KEY TEXT: Mark 8:34-35 And he called to him the crowd with his disciples and said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.”
KEY THOT: Jesus’ call to all who would be his disciples is to be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice: "whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it." This call is absolutely counter-cultural to our post-modern self-indulgent culture. For churches that exalt grace above works, Jesus’ call sounds uncomfortably like “works” rather than grace. Some of these churches have chosen to ignore the four Gospels and Revelation totally in their preaching. Instead, they focus on Paul’s “grace” gospel in his epistles. But Jesus cannot be preaching works, for he came to preach grace. So John 1:17 affirms, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
So, Jesus’ call to discipleship is part of his message of grace, for it is only by grace that we can obey Jesus’ call to (1) “deny himself” (saying no to self-centred lifestyle); (2) “take up his cross” (saying yes to suffering and death); (3) “follow me” (saying yes to imitating Christ’s lifestyle and ministry). If we want to experience the saving power of God’s grace in our lives fully, we must be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for Christ—to lose our lives for Jesus’ sake and the gospel’s sake.
Jesus suffered and died on the Cross for us not only as a sin-substitute so that we can be forgiven and be reconciled to God but also as an example for us to follow as true sons and daughters of God. Some churches teach that since Jesus’ sacrifice and suffering is on our behalf, we now get to enjoy only the good part--meaning, we don't have to suffer but rather can enjoy a life of ease and abundance with no guilt. But if we look at the Christians in Iraq/Syria and elsewhere who have made the ultimate sacrifice, it simply confirms that we must be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice when confronted with death: “Mark 8:38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
The ultimate sacrifice that we are called to make is not to give up a life of ease and abundance but to give up our lives for the sake of Jesus and his gospel. It’s only when we are busy proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom that Satan will stage a counter-attack. When confronted with such evil enemy of the Cross, we must be prepared to resist it, telling the devil to “get behind me, Satan!” The enemy is not believers who disagree with us—the enemy is the devil.
Father, thank You for the victory of the Cross over the devil and evil. Thank You that as we proclaim the Gospel, the kingdom of darkness is pierced and exposed and the captives are set free. May we be ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. Amen.