WE FOLLOW CHRIST FOR WHAT HE GIVES
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
September 16, 2012
 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he 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.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?  For what can a man give in return for his soul?  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.”
-- Mark 8:34-38, ESV
Most of the people of the world know the name Jesus Christ. With their mind, they believe in Him. But the vast majority of them are not Christians. Most of the people in the world have a favorable opinion of Jesus Christ. With their hearts, they would even say they love Him. But the vast majority of them are not Christians.
Only a few people in the world -- a remnant, a small percentage, a chosen few – are truly Christians. With an enlightened mind, they really know Jesus Christ. With a regenerate heart, they really love Jesus Christ. Because, with a will made free by the grace of God, they follow and obey Jesus Christ with all of their mind, heart, and soul.
Christians follow Christ not only for who He is, and for what He has done, but also for the things that only He can give. Jesus said so, in Mark 8:34-38.
Jesus Gives Order and Makes Demands
A raunchy movie came out a few years ago called Horrible Bosses. All three main characters had bosses they considered to be, well, horrible. Most people think their bosses are horrible because most people think any boss at all is a horrible thing. Human nature dictates that regular people don’t like anyone bossing or telling them what to do.
This makes being a Christian very hard. If you confess Him, He is Lord; i.e. He is boss. If you accept Him, He is Redeemer; in other words, He owns you and you are His bondslave. If you follow Him, He rules the road and calls the shots. Jesus, above all other authorities, has the right to give orders to the world, and especially to His church (see John Piper’s excellent book, What Jesus Demands of the World, which has 50 chapters!).
When Jesus got ready to give orders concerning the gospel, He called all the people together with His twelve disciples (ref. vs. 34). This means that what He said is not just for leaders or super-Christians, but for anyone who simply wishes to be a simple Christian. His demands upon the world are no more and no less than what He has done for the world, which is, namely, everything. “Come after Me,” Jesus said, into the Christ life, the Christian life. It is a life characterized by the renewed will to suffer and sacrifice, give up your very life, and claim the very great rewards that come with very great costs.
Jesus demands suffering and sacrifice when He said a Christian must “deny himself.” Do not confuse self-denial and denial of self. Self-denial is when we skip a meal, give up something for 40 days for Lent, or some other well-meaning and short-term sacrifice. Denial of self is a long-term, permanent commitment of surrendering your rights and control to Christ, His Spirit, and His word. Prisoners and Christians have one great thing in common. They both lose their rights. Yet prisoners are penalized for their sins, while Christians are pardoned for theirs. But those truly pardoned are more than willing to become prisoners for Christ.
Jesus demands total sacrifice, even of one’s life, when He said a Christian must “take up his cross.” Jesus’ Jewish followers and Mark’s original Roman audience were well acquainted with the death march. From Fortress Antonio to Calvary Hill, Jesus carried His cross. From new birth to final breath, the Christian is called to do the same. You have a short time to live. You have one overarching purpose. Living like you are dying means magnifying Christ and the Christian faith, moving according to the rhythms of the Holy Spirit and Holy Scripture, and never letting go of the One who will never let go of you. Only those who are willing to die have the willpower to really live the abundant and eternal life.
Jesus demands a living sacrifice when He said a Christian must “follow Me.” These two words are the gospel call in a nutshell. Christ seldom articulated the demand to “Know Me,” or “Love Me,” but many times He said, “Follow Me.” That is why to be truly Christian, you must trust in Jesus with your mind, confessing who He is, trust in Jesus with your heart, accepting Him for what He has done, and follow Him with your will, with your whole life, following Him for what He alone can give: abundant and eternal life.
Jesus Gives Abundant and Eternal Life
For those who give their “life” (ref. vs. 35) and “soul” (ref. vs. 36-37) to Christ, there are the great rewards of abundant and eternal life. Actually, the English words translated “life” and “soul” is actually the same original word. And the abundant and eternal life you receive from God at the moment of salvation is one and the same life. It is a life that is meaningful, purposeful, rich, and abundant. And, it is a life that is eternal with God.
Here and now, there is the opportunity to live your life abundantly without having to be “ashamed” (ref. vs. 38). Shame is a powerful and valid emotion that no one wants. Yet there are only three ways to avoid it. Ignore it, by plunging headlong into this “adulterous and sinful generation” (ref. vs. 38), a generation that claims nothing is wrong except saying something is wrong. That’s wrong! Or, hide it, sweep your sin and shame under the rug and hope it just goes away. That’s wrong, too, because hiding it will only make it worse. Instead, bury your sin and shame by never being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, never being ashamed of the Christian life and all that comes with it, and never being ashamed that your sin and shame has been nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ, forgiven, and remembered no more by God!
Oh yes, and there’s one more reward – eternal “glory” (ref. vs. 38). What is the weight of glory? What is the Christian life really worth? The glory of all earthly things is fleeting. The gross domestic product (GDP) of the USA is 16 trillion dollars. The GDP of the whole world is about 60 trillion dollars. A soul, your soul, is worth more and will last longer. Let me ask you some questions: who was the richest man in the world in 1990? Who won the Super Bowl in 2000? Who was Miss America in 2010? Real glory, God’s glory, is more valuable than any glory on earth and can never, never be taken away once it is received. And this glory, given by God to every true follower of Jesus Christ, is to be enjoyed forever in a real and eternal place called Heaven.
Angels will be there. All the saints of all times will be there. Your loved ones who have died in the Lord will be there. Most of all, the Son of God who became the Son of Man for us will be there. Jesus, and the abundant and eternal life He gives, is the great reward for those who have confessed the Lord Jesus Christ for who He is, accepted Him for what He has done, and who follow Him for what He alone can give.