‘The Gospel of Luke: Encountering Jesus’
Message: ‘If anyone would come after Me’ pt.2
Text: Luke 9:23-26
Introduction: Pastor Steven Belokur tells the following story. The St. Lawrence River is a huge river which flows to the sea. One night I saw a huge freighter which was heading toward the sea stop and anchored for the night. The next morning the ship was facing upriver instead of down river. This gigantic freighter weighing thousands of tons had slowly been turned completely around by the gentle pressure of the flow, the influence, of the St. Lawrence River
When the ship was first anchored it was pretty much aligned with the flow of the river so the effect of the current on the vessel was almost unnoticeable. But at some point it almost imperceptibly started drifting to one side but with no correction the ship was soon broadside to the current and being driven around to the opposing direction.
Pastor Belokur adds: Beware of the influence of the world. The devil will try to turn you around and destroy you little by little.
Read: 1 Timothy 6:6b…godliness with contentment is great gain
What is great gain? The world continually bombards us with the allure of great gain. And it uses many avenues to influence us to seek it.
- TV, Radio, Print advertising, Social Media, Friends, Co-workers, Neighbors, Billboards.
And all of it is to convince us that great gain is two mighty actions: Acquiring and Achieving.
- Acquiring Things; more things, better things, newer things.
- Achieving Successes; success in school, career, athletics, hobbies, even in popularity
- How many ‘friends’ do you have on ‘Facebook.’
AND to round everything out, we’re told to take pride in the fact that WE have made it all happen.
And contentment… well that’s the ever elusive dream that is rarely realized.
- The more we strive for prosperity and self-sufficiency,
- The more off-course we find ourselves as we try to navigate our lives to the sea of
God’s Word tells us what we are to strive for in order to find great gain with contentment:
- … strive to excel in building up the church. (1 Corinthians 14:12)
- … pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22)
Strive to excel in building up the church. Along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
- Great gain is striving, working hard, expending time and effort to building up the church… both local and universal.
- And how do we do that… together, the Apostle Paul adds along with those who call on the Lord.
It’s in doing that, that we’ll find and experience contentment because we’re following Jesus.
Review: I said last Sunday that in a lot of ways, we’re no different than the 12 Apostles in our text. They too had pressures from their world, their society, to find great gain
- It was in their individual ability to obey the Law and take personal pride in those efforts.
That’s why what Jesus told His disciples in Luke 9:23-26 would have turned their perception of their world, completely…upside down.
Jesus told them listen,
- My life will be taken from Me. I am freely giving Myself up to die.
- And by the way, if you want to come after Me, if you want to be My follower, if you want to be a Christian,
- You’ll need to live a life of dying to your own desires, of dying to your own perceived needs, of dying to your own agendas.
- . you’ll need to do that… daily!
Transition: Open your Bibles to Luke 9:23. Where Jesus continues His pinpoint description of what it means to be one of His followers.
- Luke 9:23 Complete abandonment
Read: Luke 9:23
- Follow Jesus
Followers of Jesus… follow Jesus. It’s that simple. OK, we can move on to the next verse… Well, not that quickly. While it is exactly that simple… Followers of Jesus, follow Jesus. It’s a practice few Christians pursue with great passion.
- Because it’s not easy.
- Because it demands too much from them.
- Because it’s uncomfortable.
- Because it goes against the flow of the river of their lives.
So, what does it mean to follow Jesus?
First, it means being with Him. If you say you want to follow Jesus, you must make time to be with Jesus.
Last Sunday I talked about being in a romantic relationship with someone. Let’s continue that illustration.
- If you say you want to be in a romantic relationship with someone, you start dating… Right?
- For that romantic relationship to grow and develop, you need to spend time with each other. And that’s not difficult because the other person is all you think about…
- Well, it’s no different with your relationship with Jesus.
Percy Sledge and later Michal Bolton sang a song titled: ‘When a Man Loves a Woman.’ Listen to some of the words to this song and think about your relationship with Jesus.
- When a man loves a woman Can’t keep his mind on nothin’ else. He’d trade the world
For a good thing he’s found…
- When a man loves a woman Spend his very last dime Trying to hold on to what he needs
He’d give up all his comforts And sleep out in the rain If she said that’s the way It ought to be.
- When a man loves a woman I give you everything I’ve got. Trying to hold on
To your precious love
Jesus, in Ephesians 5, likens the relationship of marriage to our relationship to Him. So I don’t think I it’s a stretch to say that the lyrics of that song are a barometer revealing the depth of our time spent with Jesus.
Second, following Jesus means we listen to and obey what He says. The word disciple actually means someone who is a learner.
- So as followers of Jesus, as His disciples,
- we choose to make learning about Jesus and what He has said, the highest priority in our lives.
But, not only to learn, but do. The Apostle James writes: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22)
Third, following Jesus is a lifelong endeavor. In the Greek, follow is a present, active imperative, verb. What that means is it’s an ongoing practice.
- Being a follower of Jesus describes who we are.
- Following Jesus, describes what we do.
Finally, following Jesus, being His disciple means we teach what He taught.
- Disciples in Jesus’ day were like apprentices today. They learn a trade from someone, and then go out and do it themselves.
It’s no different for Christian today. We must teach others about Jesus.
- In other words, disciples make disciples.
Read: 2 Timothy 2:2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach
Followers of Jesus… follow Jesus!
- Luke 9:24-26 Paradoxes of the kingdom
- Luke 9:24 Saving and losing
Read: Luke 9:24
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess everything, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive. Let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley, Thy life in my death.
That was taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions. Speaking of that poem and our verse, John Macarthur writes:
- Thy life in my death? That’s the true gospel. It’s not about exalting me, it’s about slaying me.
- Jesus said, “If you’re going to follow Me, you deny yourself, you take up your cross every day and you follow Me.” It’s the death of self.
- You win by losing. You live by dying.
- And that is the core, the heart message of the gospel. That is the center of discipleship.
In more contemporary terms,
- A follower of Jesus Christ must spend his life rather than hoard it.
- A Disciple of Jesus Christ does not ask How much can I get, but How much can I give.
- A Christian asks What is the right thing to do, instead of asking What is the safe thing to do?
You see, though faith in Jesus, we’ve been given life, not to keep it, or to conserve it, but to spend it, to use it for the sake others in order to help build the Kingdom of God.
Speaking of His life, Jesus says
- No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. (John 10:18a)
Like Jesus, we must freely give up our lives, for the sake of the kingdom, for the sake of others.
Jesus is saying:
- If you want to save your life (in both the temporal and eternal arenas by living to fulfill your own interests), you will lose it. (die, physically and spiritually)
- But if you lose your life for the sake of Christ (losing it in the sense of deny self), you will save it, (both now and for eternity).
Folks, what Jesus is saying… has eternal significance. Repeated failure to Deny yourselves, take up your cross daily and follow Jesus… is an indication that you are still dead in your sin.
- Not my words.
Please, this is not a description of a works salvation Jesus is talking about, but a description of those
- Who actually follow Jesus and live
- or don’t follow Jesus and die.
And let me put some clothes on this truth that we can wear:
- We must die… to our money. It’s not ours, but the Lord’s. God’s Word says that we are to give generously to the work of building His kingdom. We are to give to those in need.
- We must die… to expecting others to serve us. Over and over again, God tells us to serve one another, to give preference to one another, to submit to one another.
- We must die… to our families. And men, the bulk of that responsibility lies with husbands. The Apostle Paul writes Husbands love your wives and Christ loved the church and gave Himself (died) for her.
Husbands, are you dying daily to your wants, your needs, your agendas, so that you can build up your wife in Christ?
- Luke 9:25 Gaining and losing
Read: Luke 9:25
Here, Jesus counters a specific and recurring thought that roams around in our minds when He talks about following Him. Here’s that thought.
- But… if I do that; if I deny myself, take up my cross daily and follow Jesus,
- I’ll miss out on so much of what life has to offer.
- Can’t I have both? I want Jesus and the life He offers, but I also want what the world offers.
ILL: The famous evangelist George Whitefield once told of seeing some criminals riding in a cart on their way to the gallows (to be hanged). They were arguing about who should sit on the right hand of the cart with no more concern than children who are going somewhere with their parents. It seems absurd that men who are about to die would be arguing about who gets the best seat in the cart! Yet isn’t that an indictment of us all? We’re all about to die! This life is so fleeting and uncertain. Eternity is ahead. Yet we devote ourselves to gaining position and possessions in this world, with no thought of the world to come! (Steven Cole)
Christian, if you say you want to follow Jesus, are you still trying to gain the world?
Luke 9:26 Ashamed: Now and then
Read: Luke 9:26
When Jesus says for whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words he referring to those who consistently refuse to Deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow Jesus.
In the end, when your life is over, you’ll have nothing from Christ, but having Him say to you:
- I never knew you; depart from Me(Matthew 7:23a)
Worldly success and achievement w/o following Jesus, means nothing, will accomplish nothing.
- Its only end is the forfeiture of God’s blessings.
- Its only end is walking thorough the valley of the shadow of death w/o the grace of God.
- Its only end is a heart hardened to the presence and work of the Holy Spirit.
- It’s only end… is separation from Jesus Christ.
- It’s only end… is Hell.
Conclusion: When we compare Jesus’ words here in Luke 9:23-26 to what we see in the church today, it breaks my heart.
Jesus clearly taught that sacrifice is part of what it means to be His disciple, His follower. But, what we find in the church are people who want just enough of Jesus to go to heaven.
- They want to be a Christian w/o having to be His disciple.
Instead of the church saying: ‘Come and die’ we’re saying ‘Come and enjoy!’
We tell people to place their faith in Jesus promising all the benefits of being a Christian. But… because we want them to stay in our church, we fail to tell them that the commitment to Jesus must be complete and it will be costly.
- We fail to emphasize that followers of Jesus, deny themselves take up their cross daily and actually follow Jesus.
What happens is we become a church that makes no demands of the lives of the people who attend and that makes us ineffective in building the kingdom of God.
- Because no one wants to make the necessary sacrifices inside the church
- to do God’s work outside the church.
And as a result… the church, we, have lost our influence as a beacon of hope for those lost in their sin and w/o Jesus Christ.
Folks here the bottom line. And I will end with this:
- As long as we remain like the ship, in my opening illustration, that does nothing to correct the slow but steady influence the river is making in its direction
- Nothing will change, until we wake up and change.
With God’s help, will you deny yourselves, take up your cross daily and follow Jesus?