Summary: Jesus wants us to know the truth about being one of His disciples. He wants all of us to count the cost, so in vs. 24 the Lord tells us three things we must do.

The Truth about Discipleship

Matthew 16:20-25

Sermon by Rick Crandall

McClendon Baptist Church - March 22, 2009

*I read about a little boy who was trying to memorize some Scripture. He accidentally got two verses jumbled together. It came out this way: “A lie is an abomination unto the Lord. -- And a very present help in trouble.” (1)

*Some people live like that’s a real verse from the Bible. Do you always tell the truth? Jesus does. And in these verses where He calls us to be His disciples, He doesn’t sugar-coat it. Jesus wants us to know the truth about being one of His disciples. He wants all of us to count the cost, so in vs. 24 the Lord tells us three things we must do.

1. First, we must say “no” to selfishness.

*Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself.” Why does the Lord ask us to deny our self? One of the main reasons why is because we have a self to deny. It’s that part of us that pulls away from the things of God.

-The part that gets grumpy, grouchy, gripey and whiny.

-That looks out for number one.

-That has to get its way.

*It’s the part that has to get the last word.

-That is so quick to criticize others.

-That only cares about me.

-That gets in the way of what the Lord is trying to do.

*Paul was talking about this selfish, sinful nature in Rom 7 when he said, “I know that in my flesh dwells no good thing.” We have a self to deny.

*Self was part of the reason why Peter began to argue with the Lord in vs. 22. Of course, Peter cared about Jesus, and did not want the Lord to suffer. But Peter didn’t want Peter to suffer either! These disciples wanted to throw out the Romans and rule Israel with Jesus. Peter needed to deny himself. He did not realize that he was actually opposing God’s plan for His Kingdom. That’s why Jesus gave Peter such a strong rebuke in vs. 23: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

*“Satan” -- not what I want to hear the Lord calling me! -- So every one of us who believes in Jesus needs to deny our self. We must say “no” to selfishness. Nell Mohney found this out years ago on an airplane flight to Jackson. Nell was flying to Jackson, Tennessee, to give a lecture at Lambuth College. She thought it was odd that no one was at the airport to meet her.

*Nell then went to a phone booth to call the college and found that there was no Lambuth College in the book. When she called the operator to ask for the college, the operator asked, “Where do you think you are?” “Jackson, Tennessee,” she replied, and the operator answered, “No! -- You are in Jackson, Mississippi.”

*The airline had made the mistake and five others were in the same situation. Delta provided a small plane and flew them to Jackson, Tennessee. It was a terribly hot day; the plane was bumpy; sweat was pouring down everybody’s face.

*You can imagine how aggravated those five people were. But Nell could not help but notice that the young girl who shared the seat with her was crying. She looked like she had a terrible problem. Nell was a good counselor, but at that moment, she was tired, sick, and frustrated. She turned to the window and actually whispered this prayer, “No, Lord, I’m sick. I just can’t get involved.”

*But Nell could find no peace, so she whispered again, “Okay, Lord, I’ll talk to her.” She turned and said to the girl, “Is there something wrong? Can I help?” The girl then poured out a pathetic story. Everything was wrong. She ended her story by saying, “There is no hope.”

*“That’s where you are all wrong,” Nell replied. “God loves you, Christ loves you, and I love you. There is hope! God can straighten anything out, if you let him.” Then Nell asked, “Can you turn yourself, your life, your problems over to him now?”

*By the grace of God she did! And everyone on that plane could tell that something good had had happened to that young woman. As they approached the right airport, Nell followed up by giving the girl the address and phone number of someone in Jackson, Tennessee who could encourage and help her.

Then as they were getting ready to leave the plane, the girl turned to Nell and said, “I want to show you something” She opened her purse, showed Nell a gun and a suicide note and then said, “I was going to a motel and kill myself. Jackson was the only place where they would know what to do with my body.” (2)

*That young woman’s life was totally turned around, because Nell was willing to deny herself and strike up a conversation. Would you and I have been willing to talk to that young woman? -- Or would we have stayed zeroed-in on our discomfort and inconvenience? Jesus tells every believer: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself.” We must say “no” to selfishness.

2. And we must carry our cross.

*Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross.” But what does it mean to take up your cross?

*One thing it means is a strong stand for Jesus Christ. When we take up our cross, we strongly identify ourselves with Him. We take a stand for Him. As Paul said in Rom 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Then in Gal 6:14 Paul said, “But God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” We take up our cross for Jesus, because He took up His cross for us! Jesus Christ died for our sins.

*Peggy Noonan once wrote a column about how Harry Truman rose to greatness. Listen to what she said about President Truman:

“He stopped or thwarted communism wherever he could, fought like a tiger, faced down the most admired American general of the day, and canned him for overstepping his bounds, he made the crucial and horrific decision to drop the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And took the responsibility himself to the extent that when the head of the Manhattan Project came to him and said he feared he had blood on his hands, Truman took out his handkerchief and wiped J. Robert Oppenheimer’s hands, and said, “No, I made the decision, the responsibility is mine.” (3)

*Can you see Truman pulling that handkerchief out and wiping Oppenheimer’s hands? There was powerful symbolism in that gesture. But what Jesus Christ did for us was no symbolic gesture. By dying on the cross for us, Jesus literally wiped away the sins of all who trust in Him. So we should be willing to take a strong stand for the Lord.

*But taking up our cross also has to do with a sacrificial life. Jesus took up the cross as a dying sacrifice. We take up the cross daily as a living sacrifice. Yes, willing to die for the Lord, if necessary, but also willing to live for the Lord. You see, it is a daily sacrifice. Jesus made this clear in Luke’s telling of this story, because there we see that Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)

*You cannot take up your cross yesterday. You cannot take up your cross tomorrow. You can only take up your cross today. So in 1 Cor 15:31 Paul said, “I die daily.”

*But how can I take up my cross? Start with the commitment to take up your cross. Then ask God, “How can I take up my cross for You today, Lord?” God will answer the question for you, because taking up your cross will mean something different for each of us every day.

-How can a 57-year-old pastor take up his cross?

-How can a young mom or dad take up their cross?

-How can a 6th grade or a 9th grade Christian take up his cross?

*The answer will change from day to day. What we know right now is that God will surely show us how to take up our cross. It will mean taking a stand for Jesus Christ and it will involve some sacrifice on our part, -- not necessarily dying physically, but dying some way every day. For in vs. 25, Jesus said, “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

*Are you dying to live? The secret to living is dying, so take up your cross!

*A.W. Tozer once spoke these piercing words, “Among the plastic saints of our times Jesus has to do all the dying and all we want is to hear another sermon about His dying.” (4)

*But we have to die with him if we are truly going to follow him. Jesus tells every believer, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross. -- For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” If we are going to be disciples, we must carry our cross.

3. And we must follow His footsteps.

*Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” There are so many great things about following Jesus! And one of the best things is that you get to be close to Jesus! But another good thing is that when I follow Jesus, He cheers me up. You get to be happy! Christian: The happiest you will ever be is when you are following close to Jesus.

*As Dr. Michael MacIntosh wrote,

-“The joy of the Lord was at the tomb of the resurrected Lazarus . . .

-Joy was there when the leper returned to thank Jesus.

-Joy was there when a woman caught in the very act of adultery was forgiven and released from her sin.

-Joy was there when the deaf heard, the blind saw, and the lame walked.

-Joy was there on the mountainside as the multitudes listened to the profound teachings of Jesus.

-Joy was there when the little children flocked to Jesus!

-Joy was there when the boy gave Jesus his lunch so that He could work a miracle and feed the thousands. . .

-Joy was there when Jesus stood up in the boat and stopped the storm.

-Joy was there when dawn broke and the women knew that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Everywhere Jesus went, there was joy!” (5)

*When I follow Jesus, He gives me joy!

*Here’s part of a testimony from Pastor Randall Deal:

-“I remember being overjoyed at 7 years old when at a Child Evangelism Good News Club led by my Cub Scout Den Mother in a park, I asked Jesus into my heart!

-I remember being overjoyed when the next day my older brother Richard and my younger brother Ronnie both accepted Christ too!

-I remember being overjoyed when my mom would walk my two brothers and me to church every Sunday!

-I remember being overjoyed when, after begging him and begging him, week after week, and praying that his boss would give him Sundays off, my Dad was finally able to go to church with us!

-I remember being overjoyed a few months later as I watched my Mom and Dad go forward in church one Sunday morning and give their lives to Christ!

-I remember being overjoyed when my whole family got baptized together the same Sunday morning!

-I remember being overjoyed at 12 when my Pastor’s Wife trained me to be a Vacation Bible School teacher of young children!

-I remember being overjoyed at 20 when the Lord used me for the first time to lead someone to the Lord and put a calling on my life for His ministry.

-I remember being overjoyed at 35 when my sister-in-law Roseanne came forward and accepted Christ at Saturday Night Church at First Baptist in Stockton, while Dena and I were leading worship.” (5)

*Every bit of this joy came from the Lord’s work in our world. But you will miss the joy, if you are not following Jesus. When I follow Jesus, He cheers me up. And He changes me. When you follow Jesus, He can transform your life. That’s why in Matt 4:19, Jesus said, -“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” The closer we get to Jesus, the more we will see a change in our lives.

*Jonah Jones had a terrible childhood. Jonah’s parents were drug traffickers who introduced him to cocaine when he was 8-years-old. Unbelievable! -- but true. Worse than that, Jonah’s stepfather raped him. His mother abused him both emotionally and physically. When the couple had parties for customers, Jonah said, “People could rape me, beat me, or do whatever they wanted. I was the party favor.” From grade school through young adulthood, he worked in the family business, which each month brought tons of cocaine into the United States.

*But one day, Jonah’s car broke down near a church. He stepped in to use the phone, but was ushered into the sanctuary. He sat through the music; then, the pastor began to speak. Jonah later wrote, “As the preacher talked, it was like he knew who I was. I started perspiring. By the time I got up to the front to pray, I knew God was real. I had found a Savior who was just. I knew that if I would pray, He would take away my sin. He would make me new!”

*After getting saved, Jonah broke with his family and began to run. He stopped in a rescue mission in Shreveport. There, he found help with his drug habit and emotional wounds. Jonah and another recovering addict began to write songs about the hope they found in Jesus Christ. Jonah also decided to pursue a degree in counseling. He joined a Baptist church, where he met his wife.

*Jonah said: “It doesn’t matter how bad you think you are. There is help and there is hope. God is full of mercy and grace.” (6)

*How foolish we would be not to follow Him. Thank God it’s not too late for us! Start right now! -- Or renew your commitment to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus.

1. - Bible, power of

2. Adapted from “My Burden Is Light,” Robert G. Tuttle, CSS Publishing Co., Inc., 1980, 0-89536-459-X (Found in sermon “Amazing Grace” by Robert Tuttle - Rom 3:21-28)

3. PEGGY NOONAN - “The President Within - George W. Bush is downright Trumanesque” - Friday, November 16, 2001 -

4. Tozer quote found in SermonCentral sermon “Doers of the Word” by Rodney Buchanan - James 1:19-25 - 090306

5. Adapted from SermonCentral sermon “The Joyful Jesus” by Randall Deal - John 15:11 - 09/01/02

6. Article from “Bridges” a 1997 Tabloid published by the Louisiana Baptist Convention