Faithlife Sermons

To Be, or Not To Be? pt6

To Be, or Not To Be?  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Christ is not looking for shades, or degrees, of commitment. He does not desire some "half-hearted," conditional faith. He will only accept complete and total commitment. That is what "taking up our Cross" is! Christ's Cross was not a decoration...a peice of jewelry to adorn a wall of body. It was a place of torment, of shame, of punishment, of sacrifice...and of Grace. The Cross we bear is the same. We are called to be faithful martyrs, who take up our Cross, and willingly walk through hell, for the sake of the Christ's Kingdom. The question is: Will We? What will our choice be? Committed to the Cross? or, Lost in this world?

God, show me the way to the cross.
It is still hard to understand why the Son of God would let mortal men condemn Him to such a horrible death.
But what love you demonstrated in that act!
Lord, Show me how to demonstrate that same love to the world’s needy.
Give me your power…to do your work…as I set out on your mission.
Help me to understand who you are.
Help me to be and do what you want me to do.
Father, Give me eyes to see the world…to see people…as you see them.
I commit myself totally to you.
I will take up my cross and follow you…even into death. Amen.

What is Grace?

1a: unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification b: a virtue coming from God c: a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance
Would you agree that Grace is God’s approval of us — not based on our deeds, or lives — but on our Faith in Him?
Last week, we discovered that Christ’s Earthly Ministry did not lead to a wealthy, victorious kingdom, won by the blood of a conquering warrior king, but to the Cross of a criminal.... an instrument of torture…
... to an instrument of cruelty...
... to an instrument of pain...
…to an instrument of shame...
... and to an instrument of death...
All for His Glory!
The Cross is scandalous.... The Cross is gruesome.... The Cross is violent.... That is why so many people avoid looking at it....
(Compare “Jesus of Nazareth” to “The Passion of the Christ”: “There are two major films dealing with Christ’s life, death, and resurrection...”)
We desire a humble, meek, gentle, savior.... One who does not bring us into violence, turmoil, tribulation,…, One that does not allow us to suffer at all....., but that’s not who Christ is!!!
You see.... The Christ we want.... The Messiah that the disciples wanted.... Was not what Christ had in mind, nor is it what God had in mind!
What Christ revealed to the disciples, and to us, is that the Cross is a place of destruction.... of violence....of scandal.... and yet it is a place of love…of peace… of joy… because it eliminates the destructive nature of sin....
But… It must be borne into and through the place of the world’s punishment of the faithful.
It must be borne through that place of the world’s oppression and persecution of the Faithful Christian.
It must be borne into that place where it becomes a burden....
It must be carried into that place that causes our hearts to beg to put it down....
Because THAT is exactly the place where Grace is poured out!
Let me tell you — The idea that “God will not give us more than we can handle.” Is not true! It is not Biblical!
2 Corinthians 1:8 NRSV
We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself.
God allows us to walk through things bigger than ourselves, because in those times.....
In those times of trouble… of oppression… of persecution… of spiritual struggle… we are forced to rely on Him…,
And that is when He is able to pour His Grace… His Peace… His Joy… out on us!
You see — That is why Christ calls us to go there.... That is what He commands us to go there.... And, that’s where we must go.....
It’s not easy! It’s painful… It’s difficult… It will stretch us more than anything else we will ever face…
But remember, we are not in it alone!
Christ already walked that walk....
And HE invites us to walk into and through that place with Him!
Christ is not looking for shades, or degrees, of commitment. He does not desire some "half-hearted," conditional faith. He will only accept complete and total commitment.
The question is: Are we willing to?
To Be, or Not To Be?
We must willingly bear the same potential punishment that Christ bore.
Look at:
Luke 9:23–27 NRSV
Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”
Have you ever noticed that when people…when Christians…talk about “taking up their daily cross,” they speak about physical afflictions or difficult situations?
That is not what Christ spoke about! The Cross that Christ spoke of asks followers to deal with issues of self-centeredness and self-determination.
Trent Butler states it this way:
“Quit looking for miracles and healing. Quit centering [your] attention on things that enhance and please [you, and] Focus on Christ.”
The Kingdom…sanctification…holiness....the Christian walk…is about self-denial.
Luke 9:23 NRSV
Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
Our world tells us that it is “all about us!” It’s all about our hopes, our dreams, our needs, our success, our image and abilities..... to deny any of those is a sign of ignorance and weakness......
Let me tell you — THAT IS WRONG! It is wrong thinking...... It is destructive!
Selfishness does not win the hand of God. Only complete commitment does!
That means committing to God AS HE IS!!! As He reveals Himself to be.... God didn’t reveal Himself to Moses and say, “I am what you WANT me to be!” NO!!!!!! He proclaimed, in an undeniable voice, “I Am That I Am!” “I will be who I will be.”
There is no change in Him, He is not subject to the whims and ideologies of this world.... God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow!!!!
We need to understand — God is not subject to us.
Many who hear this message back away… they get angry…they get defensive… and they proclaim: “That’s not the Jesus I want!”
I want a Jesus that makes me feel good… who never allows me to suffer… who declares and defends the same things I do.... I want a God who lets me do what I want....
But....that is not the Gospel... the Gospel is about a relationship with God!
It is about denying ourselves, for the sake of God.
Self-denial is about a daily commitment to that relationship!
Because it is that relationship that causes us to place others above ourselves.
(Luke 9:23)
What Christ is saying is: “Find out what He wants you to do each and every single day, and do it!”
But here’s the kicker.... Don’t expect to win any popularity contests…don’t expect fame… don’t expect fortune… don’t expect success.... If you do, then scripture tells us that — you have “received your reward in full” (Mt 6:5)
To “take up your cross daily” is to be ready to suffer rejection, pain, persecution, oppression, and maybe even death.... with the understanding that this world WILL reject you! (Just as it rejected Christ!)
Matthew 10:22 NRSV
and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
We have been called to endure the world’s persecution, for the sake of Christ....
1 Peter 2:21 NRSV
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.
1 Peter 4:1 NRSV
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin),
(Are you finished with sin?!)
Now, hear me on this — This is not an unjoyful, suffering-filled message.... We are not left to “wallow” in pain and suffering… there is reward in the end!!!
Matthew 5:10 NRSV
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
But — Hear this!!— The only way we receive that reward is by denying ourselves, and committing to follow Christ.
In order to “take up one’s cross daily,” “there must be [not only a] complete consecration to God, but daily submission to His Will.” (BBC)
We will never find the Glory of Heaven apart from Christ! And anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you.
Luke 9:24–25 NRSV
For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?
This is where we must be careful..... you see — This is where the world tries to deceive us....
The world tells us that the Church must seek to be “relevant” by embracing the cultural ideas and views of the world around it.
Somehow, it fools us into thinking that we must embrace and incorporate the socio-political ideas of our culture, and of the world, into our message, otherwise we become irrelevant to the world around us.
It tells us that we need to “soften” the message… to make it more “palatable” to “sinners” so that they will be able to accept it.
Many tout that as the reason for the decline we see in the church today. But.... listen to Christ’s words:
Luke 9:24 NRSV
For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.
“The soldier who hears the command to march and then retreats is the one shot by the enemy — not the one who advances....” (Trent Butler)
That is what is happening to the Church today! We hear Christ command us to march…to speak boldly…to proclaim His Kingdom.... but then we hear the world around us.
We hear the mob with its angry shouts.... We here the questions that are difficult to answer.... We here the cries against the message....against us…against our worldly reputation, and we retreat..... We adjust our message, we water it down, we make it more “culturally acceptable”.... and in doing so, the Church loses its life, because we make our message irrelevant to the rest of the world.
— I heard a story just a couple of days ago from a co-worker… She has a tenant living in her RV park who is not a Christian. As they talked she discovered that this young woman has never been exposed to the Church, or to Christ. She doesn’t not believe, but she doesn’t believe either. When my co-worker asked her “Do you want to know who Christ is? Do you want Him in your life?” This young woman answered what many today say, “I don’t see where I need Him.” —
You see — in its efforts to be “relevant” to the world around it, by blending its message into the worldly thought, the Church has lost its identity.... its “self”.
Let me tell you — The Church that looks just like the world around it is not the Church at all!!!
The same is true in our walks with Christ.
Sure, we may become successful.... we may own a business, become CEO, or even President! We may achieve every worldly goal we set… We may build a church that claims thousands in attendance… but one day… we will look back and realize that it all meant nothing!
— None of it brought meaning to our lives....
— None of it brought hope to us.....
— None of it brought peace.....
That is why we constantly seek a “higher purpose” for our lives..... That’s why we seek more money....more fame....more popularity....more social causes....more relationships.....more…more.....
But…all we find is more worries....more needs....more dissatisfaction...
A life spent pursuing the recognition of this world is a life wasted. It is a life that ends — ultimately — with the loss of our own identity…with the loss of our life! Because we spend our life chasing more.
Think about it! How often have you heard stories about father’s who made their family wealthy…gave them more then they ever needed....but never spent time with them, because the pursuit of wealth was more important?
They lost their life!
Christ said:
John 10:10 NRSV
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
Church — Christ desires for us to have life!
He doesn’t desire a stoic…boring… reserved… have no fun… existence… spent chasing wealth and gain… He gave us life! To enjoy… To celebrate… To experience… But…
That life is found only in Him! We discover it only in committed service to Him!
Again, Butler reminds us:
“[One day you’ll] look at the person you laughed at and scorned....the person who accumulated nothing.... [and you’ll] discover that this person [had] meaning and hope that you only dreamed of.”
Let me tell you something I learned during our time in Korea:
When you stop worrying about things.... about having things.... about accumulating things.... When you let go of the NEED for bigger and better…
When you let go of the need for the newest and nicest… and find satisfaction in what you have… The world gets much more restful!
Suddenly, you find life peaceful, enjoyable, hopeful.... In truth... You find life!
The world seeks profit.... We will never find peace, nor will we inherit the Kingdom of God by pursuing the world, because it demands that we set aside faith for the sake of profit.
The world says:
“What’s in it for me?”
But Christ says, “Here is life!” We cannot find life outside of a commitment to Him!
Jesus puts the ultimate clincher on this idea.
Luke 9:26 NRSV
Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
The world is not the focus.... The world’s acceptance, or judgment of us does not matter!!!!
Hear this!!!! “The local newspaper’s epitaph is not the final word in your life!” (Butler)
Christ is!!!!!
And He is returning as a judge! Not to pet you, and make you “feel” good, but to reveal His and Heaven’s Glory to the world!
And when He returns…let me tell you....“Every knee will bow!”
Philippians 2:10–11 NIV
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Romans 14:11 NRSV
For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.”
Holman New Testament Commentary: Luke D. Commitment Described: Self-Denial to the Cross (9:18–27)

If you spend your time in this world trying to hide the fact that you really believed some things Jesus said, then Jesus will hide all the glory from you. Is that the price you are willing to pay? Worldly glory? Heavenly glory? Which matters most to you—the world’s ways or God’s ways? Which are you following—the world’s wealth or Christ’s reward? Which will you receive?

To Be, or Not to Be?
Either we will commit to walking in the Kingdom DAILY, and receive the Glory of Heaven, or we will not! The choice is ours… and, so are the consequences of that choice!
There is one last thing that Christ has to say here.... You see, He has told us the choice we have to make, the consequences of that choice, and then He makes an interesting statement:
Luke 9:27 NRSV
But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”
This is truly one of the most debated scriptures in the NT. I mean, Are we going to see the Kingdom? Can we see it?
What did Jesus mean “some will not taste death before they see it”? Didn’t they all die? Aren’t the disciples dead, and yet Christ has not returned? How then would they see the Kingdom?
I want you to notice something — This is important — listen to this — Jesus does not say they will not die physically.... He says “some will not taste death.”
But, what does that mean?
Some say He is referring to Peter, James, and John who are about to see Him transfigured… But is that what He meant?!
That was a private moment for those three, so why did He say this to everyone there?
Can I tell you this? If we are in Christ, then we will not taste death!
Romans 6:8–9 NLT
And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him.
And therefore, for the committed believer, death has no power over us!
The “some” is those who believe in Christ, who commit themselves to Him, and who take up their cross daily to follow Him.
We can see the Kingdom right here and right now! Why? Because the Kingdom is both Now and Yet to Come!
We see it in Christ’s life and work....
We see it in the disciples work.....
We see it in the miracles and healings.....
We see it in lives changed by the power of the gospel message.....
We see it at the resurrection....
We see it in the upper room on the day of Pentecost....
We see it in the work of the Holy Spirit each and every day....
And ultimately, we will see it in Christ’s return....
But, only those who “take up their cross daily and follow Him” will see it!
To Be, or Not To Be?
Christ is calling for a commitment.... a commitment to take up our cross… to be willing to enter into the world’s judgment for His sake… But He promises, “You are not alone!”
Matthew 28:20 NRSV
and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
So..... What will your choice be? Committed to the Cross? Lost in this world?
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