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Summary: Joining the struggle against evil means taking up the Cross of Christ and following Him.

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Mark 8:31-38

“Joining the Struggle Against Evil”

By: Rev. Kenneth Emerson Sauer, Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA

Jesus spoke plainly when predicting His upcoming death and resurrection and “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”

A “Rebuke” is a sharp reprimand.

Isn’t this strange? Just a short time before, Peter had acclaimed Jesus as God’s anointed.

Now he rebukes him.

It is tempting to judge Peter’s actions…but in a sense all of us are guilty of reprimanding Jesus.

Peter’s unwillingness to accept Jesus’ prophetic words was perfectly natural in Peter’s situation.

This death stuff went against every idea of the Messiah that Peter had ever known.

He simply refused to believe it!

Centuries of Christian history have made us very familiar with the idea of a suffering Savior.

We accept it.

We sing about it.

Yet, often in the deep recesses of our minds, in our attitudes and actions, we too rebuke Him.

Many of us prefer to have an idea of discipleship that leaves the Cross out of it.

Multitudes of Christians prefer a cheerful, moderate, “sensible religion.”

We try to shut out the necessity of any painful sacrifice.

After all, we live in a practical world, and a cross is a very impractical thing.

But Christ’s way was to be the way of suffering.

And unless we see this clearly we will miss both the glory and the pain of the Gospel---

---because the glory and the pain are inseparably intertwined.

Without the Cross, Christianity can degenerate into petty legalism…

…or as Paul warned Timothy: “a form of godliness but denying its power.”

For the power of the Christian faith is the life saving, the life changing Cross of Christ!!!

In 2nd Timothy chapter 4 Paul predicts: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great many teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

A famous man once said, “There are four things I hate: tobacco smoke, lice, garlic, and the cross.”

Jesus spoke plainly about the cost of His ministry and the cost of discipleship…do we?

Carl Henry once said: “The transformation of the bloodstained wooden cross of Calvary to the diamond studded gold cross of a cathedral may well signify humankind’s attempt to remove the offense of the cross.”

I remember, in college, meeting up with some pretty wild looking punk rockers.

I noticed that they all wore crosses around their necks.

I wondered why?

Were they Christians?

When I asked them what the significance of their crosses meant…

…their answer was: “There’s no significance. They just look pretty.”

I remember one preacher in Macon, Georgia who proclaimed: “We need to get rid of this bloody cross!”

And in many ways we have.

Jesus spoke plainly about the cost of His ministry and the cost of following Him, but so often we don’t follow His frankness…

…instead we often mumble His words and slur them over.

So often discipleship has been presented as something that doesn’t matter very much.

It’s been watered-down, overlooked, ignored…

…and as a result---the kind of discipleship that we many times end up with doesn’t matter very much either.

Jesus was speaking to many 21st Century Christians in the Book of Revelation when He proclaimed: “Because you are lukewarm---neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

Peter reprimands Jesus.

He wants Jesus to talk about more “cheerful and sensible things.”

And yet because of this, Jesus calls him Satan!

The merely “cheerful and sensible” views of Christianity…

…are always Satan’s.

A Christianity that is diluted into just a cheerful and sensible religion, in which God’s act of redemption in Christ has dropped out of the picture, is completely a creation of Satan.

It is Satan’s masterpiece!

A concept of Christian discipleship which is reduced to common sense, in which there is no room for “the foolishness of the Cross” is a Satanic triumph!

Peter rebuked Jesus.

“But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said.

‘You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

Do we have in mind the things of God, or the things of men?

How do we spend our time?

What do we fill our minds with?

How common is it for us to rebuke Jesus, to rebuke Him by the things we do—ignoring His claim for undivided allegiance…

…rebuking His refusal of violence and His choice of the way of love…

…and His insistence on the denial of self?

Then Jesus “called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

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