Summary: Let’s look at Mark 8:27-38 and our call to a selfless life.
The most difficult words Jesus ever spoke are NOT the ones that are hard to understand, but the ones that are easy to understand and hard to obey. Because being a true follower of Jesus is so difficult, early Christians took time before the most important season of the Christian year to fast and pray. We call it lent, an old English word for spring. Others call it the Quadragesima, forty days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Purpose: Let’s take time before Easter to value Jesus’ most difficult words.
Plan: Let’s look at Mark 8:27-38 and our call to a selfless life.
Mark 8:29 Anointed for What
In Mark 8:29 Jesus asked his students, “Who do [you-all] say I am?” Peter correctly answered: Christ or Messiah (meaning the anointed one). For Jesus, that meant suffering and death on the cross, giving His life for the world. Angrily, Peter didn’t want to hear it. That is what being the anointed one means. And anyone who follows Christ must likewise be willing to give themselves serving others. Counterfeit Christianity claims to be spirit-filled, but is self-centered, materialistic, focusing on personal spiritual experiences instead of serving others and accumulating wealth for self instead of giving it away for others. Christ gave up the self in order that others may live.
Mark 8:33 Things of God
Lent began in the early church to prepare for Resurrection Sunday. Christians focus on prayer, fasting and almsgiving. As people thought over Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness it made sense to take time before Easter learning to be more mindful of the things of God. Some observe Lent in the letter of man-made rules, but not in the spirit. Lent is a multitude of counsel from a cloud of witnesses who left us a legacy, an annual opportunity to rethink our lives. It is a season for solitude, extra prayer, fasting, giving to the less fortunate and learning again to be “mindful of the things of God.” (Mark 8:33)
Mark 8:34 Self
Selfishness is the road to mental illness, evil acts and death in hell. Our nation builds altars of self-worship filled with idols of self-gratification. We cannot all build our own Trump Towers, or have a hundred million dollar trust fund for our children, but the idolatry of self expresses itself in thousands of other ways. The delusion guarantees misery and loneliness. In Mark 8:34 Jesus gave the antidote, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” The antidote is simple, deny self, take up our cross, think of others, sacrifice for others, be focused on how we can serve others.
Mark 8:35 Selflessness
In Mark 8:35 Jesus stated one of life’s greatest conundrums, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” This sounds like a lie, but a selfish life is a dead life. The only worthwhile work is in giving not getting. By giving we gain the whole world. Certainly, giving up our lives is not a popular message, but according to Jesus, it is the way to save our lives. True riches are the people we sacrifice to serve. True success is rejecting selfish living. True celebrity is being written in the book of life.
Mark 8:36 Real Heroes
In Mark 8:36 Jesus asks, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” Real heroes make great sacrifices for others like soldiers, firefighters, police who protect and serve, missionaries and volunteers who serve the needy. If a one-time sacrifice is to be praised, what about a lifetime of sacrifice? A theology professor asked his students to look out the window at the school of medicine and the school of law. He then said that those graduating from those schools would make many times more than a pastor, but serving Christ is where the true riches are. What do we choose?
Mark 8:37 Your Soul
“My job, my house, my team, my lifestyle, my inheritance, my church, my world.” Does any of this sound familiar? It ought to. We all tend to be selfish. We are more about getting than giving. In Mark 8:37 Jesus asks, “what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” We have spent a lifetime steeped in the propaganda and culture of the devil. It even enters the church as a counterfeit gospel of self-interest rather than self-sacrifice and selling our souls to the devil so we can “live our best life now.” Counterfeit Christianity is ashamed of Jesus and his words. Is anything worth more than your soul?
Mark 8:38 Narcissistic Christianity
In Mark 8:38 Jesus says, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Narcissism is extreme selfishness. Narcissistic Christianity is a very popular counterfeit. It teaches a selfish life and the materialistic things of earth, not the things of heaven. It is ashamed of Jesus and His words, substituting the road to hell. True Christianity is the exact opposite of materialistic, narcissistic counterfeits preached by certain televangelists. True Christianity is turning from selfishness, taking up our cross and following him.