“What have you done that you believe in and are proud of?” It’s easy to read a great verse like Luke 9:23, READ, and think being a Christian means to give up doing the fun things that I want and instead live a serious, disciplined life that God wants. That is NOT what it means. Take Riley Sanford for example… (Riley is a young man with YWAM that shared with us earlier in the service his experiences as a Trekker leader in Papua New Guinea.) “Do you [Riley] find yourself having any fun at all as you follow Christ?” To find the greatest meaning in life, choose the way of God. It is not an easy path, but it is the only path that gives ultimate purpose.
Take a look at Luke 9:21. READ. Mysterious words. READ. I think the point Jesus is making is all about timing. The time will come when the disciples will be released to shout from the mountain tops the good news of salvation of Jesus Christ, but for now he wants them to understand what the confession of Christ means. Confession and response to go together.
Jesus is like a coach with players. A football coach could show inspiring film of great plays and great teams, and that might fill the players with passion and enthusiasm to win a championship, but until they get on the field and practice, until they actually block real opponents, catch a real pass, they are not ready. This lesson is about the need to get on the playing field. “Jesus strictly warned them to not tell this to anyone” because he wants confession in Christ to go hand in hand with the transformation of our daily lives. We need to put the walk to our talk…how you treat people, the sacrifices you make to serve others, the responsibilities you take on.. are the things that show the world what you believe… children follow the example of parents more than the words. The world is watching what we do as Christians more than what we say. Peter confesses Jesus is the Christ ~ now Jesus is saying get on the playing field!
There is a price to put hands and feet on what you believe. READ 9:22. Jesus is preparing the disciples for what it means for HIM to walk his talk. To live out your faith in Jesus means you will be asked to sacrifice. Could you imagine if Riley Sanford was preparing a group for a trek and he forgot to mention their might be spiders the size of basketballs ~ and a giant spider suddenly landed on your head? Be forewarned: the walk of faith is not always easy. For example. ~ we are fools if we as Christians in this country do not consider the real possibility that there will be a major attack in the U.S. by Muslim extremists. When that day comes we must be ready to stand up for our faith even if it means persecution, hardship, even loss of life for our faith. We have been pampered in this country. My prayer is that we don’t just wither on the vine and die in shame and fear when our faith is tested. Jesus suffered and died. You and I will be asked to do that which we would rather not do. And that something I would rather not do, putting aside my own self desire, will give me the greatest sense of rightness, satisfaction, something I can be proud of and believe in…
Faith in Jesus comes with a price. READ Luke 9:23. Some of you remember the old Nooksack Campground. As the land was being prepared for development, there was a time that the old 6 sided tabernacle was offered for sale for a token $1 ~ essentially nothing. But would it be free? YES. But NO. The building was free but it comes with a price. A cost to move, reconstruct, maintain. Yet free.
Making a full commitment to Jesus Christ is something like that ~ completely free, Jesus didn’t even ask a dollar ~ he paid the full price by dying on the cross to forgive your sins. It costs you nothing. Yet to fully believe means your life will change. Following Christ costs nothing, it costs everything! I like this little story: A missionary society wrote to David Livingstone and asked, "Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to know how to send other men to join you." Livingstone wrote back, "If you have men who will come only if they know there is a good road, I don't want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all." ~ Good News Broadcaster
Whoever wants to follow me must deny themselves. The priorities of Christ for your life comes first. You can’t answer the question, “What have you done that you believe in and are proud of?” with a response about how much money you made last year in the stock market. The most satisfying answers are about making a difference to others, helping the world…this week I met with a handful of people including the superintendent of the NV school district, Mark Johnson, and we brainstormed ways to begin a mentor program for kids in difficult situations. So far just talk, but as we put walk to that talk I am going to be proud. Deny yourself, live for others.
BTW, as I was considering this verse, it occurred to me that the idea of denying myself also applies to the church. Let’s forget about us, and live to give ourselves away as a church. We are called to deny ourselves… as Christian practice Kingdom work, the world will be better served.
Pick up your cross: Your cross is that which you would not choose. Your cross is that which goes against your instincts. As you are faced with opportunities, when the Lord speaks to you, you know in your heart the walk he is calling you to take. Sometimes we talk about our cross as putting up with the annoyances of our live, the snoring of our spouse, the barking dog next door, but those are not crosses, that is life! Crosses are the opportunities to serve the Lord by serving others in ways that may not benefit you directly. (But they do!)
Cross bearing for Jesus is a daily choice. Notice the word “daily” in Luke 9:23. Just as I choose everyday what I will eat, everyday choices, every day I must dedicate to Jesus, “what would you have me do in this situation, Lord?” Often we get concerned about God’s will for our lives. When we ask that question it usually means the big things, the job, the place to live, the person to marry… but this verse is about living God’s will on a daily basis.
You’ve heard the old joke about the husband who says he and his wife decided to split the decision making in their marriage: she makes all the little decisions and he makes the big decisions. So far, he says, “there haven’t been any big decisions.”
In a marriage, that is silly, but in following God and knowing his will is a daily discipline, a daily decision. Dedicate your life to following God in all the little daily commitments and the big decisions will take care of themselves. The choices may be the same, but somehow when you commit daily to following the Lord the big decisions can be made with more confidence. My advice to people who are confused about the big decisions of life and what God wants: make a deliberate effort to dedicate every day to walking with the Lord, to picking up the cross daily for God, to serve God by serving others… Walk with God daily and somehow the big transitions just happen without as much worry, because you just know. You are used to picking up the cross and following God DAILY.
Living by faith daily will turn your world upside down. READ Luke 9:24-25. Lose your life and you will find the abundance of life that God intends for you. One of our ancient family stories growing up is that we kids did not want to go and see The Sound of Music in the theater. It was a brand new movie that sounded dopey and hokey with music, dancing, singing, dull and boring. Our parents were so mean they made us go. And we loved it! That’s what it is like with Christ, his calling may go against your instincts, will sound hard, beyond your ability, yet when you finally submit you will find purpose, satisfaction: Lose YOUR life, for the life Christ wants for you, and you will find an amazing life.
Have you done anything recently that you are proud of and believe in? when you DAILY Choose to follow Christ you will have an answer for that question! Luke 9:25 is a straight-forward question with an obvious answer. READ. If you focus your life to attain worldly goals, the end result is a hollow life. Nothing sadder to see a man work hard to gain money, vacations, power, status…and when at last he finally gains what he worked so hard to achieve, not find the satisfaction he thought it would bring. The World’s values are a dead end!
LUKE 9:26 confirms that the hard path of following Christ in this world results in a glorious future. The end of the story of following Christ is not suffering, not persecution, but the end of the story is glory. READ. There is coming a day when all will see the glory of Jesus Christ, a coming day of victory. May this promise be another word of encouragement to take the daily difficult path the Lord calls us to follow.
I am not sure at all of the fullness of what Luke 9:27 means, but at the least it is an affirmation that as you daily deny your own desires, you will see the Kingdom, your eyes will be open, you will be able to see beyond the heartaches and troubles of this world to the coming day of the fullness of God’s kingdom. I like the question, “What have you done that you are proud of and believe in?” That’s a great question. But how about asking the question this way: “What have you seen of God’s Kingdom work that amazes you? That humbles you? That changes you? That you would give your life for?”
I loved Annie Glass’s father George Teshera. Years before he died, he should have retired. His health was failing, but he kept on going for years and years, back to the mission field, back to world traveling, back to serving in faraway countries. At first Annie and Bev tried to scold him to take care of himself, but he was a stubborn man and would not listen. These weren’t his words, but this was his attitude: “I would rather die serving the Lord than live not serving him.” George Teshera could see the Kingdom, he could see beyond the difficulties before him and focus on the coming Kingdom as if it is the here and now.
As we daily choose to follow the Lord, may we see with clear vision the Kingdom of God. What a stressful week this county has had. The worlds of many families have been rocked, never to be the same. What a stressful world. I refuse to give up, I refuse to give in. Can’t you see the coming restoration of God? the restoration of people? a measure of hope that will lift up the eyes of the discouraged and bring peace to those in turmoil? Sometimes I get tired, but you know what! I can do more! Whenever the Bible talks about the Coming Kingdom of God, that means there is a coming KING. And that King is Jesus. It’s not hard to pick up your cross when you know the King is Coming. It’s not hard to deny your own desires and put the focus on the KING. He is Coming! Amen. He is Coming Again!
Truth has hands and feet. The convictions of our heart are lived out in our daily world. Every day, serve the Lord as a first priority. Keep focused on the coming King and Kingdom. Your world will be turned upside down, and you will have an exciting answer to the question: “What have you done that you believe in and are proud of?” Amen. So Be It.