The View From 1776
Monday, June 01, 2009
Do You Really Want to Follow Jesus?
Jesus’s ministry sets out the path for us.
Pastor Dan Gardner’s sermon at the Cohocton, NY, Assembly of God Church focused on the meaning for each of us in Jesus’s message to his disciples as he revealed to them the full truth of his divine destiny.
His text was Matthew 16:13-28.
13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15"But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
21From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
23Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. 28I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Obviously, Peter did not fully comprehend (verse 22) the Lord’s simultaneous human and divine state on earth, His mission, and His submission to the Will of His Father. Just as Jesus followed God’s Will in taking the sins of the world upon his shoulders and laying down his life, in excruciating suffering, for our salvation, He calls us to follow Him.
That means, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (verse 24)
Denial of oneself means recognition that our personal desires must be put aside when they conflict with what our prayers tell us is God’s will for us. Jesus sets the goal for us in Matthew 26:36-39.
36Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Taking up the cross implies death, not necessarily perishing physically at the hands of those who hate Christianity, but death of the old, self-centered being and spiritual rebirth, softening the heart to the loving Will of God. In the Apostle Paul’s words (Galatians 2:19-20)
19For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
If we do not repent, which means striving to turn away from our sinful ways, we are not followers of Jesus.
Again, in Romans 6:4-11,
4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin