Summary: Jesus gives the details for those who would follow after Him
Intro: at the General Council, the Eurasia experience was sponsored by our missionaries serving in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Nepal, India, and many other countries. In that tent you actually felt what it must be like to serve in these nations. Hearing the testimonies from people who have literally denied themselves, taken up a cross and followed Christ, is inspiring and also very convicting. As I came back to my air conditioned office behind my cherry wood desk, to prepare sermons for those who sit under my ministry. I feel compelled to preach that there is so much more to following Christ than just Sunday attendance, and singing from hymnbooks and attending church functions. There is a world that is in need of Christ, and it is our calling, our mission, our destiny to be the generation that reaches the world with the gospel. This is an all or nothing proposition, this is winner take all in a high stakes battle for souls against Satan and this world. Jesus, gives us the command, gives us the contract for those who will fully follow after Him.
Background: Jesus has just revealed that He will be crucified on a rugged cross. Now that He has given that revelation, He asks those standing there, will you be the true followers of Christ? He then lists the prerequisites of those who would follow Him.
I. Followers Follow—v.23 anyone who will come after me—sure you have followed me while miracles were taking place, sure you have followed me when the multitudes came to hear my teaching, but now that I am heading to a cross, will you still follow.
· Followers follow no matter how many others join in the pursuit. A true follower of Jesus isn’t waiting on the crowd, they have made up their minds to follow Him.
· Followers follow no matter what the cost—they are sold out to Christ, as Paul said, bondslaves of the Master. No price is too high, no distant is too far, they will follow.
· Followers follow because of faith not feelings. Emotions will let you down, but the Word of God will be the strength for every battle and test in life.
II. Followers Deny Themselves—v.23 (living) put aside their own desires. Jesus gives the first requirement of following Him, a life of denial. Denying the flesh and walking in the Spirit.
· Denying the flesh is part of following Christ. Giving our dreams to Him. Following Jesus requires losing ourselves and gaining Christ.
· Denying worldly appetites—the Word tells us to crucify the flesh with it’s affections and lusts.
· Christ desire for the gospel to reach the lost, must become our desire. His goal must become our goal.
III. Followers Take Up A Cross—v.23b-daily—following Jesus will get you to heaven, but by way of the cross. Anyone who follows Christ will know the rejection, pain and suffering that goes with carrying the cross.
· Crosses are heavy, carrying a cross means death. If you want to reign with Him, you must die with Him. You lose your life to gain it. v. 24—anyone unwilling to lose their life for Christ will not gain heaven, but anyone who loses their life finds life.
· Crosses mean suffering, shame, rejection—v.26 Jesus says if you are too proud to carry the cross, if you deny me before the world, I will deny you before the Father.
· Without a cross there is no crown.
IV. Nothing else matters—verse 25 Jesus gives the alternative to following Him, following your dreams and plans outside of Christ. In light of eternity this life is like a vapor that appears just a moment, then is gone.
· If you gain the world but lose Christ, you have nothing.
· Everything in this life is vanity, a chasing after the wind.
· Your soul is more valuable than all the riches of this world, realize your value in Christ.
· Castaway—discarded—if you don’t follow Christ, if you live your life for yourself, you will miss eternal life in Christ.
Close: one Missionaries wife told the story of arriving in Pakistan on a day of great violence against the church. As she was with a group meeting underground she asked a Pakistani Christian women how they could function in these circumstances. The lady smiled and said, we have all died with Christ, and now we live for Christ, fear can’t touch us, the devil cannot intimidate us, and the grave can’t hold us.
I guess that is a description of a true follower of Christ.
For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.