2018-03-25 Pastor Jim Timms “The Christians Cross to Die for Him” Luke 9:23-26

“THE CHRISTIAN’S CROSS – TO DIE FOR HIM”
LUKE 9:23-26

I. Introduction
Two Sundays ago the sermon was entitled “The Christian’s Calling – To Follow Him.” The “Him” was, of course, Jesus. The central passage was 2 Peter 1:1-11. In v. 3 Peter reminded his readers that God has granted believers, “…everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us.”

In vv. 5-7 the apostle told us how diligently following Jesus would manifest itself in our Christian lives. Our faith would, “…supply moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.”

Peter concluded this short passage by saying this…
2 Peter 1:10-11
10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things (moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love), you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

You and I have been chosen for salvation. Therefore, we have been called to follow the One who saved us.

Last Sunday morning’s sermon was entitled “The Christian’s Commitment – To Live for Him.” The primary passage was Matthew’s account of the conversation between Jesus and a certain “rich young ruler.” This fellow was religious, vain, and self-righteous. He was interested in Jesus for what Jesus could do for him. He was a classic example of all those people who want a savior but are not the least bit interested in having that savior become the Lord of their lives.

Like countless numbers of people today, this young man wanted Jesus on his own terms. He wanted eternal life, but in his vanity and self-righteousness he wanted to be able to work for it, to do something to earn it. He didn’t want to follow Jesus, and he wasn’t about to commit himself to Him. In Matthew 19:16 he asked Jesus, “…what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” In v. 17 Jesus told him to, “…keep the commandments.”

Jesus looked into this young man’s heart, saw what was there, and told him that the standard for obtaining eternal life is absolute perfection. Since the Ten Commandments are a reflection of God’s absolute perfection, Jesus is saying, “Be perfect, just as God is perfect.”

The young man said, in so many words, that he already was perfect. Then, in v. 20, he asked the Lord, “…what am I still lacking?” Do you see it? He knows something is missing in his religious life. What is it? It is commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. Now don’t miss this. This rich young ruler believes in Jesus, but he has no saving faith.
He is saying, “Oh, I believe in You, Jesus, just don’t expect anything from me. “Don’t expect me to actually act on that belief.” So Matthew’s account ends with this…
Matthew 19:21-22
21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (“You already believe – now do something about it!”)
22 But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property.

Tragically, there is no record in the NT that says this young man ever came to saving faith. But why would that surprise us? He, like so many others who claim to “believe” in Jesus, would neither follow after Him nor commit himself to the Lord.
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II. Text
Here’s what we’ve seen so far: First, Christians are called to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Second, Christians are called to commit themselves to Him, to live for Him. This morning we will see just what that commitment looks like. Jesus will define and explain it to us.
*Luke 9:23-26 (Please stand with me in honor of reading God’s Word.)
23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
24 “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.
25 “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?
26 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

In this passage Jesus is telling us in no uncertain terms that the only way we can follow Him is to be committed to Him. And He makes it clear that this commitment will cost us something. In fact, it will cost us everything. We will need to commit everything we have – not just a cursory prayer before meals, not just the little time we spend together with Him on Sunday mornings, not just a little gift from our surplus time or funds – but all of our possessions, our hopes, our goals, our wills, our bodies, and even our very lives.

Now to be sure, salvation is free in the sense that you can’t buy it. That’s because it isn’t for sale. You cannot buy it, but you can have it. You can have it if you are willing to lay down your life for it. With that someone immediately says, “Whoa, wait a minute there! That’s no way to get people to come to Jesus. You need to say things like, ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,’ or, ‘Accept Jesus as your personal Savior,’ or, ‘Ask Jesus into your heart,’ or, ‘Make a decision for Christ.’” That is the way the gospel is usually presented today, isn’t it?
We hear, “Accept Jesus,” or “Make a decision for Jesus,” or “Invite Jesus into your life,” and we’re told that Jesus will give you a better life, He’ll improve your relationships, He’ll make you happy, and maybe even healthy, wealthy, and wise. He’ll do all this and more if you’ll just decide for Him. But Scripture doesn’t use such terminology, let alone such tactics.

Yet that is often the message today. This message has filled countless churches with raving fans. And why not? Don’t we all want a better life, improved relationships, and happiness? Everyone wants that stuff! Especially if it’s all free! Especially if there is no cost.

But you rarely hear what Jesus said it would cost. What if God’s plan for you is the loss of your job or standing in the community? There’s a cost. What if it’s rejection by family and friends? There’s a cost. What if it includes suffering for His sake? There’s a cost. What if you’re a Muslim and you profess Christ and they catch you? There’s a cost.

We’re going to examine Luke 9:23-26 this morning, but in order to set the stage for that, I want us to jump ahead in Luke’s gospel to a place where Jesus talks about that cost and reiterates the truth He first presented in v. 23.
*Luke 14:25-28
25 Now great multitudes were going along with Him (Jesus); and He turned and said to them,
26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. (degrees – love Him so much that other loves seem like hate)
27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My
disciple.
28 “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?

The cost of discipleship may be great. There is a cost in being committed. Listen carefully, please. The fact is that Jesus never called anyone to make a hasty decision about Him and His gospel. On the contrary, He deliberately warned His hearers to calculate the cost, to think it through, and to be fully aware of what it would mean to become a Christian.

“Count the cost!” The cost is that you will have to live for Jesus and carry your own cross. Living for Jesus, by definition, means dying to the world. People who are content to be involved with Christ don’t do that. Only people who feel compelled to be committed to Christ do that. That’s true Christian discipleship.

And that’s what Jesus begins to tell us about in Luke 9:23-26. He isn’t interested in making us comfortable in our religion. He’s interested in challenging us to think, to drive us to the point where we must choose between being a fan, someone who is involved with Him, or a follower, someone who is committed to Him.
*Luke 9:23
23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
By the way, it’s very important to understand that this verse is addressed to everyone pre-sent, not just the twelve. It’s important because there are those out there today who say that the kind of discipleship Jesus is talking about here is not necessary for salvation. All you need do is believe. But don’t the demons believe?

Note carefully what the Lord says to the multitude. Does Jesus tell them that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives? Does He ask them if they would like to accept Him as their personal savior? Does He say, “Today, right now, before another minute goes by you need to make a decision for Me?”

No! There’s none of that. Rather, the very first thing Jesus does is thin out the crowd. The modern church is bent on drawing ever larger crowds. But in Luke 9:23-26 Jesus is doing the polar opposite of what so many of us think is the way to win the lost. He is making it clear that it will cost you to be one of His. It could be paraphrased like this: “I am going to die and be separated from this life. Are there any here who would like to join Me”?

Someone may say, “Now wait a minute. That’s not what this morning’s passage says.” No, that is precisely what it says! Listen to theologian Darrell Bock.
“Cross-bearing is a powerful ancient image. Rejection stood at the center of that image, as well as accountability to the state. The cross-bearer had committed a severe crime and needed elimination. Criminals bore their own crosses as they journeyed to their death. Thus, for a Christian to bear a cross is to be prepared to face rejection and death, even as one remains accountable to God for the path one walks. It means that one has died to the world, separated from its values and lifestyles.”

Look again at Luke 9:23. This cross-bearing is necessarily preceded by self-denial. It has to be, doesn’t it? You’re not going to carry the instrument of your death voluntarily, are you? You’re not going to do it for self-aggrandizement or to boost your ego or to improve your public image, are you? The “down-payment” for the cost of following Christ is self-denial.

Denying oneself simply means saying no to the old self. Paul explains what it means.
Philippians 3:7-11
7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. (count the cost)
8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, (count the cost)
9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,
10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; (carry your cross)
11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

We all know that self-denial is unnatural. The flesh just naturally rebels against the very thought of it. But the problem with much of today’s gospel preaching is that it rarely generates self-denial because it rarely presents the real Jesus. And unless you come face-to-face with the real Jesus you will never be overwhelmed by the magnitude of your own sinfulness and your need for repentance. And it is certain that you will never come to a sincere willingness to count the cost and carry your own cross.

But listen to the words of some of those who did come face-to-face with Him, whether they saw Him as the pre-incarnate Christ in the OT or knew Him as the man from Nazareth.
Job 42:5-6
5 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You;
6 “Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.”
Isaiah 6:5
5 Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”
Luke 5:8b (Peter’s response after Jesus created a huge catch of fish.)
8b “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
Romans 7:18, 24 (Paul’s acknowledgment of his own sinful condition.)
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

Such people don’t need to improve their lives. They need to die and start over. They need to be born again just as Jesus says back in John 3:3. They need to humble themselves before God. When they do that, the Lord will save them and comfort them. He will not lift them up in their own sight. But He will lift them up in His sight. Look again at Luke 9:23. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. This one verse opens the door to the very core, the heart and soul, of the gospel.

However, the gospel we usually hear today is dramatically different than the gospel Jesus preached. Just ask yourself this: Is the gospel of Jesus Christ about self-confidence, self-esteem, self-fulfillment, self-image, self-love, self-satisfaction, or “self-anything?” Or is it about denying the self and glorifying God? You already know the answer, don’t you?

Let me say it again. Many Christians today argue that believing in the reality of the historic Jesus is all that is necessary to spend eternity in His glorious heaven. They say, “Just believe and everything will be fine.” They say that commitment and true discipleship are just for a select few. Really? Who? For unbelievers the questions are these:
• Do you want to keep the life you have? Then Jesus says you will lose your life.
• Do you want to possess the things of this world? Then Jesus says you will lose
your soul.
• Do you deny Him before men on this earth? Then Jesus says He will deny you
before His Father in heaven. Where does He say all of these things?
*Luke 9:24-26
24 “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.
25 “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or for-feits himself?
26 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of His holy angels.”

We know Jesus taught many spiritual truths in parables, but He also used paradoxes. A paradox is something that seems unbelievable, contradictory, or absurd but is actually true.

Here is a paradox. I stand here before you a fallen and sinful man whom God has saved and blessed in allowing me to preach and to teach His eternal truths. If I am completely honest with myself, I find that to be a paradox. It’s unbelievable, contradictory, and absurd. And yet, here I stand. But there are far greater paradoxes than this.

One of the reasons unsaved people have such difficulty getting their arms around scriptural truth is that the Bible is filled with paradoxes. In fact, all of the Scripture’s greatest truths about God are paradoxical to the human mind. Here are seven such paradoxes.
Acts 20:35b (We receive through giving.)
35b “…remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Romans 6:18 (We are set free through servitude.)
18 …having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
2 Corinthians 12:10 (We find strength through weakness.)
10 I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
James 4:10 (We are exalted through humility.)
10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
Philippians 3:7-8 (We gain through loss.)
7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ…
Matthew 10:39 (We find through losing.)
39 “He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.”
John 12:24-25 (We live through dying.)
24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
25 “He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal.”

It is these last two points in particular – finding our lives through losing them and living through dying – that Jesus addresses in this passage in Luke’s gospel. In Luke 9:24-26 Jesus tells His disciples what it will cost to follow Him. He tells them what the inevitable consequences will be should they choose not to follow Him. And He makes it clear that merely believing He is God’s Son cannot save them. It may shock some of those who hear that, but it shouldn’t. Just think it through.

It isn’t enough that you acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, that you know who He is. If it were, then why wouldn’t Satan and his demons be saved? They all acknowledge Him. They all know who He is. In fact, they themselves repeatedly testify to Jesus’ deity.
Matthew 8:29
29 “What do we have to do with You, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?”
Mark 1:24
24 “What do we have to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are – the Holy One of God!”
Mark 3:11
11 And whenever the unclean spirits (demons) beheld Him, they would fall down before Him and cry out, saying, “You are the Son of God!”

Are those demonic words testimonies of saving faith? Of course not! They’re testimonies of a belief that is mere intellectual assent. They have nothing whatsoever to do with saving faith. Every demon believes in Jesus, but every one of them is lost and condemned.

There’s no “cheap grace” or “easy-believism” in Luke 9:23-26. There’s no, “Just believe and then go on with your life as though nothing has changed.” There’s no, “I’m willing to be involved but don’t expect me to be committed.” There’s no, “I’ll take the ‘Savior’ part, the part that’s free, but I’m not the least bit interested in the ‘Lord’ part, the part that will cost me something.”

What kind of arrogance and spiritual blindness would make anyone think that Jesus Christ would shed His precious and innocent blood, would lay down His life for someone, and then expect nothing in return? What makes anyone think that Jesus would save them just so they could say something like, “Thanks, pal, now take all your commands and all your expectations for me and let me live my life as I please. I’ll see you in heaven.”?

Someone says, “No one would ever say that.” Maybe not, but there are countless professing Christians who think that way and live their daily lives precisely that way. So I would ask you to think it through. What is salvation if it is not conversion? What is conversion if it is not being turned from sin to holiness and from self to God? How can anyone receive Christ and yet remain a slave to sin? Didn’t Jesus say no one can serve two masters?
The difference between believing in the Deity of Christ and surrendering to His Lordship is as vast as the difference between heaven and hell. While we must believe in Him, we must also receive Him – and not simply as Savior, but as Lord and Savior. We must commit our lives to Him, we must learn to submit ourselves to Him, we must learn to obey Him, and finally, we must learn to live for Him. All of this takes time.

The fact is that you and I cannot identify a brother or sister in Christ by them simply saying, “I have accepted Jesus as my personal Savior” or “I have invited Jesus into my heart.” I am not being harsh when I say that. I am being biblical. It isn’t what they say; it’s what they do. Are they committing themselves to Him, to His people, to His church, and to His commandments? In other words, are they striving to obey their Lord?
John 3:36
36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
Hebrews 5:9
9 And having been made perfect, He (Jesus) became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.

How do you know who your brothers and sisters in Christ truly are? By their fruit! Given time there will be fruit. Real, lasting, and God-honoring fruit is the result of obedience. Obedience is the result of submitting oneself to the Lordship of Christ and His rule in the life of the believer. Yet there are many that “accept Christ” who will never obey Him.

So is it any wonder that countless professing Christians think they have a savior when they don’t have a Lord? What they have is a religion. This “all Savior and no Lord” gospel is exactly what fallen man wants. And since so much of the modern church is bent on giving fallen man what he wants, a savior with no Lord is precisely what it offers. It’s the modern church, preaching the modern gospel that the Apostle Paul told Timothy to expect in the last days. Look with me at the inevitable results of it.
*2 Timothy 3:1-5
1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.
2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,
3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good,
4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God;
5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these.

Jesus tells the disciples that if they want to come after Him, they will have to leave this world behind. They will have to count the cost and pay a price. This is the truth that Jesus gives the disciples in Luke 9:23. In vv. 24-26 He tells them if they do not do so they will have no part with Him. He tells them this in the form of a paradox.
*Luke 9:24
24 “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.

The paradox is this: Do you want to live eternally? Then you’ll have to die temporarily.
*Luke 9:25
25 “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?”

Mark 8:36 says, “…forfeits his soul.” What is your eternal soul worth? It is worth more than this entire world! I know that because this world is passing away. So even if you could somehow gain the whole world, you would be gaining nothing but final death and destruction. Is that all your soul is worth? If that’s all your soul is worth, would Jesus have died for you?
*1 John 2:15-17
15 Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
17 And the world is passing away (dying), and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides (lives) forever.

It is in the last verse of this morning’s text that Jesus speaks of the awful and final outcome for anyone who does not hear and obey these words of His. If you and I will not deny our-selves, daily take up our cross, and give our lives to Him, then He will deny us before His Father. It is no more complicated than that.
*Luke 9:26
26 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

How much explanation does this verse need? Listen, the message of the cross is both foolish and offensive to those who love their sin and the approval of men. But I want the approval of God. Don’t you?
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III. Conclusion
So here is the question for all of us. Will you take up your cross? If the old man (the person you were before you met Christ) doesn’t die – if you don’t consciously and deliberately put to death the person you were – you’ll never be able to take up your cross. Remember, the cross is an instrument of dying and death. Thus, we come to the whole point of today’s sermon and the two that preceded it.

Our calling is to follow Christ. Our commitment is to live for Christ. Our cross is to die for Christ. If you intend to follow Christ, you must commit yourself to Christ.
And if you will genuinely commit yourself to Christ, you will be taking up your cross and dying for Christ every day. In the process you’ll become dead to self and alive to Him. Then – and only then – you’ll be able to say, along with the Apostle Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).”

Turn with me to Romans 6 and we will close. Paul is speaking of our identification with Christ in baptism.
*Romans 6:4-11
4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection,
6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, (so) that our body of sin (the old man) might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin;
7 for he who has died is freed from sin.
8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.
9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.
10 For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Please, dear brother and sister in Christ. Take Luke 9:23 with you today – “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”

~ Pray ~

Please join me at the communion table.
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Today’s Handouts
“What Did Jesus Mean When He Said, ‘Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me’” by Pastor Jack Wellman
“The Pearl of Great Price” by Evangelist Juan Carlos Ortiz
“Dying to Self” by Bill Britton (2002)

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Pastor Jim Timms
Lighthouse Bible Church – Lake Geneva, Wisconsin – 262-949-1007 – www.lighthouselakegeneva.com

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