GOSPEL OF MARK – ROBBY GALLATY – Program 24
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Pastor Robby Gallaty; ©2010|
|If someone told you that the Christian life would be easy – a bed of roses – they lied to you. Jesus said in this world you will face difficulties.|
Walking Path of Greatest Resistance
The title of the message this morning is this: Walking the Path of Greatest Resistance. If someone told you that following Jesus would be a bed of roses, they lied to you. If someone told you that the Christian life would be easy, they lied to you. If someone told you that you would be blessed all the time for following the Lord Jesus Christ, they lied to you. If someone told you that the world would accept you for following the Lord, they have not told you the truth. In fact, Jesus said it this way. He said there are two paths; if you will there are two gates. The first gate is wide and the way is easy and it leads to destruction and those who enter by it are many. But the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life and few people find it. You know, to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, you must deny yourself, and follow the hard road, the narrow path, the difficult way to life.
It’s going to be tough to follow the Lord Jesus Christ but that’s not the message of today, right? I mean, that’s not the message that people are preaching today in pulpits much like this. They’re preaching a different message. They’re preaching a message that is about self-consumption. It’s about self-fulfillment. It’s about self-advancement. It’s about self-satisfaction. It’s all about you. In fact, the message that we’re hearing today in some of the pulpits around the country is a message about what you can get from God, right? John MacArthur talks about it. He says, “Christianity today has sometimes and somehow been refined as the message of ‘get’ and Jesus has been turned into a utilitarian genie who must jump at our every whim when we rub His magic lamp and ask Him for things. Casual Christians want to be numbered among the flock but they don’t want to follow the shepherd. Casual Christians today want the forgiveness that the cross brings but they don’t want to carry their own cross. They want the warm and fuzzy feeling that the get on Sunday morning but they don’t want to commit their lives to Jesus on Monday. In essence, they want the crown without the cross.”
My friends, that is not the message of the New Testament. That is not the message of the Bible and so the question is this this morning, “Robby, what does Jesus expect from us to be his disciples?” Well, let’s go ahead and ask Jesus if you will.
Turn with me, if you have your Bibles, to Mark 8:34. This morning I want to disclose to you the three marks of a disciple that Jesus outlines in this text so that you will examine your own life to see if you match up with the characteristics that Jesus desires for his disciples. Mark 8:34 is the section in Caesarea Philippi. You remember what happened a couple of weeks ago. Jesus said, “Who do you say that I am?” They said, “Some say you’re some of the prophets, some say Elijah, some say John the Baptist.” “Well, who do YOU say that I am?” and they said, “You’re the Christ.” And then Jesus said, “I must suffer, I must be rebuked, I must die on the cross.” Peter rebukes him; and Jesus rebukes him; and then he says these amazing words:
“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’ And he said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.’”
Let me give you the three characteristics or the marks of being a disciple. Write the first one down. Jesus said, “If you want to come after me, you need to let go of your life” You need to let go of your life. Underline this simple phrase here—you must deny yourself—or the text says deny himself. That word deny is an interesting word. It’s important to understand what Jesus does not mean by self-denial. Self-denial does not giving up something alone. See, when we think of denying self, we think of something like people observe Lent. I was raised in a different religion and I used to observe Lent. We used to give up something and some people say, “Well, I’m denying something.” That’s not what Jesus is talking about.
He’s not just talking about what you do as much as He’s talking about who you are. That’s what He’s saying. You must deny self. The phrase deny self literally means to completely disown, to utterly separate oneself from someone. This is what it means: to give up your rights and surrender them to someone else, to deny yourself from someone. Who’s the someone you must deny yourself from? You. You must literally cut yourself off from the person you once were. Just like a slave submits to the master, you and I when we come to the Lord Jesus Christ, the very first thing you and I must do is deny the person we once were in the world.
Now here’s the problem with that. The problem is there are many of us who haven’t done that, right? Some of you haven’t done that. You haven’t walked away from the old life. Maybe in your old age you’re starting to revert back to your old habits or your old attitudes or maybe your old actions. See, to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, the first step is this: you must deny sinful pleasure, you must deny selfish pride, you must deny selfish desire, you must deny self-centeredness and you must be God-centered, following the Lord Jesus Christ.
Martin Luther, the great reformer, on October 31, 1517, took a piece of paper that he had worked on for some time and he nailed it to the door of the church in Wittenberg. It’s called the 95 Theses. Have you heard of that? The 95 Theses were 95 different things that Martin Luther saw wrong with the Catholic church back then, 95 different things that he was saying you need to change, you need to work on, you need to change. The fourth thesis in that 95 Theses document was this: he said it has to deal with self-hate. He said that self-hate was essential for salvation. Here’s the words of Martin Luther: Self hate remains right up to the entrance to the door of the Kingdom of Heaven. See, this is not just something we did in the past. This is something we must continue to do every single day of our life. Let me ask you. Are you doing that?
In case the disciples missed it, Jesus gives them an object lesson. Let me submit to you this: Jesus gives the three different marks of a disciple and then below, starting in verse 35, picking up in verse 37 and then in verse 38, He gives object lessons to explain what He just said. Look at verse 35: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
This is what Jesus is saying. The person for whom Jesus is more important than life will secure his eternal destiny. But for the person whose life is more important than Jesus will lose not only his life but will lose his eternal existence. Pretty powerful words from the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what he’s saying. He’s saying you can’t have it both ways. It’s not an either/or question. It’s not a multiple choice answer. He’s saying you either love me first or you love your life more than me. You see, life is like sand. The more you try to grip sand, the more and the faster it flows from your fingers. That’s how life works, right? The more you try to hold on to your life, the more you try to protect your life, the faster you will lose your life.
So let me ask you, what are you holding on to this morning? What are you trying to grip in this world? What changes—better question—what changes need to be made in your life today because you look a lot like the past? Maybe the things you watch. Maybe the places you go. Maybe the thoughts you have. Maybe the way you treat people. Maybe the way you talk. Let me say it another way: To deny oneself is to completely deny the person you once were. It’s basically a total turning and a total commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The second thing we need to do, Jesus said, to be a disciple is to lift up our own cross. Lift up your own cross. Look at it in the text: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross….” Underline that. See, you can’t lift up your cross until you first let go of your life. There’s a lot of people want to lift up the cross without letting go of your life, but Jesus said it won’t happen that way.
Now, in order to understand the cross, I need to tell you what the cross is not, as well. See, your cross, bearing your own cross, is not dealing with that nagging neighbor next door. Bearing your own cross is not dealing with your lost wife or husband. Some people say, “I’m bearing my old cross, that old man right there.” That’s not what Jesus is talking about. It’s not dealing with a wayward son. Bearing your own cross is not dealing with an illness or a bad situation. That’s not what Jesus is talking about. Jesus is not just talking about going through suffering for Him.
Get this. Jesus is talking about coming to a place of death. “You have to die for me (spiritually) if you want to follow me.” When Jesus spoke of this, everyone in the crowd would have known what he was talking about. Listen to what John MacArthur says again about this cross, “The cross in the first century was a very concrete and vivid reality. It was the instrument of execution reserved for Rome’s worst enemies. It was a symbol of torture and death that awaited those who had dared to raise a hand against the Roman government. Not many years before Jesus and his disciples made their way to Caesarea Philippi, 100 men had been crucified in that area [the same place we are today]. A century earlier, Alexander Janis had crucified 800 Jewish rebels in Jerusalem and after that, a revolt in Jerusalem caused more than 2000 Jews to be crucified by the Roman proconsul Varus.”
Crucifixions on a smaller scale were a common sight in Jerusalem and it has been estimated that perhaps some—get this—30,000 crucifixions occurred in Jerusalem in Israel by Rome during the lifetime of Jesus; 30,000 people had been crucified. See, what happens is this. When you’re sentenced to crucifixion, the Roman government would take you in and beat you before the crowd. Then after they would beat you, they would put the cross beam across your neck. They would tie it around your arms and you were forced to carry this out of the city. You were stripped of all your clothes and you were walking around the people. Sometimes they’d put a sign around your neck with the crime that you had committed. It was a complete embarrassment to the person.
Imagine this. Naked, bleeding, walking through the city. Then they would get you to the place of crucifixion. They would lay you down on the other cross beam. Sometimes they would tie you. Most of the time they would nail stakes in your wrists and in your feet just like the Lord Jesus Christ, and they would hoist you up naked for all the crowd to see.
When Jesus says to take up your cross and follow him, he is saying to you and I, you and I must live as dead men and women. Dead to the world; dead to ourselves; dead to our desires. See, we’re never to lay the cross down. We’re never to turn back around. When a person was heading to crucifixion, there was no turning back and I think that’s what Jesus means for us.
Dietrich Bonheoffer says this—the great man who went into the Nazi concentration camp to save people; he was hanged in 1945 for the faith he believed in—and this is what he said, “If Christ calls a man to follow Him, He calls him to come and die.” As I look at Christians today, I don’t see a lot of that happening. I don’t see a lot of death to the world. I don’t see a lot of death to the desires of self and sin and the flesh. In fact, I noticed something interesting. Look at Luke 9. Let me show you something interesting that Luke adds this little caveat here. Verse 23, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross [what?] daily.…”
That’s the word for daylight. Jesus is saying, “Let me just remind you guys. You’ve to do this every single day. This is a complete commitment to me.” John Stott, the great theologian, said, “To take up our cross was Christ’s vivid figure of speech for self-denial. Every follower of Christ is to behave like a condemned criminal and carry his cross to the place of execution. We must not only take up our cross and walk with it [get this], but we are actually to see the crucifixion to have taken place in our life. We are actually to take the flesh, our willful, wayward self and metaphorically speaking nail it to the cross. This was Paul’s graphic description of repentance, of turning our back on the old life of selfishness and sin, and repudiating it finally, once and for all.”
That’s what Paul said. “I have been [what?] crucified with Christ and I myself no longer live but Christ lives within me.” Some of you have not died to self. See, the day you came to Christ, true biblical regeneration, true born-again experience happens this way. There’s a funeral and a rebirth. When a person comes to Christ, it’s more than just saying a prayer, nodding a head, signing a card. When there’s true biblical conversion, there is a repentance of sin, there is a death to self, and there is a rebirth by God. There is this regeneration process that happens in the life of a believer.
Did you know this? Guess what. One of the biggest churches in America does not have a cross in the sanctuary. Did you know that? Not even in the building. You know, it’s one thing not to have a cross in the building. It’s another thing not to preach on the cross. And that’s what he said. He said I’m going to go on record and I’m not going to preach on the cross. Well, that’s odd because the apostle Paul said in Galatians 6:14, “Far be it from me to boast or to preach in anything but the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ by which the world has been crucified to me and me to the world.” Paul, did you ever talk about the cross? Well, he did in 1 Corinthians 2:2. “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Paul said, “I didn’t know anything. I didn’t talk about anything but the Lord Jesus Christ and the cross of Christ.”
But some pastors have said, “Well, Robby, that’s going to offend some people. That’s going to turn some people away.” Well, Paul knew that would come too. 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. But to you and I who are being saved, it’s the power of God.” He goes on to say in verse 23, “For we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.”
Billy Graham wrote in Decision magazine—a magazine that he’s written a lot of articles in, but I thought this one was interesting—listen to what Dr. Graham says, “I find that I can preach on any subject other than the cross and it seems that people are offended at the cross. I can preach on doing good works or social improvement or all kinds of other things and people will applaud me. But when I speak on the cross or preach on the cross and the blood of Christ, there is always an offense.”
See the cross by itself condemns, right? Jesus said it this way, “There’s only one road. There’s only one way. There’s only one path that leads to salvation and it has to go through the cross.” You ever notice this? In order to pick up a cross, what do you have to do? Have you ever thought about this? In order to pick up a cross, you have to do what? You have to bend down. It’s an incredible picture of humility. In order to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, you and I have to humble ourselves, bend down, and pick up this cross. Well, that’s what Jesus did, right? John 13, He girded Himself with a towel, bent down and washed the disciples feet. Let me give you an interesting saying to remember: The place from the call of God in your life to the empowerment for ministry on the day of Pentecost for the disciples, leads to a road, to a hill called Calvary. Friends, in order to be empowered for ministry by the Lord Jesus Christ, we have to go to the cross.
Look what Jesus says in case the disciples missed it. Verse 36: “What good is it for a man gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul?” Let me ask you that question. What good is it for you to gain the whole world and forfeit your soul? Jesus adds this, “What can a man give [or a woman give] in exchange for his soul?” Let’s just say you gain the whole world—all the amenities, all the cars, all the boats, all the houses, all the extras of the world, all the material things you’ve ever wanted—and in the process you lose your soul? Jesus would say that’s a bad bargain. I mean, what can you give in exchange for your soul? How much is your soul worth?
You know, I know in a room this size there are some of us or some of you that are going after the world at the expense of your own soul. There are some that are seeking the pleasures of the world and not the benefits of the kingdom of God. You need to ask yourself this question. On everything you do you need to ask yourself these two questions. The first one is this: will this expand the kingdom of God or will it hinder it? And the second question I would ask would be this: Am I going after temporal gain or eternal return? Let me say that again. Is this a way for me to go after temporal gain or is this an eternal return for my life? See, only after you’ve denied self will Jesus introduce the cross; only after that. And only after you’ve denied self and picked up your cross then can you do this final thing. See, a lot of people want to deny self and go to the final aspect of the commitment to Christ and they miss the cross.
When you deny self and you pick up the cross, then and only then will you be able to do the last thing Jesus says and that is live out your calling. Live out your calling. Look what He says: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
In the language of the New Testament, that word “follow Me” literally means to follow him every single day. See, the disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ is to continually follow Jesus. It’s a way of life. It’s a pattern of living for you. In the Greek, the word follow means to come behind or to come after someone. It’s the idea of a soldier following a king. It’s the idea of a scholar following a teacher. It’s the idea of a slave following a master. You’ve given up your rights and now you’re following the one who’s in control.
Jesus didn’t want us to follow a culture. He didn’t want us to follow a race. He didn’t want us to follow a denomination. He didn’t want us to follow a church. He didn’t want us to follow a religion. He wanted us to follow who? Him. “If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow[who?] me.” That word is in the present active tense. Do you know what that means? That is something you and I must do every single day. You know what that shows me, church? Get this. That every day you and I wake up we have two choices, actually three choices. Every day we’re either going to follow the world, we’re going to follow self, or we’re going to follow Christ. And every day you and I wake up, we’ve got to make a decision with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit that we’re going to be completely committed, obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Have you turned over every key to the Lord Jesus Christ? Let me ask you. What keys are you holding on to this morning? What part of your life have you grasped a hold of and haven’t relinquished to the Lord Jesus Christ? Jesus said, “Guys, if you haven’t figured it out, let me give you an object lesson to show you what this looks like in your own life.” Look at verse 38: “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
You have to hear the words of Mark 7:6 echoing in the background. “These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” Although this is directed initially to the disciples, it is applicable to us today, and this is what Jesus is saying. If you don’t receive the Son of Man in this generation, the future looks bleak for you. And basically what he’s saying is this: your future begins in your actions today, now.
Are you ashamed of the Lord Jesus Christ? Let me give you a couple of questions to think about. When was the last time you shared your faith with an unbeliever? When was the last time you stood up for the Lord at your workplace? When was the last time you shared with a family member what God has done in your life? When was the last time you lead a person to the Lord? To follow the Lord is to be unashamed of Christ.
Now, I have to admit to you, though, losing one’s life, denying oneself, and picking up a cross and following Jesus aren’t the greatest motivating words, are they? I mean, that just really doesn’t motivate us. I mean, you don’t just get excited about doing that right, I have to admit to you. So the question is what would motivate the disciples, every one of them to die as a martyr, except John, for this faith they believed in? What would cause them to do that?
You have to see this text in the context. Look at verse 31. Jesus doesn’t talk about his death by accident. Did you know that? He doesn’t just haphazardly talk about his death. He says to the guys, right before, he says, “Follow Me,” “Notice my life first, men. I’m going to suffer. I’m going to be rejected and I’m going to be killed for this message.” See, the way and the motivating factor for us to carry out this mission is to look to the Lord Jesus Christ. He was beat for the mission. He suffered for the mission. He suffered for the mission. He bled for the mission. He died. And it’s that we focus on to go through the mission.
See, that is what motivated Count Zinzendorf back in the 18th century. Have you heard of Count Zinzendorf before? Count Zinzendorf was the initiator of the Moravian missionary movement. The Moravian missionaries were the first and greatest protestant missionary movement at that time. They were sending people out to be slaves to reach the slaves in Africa, South America, America, and the Indies of Asia. They went out to reach these people. They faced fatal hostility and they faced horrible diseases as they reached out to these people with the love of Christ as they would go.
The story has it that, when missionaries bodies would come back to Herrnhut, where they were established, whenever two would come back or five would come back or even 12 would come back dead as martyrs, the same amount would say, “Send me out. I’ll go to the same battlefield and die for the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Moravian missionaries would pack in a casket. They’d put all their belongings in a casket because this was not a return trip. This was not a roundtrip. This was a one-way ticket for the Lord Jesus Christ.
See, Count Zinzendorf was motivated by the Lord. He created this atmosphere in Herrnhut of praise and prayer and worship of the Lord Jesus Christ, of mutual edification among the believers. They would read scripture together and—get this—they established a prayer chain that would begin and never end for 200 straight years. They would pray every hour on the hour for God to move in the life of those missionaries. 200 years straight.
So the question is this. What motivated Count Zinzendorf to be completely devoted to the Lord? He says by his own admission he was in Europe looking at a painting one time in a museum. He went up to this painting and he noticed that, underneath the painting, was the title of the painting. And it said this, Behold the Man. And as he looked at this painting of Christ painted as his Lord and Savior, he noticed the bleeding from the side of his head from the thorns around his brow. He noticed the scars from his hands. He noticed the wounded side and the blood coming from that. And as he focused on this painting, he noticed there was a caption underneath and this is what it said. The caption said, “This is what I have done for you. Now, what will you do for Me?” He left that chapel a changed man, never to return to the way he walked in. He was completely sold out for the Lord Jesus Christ.
See, that is what motivates us, church. It’s Christ. Christ is the motivating factor. It’s not eternal rewards, although we will have eternal rewards. It’s not that we will escape hell, although we will escape hell. What motivates you and I to follow the Lord is the love of Christ that compelled him and now compels us serve the Father. Let me ask you. Have you let go of the world? Are you picking up your cross daily? Are you denying self? Let me ask you. Are you following Christ? Are you 100% committed to Jesus? Are you ashamed of the Lord? Are you looking to the Lord?
As we go through this time of dedication and invitation, it’s a time for you to respond to God. See, it would be a shame for you to listen to a message like this and walk out those doors the same way you walked in. It would be a tragedy for you. It’d be a tragedy for you to look to your neighbor and say, “Well, that’s for him or that’s for my spouse or that’s for my kids.” I think all of us need to have a self-reflection time right now asking those questions. “Jesus, am I serving you? Have I denied self or do I still look like the world? Am I picking up my cross? Have I died to my sinful, selfish nature? And am I following you not just on Sunday but am I following you during the week? Am I living for you? Am I sharing your message? Am I leading people to Christ? Am I proclaiming the good news of God?” Because I have a sneaking suspicion that some of us would say, “That’s not me, pastor.”
But I also know in a group this size there are some people in here today, whether here or at the Gathering or maybe joining us at home that have said, “I have never truly committed my life to Christ. I’ve never denied self. I’ve never picked up the cross and I’m not following Jesus. I need to repent today, pastor, and I need to put my faith in Christ.” As the Spirit of God quickens your heart, as He awakens your mind, as He pulls the blinders off, would you trust Christ today? Would you commit your life completely to the Lord Jesus Christ?