Aug 13, 2012

You Really Want to Follow Jesus?

I have been preaching for almost a year now through the Gospel of Luke.  We have been going walking through this gospel asking the question "What is the good news (gospel) that Luke is trying to tell us and how does that affect our lives?"  The past 2 Sundays we have been in one of the most pivotal moments in the gospel in Luke 9:18-27.  At this point in his ministry, Jesus takes his mentorship of the disciples and his requirements for following him to a different level.  He asks the disciples the most important question that everyone has to face in life, "Who do you say that I am?"  Everything in life revolves around getting that answer right.  It's the final exam question that determines whether we pass or fail.  If you get the wrong answer to that question, the rest of your life will be off course with God.

Peter boldly gives the correct answer, "You are the Christ of God."  That answer has multiple layers of implications to it.  If Jesus is not the Christ, the Son of God, then following him is useless.  He was either extremely delusional or deceptive.  However, if Jesus really is the Christ, and you truly believe that, then there are dramatic implications on our lives that follow.  That is why Jesus then gives them the first proclamation of the gospel in verse 22 and then gives them very costly consequences of obedience and following him in verse 23.

Based on this text, I saw three essential elements of true salvation and three essential elements of true discipleship that I preached these past two weeks.

The Essential Elements of True Salvation

1.  True Salvation Requires a Bold Confession of the Person of Christ (verse 18-20) - Just like Peter, we must boldly confess that we too believe that Jesus is the "Christ" of God.  He is the Anointed One.  He is the only begotten Son of God sent from heaven.  He is the sinless Son who came in full obedience to his Father to meet all the righteous requirements of the law and to die in full payment for the sins of man.  We cannot just say that we like Jesus.  We cannot just stop at saying "Yes, Jesus is God's Son", because there are a million other follow-up questions that must be asked.

2.  True Salvation Requires a Deep Conviction in the Gospel of Christ (verse 21-22) - After Peter correctly answered the question about Jesus' personhood, Jesus then gave them a clear proclamation about his work.  We have to fully understand both Jesus person and his work for the gospel to make sense to us.  Jesus tells his disciples that he will be handed over to the religious leaders and killed and rise again three days later.  In Matthew's gospel, he records that at this point Peter tries to interrupt Jesus and tell him that cannot happen. This is not the "Christ" or "Messiah" that Peter and the others had in mind.  It's a reminder that we can know the truth about who Jesus is, but completely miss the truth of what he came to do.  Being truly saved means that we feel a deep conviction in our life about the gospel, that we trust in Christ's payment for our sin, that we by faith fully rely on his work on the cross and trust him as Savior and Lord.

3.  True Salvation Requires a Radical Commitment to Follow After Christ (verse 23-26) - Jesus then ties into the statement about the gospel the radical consequences of those who want to follow him.  He says in essence, "I am going to Jerusalem where they are going to kill me, but I will rise again.  Now, if you want to follow me, forget about yourself, take up your cross, and come on."  This is radical obedience.  And, this is the radical obedience that has been missing for the most part in churches in the American culture for a long time.  I will break these down a little further below in the sermon I preached yesterday.

The Essential Elements of True Discipleship

There are lots of people that like to identify with Jesus somehow.  There are millions in our country that claim allegiance to Christ.  However, it is clear that not all who claim to be "Christians" are truly converted or following him.  Unfortunately,deeply embedded in our American consciousness is the desire to be sovereign over our own lives.  The result is that many try to follow Jesus on their own terms and many churches have become safe havens for the falsely converted and comfortably religious, but lost.  Jesus makes very hefty demands in verses 23-26 on what it truly means to follow him.

1.  True Discipleship Requires a Determined Submission to Follow After Christ (verse 23) - Jesus has already said that the path of following him ends in death and resurrection.  If we want salvation, we have to be willing to die to self and be born again in new life.  Jesus makes this clear when he says if we follow him, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him.  Self-denial means saying "good-bye" to your former life before meeting Christ.  It means putting your agenda in submission to him.  Taking up your cross is not just having to deal with the troubles of this world, but a complete and daily dying to self.  It means daily confessing that "I am crucified with Christ, and I no longer live."  Following him means that we go where Jesus goes.  We don't determine the direction of our lives.

2.  True Discipleship Requires a Complete Surrender to the Cause of Christ (verse 24-25) - Jesus says that we cannot try to live our lives in such a way to accumulate things for our own significance.  If we try to "save" our lives by our own effort, we will lose them.  But if we "lose" our life in complete surrender to Christ, we find true salvation and purpose as God designed us.  He further illustrates this question with a tragic picture of a man who achieves all the earthly success that he is longing for, but has to give up his eternal soul in the process.  We cannot be surrendered to Jesus and sold out to the things of this world at the same time.

3.  True Discipleship Requires a Courageous Identification with the Person of Christ (verse 26) - Finally, Jesus says that we cannot live our lives ashamed to be associated with him.  We must boldly wear the name of Jesus and bear all the consequences of that.  We must face ridicule, rejection, scorn, criticism, slander, imprisonment, persecution, and even death if necessary because Jesus Christ faced all that for us.  We must passionately reject the cultural Christianity of our day that makes Jesus look like a peace-loving hippie and requires nothing to follow him.

What say you?  Have you thought through the dramatic consequences and costs that Jesus gives to follow him?  Or, have you been the victim of a pasteurized Christianity that has been conveniently sanitized of all the demands on our lives?  Truth is, because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross, I really see no other way to respond other than full allegiance and submission to go wherever he goes, to pay whatever it costs to follow him.