Shelby G. Floyd
My friends, you just heard the ancient words of Mark 8:34-38 read to you. Salvation is the free gift of God, but discipleship will cost you everything. The Bible teaches that a disciple is not above his master but will be like his master in everything (Luke 6:40). Today we are discussing the cost of discipleship.
There are some passages in the Bible that we do not understand and that is disturbing! But there are also passages that we do understand, and they are even more concerning, because we fail to live up to them. Jesus Christ walked into the area of Caesarea Philippi with his disciples. After he made them know that he was the Christ, he spoke to them about his suffering and death on the cross.
THE PREDICTION OF THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST!
At this point Jesus spoke very plainly to his disciples. He taught them that the Son of Man would suffer many things and finally be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes. Then they would kill him, and he would rise from the dead after three days. He spoke his word very plainly. Peter was so appalled that he actually took him aside and rebuked him. But Jesus rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me Satan, for you are not mindful of the things of God but the things a man” (Mark 8:33).
Jesus plainly gave his disciples a picture of their suffering Messiah. This was completely opposite of their idea of the Messiah. They dreamed that the Messiah came and broke the yoke of Roman bondage and oppression over them. Now they know that Jesus is the Christ, he speaks to them very plainly about his upcoming suffering and death on the cross of Calvary.
It is not hard for us to know the suffering Messiah, because we believe everything taught in the Old Testament including Isaiah chapter 53. But Israel rejected the plane statements of the suffering Messiah and death on Calvary as pictured in the report that Isaiah gave in chapter 53:
Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
3 He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
[j]Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:1-6 NKJV).
Isaiah was very specific and detailed in the way Messiah was treated. But the disciples did not believe in his death by crucifixion. Jesus rebuked Peter because he was a stumbling block to Christ. And Isaiah chapter 53 is a stumbling block to national Israel today!
THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP
Do you want to be a disciple of Jesus? Then it will not be easy, and it will cost you to follow him and serve him throughout your life. Jesus made this very plain to his disciples when he said, “Whoever desires to come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34 NKJV). In this brief statement Jesus made three points to consider if one chooses to be his disciple. 1. Let him deny himself; 2. Let him take up his cross; 3. And let him follow me! Let us look at each of these three conditions of discipleship.
1. DENY HIMSELF
To deny self is not just giving up some enjoyable practice or some of our prized possessions, but it is a total surrender of oneself to Almighty God. The apostle Paul illustrated this to the Roman church: Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1 NIV).
Have you told the Lord that he can use all of you in His service? When we deny ourselves, we submit everything for Jesus to control. This is expressed by the song that was sung years ago, “I surrender all!”
The word deny means to “disavow any connection with something, to say that you are not connected in any way with whatever is in view.” This is what Peter did when he denied the Lord three times. Let us notice how this came about:
Peter denied the Lord in the courtyard while Jesus was being examined by his accusers. While Peter was in the courtyard one of the servant girls of the high priest saw Peter warming himself and she looked very closely at him and said, “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus.” But he denied Jesus the first time when he said, “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about.”
And then he went out into the entryway. And there the servant girl saw him a second time, and she said to those that were standing around, “this fella is one of them.” And he denied Jesus for the second time. Then after a little while some of those that were standing nearby said to Peter, “surely you’re one of them, for you are a Galilean.” Then Peter cursed and swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
Therefore, Peter fulfilled the Scripture when he denied Christ three times before the rooster crowed two times! It is at this point that he broke down and wept bitterly (Mark 14:66-72 NIV). Then, the first thing we must do in order to be a disciple of Jesus is to deny self, not the Lord!
2. TAKE UP YOUR CROSS
A disciple of Jesus must deny himself and secondly, he must take up his cross. Taking up our cross is not just bearing some physical ailment or some serious problem we are facing, but actually doing the work of God because of our loyalty to Jesus Christ.
During the Second World War there was a preacher in Germany by the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He said, “there could only be one Fuher for Christians, and it is not Adolph Hitler.” After he made that statement, he was put to death by the Third Reich. So, he took up his cross and suffered for his belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are to take up our cross on a daily basis for this is what Jesus said in Luke’s account of the gospel: “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NKJV). Jesus also said, “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27 NIV). And with those words we come to the third requirement of being a disciple of Jesus.
3. FOLLOW ME
Saul of Tarsus is the best example of what it means to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. As we follow him on his three evangelistic journeys and we read the letters that he wrote to the different churches, we recognize that he followed Christ to the very end of his life.
He said to the churches of Galatia, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 NKJV). And we read what Paul said to the Philippians, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ” (Philippians 3:7 NIV).
We are thankful today that we have many members of the body of Christ who are disciples of Christ because they deny themselves, daily take up their cross, and follow Jesus wherever he goes!
A PARADOXICAL ANTITHESIS
What do we mean by this caption? We simply mean that if you try to save your life, you will lose your life! But if you choose to lose your life for the sake of Christ and the gospel, then you will save your life. That is the paradox.
And Jesus made that statement in the gospel of Mark: “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:35-37 NKJV).
And now we give you an illustration of this principle by a man named Telemachus who lived around 400 A.D. He believed in Christ, but he chose to live as a hermit in a desert region away from everybody. But one day he realized to serve Christ he had to serve people. So, he chose to go to the great city of Rome.
By this time most of the terrible persecutions of Christians had stopped. Christianity had become the state religion and even the emperor Honorius had chosen to believe in Christ. But those captured in warfare had to fight in the Coliseum to the death. Stilicho the Roman general won a great victory over the Goths. He was given a triumphal celebration. Honorius the Emperor (393-423 A.D.) stood by the side of Stilicho. The combatants were to fight to the death.
Telemachus entered the Coliseum and was appalled at men killing each other in the arena. So, he jumped down into the arena and came between the gladiators who were set to kill each other. The crowd roared for him to be shoved aside and the men to continue to fight to the death. But he refused to be sidelined and stood between the combatants. The signal was given, and Telemachus was killed. He died January 1, 404 A.D. in the Coliseum at Rome.
Historians tell us that the games in Rome ended that day never to be repeated again. Telemachus by giving up his life had been able to end those violent games. The great historian Gibbon tells us that “his death was more useful to mankind than his life.”
And this illustrates in a physical sense what Jesus meant when he said in his paradoxical statement: “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospels will save it” (Mark 8:35 NKJV).
Friend, are you ashamed of Jesus Christ and his message of the cross? The last thing that Jesus said to his disciples was, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38 NIV).
Are you a Christian? Jesus also said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Let those words sink into your heart as we sing this song of encouragement. *
* Copyright © 2023 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd delivered the thoughts of this sermon, The Cost of Discipleship, Sunday, October 15, 2023, at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142 shelby@sgf1964 firstname.lastname@example.org