Introduction We have spent this month thinking about what Faith Requires:
-We trust / Believe in Jesus
-We persist in our faith through the struggles
-We focus our faith on Jesus Christ without distraction
Today we finish this series by emphasizing that faith requires that we DECIDE.
Our text is the turning point in the gospel of Mark. From here on he is on his way to Jerusalem to die. He continues to love, heal, bless as he marches to the cross. This section begins with an identity question – who do you say that I am?
“But you,” he asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he strictly warned them to tell no one about him.Mark 8:29-30, CSB
This is followed by a dramatic conflict between Peter and Jesus in which Peter tries to talk Jesus out of the cross.
Then he began to teach them that it was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and rise after three days. 32 He spoke openly about this. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning around and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are not thinking about God’s concerns but human concerns.”Mark 8:31-33, CSB
The identity of Jesus is a call for us to make a decision.
Mark 8:34 “If anyone wants to follow after me…”
That’s our question for today – if we want to follow Jesus – we have to make a decision. It is not an uniformed decision – Jesus spells out for us what that decision means.
Calling the crowd along with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me and the gospel will save it. 36 For what does it benefit someone to gain the whole world and yet lose his life? 37 What can anyone give in exchange for his life?Mark 8:34-37, CSB
THREE COMPONENTS OF DECIDING TO FOLLOW JESUS
Make Jesus Lord: Deny Self.
Stedman: We are to deny that we own ourselves. … we are giving up ourselves.
1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a – You are not your own; you are bought with a price.
Jesus has ultimate rights: we call that Lordship.
Decide to Face the Challenges: Take Up Cross.
The decision to follow Jesus is the decision to take up a cross – a tool of torture and execution. To Christians, it is also a symbol of victory over the Enemy, including death. “My Cross to Bear” is not just the daily troubles. Taking up our cross is an expression that requires us to bear the things that humble us, expose us, offend us, shame us – that come because we are following Jesus. He experienced all of this and more as he carried he cross…to his death.
Decide to live in His Steps: follow Jesus
Following Jesus is the same as obeying Jesus. When we make the decision to follow Jesus we are making a life changing decision – and one that is not always easy.
“In a ‘pain-killer’ culture, a balanced understanding of suffering is difficult to achieve. Jesus sets out the challenge for us to think … not as human beings normally do.” – P. Perkins
The decision to follow Jesus is to deny our right to ourselves, take up the cross, accept the circumstances that result from making that choice, looking to Him for power to endure and grow.
You may think that is a hard way to talk about the Christian faith, and you are right. In John’s account of this speech many people turn away from Jesus and do not follow him any longer. When we decide who Jesus is to us, put down our own agenda to take up His Cross, we are making another decision.
SAVING YOUR LIFE (Mark 8:35-38)
Follow Him Because He Saves Your Life (35).
Jesus can save my life when I can’t. (35) The more I try to save my own life, the bigger the mess I make of it. Losing my life to Jesus and the gospel is the path to eternal life – and to the best life we can have now.
If you save your life now, “You will find that all of the life you tried to grasp has slipped through your fingers and you have ended up with a handful of cobwebs and sashes, dissatisfied, hollow, and empty, mocked by what you hoped to get.” (Stedman)
Follow Him Because He Gives Eternal Life.
Eternity is ultimately important (36-37). Ultimate importance cannot be attached to the things of this life.
Every culture points to certain things and says, “If you gain those, if you acquire or achieve those, then you’ll have a self, you’ll know you’re valuable.” … The culture says you’re nobody unless you gain a fulfilling career that brings money, reputation, and status … And Jesus says that will never work.” Keller
If you think that’s not true, I wonder how many people in this world who have everything they ever dreamed of, but find it empty.
There is no thing in history and literature more poignant than the cry of Alexander the great, weeping because there were no more worlds to conquer, sought to drown his disappointment and frustration in drink, and died in a stupor at thirty-three years of age.
Follow Him With Unashamed Boldness (38)
We cannot be ashamed of Jesus who gives us real life and saves us for eternal life. He went through the shame of the cross to save us. How could I be ashamed of Him?
Giving our lives to Jesus ensures that we will find contentment and satisfaction, inner peace, a sense of worth … even if we do not have all the things others have, our lives will be rich and rewarding and satisfying (Stedman)
Faith calls us to decide … to decide to make Jesus Lord, face the challenges, and follow in His steps.
Becoming a Christian is giving away your life to Jesus:
-He alone can save your life
-He alone can give you eternal life
-He alone offers what the world cannot
John Wesley prayed: I am no longer my own but Thine, put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt, put me to doing, put me to suffering, let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee; let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and heartily yield all things to they pleasure and disposal.
When we get to the end of Mark we will hear Jesus say:
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15,16)
What Decision Will You Make Today?
- Our text begins with a question, “Who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27-30) Have you heard people express an idea about who Jesus is? What do you think most people in our community think about Jesus?
- Jesus “spoke openly” (32) about his fate in Jerusalem (31-32a). This must have been disturbing to the disciples. Peter makes the great confession at the end of vs 29, but then proceeds to “rebuke” Jesus. What do you see as Peter’s motive here? What is Peter’s mistake? Do you think Jesus is overly harsh here? Why or why not? How could this relate to the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness?
- What does it mean to you to “take up your cross”? (vs 34)
- Jesus’ statement about saving our lives and losing our lives can be difficult to grasp. How would you say that in your own words? (verse 35)
- Do you know any examples or stories of those who have ‘gained the whole world’ but still remained unhappy and lost? (verse 36)
- What are some ways that people are ashamed of Jesus / gospel? How can being ashamed be subtle, finding its way into our lives without us noticing?
- Our messages this month on WHAT FAITH REQUIRES mentioned Belief, Persistence, Focus, and Decision. Which one of those concepts resonated with you most?
- What else did you see in this passage that you wanted to talk about?
Keller, Tim. King’s Cross.
Perkins, Pheme. The New International Bible Commentary – Mark.
Stedman, Ray. Sermon found at www.raystedman.org