Saturday, May 6, 2023

The Cost of Discipleship - Luke 9:22-27 - May 7, 2023

 Luke 9:22-27 The Cost of Discipleship

Good morning! We are going back to the Gospel of Luke this morning. Turn to Luke 9:22-27, that’s page 867 in the pew Bibles.

We’ve jumped around a bit in Luke nine over the last few weeks to tie together some different thoughts and this time we are going to backtrack just a bit to give a little better context to this teaching of Jesus found in verses 23-27.

Jesus had been questioning the disciples on who the crowds said He was and who they said He was. The crowds believed He was perhaps John the Baptist raised from the dead, or Elijah, or one of the old prophets come back to life but Peter, on behalf of the disciples gave the good confession in verse 20, “You are the Christ of God.”

Well this morning we are going to look at the implications of that great truth, that Jesus is the Christ, the Chosen One, God’s Messiah. So let’s look at our text.

22 …“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” 

23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

Let’s pray.

Now it’s important for us to remember that the first verse we read, verse 22, was said to the disciples in private and in verse 23-27 Jesus addresses the larger crowd that was with Him as well as the Twelve.

Jesus had described to the disciples what their confession meant, what being the Christ of God meant.

It didn’t mean that He would go to Jerusalem and go to the palace and take His place as King. It didn’t mean that He would defeat the political oppressors of the nation of Israel and restore their country back to them. It didn’t mean that all of their desires for themselves and their country would be granted to them.

It did mean that He would go to Jerusalem and be mistreated and rejected by their religious leaders. It did mean that he would go to the cross and not the throne. It did mean that He pay the penalty for the sins of mankind and defeat our true oppressor, the devil, and restore our relationship with God our Father through faith in Jesus and His atoning death and resurrection.

And it did mean that instead of granting them the desires of their hearts for themselves and their country that following Him would cost them everything.

And here we have the most popular teaching of the church in the Twenty-first Century: that following Jesus comes at a cost. I know it’s so popular because all the most popular preachers are out there selling books on it and filling stadiums with people who can’t wait to hear what they have to give up in order to follow Jesus.

Now to be clear there is a distinct difference between salvation and discipleship.

Our salvation has already been paid for by Jesus on the cross. That is a completed work, there is nothing more that we could ever add to it nor take away, Jesus paid it all.

But after faith in Jesus comes following Jesus.

I’m not talking about earning our salvation, I’m talking about what happens once we are saved.

As Alistair Begg put it, “The entry fee [to the Christian Life] is nothing, but the annual fee will cost us everything we have.”

 Verse 23, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

This statement of Jesus used to really trip me up when I was much younger. I thought that because Jesus was the only person that I knew of that had ever been crucified that He was the only one who had been crucified and the disciples couldn’t have understood what the cross that Jesus was talking about could have been. This whole idea would have to have been a real mystery to them until after the crucifixion.

But that’s because I didn’t know my history. 

Around the time that Jesus was eleven years old the Romans crushed a rebellion in the city of Sepphoris about four miles north of Nazareth and they crucified around two thousand men along the road from Sepphoris to Nazareth. Jesus and the disciples had all seen those people crucified.  

Crucifixion began with the Assyrians and Babylonians and had been practiced by the Persians since around 600 BC and continued to be perfected and practiced by the Romans until Emperor Constantine outlawed it in the Fourth Century AD. That’s over a thousand years that this brutality was practiced.

What do you see when you see a cross? Maybe you see a reminder of Jesus’ death, maybe you look at a cross and see salvation.

What do you think the disciples saw when they looked at a cross? I think they saw humiliation, suffering, and death. They saw the MOST humiliating way to die, on display for all to see, a long, agonizing, slow death from blood loss and asphyxiation. 

So when Jesus says to those who would follow Him, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me,” it was a much more graphic picture of the cost of following Jesus than I ever imagined, maybe you too.

John Calvin wrote, “Let it be the uninterrupted exercise of the godly, that when many afflictions have run their course, they may be prepared to endure fresh afflictions.”

24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

Jesus here shows us the difference between two types of life, a lower and a higher, a natural and a spiritual, a temporal and an eternal. He also shows us the value or importance of each.

And if anyone is unwilling to surrender one for the sake of the other, they will eventually lose both.

To deny ourselves is to do just that, to surrender our lower, natural, temporal life, for the sake of our higher, spiritual, eternal life.

Perhaps the most famous denial is the denial of Peter, the same one who had just declared on behalf of the disciples that Jesus is the Christ of God would eventually deny Him three times saying, “I do not know the man!”

That’s what our denying ourselves has to look like, “I do not know the man driven by the desires of the flesh. I do not know the man that only seeks his own good. I do not know the man that is consumed by self and self-interest.”

What good does it do to follow such a one? We could gain the whole world, as Jesus put it, fill our pockets with gold and silver and all that we desire that is good in this life, but in the end it will only cost us the next one if we turn away from Jesus to get it.

The Apostle Paul, a man who once had it all by the world’s standards wrote in Philippians 3:7-11:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Jesus said in verse 26,

26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

This is the warning, what will you choose?

To follow Jesus means to take up our cross daily, continuously, and not some gilded, gold-plated, fancy cross either, to willingly, daily, face what the cross meant for Jesus in Jesus’ Name: surrender, suffering, sacrifice, humiliation, and even death.

That’s the cost of following Jesus. And the day is coming that this might be exactly what is required of us. Things in this world are going from bad to worse, it’s not going to get easier to follow Jesus publicly, it’s going to get harder, but we have to keep our eyes on the horizon waiting for the coming of Christ and trusting Him moment by moment as that day approaches.

2 Thessalonians 1:5-12 says,

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. 11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The reward far outweighs the cost of following Jesus.