‘The Gospel of Luke: Encountering Jesus’
Message: ‘If anyone would come after Me’ Text: Luke 9:23-26
Introduction: What is your goal in life? What is it that you are perusing so that you will consider yourself… successful?
- Many, if not most people today, both in and outside the church, believe that success brings happiness in life.
- For them success is wealth, wealth is happiness, therefore success is happiness.
Do you think I’m wrong? Think about it. What is it that makes people do what they do?
In my years walking with people, helping them to find their way, either as a counselor or a pastor, it almost always has to do with two things:
- Having their passions fulfilled.
- Having prominence.
Most problems arise in people’s lives, because one or both of those, are not being realized.
- And again, I am talking about people both in and outside the church.
As a pastor, when I’m walking with Christians who feel that way, I remind them, over and over again, that success, Biblical, spiritual success, also involves two things:
- Discovering God’s purpose for your life
- and empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit,
- pursuing that purpose, with great passion.
The apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:1 writes:
- I…urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called
And again in Philippians 3:13-14 he writes:
- … one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
In Jesus’ day, they measured success no differently than we do. But, life with Jesus, life in the Kingdom of God, was to be different.
Last week we saw that after Peter announced that Jesus was God’s Messiah
- Jesus defined how the Messiah should live and it included dying.
- In our text this morning, Jesus will define how His disciple’ should live, and yes, it also included dying.
Transition: Open your Bibles to Luke 9:23.
Luke 9:23 Complete abandonment
Read: Luke 9:23
- Deny yourself
Let him deny himself. Folks: One of the biggest reasons people outside these walls don’t want anything to do with the church
- is because they don’t think they should have to give up anything to be a Christian…
- life shouldn’t have to be different.
And sadly, it’s also the biggest reason people inside these walls are not worshiping, not serving, not fellowshipping, not praying, not giving… regularly.
- Because they too don’t think they should have to give anything up to be a Christian.
- That their life has to be any different.
- B. Bruce’s insightful book The Training of the Twelve says this: For the whole aim of Satanic policy is to get self-interest recognized as the chief end of man. (Steven Cole)
- The chief end of man is our ultimate purpose in life.
To deny ourselves, is totally foreign to us, even to Christians. Because it’s the exact opposite of what we’ve been taught… well, …forever.
From a Biblical perspective, what is Jesus telling us to do, what does it mean to deny ourselves?
- It means, in light of our new life in Christ, we choose to ignore our very existence.
- We treat our agendas, our wants, our wishes as if they did not exist.
- We make doing God’s will our purpose in life.
Don’t believe that? Then let’s take me out of the equation. God’s Word in Galatians 2:20 says this:
- I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Those who have placed their faith in Jesus, intentionally let Jesus live through them.
So, to deny ourselves means:
- Turning away from the idolatry of self-centeredness.
- Giving up the right to control how we live our lives and how we get to our future.
- Dying to our pride and living to exalt Jesus.
- Renouncing self-will and living to do God’s will.
Denying ourselves is:
- Reorienting our lives, our will, our desires, our passions, our pocketbook, our time…
- to God’s will, to lifting up Jesus Christ.
Pastor and author Alexander Maclaren wrote this to Christians:
- Flagrant vice is not needed to kill the real life. Clean, respectable selfishness does the work effectually. (Steve Cole)
Let me help you visualize it: Think of a wheel.
- Jesus doesn’t want to be just one of the spokes; alongside of career, family, comfort, hobbies and whatever else you value.
- He wants to be the hub, the place everything is connected and the place everything is given strength and direction.
Jesus said it so simply in the Sermon on the Mount:
- But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)
Commenting on this text, John Macarthur said:
- The Gospel is a call for self-denial, not a call for self-fulfillment.
- Christianity has become a ‘get what you want’ rather than a ‘give’ movement.
- The glory of God has been replaced by the satisfaction of man.
In other words we’ve taken God’s Word that speaking of Jesus says: And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. (Colossians 1:18)
And we’ve changed it to…
- That in all things we might find satisfaction.
One last thing before I move on… I like what Bible teacher Victor Yap said about denying yourself:
- It is not the repression, but the restraint of your emotions, desires and wants.
- It’s not crushing them but containing them.
- The old self tempts us to live a self-centered,
self-fulfilling and self-sufficient existence,
- but, our new master beckons us to live
- God-centered, Christlike and Spirit-led lives.
- Take up your cross…daily
Jesus said… If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily.
Just so we get the full picture, Jesus is telling those who follow Him, that their life is not just about denying themselves, it’s includes the strong possibility of suffering.
Powerpoint: Slides of ‘pretty’ crosses. (2 slides)
- That’s what we think if when we hear the word cross.
- It’s what Satan wants us to think of.
- And if I have to carry a cross, and I really don’t want to, but if I must, I want it to be like that… nice, comfortable, generally acceptable to all, and painless.
Powerpoint: Slides of a real cross
This is the kind of cross Jesus is commanding us to carry… if we say we’re His followers.
- It’s not pretty, it’s not comfortable,
it’s not acceptable but it is painful.
The cross of Jesus was meant to bring Him shame, to bring Him humiliation, it was meant to make Him suffer. Yet…
- It was the means of displaying His obedience to the Father.
- It was the means of exalting Him, as King of kings and Lord of lords.
- It was the way of bringing forgiveness for our sin against God.
- It was the way reconciling us to God.
As horrible, as shameful, as painful as it was for Jesus,
- The cross, is, the heart of the Gospel.
And taking up our cross, that cross, the kind of cross that Jesus carried, is the very foundation of our journey of faith as Believer, followers of Jesus Christ.
That’s the cross that Jesus’ disciples thought of when He told them to take up their cross. Listen to Matthew’s Gospel.
- From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord! This shall never happen to You.”
But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man. (Matthew 16:21–23)
Peter knew exactly what Jesus was saying when He told them to deny themselves, take up their cross…
- And to be honest, we know it too. We know what Jesus is asking of us, we just refuse to do it.
- And if we must, we want the nice, comfortable, generally acceptable to all, and painless cross.
An unknown author wrote a poem titled:
God Counted Crosses
I counted dollars while God counted crosses.
I counted gains while He counted losses!
I counted my worth by the things gained in store.
But He sized me up by the scars that I bore.
I coveted honors and sought for degrees;
He wept as He counted the hours on my knees.
And I never knew ’til one day at a grave,
How vain are these things
that we spend life to save! (Jim Bomkamp)
Christian, taking up our cross is taking a step deeper in what it means to deny ourselves.
Remember crucifixion in Jesus’ day was commonplace. When you saw someone on the road carrying a cross, you knew they were going to die.
- Jesus is saying, that’s how we are to live.
Listen to the apostle Paul’s view of dying to self:
Read: Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Read: Romans 14:8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.
Read: 2 Corinthians 4:8-12 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
And listen, Jesus reminds us, that the need to die to self, is a daily process when He said. Take up his cross… daily. Not just on Sundays.
Read: Titus 2:11-12
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.
Listen, God has graced us, He promises to shower us with His grace, to enable us to persevere under the weight of the cross we are called to carry.
He has promised that His grace is sufficient.
Conclusion: I left out talking about the very first part of verse 23. Let me read it: If anyone would come after me.
- Jesus, speaking to the 12 could have said ‘If you would come after me.’ But He didn’t.
- If He had, then we could say Jesus was just talking to those who are His 12 apostles. They were special, they had a much bigger responsibility than I do.
- Jesus wasn’t speaking to me… pastors and elders, missionaries, but not me.
Jesus said If anyone.
- And by that He meant everyone who claims to be a Christian. Even you!
One last thought as I try to pull this all together.
When you date, there almost always comes a time when you have ‘the talk.’ You know what I mean. ‘The talk,’ the time one of you asks the other
- Where is this relationship going?
Well Christian, every day Jesus asks you that very same question. Where is our relationship going?
- Today, will it be towards a deeper, more intimate connection with Me.
- Or, will you once again say you need some… space?
Perhaps Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it best when he said:
- When Christ calls a man,
- he bids him, come and die!