Faithlife Sermons

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Take up Your Cross and Follow Me: Mt. 16:24-28
Everton Community Church.
Sunday September 30th 2007.
*At this time of year*, *most people have completed their holidays* and are *back focusing on work.*
Were *your holiday’s what you expected?*
The following are actual responses from *comment cards* *given to the staff members at Bridger Wilderness Area* *in NW **Wyoming**.*
\\ -*Trails* need to be reconstructed.
Please avoid building trails that go uphill.
\\ -Too many bugs and leeches and spiders and spider webs.
Please spray the wilderness to rid the areas of these *pests.
\\ *-Please *pave the trails*…Chair lifts need to be in some places so that we can get to wonderful views without having to hike to them.
\\ -The *coyotes* made too much noise last night and kept me awake.
Please eradicate these annoying animals.
\\ -A small deer came into my camp and stole my *jar of pickles*.
Is there a way I can get reimbursed?
Please call… \\ -*Escalators* would help on steep uphill sections.
\\ -Too many *rocks* in the mountains.
\\ Citation: Mike Neifert, Light and Life (February 1997), p. 27 \\ \\ *These comments and complaints* indicate that *the people who made them did not really understand what it means to stay in a "wilderness area.*"
*They were looking for* *something convenient and comfortable**, but not* *truly a wilderness experience*.
*In a similar way,* *many people today do not understand what it means to be a genuine Christian, a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
*There are *multitudes that often follow Jesus* or *claim to be a Christian* but *they do so on their terms and not his*.
*They do not truly comprehend* *the biblical definition of discipleship.
*
* *
*This week starts a new series called The High Calling of Christ.
It’s rooted in Christian discipleship*.
The term *"disciples"* *occurs 269 times in the New Testament*, while the term *"Christian" only occurs 3 times*.
*In the Book of Acts we’re told that:*
*Acts 11:26b*   in Antioch the *disciples *were *first called Christians*.
(ESV)
 
How would *you* characterise *your relationship with God*?
Is he a *concept*, a *comfort *or a *conviction?*
Is he someone that you have *yet to come to grips with*, someone who says to you that *you are fine the way you are*, or someone who says that *if you want to think of yourself as a Christian* and all that it entails, *this demands radical sacrifice and self denial.*
*This series* will lay out *what God expects* of *those who would wish to be known as Christians*.
It is the *Christians High Calling*.
It all *starts and ends* *with the Cross*.
*First:*
 
*1) The **Principle* Mt. 16:24
*Matthew **16:24*   [24]Then Jesus told his *disciples*, "If anyone would *come after me*, let him *deny himself* and *take up his cross* and *follow me.* (ESV)
* *
*Please turn to John 6*
* *
*I want to spend just about all my time this morning on this principle.
Once we understand that, everything else will fall into place*
 
When *Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would~/wishes to come after Me,”* they were doubtless *reminded* of the time *He had called each of them.*
Some *two and a half years earlier* they had *left families, friends, occupations*, and *everything else in order to follow Jesus.*
*To unbelievers among the multitudes* who were *present on that occasion* (see Mark 8:34), Jesus’ words *come after Me* *applied to the initial surrender of the new birth*, when a person comes to Christ for salvation and *the old life of sin* is *exchanged* for a *new life of righteousness*.
To the believers there, including the Twelve, *come after Me* reiterated *the call* to *the life of daily obedience to Christ.
The call at this point therefore presupposes* one is *born again*, *repented of sin*, *believes in the Lord Jesus Christ* and is *abiding in Him.*
* *
*As the parallel passage to this in Luke says:*
*Luke 9:23b*  (And he said to all, )"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and *take up his cross daily* and follow me.
* *
*When people truly understand the nature of Coming after Christ, it separates those *who follow for* personal gain *and a* supernatural work of transformation:*
*John 6:63-66*   [63]It is *the Spirit who gives life*; *the flesh is no help at all*.
The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
[64]But there are some of you who do not believe."
(For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)
[65]And he said, "This is why I told you that *no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father*."
[66]After this *many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
*(ESV)
 
It is *sadly possible for believers* to *lose the first love* *they had when they received Christ *as saving Lord and surrendered all they were and had to Him (see Rev. 2:4).
It is a *constant temptation* to *want to take back* what was *given up* and to *reclaim* what was *forsaken.*
It is not impossible to again *place one’s own will above God’s* and *to take back rights that were relinquished to Him*.
It is especially tempting to *compromise our commitment* when *the cost becomes high*.
But the fact that *believers sometimes succumb to disobedience* does not alter the truth that *the character of a true disciple* is manifest in a *pattern of obedience**.*
Although *imperfect obedience* is inevitable *because of the unredeemed flesh*, *the basic desire and life-direction* of *the true Christian* is *obedience to the Lord.*
*Discipleship* is *on God’s terms*, just as *coming to Him* *is on His terms*.
*The Lord here* reminds us that *the key discipleship principle of winning by losing* involves *self-denial*, *cross-bearing*, and *loyal obedience.*
* *I* am taking great pains of *not laying on you burdens* that *Christ himself has not directed as obedience*.
To do so would be *legalism*, that somehow *extra biblical actions would earn favour with God.*
* *This series* is *attempt to unpack the understanding and action* of *what Christ requires* of one who would *follow after Him.*
 
*The first requirement of discipleship is self-denial.*
A person who is not willing to *deny himself* *cannot claim to be a disciple of Jesus Christ*.
*Deny* is from /aparneomai/, which *means to completely disown*, to *utterly separate oneself from someone*.
It is the word *Jesus used to describe Peter’s denial of Him* while He was *being questioned by the high priest* (Matt.
26:34).
Each time he was confronted about his relationship to Jesus, Peter more vehemently denied knowing Him (vv.
70, 72, 74).
*He disowned his Master before the world.*
* To *deny* self is *not the same as self-denial*, like giving up chocolate for lent or that extra piece of pie.
*This denial* *means* to *yield to His control* so completely *that self has no rights whatever*.
*Analogy: *Think of it like *boarding an airplane* and *going through security*.
You must be willing to *put everything under examination* and *let anything go* to *undertake the journey*.
Think of *your personal items* that you *may have to put into the screener’s box for examination: your wedding ring* to represent your *relationships,* your *watch* to represent your *time*, your *shoes* to represent *where you go*, your *wallet *to represent your *possessions and funds* etc.  *If anything is deemed by security to be a threat* to the *mission of the flight* *you must be willing to either* *stay behind* or *sacrifice the item* (mailing it back) *for the mission*.
* *You may not have to* *sacrifice* these things *for the Kingdom of God*, but *God calls you* to be willing to if need be, *for His sake and glory*.
That is exactly *the kind of denial* *a believer is to make in regard to* *himself*.
He is to *utterly disown himself*, to *refuse to acknowledge the self of the old man*.
Jesus’ words here could be paraphrased, “Let him *refuse any association or companionship with* *himself*.”
Self-denial *not only* characterizes a person when he *comes in saving faith* to Christ but also as he lives as a faithful disciple of Christ.
The *self* to which Jesus refers is *not* *one’s personal identity* as a distinct individual.
The *self* of which Jesus is speaking *is rather the natural, sinful, rebellious, unredeemed self that is at the center of every fallen person* and that *can even reclaim temporary control over a Christian.*
It is *the fleshly body*,
*Ephesians **4:22*   [22]to *put off your old self*, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, (ESV)
 
*How can salvation be offered to us as a free gift of God, yet Discipleship have a great cost?
Consider this analogy:*
Suppose you have a *desire to climb **Mount Everest*.
Suppose a *wealthy businessman* heard of your desire and offered to *pay for the entire expedition*.
It costs about $70,000 to do it.
He would buy *all the expensive clothing and gear*; he would pay for your *transportation*, *the guides*, and *the training*.
*It’s totally free for you in terms of financial cost*.
But *if you accept his free offer*, you have *just committed myself to months of difficult training and arduous effort*.
It *could even cost me my very life*, because *many good climbers die trying* to climb Mount Everest.
*It is free and yet very costly.*
\\ Source: The Cost of Discipleship, www.fcfonline.org~/80199.htm,
Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 1999,
 
*Our response to the cost of discipleship is often like this:*
*Poem: *If It Don’t Rain \\ \\ I would climb the highest mountain \\ Swim the deepest ocean too \\ I would crawl the hottest desert \\ I’d do anything for you \\ I would leap the tallest building \\ I’d bear any trial or pain \\ There’s no limit to my love \\ And I’ll be over Friday night \\ If it don’t rain \\ --Dan Atkins
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