Luke, chapter nine. We’ll start this New Year’s Day with a reminder of our single minded devotion to the Lord. A call to live as followers of Jesus Christ. So we look to the reading of God’s Word. If you please join me in prayer.
Most gracious God, our Heavenly Father, in you alone will all the fullness of light and wisdom. And we ask them that you would enlighten us, our minds by your Holy Spirit, to truly understand your Word. We ask that you’d give us grace, receive it reverently and humbly. And Lord, may it lead us to put our whole trust in you alone. And this we pray through Christ, our risen Lord.
Beginning in verse 23 and Jesus said to all, if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words of him will son a man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
The word. The Lord. You please be seated.
In graduate school, Kyle was one of our fellow students and he complained one day to a group of us. He said, I’d go to church if it wasn’t on Sunday morning. He goes, there’s just so many other things that I could be doing. Kyle was our religious agnostic. How he described himself.
He was getting his degree because he was fascinated with religion. And something like this was said to him. Kyle, whenever the church meets, there’s always something we could be doing besides going to church. If you’re wondering, he never finished the program and we were all kind of glad about that. We thought, we don’t need one more religious ed teacher out there who doesn’t believe in God.
But that was a struggle for him, a struggle of saying, the priority of my life is route me. Essentially I am my greatest priority. And if you think about that at any given Sunday you pass countless homes on the way here of people still sleeping in warm beds in nicer weather. There will be people who get up early to have a tea time on the golf course before everyone else. And whatever day or time we set for church, there will always be something more important that we could be doing.
There are people who have no intention of ever coming because there’s no desire in their life at all of gathering with God’s people to worship. It just seems to some people entirely ridiculous. The primacy of worship means exactly that. We come to worship our triune God because it is of primary importance. How do you know what’s primary in your life?
What do you do when you have competing claims for your time, what wins? Or better, who wins most of the time when there are competing claims for what you should be doing. And as followers of Christ, this really simply isn’t about Sunday morning. It is about our entire lives. We don’t split ourselves into sort of here’s just religious life over here and here’s, my normal everyday life over here.
And because Jesus calls us to follow Him, our whole way of life must reflect that call. Early Christians sometimes referred to their Christian faith as a philosophy. Now, not what we think of it, that disciplined class of study that we use the term now, but they thought of it as a way of life, a belief system, a philosophy that governed how they lived their Christian faith. And when you look at the Book of Acts, chapter Nine, you see that early Christians were thought to be Jews who belong to a specific sect called the Way. The Way literally means the pathway or the road.
Now, metaphorically, it speaks of more than that. It’s a way of life, a course of conduct to follow Jesus, to follow the Way. You Testament scholar James Edward, I put this in your bulletin. He says that they said the claim of Jesus is a total and exclusive one. It does not allow a convenient compartmentalization of natural life and religious life, of secular and sacred.
The whole person stands under Christ’s claim. So with that in mind, we are going to be looking at Luke as a diagnostic of how we live our lives for Christ. Who is first in our lives and what are the runner ups that we struggle with. So immediately we see Jesus asks the disciples this question. He says, who do people say that I am?
He answered John the Baptist. Other said Elijah, other said one of the prophets has risen. And then verse 20, Jesus said to his disciples, but who do you say that I am? And Peter answered the Christ of God. And then Jesus warns him not to tell anyone.
He says the Son of man must suffer many things, be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed. And on the third day raised. So Jesus asks the question, who am I? And given the answer, you’re the Christ of God. He now makes demands upon his disciples and he says in verse 23, if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.
To follow Jesus is beyond the path on the road that he’s on now. His path from this point in Luke is going to golgotha the place of suffering and death. The disciples had no comprehension of what Jesus was talking about at this point. They didn’t get it. Now, you’ve heard me ask this question before.
Who tells another person this?
Leaders of cults and crazy people. If I told you to follow me in this way. You think it was really weird if I quoted you from Matthew? Whoever loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Me. Lloyd brothers and sisters, take up your cross and follow me. That’s creepy.
So why does Jesus get to say that? Because it matters who he is. God alone can demand this kind of devotion, this absolute allegiance. That’s why Christianity has made an exclusive claim about Jesus. Because Jesus makes an exclusive claim about himself.
Jesus fully, god fully, man. It shouldn’t surprise us at all that many cults have been started over the centuries. They’re always getting this who question wrong. Who is Jesus?
Somebody rises up, a new prophet, a new leader, and they’re telling everyone everyone else has been wrong. But we’ve got figured out, we’ve got an inside track of new truth, a new claim. And then they always tell you Jesus is something different than who Jesus said he was. A wrong view of Jesus leads to a wrong understanding of discipleship. Peter was rebuked because of this.
After this incredible confession that Peter makes that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, jesus starts to explain, then his suffering and his death. And Matthew and Mark record that Peter rebukes Jesus for saying this. He did not like what Jesus had to say about Jesus being the Messiah. A suffering servant, a suffering leader who was going to his death for Israel never entered Peter’s mind or Israel’s mind at all up to this point. That’s not what anyone thought.
From Edwards. Again, when disciples play God, rather than follow Jesus, they inevitably become Satanic. For Peter, the indication that the Son of man will die is unthinkable. For Jesus is inevitable. Jesus gets to answer who he is.
Peter had to realign his own thinking, his own desire to line up with Jesus, not the other way around. Take up your cross and follow me. If you are a disciple of Jesus, he must be first. And he gets to set the terms of what following him looks like. If Jesus is who he says he is, then everything about your life is governed by this truth.
We start then with a total allegiance, a total realignment of our resources to Christ. How you live your life matters. And Jesus would say that. Verse 24 he says, whoever would save his life will lose it. Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? There are consequences of how you live your life. For Christ, we are to live by a way of surrender. To Jesus, we live a surrendered life. A short summary of this by Dietrich Bonhoffer.
He said Jesus leads the way. Keep close to him. Jesus leads the way. Keep close to him. So part of the how question is answered by keeping close to Jesus.
And there are consequences for not verse 26 whoever is ashamed of me and my words of him, the Son of man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the Holy Angel. Now, our current generation has no stomach for these hard sayings of Jesus like this. They have emasculated and domesticated Jesus. They have made discipleship into a bland spirituality that requires nothing more than warm sentiments and good intents.
But Jesus is the one who said you adulterous and sinful generation, deny me and I will be ashamed of you before the Father. That is not very warm or sentimental. Those who want to claim to be spiritual but not religious have no intention of living this kind of discipleship that Jesus demands.
So stop trying to be spiritual and just live your life of faith. Intimacy with God is not primarily an emotion. It includes emotions. But it’s not primarily an emotion, it’s a way of life. A life of openness, honesty, a certain transparency towards Christ.
So how you love your wife, your husband, your children, your boss, your neighbor, the store club. This is where the how gets lived out. Some of you may remember this old Sunday school acronym meant to help us. It was joy. Jesus.
Others yourself, jesus first, then others than yourself. We struggle because we get this reversed. Yoge yourself, others than Jesus. You want Yoge or joy? See, that’s an easy question.
Joy. Jesus first others than yourself. How do I follow Jesus? I live first for him. I put others before myself.
This is a part of what it means to deny yourself. When you put Jesus first and others, it will always cost you. It’s never easy. And we train ourselves to think of ourselves less often. And the more we do that, the better we do get at it over time.
There is improvement when you do that consistently. If we’re not doing that, then we will substitute something else in its place. Other things will press in that become more important. We will be attempted to evade the hard call of Jesus and substitute something less rigorous and more self pleasing. To deny ourselves is an immediate shift of focus.
We do not live out a life of Christ all a cart. You know, we just pick and choose the parts we like best. We’re committed to Jesus first and then others. And it will change how you make every decision.
Everything’s different because of that. The call of Christ is always the same, but it does look different in different times, in different places. And the call to different people will be different than yours. And so we don’t overlay on somebody else. Well, this is what your life following Christ should look like.
It could be different than yours in some of the specifics, but all the while it is the putting him first and foremost. And when Jesus is first, you ask different questions about your life. Instead of what can I do to make the most money to live the most comfortable, cushy life possible, suddenly it’s how can I make my life count for Jesus? Our greatest challenge is how do we live a Christian life in affluence and ease? That’s our struggle.
Being guilty about it doesn’t help. Being strategic does. Finding the parts of our lives that we need to push back against in the broader culture is essential. Being anticonsumers in our faith, it takes an enormous amount of effort.
And you know how hard it is when you try to do it. The force of culture pushes so hard.
It’s so hard when everything around you is telling you to live for yourself, to prioritize you, your beliefs, your fulfillment, your satisfaction. And you think about everything that we have as Americans, everything we have in the Western world, how great that is, and how people are so dissatisfied and demanding, what more, because there’s this infinite hole that only God can fill. And when you try to dump all this other garbage into it, all these things that you think somehow are going to be meaning and satisfaction of life, they won’t work. And so people get as angry and upset. Everybody else should be doing something to fill this in.
Me, you put yourself first. You were not made for that. And everything else will come short because you and I are a pitiful little God.
That’s not what we were made for. I appreciate Christian writer eugene Peterson. We get asked this question all the time and question was how do I become more spiritual? And he responded all the time, what we’re talking about is the Christian life. It’s following jesus spirituality is no different from what we’ve been doing for 2000 years.
Just by going to church, receiving the sacraments, being baptized, learning to pray, reading scriptures, rightly? It’s just ordinary stuff. And yet doing the ordinary stuff is so hard that most of the time we want to find extra special stuff to fill our life of faith. Some can become religious groupies. They go from one big event to the next, this big name person or this amazing dynamic musical group, and they just travel around trying to find that thing that’s going to just give them that little Zap, the next Zap.
Others get caught up in theological controversies. They argue essentially endlessly with other people about these things. It’s easier to argue about some truth than it is to live it. Still, some can just be indifferent to all of it. I don’t care, I’m just going to do what I want to do, live life the way I want to live life.
Occasionally I’m going to throw God a bone.
It’s the ordinary stuff.
You college students. One of the most important things that you can do in your life of faith is just simply showing up consistently for church wherever you are, that habit will pay. You dividends your whole life long just by showing up to show up when no one’s watching, no one’s checking, and your roommates are wanting to do something else to show up. You younger people. Find someone you can do something for.
Shovel a neighbor’s sidewalk, cut their grass. Invite that new kid at school to sit with you and your friends at the lunch table. You who are married, do something for your spouse without making it a you scratch my back, I scratch yours. Don’t withhold kindness until they deserve it. Well, that doesn’t sound very spiritual.
Try doing it consistently.
Try doing those things consistently, and then answer that question. The reason we don’t is because it’s hard. So we find other things to do that’s easier. They don’t require that of us. It’s the ordinary things where life is seen.
Why do we do these things? Because of who Jesus is. Because of our love for the one who loved us first.
Darryl Bach, New Testament scholar. He made this very obvious statement. He said, living forever would be useless if Jesus were not there to be a part of it. Living forever would be useless if Jesus were not there to be a part of it.
How many people in this world is that true of?
Is life without Jesus intolerable to you?
If it’s not, there’s a desire that needs to change. If the thought of life without Jesus is like, whatever, that’s got to change. And the first place to start is like, Lord, I don’t really feel like life without you is intolerable, change that in me. Make it so. The thought of not being with you for an eternity would be hell itself.
To pray and ask God to change our desires. We don’t wait until we have the desires to do the thing well. I just want to be authentic. I don’t want to be disingenuous. I’ve used this example before when it comes to changing diapers with your children, you don’t wait for a desire to overwhelm you to change the child’s diapers.
Nobody does that. How you demonstrate love for your child is you’re doing the thing you don’t want to be doing. That demonstrates love. That changes your desire. When you step into places you don’t want to be for the good of somebody else, even your attitude stinks.
It starts to change that God works in the doing, that those two already mesh together as a part of who we are as human beings. To pray and say, God, change my desires for you, that I would love what you love, that I would hate what you hate. And as you step towards those, that’s when you find that things change. Now, traditionally, many people have used New Year’s as kind of a reset button. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But if you follow any of the studies of resolutions, you realize that, like, 80% of them come crashing down somewhere the second week of February. And we we know that there’s nothing wrong with new starts. And because of that, each week God gives to us a reset. We come to covenant renewal in the house of God. We can do that at the beginning of the headwaters of the new year.
Yes. Amen. We can do that week by week because our resolve fails. We need the Lord to come and to refocus us on he who is our greatest and highest delight. So I encourage you today to use Lord’s Day worship as Your reset button for new desires and where you’re struggling to lay those before the Lord and pray and ask, Father, change those things in me.
There’s undesirable things that I want to be different. Yoga is not a way of life that’s pleasing to me or to you. Give me joy. Help me to see Jesus first. Help me to love my brothers and sisters, as you have called me to do.
And to do that well is to take your eyes off of yourself and to put them on Jesus. So let us take the call of Jesus to follow Him by first and foremost being near where he is near that he has already gone the road in front of us. He has paved the way, and we are just going where he is gone. Be near to Jesus, brothers and sisters. What a great way to start this Lord’s Day, this new Year’s.
Just be near to Jesus. Pray with me.
Father, we are so grateful that you have come near to us, that we who were far off you have come towards us. And Lord God, we would pray and ask that you continue to increase in our sight, that our love, our desires, our affections will be first and foremost towards you. And Lord, we do ask that you would forgive us where we have placed anything above you, where we have placed ourselves, Father, upon Your throne. We ask that you would not only forgive us, but Lord, that you would continue in Your love and Your kindness to recenter us around You, Father, that you would be great and glorious, that all other loves would pale in comparison, that heaven would be intolerant verbal if you are not there. We bless you for reaching to us in our lostness, our sinfulness, our brokenness.
And may the Lord of Glory receive the reward of his suffering and the lives of his people. And this we would pray and ask in his mighty name. Amen.
Disclaimer: Automated Sermon Transcription