Helping you grow closer to God
Download the Chip Ingram App
Real Discipleship Resources on sale now.
About this series
How Jesus Chose to Change the World
What does it mean to be a real disciple of Jesus? Through this new series based in the Gospel of Mark, Chip breaks down this complex idea, by using the simple lessons Jesus taught His followers. We'll learn how characteristics like commitment, humility, and trust - set genuine Christ followers apart. Chip helps us better understand how we can avoid sin, grow in our walk with Christ, and just as important, help others mature in their faith as well. Don't miss how real disciples of Jesus, can radically change our world.More from this series
See, here’s the temptation. Peter was being used by Satan to tempt Christ, to tempt Jesus to come up with a plan that would eliminate the cross.
What he wants is: I want Jesus without the cross. And trust me, it sells. See, I want You to make me a head honcho over the Romans. I want You to make my marriage work out. I want You to straighten out my struggling children. I want You to help me through these difficult issues. I want You to get my finances back in order. I want You to make me happy and fulfilled.
And Jesus says, I’ve been God of the universe for some time now. And, see, the way this works, Peter, is I say what happens and I tell you where I am going, and you get the choice of whether following Me or not. And where I’m going, there’s a cross. There’s also crowns. But I’m not going to lie to you. To get to the crowns you’ve got to go through the crosses. They always go together.
And Peter basically was saying was, “I want You, Jesus, but I don’t want the road that has crosses and suffering and rejection and possibly death.” I don’t want that part of Christianity. And Jesus rebukes him with the hardest rebuke in the New Testament and says, “There is no other Christianity. There is no other road anyplace that has to do with the real Jesus Christ that doesn’t have crosses.” And we would be good to hear that today.
The same girl that I thought I might marry at one time, we got pretty serious and you never know how serious it is, but you’re twenty and it seems really serious then. And she visited my house and I visited her house. And she came up with this idea.
She said, “You know, that house right across from my folks has a white picket fence and my dad rents that out and we have talked, and I have told him we are serious. And his plan is that we could come to this small town and we could live there happily ever after. And you wouldn’t have to worry and he’s kind of a big guy in the community and you could get a good job. It’s kind of a nice package deal.”
And then she said, “You know, this thing about being a Christian. Do you have to be a disciple?” Now, this is the same year where my spiritual leader is saying, “Are you willing to go for broke or not?” And then the girl that at least as best I can say I love is saying, “You know, let’s eliminate the cross. Let’s just have this nice, happy, comfortable life. Let’s get out of the commitment side of Christianity.”
And we went our separate ways and we never had a big argument and we never had a big fight. I had to choose between the Jesus with the cross or playing like I had Jesus without it.
Where are you at? Where are you tempted? Do you want the Jesus who can just kind of work your life out and make things nice or do you really want the Jesus who says, “If you really want real crowns, supernatural power, and impact, and intimacy with Me it means you’ll suffer. It means you’ll be rejected.” And it means, in many parts of the world and possibly here later, that you may die. I wonder if the average Christian were Star Trek transported into China today, and if we had to line up and they said, “Okay, how many Christians are there?” Oh, and then we would all raise our hands. “Great. Line up against this wall, we shoot you, the people who are not Christians, get in this wall.” Which wall would you get up?
It’s not hypothetical. Which wall would you line up against? Jesus is saying on the front end, You want to be My follower? Push all the chips to the front of the table. This is a fish or cut bait. You have seen the miracles, you know I love you, you know I have power, you have seen I care for you, you know I’ll feed you, I will come to you. When your life is in a storm I’ll come, I’ll do. But this is a call to lordship.
Now, notice how the call intensifies now. The third question, now we know where He’s going, Peter is not real excited about it. Quite honestly, a lot of times neither are we.
And He asks you and I, “Are you willing to follow Me? Are you willing to follow Me on this road?”
There are not a lot of Christians that want to go down this road. See, we falsely think our way is a better way. Let’s listen, because He is going to give us three requirements to follow Him, and then He is going to give us three of the greatest reasons you’ll ever hear to follow Him with all your heart.
Let’s start with the requirements. He outlines them in verse 35 through 38. “For whoever wants to save his life,” not his physical life. That would be bios. We get our word biology from it. But this is whoever wants to save his inner life, his real life, the seat of emotions. We get our word for psychology. Psyche, is the word here.
“Whoever would want to save your life,” your real life, the real you, “will lose it, but whoever,” He goes on to say, “will lose his life for My sake will save it.” Now, just before that, that goes on to the reasons, but listen to the requirement. “If anyone would come after Me,” you want to follow, the word means to desire, look at the requirements before we get into the other. “He must,” A, negative command, “deny himself.” It’s generic. It means for a woman: deny herself. This word means to say no to self-interest, to say no to selfish ambition, to say no to earthly security – it is to deny yourself, contrary, contrary word. It means sacrificially say no to you being the center of your world and making decisions through the grid of: Will this make me happier, healthier, wealthier, wiser? Which is how we tend to make our decisions.
Will this make me more secure, more successful? Will this give me greater prestige? He says you and I have to say no to that. That’s tough. Because unconsciously we say, I’ve got to have this, I’ve got to be here, I’ve got to have this kind of influence, I’ve got to be married or not married, I’ve got to have so many kids in order for me to be happy. And He says you and I need to call a major time out, get serious with God, and say, Look, God, I choose willfully. It’s a tense that says at a point in time. I choose at this point in time in my life to say no to my dreams and agendas for my life.
And now the positive, “And take up your cross,” also the tense is in a point in time. And that’s the positive. To say no to self-interest and to say yes to Your agenda and Your will for my life.
Notice He didn’t say to take up His cross. You don’t need to go get a cross and walk around and hope you die from it. This isn’t some masochistic text. What was the cross for Jesus? It was the will of God. That was God’s will for His life. He wants you to take up your cross. You know what your cross is? It’s not dealing with an aching back, it’s not a mother-in-law that is giving you problems, it’s not financial setbacks. Your cross is the will of God. The cross is: I want to do God’s agenda instead of orchestrate life to get my agenda. That’s what the cross is.
And He says negatively you have to say no to that, and you have to say yes to Him. It’s like writing a check and you put your name on the bottom. For me, I write Chip Ingram. And on the top I say, “God, You fill it in.” You fill in whether You want me married or not. You fill in where You want me to live. You fill in what kind of job. You fill in my cars or lack of cars. You fill in the relationships. You do whatever You want to do; I trust You. I trust you.
He’s saying, Absolute loyal commitment to Me and My agenda. Take up your cross for – what? For Me and the sake of the gospel. These are strong words, people. And then the next part is in the present continuous tense. “And follow Me.” It means to start following and continue to follow on with Him.
And I did a little research on this, what’s interesting, this is not a picture of following behind Him. He is saying, Follow Me on this road in fellowship together and walking side-by-side. Come and make a decision to follow the path that I am on. And what was the path that Jesus was on? “God, I don’t want to go to this cross, but nevertheless, not My will, but Yours.” Choose to do God’s will like I have chosen to do the Father’s will. My presence, My intimacy, My empowering will be with you all along the way.
This is a radical call to sacrifice and commitment of one’s absolute life to the person and the purpose of Jesus Christ. It is not unlike the marriage commitment that we make. Isn’t that basically what we do in a marriage? Isn’t that what it is? Don’t you say, “I make a radical commitment, say no to all others, it’s for life, it’s out of love, it’s to one person, and it’s for better or for worse”? This is what Jesus is asking if you would desire to come after Him.
I had a good friend in fact, he was a best man in my wedding, good guy, he’s been a pastor in a small little community church in the rural parts of Ohio. And it has really been frustrating. He comes from an ethnic background, and he just does not fit there.
And he’s got the kind of background and education that there are ministries that God could use this guy in a mega way. And so, he’s dealing with that and we got talking. And as we were talking, he says, “Chip, gosh, I’m going to relocate.” And I said, “What do you think God wants you to do and I’ll pray?” He said, “Well, I can only relocate to the southeastern part of the United States.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Well, my in-laws are really close to their daughter and now that we have a baby and they only live an hour away and we can never move beyond this area here or move this area here or that area here because they have to be so close to them.”
And I wouldn’t say this to someone off the street. I know this guy, I love this guy, and I looked him straight in the eye and said, I said, “Brother, you’ve got a lordship problem.” I said, “You don’t ever come to God and you tell Him what part of the United States you want to live.”
You don’t ever come to God and tell Him whether you’re going to be married or not. You don’t ever come to God and tell Him you have to have this job, this job, this job, or this kind of house. You don’t ever come to God and call the shots.
I said, “Brother, if you want to hear from God, you better come to Him with your hat in your hand and say, ‘Lord, I am willing to do and go wherever.’ And until you get there, you won’t hear.”
Because that is what Jesus is talking about. Now, hopefully at some of this point some of you are saying, “Oh my gosh, this sounds kind of scary.”
Now let’s, let’s think this through. He’s asking for absolute commitment just like to a marriage partner, but He’s the God of the universe. Man alive. Here are the reasons, verse 35. “For whoever wants to save his life,” and I have already explained this because I jumped ahead, “will lose it. But whoever will lose his life, will save it.”
He is saying, Here’s the philosophy of life. Here’s a practical illustration. If you try and orchestrate your own life and live out your own agenda and get all you can, He said what you’re going to end up is a loser. He says, But if you will absolutely follow Me and give your life away and serve sacrificially and let Me call the shots, you’ll be a winner.
He is saying the only road to ultimate fulfillment is this way. It’s a paradox. The way up is down. The way to get is to give. Is to be a radical, sacrificial Christian. He said that’s where true fulfillment is. If you don’t believe it, go to a rest home. There are only three kind of people in rest homes. People who don’t know why they are there and don’t know much about life and it’s very sad. And there are people who have given their life away and they are rich, winsome, and the great majority of them are believers. And they have this peace and energy and they are people who have people who visit them.
And there are people who have tried to get all their life. And they have manipulated children and they have guarded money and they have been selfish, and they are bitter, wicked, angry people in rest homes.
If you have ever, never been around an old, bitter person, you have never lived. And you know what you need to understand? If you try and, if you and try and do it your way, you will end an old, bitter person. You’ll lose your life! If you give it away, if you follow Him with unreserved passion, you will find your life.
Second reason. The first one is practical, this is logical. He says, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world,” become financially well off, “and yet forfeit his soul,” his inner man, his real life, his meaning. “Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” He uses three commercial, economic terms there.
And here He’s saying is that it’s the wisest road in light of eternity. When you get an eternal perspective, and see that your life is going to be balanced not by how much you own or what you have or what people think or how much prestige or how you dress. All that jazz that we are all convinced is really pretty important down deep.
When you can look at that in light of eternity, He says, Like, how much is eternal life worth? When you stand before God on judgment day, would you give a million for it? Two million? Five million? Fifty cents? He is saying, Look at this! The wisest step you’ll ever take, both now and for later is – what? Absolute radical commitment to Him.
Boy, the picture of that, I don’t know how many have seen, have you ever seen the Howard Hughes, the story of Howard Hughes? You talk about a guy who gained the whole world and lost his. Man, he was a weird dude. And by the very end, he was in the dark and had these long fingernails and couldn’t touch anybody and he had no relationships and died a decrepit man who owned probably more than anyone. That’s the picture the Bible paints.
Third reason is this. First is practical, the next is logical, and the last one is an issue of the future. “If any man,” or, “anyone is ashamed,” shrinks back, unwilling, “is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation,” the world that we live in, “the Son of Man,” the Messiah, “will be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
The reason to follow Christ, it’s the only road to ultimate fulfillment, it’s the wisest road in light of eternity, and this last one, it’s the essential road in view of future judgement. The day will come, people, when you and I will stand before the Messiah and what did we start out saying? You will make some decisions that will significantly affect the entire outcome of your life.
And you’re going to stand before Jesus and I’m going to stand before Jesus and He is coming back and He is going to look you in the eye and He’s going to say not just, “Did you know Me?” But He’s going to ask you, “What did you do with your life?” And for some people, this is not going to be a happy meeting, because they were ashamed and they shrunk back and they lived their agenda instead of God’s. And Jesus will be ashamed of you. That’s a scary thought. If Jesus Christ would walk up to you today and look you in the eye and say, “Who do you say that I am?” Can you say, “You’re my Savior”? If not, pray right now and say, “Come into my life. Forgive me. I have sinned.”
The second question is if He asked you, “Well, you have heard if you follow Me there will be suffering, rejection, and possibly death, but a crown! Are you willing to follow on My road with Me? Are you willing to deny yourself, take up your cross, for Me and the gospel?”
What are you going to do? What are you going to do with the rest of your life?