We are devoted disciples committed to making disciples
I’m grateful for you being here today and worshiping together as we turn now to God’s Word. Let me invite you to Luke Chapter 9. We just wrapped up a series in Luke, Luke Chapter 11, talking about the Lord’s Prayer and how He is teaching us to pray.
A phrase that I have said since I have been here, and it’s amazing to me, by the way, that we’re just a few weeks away from a year ago where I came and did my trial sermon. Can you believe that time has gone that fast? So that’s just amazing to me that through COVID and through everything that it’s been almost a year since that wonderful day where we met you and you met us, and we’ve certainly been blessed to be here. But a phrase that I have said since I’ve been here is that “we are disciples who make disciples.” More recently, I’ve used the phrase we are devoted disciples committed to making disciples.
I want to take the next couple of weeks and just look at what Jesus says about being a devoted disciple of His. You know, devotion is something we all have. We’re all devoted to a lot of things. People have served this country in a variety of ways. Their devotion is to be honored and we thank them for their devotion. You know, we have devotion for our jobs. We’re devoted to working hard to supporting our family to doing the necessary things that we need to do to do that. We’re devoted to entertainment and to sports. I think, although I don’t really keep up with it, but I’m pretty sure the Olympics are going on right now or coming up soon and to know the amount of devotion that those athletes have put in to prepare for this moment is amazing. The work that they do; waking up early, staying up late, eating the right foods, and the running. Oh, the runners, my goodness, the runners, I couldn’t do that. Anybody with me? You know the devotion to running. Jennifer and I are friends with a young lady who was a runner in college and she’s now a professional runner. I don’t know what that means other than I saw it on Facebook that she’s now a professional runner. The amount of miles that she puts in every day, I mean, I probably don’t walk that many miles in a year. OK? And here she is and every day that kind of devotion is inspiring.
So when we get to Luke 9, Jesus is going to really spell it out for us, really clear on what kind of devotion He requires for us. Now before we get there, I need to give you just a little bit of context of where we’re at in the narrative or in the story. To get some of that narrative, we’re going to go to Mark 8, but you don’t have to turn there. I just am showing you where I’m getting it from. But leading up to this teaching, Jesus has fed 5,000 people. He’s healed a blind man, and because of these miracles and other miracles, people are starting to talk. I mean, I would think so. People are starting to walk around saying who is this guy? Maybe He’s this person. Maybe He’s this person. So Jesus pulls his 12 together and He says, “who are these people saying that I am?” “Some say you’re Moses. Some say your Elijah, some say you’re John the Baptist. Some say you’re one of the other prophets.” And then Jesus turns it around and gives like the pop quiz of all pop quizzes. “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter, my favorite jumps up, raised his hand, teacher’s pet, “You’re the Messiah.” Jesus is like, yes you got it, A+ Peter, you are the man. But then He goes on to say “but you didn’t do this, God gave this knowledge to you.” Then just a few short verses, you don’t see this part of the story in Luke, but you see it in Mark, shortly after that, Jesus starts to talk about His death.
Jesus is going to start talking about being a suffering servant. Now you see Him talking about it in Luke, but you don’t see Peter standing up to Jesus like with this boldness, he just made an A+. Now he thinks he knows more than Jesus. So Peter, anybody like that from time to time? So Jesus is saying I’ve got to suffer, I’m going to die. So Peter puts his arm around Jesus. It’s like, “hey, Jesus, I’m the guy that answered the question. Nobody else did. You need to stop talking about this death and suffering. We can’t put that on the brochure. You know we’re trying to build something here. If we start putting death and suffering on the brochure, nobody is going to follow us.” In that moment, Jesus looks at Peter and says “get behind Me, Satan.”
Now, some of our students are probably like this. You’ve gone from the A+ to the F in the same week. You know Peter did A+ to F in like you know 30 minutes, OK? He didn’t understand who he was following. And because he didn’t understand who he was following, he didn’t understand what it was going to take to be a follower. You see Peter, like many, if not all of the Jewish men and women of the day, they thought Messiah, the Son of man was a conquering Christ. They saw Him as a military leader who was showing up on Earth to kick the Romans out. To kick the Pharisees to the curb. To set up the throne of David on Earth again. They saw the Messiah as someone coming to end suffering. Someone who’s going to come and provide and make their life better. So that’s what Peter thinks. That he’s following the guy that’s going to give him power and fame and right all wrongs and end all injustice. Now rightfully so because the Old Testament does talk about a conquering Messiah.
Many times in the Old Testament you see those prophecies about the Messiah coming and conquering. But Jewish people don’t understand what He’s coming to conquer. Because the Old Testament talks about a suffering servant a lot too. So for Jewish people, they never could imagine the suffering servant and the conquering Christ being the same person. So that gives you the context of what is going on when Jesus steps back and says “Peter, you are following the Messiah. I am going to have to suffer. I am going to be on a cross and I am going to die. That is who you are following. And if you want to follow Me, here’s what you have to do.” And that’s where we pick up in Luke Chapter 9, verse 23.
“Then He said to them, all the 12 and the multitudes of people gathered around. If anyone wants to follow after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world and yet loses or forfeits himself?”
These are verses that are powerful for the Christian because they give us the three requirements or three requirements, there’s more as you learn, but three requirements to following Jesus and being a devoted disciple for Him.
He starts with this reminder that if anyone wishes to come after Me. For the 12 disciples, it would have sparked that memory of the day that Jesus extended the invitation to follow. The day that Peter and James and John left their boats, left their families and begin this journey. At that point in time, they didn’t know who this was and they were just leaving everything behind. You know, for Matthew the tax collector, dropping his wealth and dropping his lavish lifestyle to follow Jesus, this is a reminder to them that they gave up everything before, so they need to understand what they are giving up now and in the future. The phrase come after me is an invitation to all the unbelievers. What we see is a reminder that who we were, we’re children of wrath and then we come to Jesus for righteousness and for salvation. So as we go through these three requirements, I don’t want you to miss that salvation is through faith alone, by God’s grace alone. But when we come to Jesus, He expects us to follow.
The first one is we deny yourself. Deny ourselves. Let me just tell you what this is not, so you don’t get confused. He’s not talking about denying ourselves of a nice bed. He’s not talking about denying ourselves of TV or nice food. Although if you’re called to be a missionary or if you’re called to certain areas of the world, you may have to give up those things, but that’s not what this word is talking about. When Jesus says, deny yourself, it’s not deny yourself of things. It literally means deny yourself of you. And when you look at that word, it’s a word that means, denounce yourself or detach yourself from yourself. That is what we are to do. Detach us from us.
This is the same word that describes Peter when he’s at the trial of Jesus. Peter denies Jesus three times the same word. Peter is detaching himself in that moment from being a follower of Jesus. Now Peter is restored and Peter is going to end up denying himself as he moves forward as the leader of the church. But when we deny ourselves, we have to ask the question, what exactly does that mean? Listen we are detaching ourselves from our past life. We are detaching ourselves from our past desires, our selfish ambitions, our selfishness. We are saying I’m going to deny myself of me. Detach myself from love of myself and love the Lord more than me. And that is huge. Because a lot of Christians will give their life to Christ. They’ll come and they’ll say I want to follow. I want to follow. But you never fully detach yourself from those old relationships. You never fully detach yourself from that old mindset that’s “me, me, me.” You never detach yourself from the addictions and so you say, “well, I’ll give Jesus, I’ll detach myself from this. But I’m going to hold on to this. I’ll give him my weekends. I’ll give him this part of my life, but I’m going to keep my jobs and I’m going to keep you know, following my will in my career.” And Jesus says, “no, no, no. To be My disciple, deny yourself completely. Detach yourself from that.”
When you decided to follow Jesus, you have a new life. Paul says you are a new creation. Let the old go. Let those past desires go. Stop holding on to something that Jesus wants you to let go of. Let it go. Detach yourself from that and follow Him. It’s hard, but He will give you the Holy Spirit that will indwell and live in your heart; that empowers you and energizes you to let it go. Just to say, there’s a hurricane now. Elsa, right? You want to get kids involved in weather? You name a hurricane after a Disney character. I was thinking about it this morning before church. I’m like, here’s this hurricane named Elsa who says let it go and that’s what Jesus is saying. Let go of your old self. Don’t hold on to the past. I want you to listen to me very carefully. This does have a very individual bent to it, but it has a very corporate application for the church. What Jesus says is we have to detach ourselves as a corporate body from those past failures, from those past divisions, from those past mistakes or even those past successes. Sometimes the churches are holding on to something from the past. They just won’t let go of it, they won’t detach themselves from it and they are unable to move forward. We can’t do that. We can honor the past and the successes of the past and we can remember them, but we have to let them go and move forward, denying ourselves as a corporate body. A lot of churches are living in the past, good or bad. And they just can’t move forward. Jesus says if you want to follow me as a person or as a church, the first thing you gotta do is detach yourself from you.
The second thing, which would have been incredibly shocking, was take up your cross and follow. Take up your cross and follow. For you and I the cross has become a symbol of victory. For you and I we put crosses around our necks and we wear him and we put him in our homes. And that’s fine, because for us the cross is a sign of victory, but for them they would have never put a cross on a chain and wore it around. They would have never put a cross in their home because they saw the cross as not victory but death. And I imagine many of the people standing around, they said if you want to follow me, you better take up your cross, they would have envisioned all these criminals who have to pick up the crossbeam, put it on their shoulder, and walk down through town to the tree, or to the place they were going to be hung on. Many of the people would have heard this, and they just said you know what Jesus I’m out. I ain’t going to have nothing to do with that cross because it represents pain, suffering, rejection, ridicule, mockery and death.
And yet Jesus says you want to follow Me, you have got to pick up your cross. Now, does that mean literally we’re going to have to go to the cross? Well, for Peter it did. Church history tells us Peter was crucified upside down. So for Peter, yes, literally he was going to have to take up his cross. For Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East today, our brothers and sisters are being nailed to crosses and crucified by Muslims or non-Christians. So for some, the reality of carrying across is real. But for us that’s not really what He’s applying it to for us.
Now I want to say this. Here’s what it’s not because a lot of people walk around saying, “well, the cross I’m bearing is my financial struggles. Or the cross I’m having to bear is this illness. Or the cross I’m having to bear is maybe in laws.” I don’t know. Don’t laugh at that. There’re all kinds of things that people say that’s not what he’s talking about. Now we are all going to experience suffering in life. That’s a part of it, but this is so much deeper than that. This is the willingness for Christ followers to be rejected by this world. To be ridiculed by this world, to be mocked and made fun of as we walk up and down the halls of our schools because we are Christians. Or to represent Christ in our business and possibly lose our jobs because of it. To have the moral compass to do what is right even when it’s going to cost us everything. That is what He is talking about, and maybe are we willing to die for Jesus? Are we willing to give it all away? That is what is required of us if we are going to follow after Him.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer says “when Jesus bids a man to follow Him, He bids him to come and die.” That is what is required and many people turned away from this. They’re like “we’re not going to follow Jesus. It’s not worth it.” So let me ask you. Is it worth it? Is it worth it to you? Is it worth potentially losing something to gain everything? ‘Cause that’s what Jesus says, right? If you lose your life for Me, you will gain it. Paul says that we did a sermon on this to live as Christ to die is gain.
The great Emperor Charlamagne died several years, hundreds of years later they uncovered his casket or his tomb and his bony finger was pointing to this verse. What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his life? It doesn’t. What we gain on Earth is temporal. What we gain in heaven or in hell is eternal. Are you willing to surrender everything? Everything to follow Jesus.
So we deny ourselves. We take up our cross. Then Jesus says “follow Me continuously.” These are three verbs; deny, take up and follow. The first two don’t really have a sense of time, but this one “follow Me” is in the present tense, which indicates a continual everyday thing. Follow Me continuously. I told stories about going caving before. There was another time we were in a cave and we had to walk on this really small ledge to get out and it was really slick. It was really treacherous and the drop off was well probably hundreds of feet down into a whatever it was. And I remember the youth pastor saying as we got there. He goes, “now listen step where I step. Follow me exactly, do exactly what I say. Hold onto the wall exactly where I tell you to. If you do, we’ll be fine, but if you don’t step where I step, if you don’t hold on to what I hold on to, you’re going to fall.” That’s pretty dangerous youth trip by the way. Graham, I wouldn’t do that. So we did. We stepped where he stepped, except the one kid who I grabbed before he fell. But that’s good. That’s fine. We stepped where he stepped. We followed his directions perfectly and we got out.
What Jesus says is “listen, it is hard to deny yourself and detach yourself. It is hard to take up your cross. I am going to take up my cross. I am going to deny Myself for the Father’s will. Follow Me and I will help you do it. Step where I step. Go where I go and you will be able to navigate this journey successfully. Follow me continuously. Don’t ever turn your face from Me. Look at Me and follow Me.”
Jesus says it this way in 1 John 2:6. “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner that He (Jesus) walked.” If we’re going to surrender our life to Jesus, we have to walk in the direction that Jesus is walking. We can’t say, oh, I’m going to follow Jesus when He’s going that way and we’re going this way. Now we may want to go that way. We may want to do that, and Jesus says I got something so much more in store for you, follow Me. And let me just say this. I know we have desires and I know we have things we want for our life and young people getting ready to go to college or finishing school, you have plans and you have hopes and you have dreams. You might be sitting there thinking, well, this is what I’ve wanted to do my whole life. Listen to me. That may be what God called you to do and it may not. The Bible says that God gives us the desires of our heart. When we are in line with Him and following Him continuously and seeking His will first, He will place in us a desire to go the direction He wants us to go. He will put in us a heart to follow Him, whether it’s to the mission field or to this job or that job, or to whatever it is. Our worldly desires will become God desires. When we continuously follow and seek the Kingdom first. And one day you’re just going to wake up and you’re just going to say “I’m exactly where God wants me to be. My desire is in line with His.”
I’ve lived this. I’ve lived this many, many times where I had desires and I knew where I was going. I knew what God’s plans were for my life. I knew what church I was going to pastor. I knew how that was going to look. I knew it. But I but I always prayed Your will be done. I always prayed the prayer “help me to follow You, even if it means going where I didn’t expect to go.” And you know how it turns out? We have been blessed beyond imagination to serve at this church. And it is clearly God’s direction for our lives, and He’ll do the same for you. He’ll do the same for you. Follow Me.
Jewish custom was for a 14- or 15-year-old boy, who graduated 2 levels of education. Their next step was to approach a rabbi. Rabbis would come to cities. They would sit under trees and they would wait. And the children would go to the rabbis. Those rabbis would administer extremely difficult test. They would ask questions about all the Old Testament. They would ask questions about the oral law. The students who passed the test were extended an invitation to follow that Rabbi. That’s how this worked. Students who failed, they went to work. They joined the family business. That was the custom.
And yet Jesus shows up and He doesn’t wait under a tree. He walks the seashore and He finds some fishermen and He looks at them and He says, “hey, follow Me.” I believe these fishermen would have already failed their test because they were in the family business. They would have already been rejected by the rabbis of the day and yet here is Jesus, this Rabbi, saying, “hey, follow Me.” You don’t have to pass a test. You don’t have to do anything, you just have to follow. Just follow Me. It flipped everything upside down. Peter, follow Me. James, follow Me. John, follow Me. Andrew, follow Me. Matthew, follow Me and on and on and on. Today He’s saying to you, “follow Me.” Just follow Me, that’s all I’m asking.
If you want to be saved, if you want to know the Lord and if you want to have an eternal life, you just have to accept the invitation. Come as you are and follow Him. But listen, it’s not easy. Because at some point, as you are following Jesus, He is going to take your life in a 180 degree direction that is opposite of where you’re going. At some point He is going to ask you or lead you to do something you never thought you would do. Now don’t misunderstand, salvation is free, it doesn’t cost you anything to come to Jesus and to trust Him. It doesn’t cost you anything to say yes. But following after that decision will eventually cost you something. Maybe it’s that relationship that you’ve got to get out of. Maybe it’s that job that you’ve got to get out of. Maybe it’s going to the mission field, selling everything you own, everything you’ve gained and saying I’m going to take the Gospel to the remotest parts of the earth. Are you willing to surrender it?
Maybe today it’s a call to baptism. Baptism is an outward display of an inward reality. Through baptism, we demonstrate our surrender. It is through baptism that we are dead to self, denying ourselves and raised to life, new life. And maybe today it’s for the first time to say yes to Jesus. That I’ve been running away. That I’ve been sinning and living a life that I know I shouldn’t live; doing things I know I shouldn’t be doing. And today is the day I’m going to surrender it all. Today’s the day I’m going to secure my eternity. So that’s really the invitation this morning. To take the next steps that the Spirit is laying on your heart to take. Baptism, salvation, or just a recommitment to surrender your life. To submit your life to the will of God. That’s what it means to be a devoted disciple. Denying, taking up your cross and following Him step by step.
Let’s pray together.
Father. I am so grateful that we can open up the Bible and that You give us these clear instructions on how to be Your disciples. But Lord, they’re hard instructions. They’re hard to hear. They’re hard to accept, and they’re hard to apply. And we can only do these things through Your help. Through the Spirit of God that is now living in us and powering us to follow. Father convict us of the areas where we have failed to surrender. Convict us of our sins, convict us of our selfishness. Father help us to let go of the past, our past mistakes, our past self or past life, ’cause You have made us new. We are new creations in Christ Jesus. Father, we ask all this in Your Son’s Name. Amen and Amen.