Part 6 of the series The Gospel-Centered Life
You can listen to this sermon here.
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:31-38).
John Paton (1824-1907) is relatively unknown by Christians today. He served for ten years as the pastor of a growing Scottish church, but God began to burden his heart for the New Hebrides, a group of Pacific Islands filled with cannibalistic peoples who had no knowledge of the gospel.
He set his heart on one island in particular. Twenty years earlier two missionaries had gone to that island. They were killed and cannibalized. So it was no surprise that many tried to dissuade Paton from even the thought of following these missionaries’ footsteps. Paton wrote, “Amongst many who sought to deter me, was one dear old Christian gentleman, whose crowning argument was, ‘The Cannibals!
You will be eaten by Cannibals!’”
Paton replied to this man, “Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honouring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.” The old man left the room, exclaiming, “After that I have nothing more to say!”
At the age of thirty-three, Paton traveled to the New Hebrides with his wife. The journey was not easy. His wife and newborn child died within months of arriving, and he found himself alone, digging their graves with his bare hands. He faced threat after threat upon his life. But in the years to come, countless cannibals across the New Hebrides came to trust in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the church across Australia, Scotland, and the Western world was challenged to rise up and make the gospel known among the peoples who are toughest to reach. (This story is found in David Platt's Radical, pp. 175-76).
Does this kind of devotion seem too radical? Too extreme. Too crazy? We need to stop and think about the crazy love Jesus has for us.
Jesus “the Christ” (cf. Mark 8:29) came to earth to die (v. 31). To Peter, this was crazy talk (v. 32). He didn’t understand that Jesus came “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
If Jesus was willing to give up his life for your salvation, what should you be willing to give up for him?
The gospel moves us to totally devote our lives to Jesus.
We are saved by grace through faith, apart from works (Eph. 2:8-9). But we can’t experience God’s grace without having our hearts changed.
The Demands of Discipleship
Simply put, to be a “disciple” of Jesus is to be a “follower” of Jesus (i.e., a “Christian”). Jesus didn’t try to lure people into discipleship with false promises. He never claimed that following him would be easy (cf. Mark 10:17-21; Luke 9:57-62; 14:26-33; John 6:66-67).
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (v. 34). Jesus gives us three demands of discipleship: (1) deny yourself; (2) take up your cross; and (3) follow Jesus.
Don’t expect the benefits of discipleship without the demands of discipleship.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die” (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 99). “We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves” (Platt, Radical, p. 7).
Is It Worth It?
The person who does not follow Jesus will “lose his life” (v. 35), “forfeit his soul” (v. 36), and cause Jesus to be “ashamed” (v. 38). The person who is now unwilling to give up anything for Jesus will one day be willing to give up “the whole world” (v. 36). But then it will be too late.
The Roman Emperor Lucius Septimus Severus (146-211) died with these words, “I have been everything and everything is nothing. A little urn will contain all that remains of one for whom the whole world was too little.”
The cost of discipleship is great, but the cost of non-discipleship is even greater.
“[Jesus] is something—someone—worth losing everything for. And if we walk away from the Jesus of the gospel, we walk away from eternal riches. The cost of nondiscipleship is profoundly greater for us that the cost of discipleship. For when we abandon the trinkets of this world and respond to the radical invitation of Jesus, we discover the infinite treasure of knowing and experiencing him” (Platt, Radical, p. 18).
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matt. 13:44).
“Jesus is the treasure worth leaving everything for. Knowing Him will turn sacrifice into sweetness and duty into delight. Even when your commitment to Him leads you to a cross, He will be a treasure that shrouds that cross in joy" (J. D. Greear, Gospel, p. 243).