Summary: The way of costly obedience is the way that leads to joy but what God says you "must" do God knows you can do.
WHAT MUST I DO?
DENY YOURSELF, TAKE UP YOUR CROSS AND FOLLOW JESUS**
Big Idea: The way of costly obedience is the way that leads to joy.
Imagine that you made a visit to your doctor and he told you that you had a disease. He tells you that you can survive the disease if you make some specific and challenging changes to your lifestyle. But, then, your doctor only tells you half the changes required and, so, the disease kills you. You’d want to sue your doctor for malpractice … ‘cept you’d be dead and couldn’t. You would be justified in your dismay because he knew the cure and only told you half of it.
Might I suggest that there is, sometimes, a similar thing that happens when we share the Gospel; when we invite friends to follow Jesus? Sometimes we give them half the solution.
Jesus tells people to “believe” in him about five times in the Gospels. He tells people to “follow” him about twenty times. Yet, sometimes, we fail to give people the whole remedy. We make it “easy” without recognizing that there is no forgiveness without repentance; no salvation without surrender, and no believing without following.
Listen to this story from the Gospels. I want you to listen to what Jesus tells his followers right after they confess him to be the “Christ of God” -- right after they “believe” the right things about Jesus.
Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say I am?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "The Christ of God." Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life." Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self ? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
Whoa! Those are powerful words. There’s no getting around what Jesus says is required. We discover that there is no real believing without following.
The Bible calls it ‘denying yourself” or even “dying to self.”
Denying self and taking up your cross is a matter of the heart. The heart (our spiritual center) is mentioned 592 times in Scripture. With unwavering clarity the Scriptures take us to this deep inner source of passion, convinced that the matter of the heart is the heart of the matter.
So let’s talk a bit about the self-denial; about what it means; the difference in simply believing and following. You see, self-denial and following Jesus shows itself in the choices we make.
SO, CAN I ASK YOU A QUESTION? WHAT MOTIVATES YOU? WHAT ARE YOU LIVING FOR?
Is it your comfort and convenience? I remember setting in my truck behind the church in Baltimore staring at the garbage bins telling God I wanted to leave; I told Him that metropolitan life did not suit me well. I remember as clear as the day it happened the Father impressing upon me these simply words, “Ken I did not call you to be comfortable. I called you to be faithful.” That moment in the parking lot changed me from that day to this as God impressed upon me the truth that following him required self-denial and surrender.
In the movie “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” there is a scene where the Bilbao Baggins, the Hobbit who is accompanying 13 dwarves on a mission, unexpectedly disappears and seems to have abandoned the dwarves during a crucial battle. They were losing. Biblao does return and the dwarves are victorious. Afterward Thorin (the dwarf leader) and Bilbao have a conversation.
[Thorin:] “Why did you come back? It matters! I want to know: why did you come back?”
[Bilbo:] “Look, I know you doubt me, I know you always have. And you’re right, I often think of Bag End. I miss my books. And my armchair. And my garden. See, that’s where I belong. That’s home. And that’s why I came back, cause you don’t have one. A home. It was taken from you. But I will help you take it back if I can.”