Summary: Jesus offered a convicting mandate - take up your cross and follow me! In that culture the cross was not westernized like it is in our culture as a fashion statement. It meant death.
Surrendered to the Savior
Mark 8: 34-38
For the past few weeks we have discussed some intense conversation between Jesus and the disciples. He had questioned them regarding His deity and their acceptance of Him as the Christ. While others had a skewed perception of Christ, Peter boldly, and rightly proclaimed that Jesus was in fact the Christ.
No doubt the disciples were feeling good about their situation, but Jesus quickly took the conversation in a direction they were not expecting. He began to speak of His betrayal, death, and resurrection. Clearly this did not fit the disciples’ vision for their future, and Peter quickly rebuked the Lord for speaking in such a way. Jesus immediately confronted Peter’s response, revealing his words had been motivated by Satan instead of relying on faith.
Imagine how the disciples must have felt after hearing Jesus speak of the coming events. Surely they all considered how they would respond when these events came to pass, and what their lives would be like after Jesus is crucified. They did not have long to contemplate their thoughts before Jesus revealed another startling truth. He revealed that serving Him will come at a cost for all who choose that path.
As we continue our study of Mark’s gospel, I want to examine the principles revealed in the text as we consider the thought: Surrendered to the Savior.
I. The Mandate for Service (34) – And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. There are many who are truly saved, but are accomplishing very little for the Lord. Jesus revealed the requirements for committed service. Consider:
A. The Decision Involved – Whosoever will come after me… Clearly this involves a personal choice. The word will means “to desire, to resolve, or to determine.” The first thing we must do is determine in our hearts that this is our desire. This is a deliberate choice, a determined resolve to follow Christ.
I don’t know what you want in life, but I want to live a life that pleases my Lord. There are times when I can do fairly well, but there are others when my resolve isn’t what it ought to be. We must make a daily, conscious decision to follow Christ and serve Him!
B. The Denial Involved – Let him deny himself. That is “to disown, forsake, reject, restrain, or simply do without.” These are strong words. They carry the idea of subduing our fleshly desires and disregarding what the flesh would have us do. It isn’t easy to forsake ourselves, to restrain the flesh, and do without our desires.
Do you realize that you are your own greatest hindrance? We like to give Satan the credit many times, but often he doesn’t have to do a thing because we do it for him! Notice what the Apostle Paul said in Rom.7:18-21. Can you relate to what Paul has described? Sure, we all can. Paul fought the same battles we deal with every day. We wake up each morning facing a battle with the flesh. When we were saved we became a new creature in Christ, but the flesh wasn’t saved. It still carries those same sinful desires.
Much of the problem with our Christian influence is that we have a problem denying the flesh. I realize that it is much easier said than done, but that is what Jesus requires. Now, denying ourselves involves more than laying aside a few of our habits or desires. We are to bring ourselves, the whole of our being, into the subjection of the Lord. By saying “no” to myself, I am saying “yes” to the Lord. When we can do that, it allows Jesus the freedom to rule and reign in our lives.
C. The Death Involved – Let him…take up his cross. We may do fairly well up to this point, but here is where most Christians draw the line. Take a moment to consider the thoughts that must’ve ran through the peoples’ minds as Jesus made this statement. They were no strangers to Roman crosses and the awful crucifixions. In that day, the roads would often be filled with crosses as men hung there dying. The cross was a cruel instrument of death.
Now, I had always looked at this verse as Jesus expecting me to bear my burdens, and there is application for that. There is much in life that we must endure for the cause of Christ. God often uses the times of difficulty to mature our faith and conform us to the image of His Son. We must bear our burdens, but remember the cross is an instrument of death. Taking up our cross doesn’t involve only bearing burdens, it involves dying to ourselves.