Summary: “If anyone wants to follow after me…” That’s our question for today - if we want to follow Jesus - we have to make a decision. It is not an uniformed decision - Jesus spells out for us what that decision means.
WHAT FAITH REQUIRES: DECIDE
We have spent this month thinking about what Faith Requires:
-We trust / Believe in Jesus
-We persist in our faith through the struggles
-We focus our faith on Jesus Christ without distraction
Today we finish this series by emphasizing that faith requires that we DECIDE.
Our text is the turning point in the gospel of Mark. From here on he is on his way to Jerusalem to die. He continues to love, heal, bless as he marches to the cross. This section begins with an identity question - who do you say that I am?
Mark 8:29-30 “But you,” he asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he strictly warned them to tell no one about him.
This is followed by a dramatic conflict between Peter and Jesus in which Peter tries to talk Jesus out of the cross.
Mark 8:31-33 Then he began to teach them that it was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and rise after three days. 32 He spoke openly about this. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning around and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are not thinking about God’s concerns but human concerns.”
The identity of Jesus is a call for us to make a decision.
Mark 8:34 “If anyone wants to follow after me…”
That’s our question for today - if we want to follow Jesus - we have to make a decision. It is not an uniformed decision - Jesus spells out for us what that decision means.
Mark 8:34-37 Calling the crowd along with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me and the gospel will save it. 36 For what does it benefit someone to gain the whole world and yet lose his life? 37 What can anyone give in exchange for his life?
1. THREE COMPONENTS OF DECIDING TO FOLLOW JESUS
A. Make Jesus Lord: Deny Self.
Stedman: We are to deny that we own ourselves. … we are giving up ourselves.
1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a - You are not your own; you are bought with a price.
Jesus has ultimate rights: we call that Lordship.
B. Decide to Face the Challenges: Take Up Cross.
The decision to follow Jesus is the decision to take up a cross - a tool of torture and execution. To Christians, it is also a symbol of victory over the Enemy, including death. “My Cross to Bear” is not just the daily troubles. Taking up our cross is an expression that requires us to bear the things that humble us, expose us, offend us, shame us - that come because we are following Jesus. He experienced all of this and more as he carried he cross…to his death.
C. Decide to live in His Steps: follow Jesus
Following Jesus is the same as obeying Jesus. When we make the decision to follow Jesus we are making a life changing decision - and one that is not always easy.
“In a ‘pain-killer’ culture, a balanced understanding of suffering is difficult to achieve. Jesus sets out the challenge for us to think … not as human beings normally do.” P. Perkins
The decision to follow Jesus is to deny our right to ourselves, take up the cross, accept the circumstances that result from making that choice, looking to Him for power to endure and grow.
You may think that is a hard way to talk about the Christian faith, and you are right. In John’s account of this speech many people turn away from Jesus and do not follow him any longer. When we decide who Jesus is to us, put down our own agenda to take up His Cross, we are making another decision.
2. SAVING YOUR LIFE (Mark 8:35-38)
A. Follow Him Because He Saves Your Life (35). Jesus can save my life when I can’t. (35) The more I try to save my own life, the bigger the mess I make of it. Losing my life to Jesus and the gospel is the path to eternal life - and to the best life we can have now.
If you save your life now, “You will find that all of the life you tried to grasp has slipped through your fingers and you have ended up with a handful of cobwebs and sashes, dissatisfied, hollow, and empty, mocked by what you hoped to get.” (Stedman)