Summary: The Text is the Gospel Reading for Common Lectionary, Year B, the theme is characteristics of a Disciple as seen in this text.
THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP—MARK 8:27-38
--by R. David Reynolds
Billy Graham has said, “Salvation is free, but discipleship costs everything we have” [--Edythe Draper, Drapers Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992)]. In our text this morning Jesus confronts us with what it will cost anyone who wants to be His disciple. It will cost such a Christian everything he has. Discipleship is the theme in Mark 8:34-38. This is evident in Jesus command, “Follow me” in verse 34. The term “Follow” in the New Testament is reserved for the subject of Discipleship, and it implies total commitment on the part of the disciple to Jesus as Lord. “General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was asked the secret of his amazing Christian life. Booth answered, ‘I told the Lord that He could have all that there is of William Booth” [--James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1988), 98.]. To be His Disciple I must: “Deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Him. As Billy Graham says, “It costs me everything I have.”
If I am a Disciple of Jesus, He literally becomes my way of Life, my rule of conduct. Every action and every decision I make is made in the light of “WWJD,” What would Jesus do. As Jesus led a life of Self-denial; so as His disciple I must “deny myself.” Self-denial means I submit everything I am to His control: all my pleasures, all my interests, all my works, all my desires. I hold no area of my life back from Him and His control. No one else can take this step for me; it is a choice I must make on my own free will; one I feely choose to undertake.
Self-denial is not the denial of things. Warren W. Wiersbe in A Time To Be Renewed explains it so well: “To deny self does not mean to deny things. It means to give yourself wholly to Christ and share in His shame and death. To take up a cross does not mean to carry burdens or have problems. I once met a lady who told me her asthma was the cross she had to bear! To take up the cross means to identify with Christ in His rejection, shame, suffering, and death” [--Warren W. Wiersbe in A Time To Be Renewed. Christianity Today, Vol. 32, no. 5.].
Oswald Chambers in the September 13th devotional in My Utmost for His Highest explains self-denial as “Surrender for Devotion”: “The surrender here is of my self to Jesus, with His rest at the heart of my being. He says, ‘If you want to be My disciple, you must give up your right to yourself to Me.’ And once this is done, the remainder of your life will exhibit nothing but the evidence of this surrender, and you never need to be concerned again with what the future may hold for you. Whatever you circumstances may be, Jesus is totally sufficient” [--James Reimann, ed., My Utmost for His Highest: An Updated Edition in Today’s Language (Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishers, 1992), September 13th.]
Self-denial is submission of my self to Jesus. It does not bring me bondage, it liberates me to be the best He intends for me to be. Richard J. Foster is the founder of Renovaré, which "is committed to working for the renewal of the Church of Jesus Christ in all her multifaceted expressions." He is perhaps the most famous Quaker today and has served as a Friends pastor and professor of theology at Friends University. He testifies to the freedom Jesus gives when we come to Him in true self-denial: “In submission we are free to value other people. Their dreams and plans become important to us. We have entered into a new, wonderful, glorious freedom, the freedom to give up our own rights for the good of others. For the first time we can love people unconditionally. We have given up the right for them to return our love. No longer do we feel that we have to be treated in a certain way. We can rejoice with their successes. We feel genuine sorrow at their failures. It is of little consequence that our plans are frustrated if their plans succeed. We discover that it is far better to serve our neighbor than to have our own way” [--Richard J. Foster as quoted in Edythe Draper, Draper’s Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992)]. To be a disciple of Jesus will cost me the price of self-denial.
To be a disciple of Jesus I must “take up my cross.” All three Synoptic Gospels give an account of these instructions of Jesus on Discipleship, but Luke elaborates a little more in Luke 9:23: “And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” A disciple of Jesus “takes up his cross” every single day; it is a daily consecration of ourselves to Him, not a once in a life time experience.