“Deny the Self, Take Up the Cross, Follow Jesus”
16 September 2018
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist churches
Mark 8:27-38 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=403758914)
Good theater has three acts.
A great sermon has three points.
Jesus teaching the crowd with his disciples,
“If any want to become my followers,
Let them deny themselves
And take up their cross
And follow me,”
Is pure gold. (8:34)
Jesus is using a technique called an If-Then Statement,
He states a hypotheses and follows it with a conclusion.
This is also known as a Conditional Statement.
As if casting a wide net in search of volunteers he says
IF any want to become my followers,
THEN deny self, take up their cross, and follow me.
This approach is the foundation for classical logic and geometry,
Legislation, law making and interpretation.
Today, If-Then conditional statements are
Even an essential skill for computer science and programming.
Using If-Then Statements are fundamental for constructing an Excel spreadsheet.
Teaching with this technique is bold.
It’s also revealing.
This approach reveals an inner self-confidence
In who Jesus is,
What he intends to do,
And how he will change the world.
Let’s connect the dots.
Let’s connect the hypotheses with the conclusion.
I. Deny the Self
“Who do people say that I am?” (8:27)
Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” (8:29)
Jesus reveals that he is the Messiah,
Not the Messiah the world had been waiting for,
But the Messiah which God poured into the world
For the world’s forgiveness and salvation.
Denying myself is all about
Assuming my God appointed role
In my relationship with God and with my neighbors.
Denying the self is all about eating some humble pie,
Checking the ego and pride,
And putting words to action.
Loving neighbors means serving them;
Assisting them to meet their needs before my own.
Denying myself is all about
Authentic, servant leadership;
Service before self.
Loving God means serving God;
Assisting God to spread the Gospel and Kingdom to all the world.
Denying myself is all about making
Loving God and
Serving God a higher priority
For my time, talent, and treasure
Than anything else of this world.
My challenge to you is this in the coming week:
Make a list of every time you’ve intentionally placed service before self,
Service to God and service to our neighbors,
Before serving your own self-interest.
Make a list and post it on your refrigerator.
It will help keep you accountable.
It will help keep you following Jesus.
II. Take Up the Cross
Jesus underwent great suffering and rejection.
He was killed and three days later he rose again,
Just as he predicted and taught. (8:31)
A common denominator of the human experience is suffering.
Suffering works its way around to everyone, given time.
It’s painful to see the suffering of others,
To experience our own aging, frailty, and pain,
And finally, to endure unto death.
It’s hard to put a positive spin on suffering.
What Jesus is suggesting in the conditional teaching
About his predicted suffering is that
Suffering affords followers of Jesus
An opportunity to make a connection
Between our suffering
And the suffering of Jesus
During his passion and death.
That terrible left shoulder pain I’m going through
Makes me wonder how much Jesus’ shoulders must have ached
As he hung on the cross.
The mourning and grief I feel after my loved one died
Must have been like that of Mary, the mother of Jesus, at the foot of the cross.
The finality of death
Made real during funeral planning
Must have been brought home
When the body of Jesus was taken from the cross
And cleaned and prepared for burial.
Associating our suffering with the suffering of Jesus
Is a special kind of divine invitation
Into a deeply personal relationship
Between Jesus and yourself.
Through this lens,
Jesus is teaching us that even suffering
Is a gift of God’s grace and love for the world.
III. Follow Jesus
Lose your life for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel
And your life will be saved. (8:35)
I’ll not be the one to judge
Where you place your priorities,
But God will.
I’m not perfect, though I’m striving for perfection.
Come, let us strive together
For a more noble purpose;
To follow Jesus,
Share his love,
And to spread his Gospel.
In my life,
Following Jesus and his teaching is more important than:
1. Hanging out with friends
2. Watching the Bills game
3. My supervisors, my supporters, and my detractors
4. Buying a new car or house
5. Moving up in my career or taking a new job
6. Perfect attendance at school or scoring a 100 on a test
7. Good health and a long life
8. Retiring early
How about you?
Can you make a list of your priorities?
Where you like to spend most of your time?
Where you are willing to spend most of your money?
What can you de-prioritize in your life
And substitute in Jesus in its place?
Are you willing to sacrifice everything,
Even your very own life,
All for Jesus,
All for his Gospel?
Beloved members and friends
Make Jesus first.
Keep Jesus first.
Promote Jesus first.
That’s what it means to follow Jesus.
That’s the path forward.