rod of iron Messiah they expected, and He forbade them to act like vice-regents of this mythical Messiah. Yet they knew Jesus’ miracles and His teaching could not be explained humanly, and by a work of God’s grace in their hearts they had finally come to recognize that He indeed was the Messiah. Though the entire picture was still not coming together for them, they did finally confess Jesus as the Christ.

But when the Lord tells them He must suffer, die and rise again, Peter tries to stop Christ from thinking and speaking that way, so the Lord shuts Peter’s faulty human thinking down. ”Get behind me, Satan!” The Lord makes it clear they must not only embrace the person of Christ, but also His rejection, suffering and death–the coming passion, the cross. But the Lord is not done–not only must they embrace His person and passion, but the price of being His follower.

Not only did they need to see Christ and the cross clearly, but also the cost of discipleship–His person, passion and price. And that requirement is the same for each of you here right now. You must see Christ for who He is, understand His sacrifice for the sins of His own on the cross, and embrace the cost of following Christ. Own them, FBC–Christ, the cross and the cost, the person, passion and price for you and those you share with.

Mark 8 is a turning point, and unlike the disciples, you must not walk away today without fully embracing Christ, the cross and the cost. Just as Jesus went to a cross, so will the true Christian. Just as Jesus died, so will His authentic followers. Just as Jesus was persecuted and suffered, so will true believers. Just as Jesus lost His life, so will His genuine disciples. Before us today is one of the clearest statements in all of the Bible on what it means to genuinely follow Christ. For Mark, the crucial divide is not only to confess Christ, embrace the coming cross, but also to count the cost of following Him. You say, “Chris, this can’t be for everyone? This is just for the disciples or ministry leaders, right?” No.

#1  The Cost of Following Christ is for EVERY Believer

Read the beginning of 34, “And He summoned the crowd with His disciples.” There were Jewish residents in the villages of Caesarea Philippi who had learned of Jesus’ presence, waiting expectantly nearby. The crowd of people knew of Christ, so now, as the Lord explains the cost of being His follower, they are invited to come close and join the twelve, so they can all hear what it means to follow Christ.

This is a universal law, not a special call for a select few. Teachers and students, young and old, immature and mature–all of you, here are the demands of Christ’s Christianity meant for all. Not merely the twelve, but a universal call to all those who would follow Him–it’s an offer extended to everyone.

What does Christ offer? Verse 34, “And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me.’” Christ is speaking openly and generally to everyone present. The verb “said”, “said to them,” is a general fact–openly speaking. And the Lord says to everyone, “If anyone” (think about this).

Commentator Lenski says the word anyone “is a blank space into which you can write your name.” Do you want Christ and the cross? Then embrace this. Write your name in where verse 34 says “anyone”. “If [Chris] wishes to come after me” . . . Shawn, John, Tracy, Beth. Verse 34, “If anyone wishes to come after Me”–a conditional statement which assumes you have a desire to come after Christ.

“Wishes” is present tense–a continual desire to follow Christ. Commentator Frommel says Christ does not pull any of His sheep by a rope, and in His army there’s nothing but volunteers. “Wishes” means your will is engaged. What is it that Christ offers to anyone? To come after Him—“wishes to come after Me.” It’s the idea of taking a position behind Jesus. Jesus is asking, “Do you want to be with Me? Are you with Me?” Will you attach yourself to Jesus as His disciple?

The root word “come after” means, “if anyone wishes to follow Me.” No doubt the twelve were remembering when Jesus had called each of them one year ago to two-and-a-half years earlier when they left all–their families, friends, occupations, to follow Christ. To the unbelievers in the crowds on that day in Caesarea Philippi, “come after Me” applies to the initial surrender of the new birth, when a person comes to Christ for salvation and the old life of sin is exchanged for a new life of righteousness. To the believers there, including the twelve, come after Me reiterates the call to the life of daily obedience to Christ.

Some of you are confused–is it my commitment or God’s call? It is me exercising my will, or God who enables me to pay the cost? When Jesus says, “Wishes to come after me,” is following Christ here God’s grace, or my commitment? Do I pay the cost, or does Christ? Yes. Is God sovereign in salvation, or am I responsible to respond? Si. When God saves you, He enables you to pay the price to follow Him.

Verse 34 is the call to pay the price of following Christ, and the Lord asking if you have a heart that wants to follow Him. So let me ask–do all of you here want to follow after Christ? Not originally. Romans 3:11 told us, “There is none who seeks for God.” The fallen heart does not wish to come after Christ. God must change your heart–give you a new heart that wants to follow Christ. Romans 6:17, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart.” When Christ saved you, He gave you a heart that wants to obey. So it is God who must save you, in order for you to pay the cost required in following Christ and embracing His cross.

In other words, Mark 8:34 is not describing salvation, but what happens immediately after salvation–you follow Christ. Verse 34 is about what happens to you when you turn to Christ. The moment you truly come to Christ, you become this committed. All true believers will desire to pay any cost to follow Christ. And did you notice, our obedience as Christians flows from a personal relationship with Christ? See it in verse 34–“to come after Me.”

Verse 34–“to follow Me

Verse 35–“for My sake

Verse 35–“the gospel’s” (sake)

Verse 38–negative is “ashamed of Me

Verse 38–ashamed of “My words

Can you feel the personal nature of a relationship with Christ here? It’s the love of Christ which enables us to meet our Lord’s demands. It’s our salvation caused by Christ that allows us to follow Him, as Peter describes it in 1 Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again.” God caused us to be born again, which then, after we’re born again, enables us, at that moment of salvation, to be obedient to Christ and pay any price to follow Him.

KEY POINT–when God saves you, you will want to follow Him, and you’ll be willing to pay any price necessary to follow Him. What’s the cost of following Christ every believer is willing to pay? Verse 34 tells us, “And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, [here it is] he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.’” “Whoa, Chris, in my heart I want to be this person, but I’m not! What does that mean?” Let me give you some biblical options.

#1  You’re not a real believer, but a self-deceived make believer

#2  You’re a believer in sin, moments away from being spanked by God

#3  You’re biblically immature, and being tossed to and fro doctrinally

#4  Or as a believer, you’ve let your love for Christ fade

It is possible for any believer here to lose the first love. Sometimes believers will surrender all they have and all they are to Christ, but later, slowly, love things or people more. When that happens, Jesus says in Revelation 2:4 to 5, “‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.’”

The believers of the Ephesian church lost Christ in the midst of their Christianity. They lost their devotion in the midst of their doctrine. They gave into the constant temptation to want to take back what was given up to Christ, and reclaim what was forsaken for Christ. It’s biblically possible to again assert one’s own will above God’s, and to take back rights that were relinquished to Christ. And it’s really tempting to compromise our commitment and not follow Christ when the cost becomes high.

Our Lord loves us enough to not leave us in our disobedience, but always promises to discipline us back to obedience. But the fact that believers sometimes succumb to disobedience does not alter the truth that the character of a true disciple is demonstrated in an obedience that’s willing to pay the highest cost. And even though imperfect obedience is inevitable because of unredeemed flesh, the basic desire and life-direction of a true Christian is obedience to the Lord. Following Christ in sanctification is on God’s terms, just as submitting to Christ in salvation is on God’s terms.

In verse 34, the Lord reminds us that those who’re truly born again are those who deny self, bear the cross and loyally obey—verse 34b, “he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Here’s what it means to come after Christ–not the way of salvation, but the path all true believers take in order to follow Christ. Three major qualities are found in every genuine Christian here. Luke tells us the name “disciple” was our first title–only later were we called Christians in Acts 11:26b, “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” So a disciple is not a super Christian, just a regular believer–a disciple was the first name for Christians, so this is for all believers.

So how do all genuinely saved disciples live? There are three keys making up the outline, because Jesus gives us three clear commands–three imperatives in the Greek. What’s the cost?

First  The cost is a life of denying yourself in all things

The first requirement of true discipleship is self-denial. Anyone in this room, and anyone who really wants Christ now and heaven later but is not willing to deny himself, cannot legitimately claim the name Christian. This is a command. Verse 34b, “he must deny himself”–it’s middle voice, act on yourself to deny yourself. The Greek word “deny” means to completely disown–to utterly separate oneself from someone, to turn someone off, to refuse association with.

Peter is the apostle behind the writing of Mark. Did Peter understand the pressure to deny self versus deny Christ? The verb “deny”, verse 34, is the same word used of Peter’s denial of Christ right before the cross. Each time Peter was confronted about his relationship to Jesus, Peter vehemently denied knowing Him. You remember Mark 14:30 to 31, “Jesus said, ‘… this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times.’ But Peter kept … insisting, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’” Yet in verses 71 to 72 of the same chapter, “he began to curse and swear, ‘I do not know this man you are talking about!’ Immediately a rooster crowed …. And Peter remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him, ‘Before a rooster crows … you will deny Me three times.’ And he began to weep.”

Peter vehemently severed all connection with Christ. And this is exactly the kind of denial a believer is to make in regard to himself. He’s to totally, vehemently disown himself–to refuse to acknowledge the self of the old man. Jesus’ words here could be paraphrased, “Let him refuse any association or companionship with himself.” And self-denial not only characterizes a person who has saving faith in Christ and the cross, but also as he follows Christ in sanctification, and lives as a disciple of Christ.

To “deny yourself” is not the idea of denying things we desire, nor to sever any relationship that competes with Christ for first love. No, the idea is to deny self as the controlling center of life. You either deny self and follow Christ, or feed self and reject Christ.

Self is cast off of the throne and Christ is brought gloriously into the throne room of your life and ceremonially crowned King. Everything in us screams, “I myself am right. I myself am number one.” What I want matters most. So denying self means what you feel is subjugated to the Word of God. What you think, your opinions, your ideas are now under the authority of the Bible. And all your relationships are prioritized by what God says first.

Denying yourself also radically affects how you talk to churchgoers, so as you are sharing Christ with so-called Christians, remember the gospel they responded to is often false. Christ and the cross are not designed to result in self-improvement and a better you, but Christ and the cross lead to self-repudiation and the death of self. The self-improvement gospel and self-help Bible teaching today is actually anti-Christ and a false gospel. We’re to flush self, not fuel it. We’re to crucify self, not coddle it–what a radical thought in the “me” generation, where everything revolves around my needs.

One commentator writes, “The self to which Jesus refers is not your personal identity as a distinct individual. Every one of you is a unique creation of God, and our heavenly Father knows each of you by name. He made you with your personality and background, and He saved you, giving you unique gifts, good works and purposes, for His glory. No, the self Jesus is speaking of is the natural, sinful, rebellious, unredeemed self that’s at the center of every fallen person. It is that ugly self that can temporarily reclaim control over a Christian.” To deny that self is to confess with Paul, in Romans 7:18, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.”

As a believer, yes–I’ve been made acceptable before God when I trusted in Jesus Christ. And now I stand before the Lord in perfect righteousness, clothed in, as Ephesians 4:24 says, “the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” But at the same time, nothing in my humanness commends me to God–I have nothing worthwhile in myself to offer Christ at all. Therefore, I deny self. Therefore, I do not trust me, but I trust God and His Word alone.

It is not the self-righteous and self-satisfied, but the penitent and humble whom God saves. It was not the proud Pharisee, but the brokenhearted tax collector who was justified. Arthur Pink wrote, “Growth in grace is growth downward; it is the forming of a lower estimate of ourselves; it is a deepening realization of our nothingness; it is a heartfelt recognition that we are not worthy of the least of God’s mercies.”

The New Testament is clear–to deny self is to “make no provision for the flesh” (Romans 13:14), and to “put no confidence in [it]” (Philippians 3:3). To deny self is to subject oneself entirely to the Lordship of Christ and resources of Christ, in utter rejection of self-will and self-sufficiency. A follower of Christ is one who renounces himself and turns away from self-idolatry, to focus on God and God’s interests. To deny yourself is an abandonment of yourself, to a dependence upon God and His Word.

When a so-called Christian walks away from spouse and children saying, “This is best for me,” they’re not denying self, and they’re raising serious questions as to their relationship with Christ. When a collegian wants a boyfriend or girlfriend more than obedience to God and His Word, they are not denying self, and raising questions as to whether they know Christ or not. When personal hurts, slights, trials, difficulties move you to stop loving, stop serving, stop giving, you are also not denying self.

Who is the final authority in your life–Christ or your comfort? When Christ calls you clearly to obey His WORD, do you obey, or do you debate it, delay obeying, or diss it in some manner? Are you following God’s Word, or following your wishes? Genuine Christians deny themselves, but verse 34 adds, true believers pay.

Second  The cost is a daily willingness to die for Christ

Verse 34b says, “He must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” The second command of discipleship is to take up one’s cross. Taking up one’s cross is not some mystical “deeper spiritual life” that only the religious elite can hope to achieve. Nor is it the common hardships that all of us experience sometime in life. A cross is not having an unsaved husband, a nagging wife, an irritating situation, a tough commute to work, an overbearing mother-in-law, owning a cat or living in Hemet. Nor is carrying your cross having a physical handicap or suffering an incurable disease.

To take up one’s cross is simply to be willing to pay any price for Christ’s sake. It is the willingness to endure shame, embarrassment, rejection, persecution, even martyrdom for the sake of Christ–not hardship for you, but hardship for Christ. The Bible is taught correctly only when you discover the author’s intended meaning. What did the author mean when he wrote to the original audience, in the Greek language, 2,000 years ago, in their culture? So when the readers of Mark read take up his cross in verse 34, what did they understand? To Mark’s Roman readers, the cross simply described a gruesome instrument of pain and execution used on runaway slaves and criminals. The cross was reserved for Rome’s worst enemies. It was the place of torture and death awaiting those who dared raise a hand against Roman authority. When the crowd and the disciples heard take up his cross, they did not think Jesus was indicating some petty burden to be carried, but the stark reality of a coming execution.

Not many years before Jesus and the disciples came to Caesarea Philippi, one hundred men had just been crucified in that area. Crucifixions on a smaller scale were a common sight, and it has been estimated that perhaps some 30,000 occurred under Roman authority during the lifetime of Christ. So when the disciples and the crowd heard Jesus speak of taking up the cross, there was nothing mystical about the idea. They immediately pictured a poor, condemned soul walking along the road carrying his cross, the instrument of his execution on his own back. The verb, “take up his cross,” means “to raise, bear, or to carry, describing someone carrying his cross beam, walking to His death or raising up his cross, meaning he’s about to die.”

A man who took up his cross began his death march, carrying the very beam on which he would hang, then die. For a disciple of Christ, to take up his cross means for him to be willing to start on a death march. To be a disciple of Christ is to be willing, in His service, to suffer the indignities, the pain, even the death of a condemned criminal. What does 2 Timothy 3:12 say? “And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

A.W. Tozer has said, “The man with a cross no longer controls his destiny; he lost control when he picked up his cross.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer has said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Obviously the extent of suffering and persecution varies from believer to believer. Not every disciple is called to be martyred, but every disciple is commanded to be willing to be martyred.

Do you remember what Peter told us in his first letter, 1 Peter 4:12 to 14, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

To come to Jesus Christ for salvation is not to raise a hand or sign a card, although that may play a part. To come to Jesus Christ is to come to the end of self and sin, and to become so desirous of Christ and His righteousness that you will make any sacrifice for Him. Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 10:24 to 25 “’A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. … If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!’” In effect, Christ is saying to His disciples that if He, their Lord, would have to “suffer many things … and be killed” how can they expect to escape the same treatment?

The cross represents suffering that’s ours because of our relationship to Christ. Jesus just told His men what’s coming in verse 31–do you see it? “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”

So as the Lord moves unwaveringly towards His execution, His cross, He’s preparing to bear the sins of the whole world. And following Him are millions of His disciples, all with their own crosses, willing to bear reproach and death with Him. Christ does not call disciples to Himself to make their lives easy and prosperous, but to make them holy and productive. The willingness to take up his cross is the mark of the true disciple. Those who make initial confessions of their desire to follow Christ, but refuse to accept hardship or persecution are described as false, fruitless souls who are like rocky soil with no depth. They wither and die under threat of the reproach of Christ. Many people want a “no-cost” discipleship, but Christ offers no such option. So . . .

First  The cost is a life of denying yourself in all things, and . . .

Second  The cost is a daily willingness to die for Christ now

Third  The cost is the will to obey Christ in everything

Verse 34b, “He must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” The third command of discipleship is loyal obedience. Only after a person denies himself and takes up his cross, Jesus said, is he actually prepared “to follow Me.” This command is unique among the three costs in this verse, in that this command is present tense, describing an ongoing and enduring following. A true disciple doesn’t give up, doesn’t surrender, doesn’t stop, but continually–with trips, falls, slips and minor pauses follows Christ.

True believers continually persevere on the path of Christ. Genuine Christians maintain a continual life of sanctification. Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” Growing is a sign of genuineness, and all authentic Christians will keep growing, slow but sure. All of Christ’s true sheep will keep following Christ. John 10:27, “My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow Me.” Calling us sheep makes following sound simple and easy, but following Christ is not a walk in the park.

True discipleship is also submission to the Lordship of Christ that becomes a pattern of life. First John 2:6, “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” John 8:31b, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.”

Paul, in Romans 1:5 and 16:26 calls salvation the “obedience of faith.” Peter, in 1 Peter 1:2 describes God’s sovereign saving work in a life as “the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood.” Obedience is an expectation of all true believers. Real disciples are not selective on which commands they obey or not. They obey the do not commands like don’t lie, lust, hate or gossip. But they also obey the do commands of serve, give, gather, love, forgive, cover sins, share Christ, and more–commission and omission. Following Christ is obeying God’s Word, and all true disciples obey.

Allow me to ask you . . .

1  Do you want to follow Christ?

In order to follow Christ, you must have a new born again heart. And when you do, it will show in your desires, choices and obedience. Do you want to truly follow Christ? Oh, I pray you really do.

2  Are you trying to have it both ways?

Are you attempting to have Christ and the world? Christ and your way? Christ and what you want over what He wants? Christ and money, Christ and your comfort, pleasure and convenience? Jesus says you can’t have two masters–there is no such thing as a lukewarm Christian, only cold dead or hot for Christ. Christians can be in the flesh, but not live as a way of life in the flesh. And all true Christians bear fruit, seek to obey Christ in all things, and are willing to do anything Christ requires of them. All genuine Christians are committed and show it by following Christ.

This world says family first, but the Bible says Jesus first. This society says do what you can, when you can, but Jesus says do what I say, when I say it–follow me, not society and not self. I died for you, now you die for Me–I denied Myself, now you deny yourself.

Just because the majority of the Christian community today is living for themselves, treating church attendance, ministry and giving as an option, does not mean that Christ changed His mind about the cost of following Him. Each and every true disciple must “deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” You can’t have it both ways–either Christ or self, not both. Do you have a new born again heart, willing to deny self and follow Christ?

3  Will you pursue denying self?

My mentor wrote these words over thirty years ago, but they are just as pointed today as they were when he first penned them. Close your eyes, listen and apply this to yourself.

DENYING SELF

When you are forgotten or neglected, or purposely rejected, and you sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ–that’s dying to self. When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take all in patient loving silence–that is dying to self.

When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, or any annoyance, when you can stand face-to-face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility, and endure it as Jesus endured it–that is dying to self.

When you are content with any food, any offering, any raiment, any climate, any society, any attitude, any interruption by the will of God–that is dying to self.

When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good works, or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown–that is dying to self.

When you see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances–that is dying to self.

When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself, can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart–that is dying to self.

Let’s pray. God move us to greater depths of denying ourselves, and taking up our cross and following Christ, cause those who have lost their first love to repent, and if you will, call some today to move from a fake Christianity of self-love to being a true disciple following Christ.

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ABOUT THIS PREACHER

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church – Murrieta.

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