Saturday 26 September 2015

Mark’s gospel, Chapter 8 verses 31-38,

Jesus has asked the Apostles who people say He is and they tell Him various answers. Peter then made his famous confession that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. (Matthew describes it a little more fully by telling how Jesus was pleased with this answer and said He would build His Church on that reply)

At the start of our passage Jesus tells them that He is going to suffer at the hands of His enemies and then be killed. Peter challenges Him, causing Jesus to tell Peter he doesn’t understand the plan of God. Jesus was pointing out that it was necessary for Him to die as a sacrifice on the Cross, which is why He came to earth so that He could pay the penalty for our sins.

We cannot preach the gospel unless we refer to the Cross. The death of Jesus cannot be kept out of any gospel message. Billy Graham, who was more successful than any other preacher in Christian history, made clear every message he preached would contain the message of the Cross.

This passage could be titled ‘what it means to be a disciple’, for Jesus went on to tell what He expects from those who want to follow Him and be His disciple.

Firstly, to deny oneself. One of the most favourite pieces of music requested at funeral services, as well as being a universal favourite, is Frank Sinatra’s record, ‘my way’. You cannot be a disciple of Jesus in the Frank Sinatra style. Jesus requires us to live the way He taught, and to put Him first rather than oneself. We are to deny doing the things that contradict a way of living to that laid down in Scripture. This does not mean we have to give up enjoying the luxuries and joys of life; it is our self we are to deny, if it causes us to act against His way.
Jesus wants us to submit ourselves to His leadership and Lordship. There can be no discipleship apart from this; it is an essential part of that discipleship.
Society is generally motivated in trying to acquire wealth and material possessions, sometimes by any means, and a priority in putting oneself first and enjoying oneself with little or no time for God or Christ. Worship is very low on the list of priorities, if at all. People who live only for this life will find that in the end they will lose it without having attained anything lasting. They will have wasted so many years on transient matters.
Secondly, we are to take up the cross. For Jesus the cross represents intense suffering, a rejection of Him by the world, but a sign of His complete obedience to God. To us the Cross is not just a story from the Bible; it is accepting God’s will for our life. As Jesus went freely to the Cross on our behalf and gave up His life for us, we must be prepared to put aside all that hinders our following Him, and give our life in service to Him. This will no doubt entail some suffering on our part, and even rejection by people we thought to be friends, but it is not likely to be physical suffering. The cross stands forever as a symbol of those circumstances which humble us, and offends our pride.

Thirdly, our lives can only be truly fulfilled and be worthwhile by following Jesus. He said if we hold on to our lives in this world we will lose the chance of living with Him in eternity. We can attain all this world offers, but if we do so and forsake Him we lose our soul. Jesus is calling for complete obedience, ready to do or say whatever He commands

Finally, Jesus stated if anyone is ashamed of Him now they will pay the price when the day comes when we will all face Him and give an account of our lives here. If we reject Him now, He will reject us on the day when we answer to Him.

Christianity is regularly attacked on radio and television, mostly by rather coarse and vulgar people, who think it a subject for amusing rebuke. Ministers of religion are portrayed as odd characters totally removed from normal people. One advertisement shows a Vicar acting in a befuddled way, to be associated with food which is boring, in contrast to jolly people enjoying the advertiser’s food.

We can be deemed to be ashamed of Jesus if we allow such attacks to go unchallenged, and we should remember the words of the hymn ‘stand up for Jesus’ and be prepared to let other know we resent such abuse.

Jesus is calling for commitment, which means picking up the Cross for Him. There are many people who claim to be followers, without having any justification. They have no intention of denying themselves and giving up things for Him.

Think, if you asked your friends or members of your family what they thought of Jesus, what would they be likely to say? But more importantly, if someone asked you ‘who do you say Jesus is’, what would be your answer?

Let each person ask oneself that question, and let us hope and pray the answer will be, ‘He was the Son of God who came to earth to give His life as a ransom for me by dying on a Cross so that the sins of all mankind could be forgiven, and was raised on the third day by God to prove He conquered death, and now reigns in glory where one day all who have denied themselves, taken up the Cross and followed Him will live with Him in heaven.

And which way will you choose, the way of the cross or the way of the world?

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