Words of Faith 7-11-18
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone.  And he said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life."
 Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.  I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God."
This time away at Caesarea Philippi was shaping up to be a powerful and pointed staff retreat. It was critical that a disciple know who Jesus was, the Christ of God.
But now Jesus indicated that some very powerful things come with that. As the Christ of God, walking out the journey ahead would mean that He would die and be raised. But don't tell anyone yet. It was not yet time to spread the word. "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life."
Jesus had to be clear with the Disciples lest they misunderstand. The right answer: "Thou art the Christ," comes with a price. This is no picnic. This is not some easy ride of messianic wonder or political fame. Being the Son of Man, the very Son of God, meant an enormous sacrifice was ahead. So it was from this place where the water of life flowed into the holy land and also the point that pagan worship marked as the "gate of hell," from this place, Jesus turned toward Jerusalem and the cross.
Jesus was then very specific about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Following Messiah to this point might have seemed like joining a popular movement, but Jesus defined discipleship in very clear terms.
1) Deny self. The core of what it means to follow Jesus is self denial. This speaks to our core struggle with sin. This is the central issue that you and I face everyday. Will we I follow the crowd? Will we follow self? Will I follow Jesus? There is hardly a problem that we have that does not go back to this fundamental call or our fundamental refusal to deny self. Even within Christian trappings we can get off track. We must beware of the form of Christianity is self-indulgent. Self-indulgence is not what Jesus was about. Following Jesus will always require self denial. A self-centered distortion that is never happy unless God is pleasing and meeting every whim is not the walk that Jesus proscribed.
2) Bear a cross. If we follow Jesus, we are called to bear a cross. Cross bearing usually means carrying some burden for others. Jesus will show us this in His final seminar on "What it means to follow God." It is about losing ourselves for God and only then finding ourselves in Him. It is daily. We are only as close to God as our last act of obedience or disobedience. Following Jesus is absolutely daily. Last year's testimony doesn't mean much. Again, one of the great dangers in cultural Christianity is that we would lose sight of the cross and our own call to cross bearing.
Jesus asked another question. It is a rhetorical question. It really has no answer but draws attention to the issues. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? The Greek does not suggest that we lose eternal salvation so much as we lose our very self, right now. Have you ever felt you were losing yourself? The question is pointed. What good is it if you enjoy pleasures in this world, but lose who you are with God? What good is it if you indulge the pleasures of this world, but lose your very self? What good is it if you create a form of Christianity with no cross, but lose everything?
3) Give Testimony. The last topic Jesus addressed on this retreat was about how we testify for Him. "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." Wow. Serious words.
Following Jesus is about boldly giving testimony for and of Christ. If we are ashamed of Him and His words He will be ashamed of us. It does not actually say we will be rejected or that salvation is lost. But can you imagine coming into heaven and having Jesus look the other way because He is ashamed of you and the way you acted or responded. Can you imagine remember the times you were too self-absorbed to talk with someone about Jesus or too self-centered to break beyond the uncomfortable awkwardness to just say “I love Jesus.”
Well the retreat is almost over. We can get back to business. But a couple of questions that arise out of this bear repeating.
Do you know Christ? Who do you say that He is? He is no moral teacher. No famous religious leader. He is no great historic figure. He is the Christ of God. The Son of God. God made flesh. Sent to live and die sacrificially for your sin-- and to be raised triumphant over death once and for all.
Are you a follower of Christ? Are you tired of namby-pamby, fair-weather Churchianity. Are you tired of walking with knowledge, but not really following Him. Are you ready to commit as a follower of Jesus-- to deny self, take up your cross, and follow Jesus.
Lord Jesus, I want to follow You. I want to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ with every fiber of my being. I want to know You and follow You. Give me grace to do so and the words to say as I share Your love. In Jesus' name.