Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 9:21-26 – Total Commitment Or No Commitment

Grace For The Journey

We are studying our way through the Gospel of Luke.  This is what I am committed to at the church I pastor.  I preach or lead studies through books of the Bible, believing it is the best way to learn the Word of God.  Rather than our selecting a topic we wish to talk about and then trying to find verses to back it up – which might lead to our placing ourselves above the text – we submit ourselves to the Bible, reading through it paragraph by paragraph, allowing the Bible to dictate our study – placing ourselves in submission to the text. 

Our goal is to be God-centered

In our worship and daily walk,

And expository preaching and teaching

Through Books of the Bible

Helps us achieve that goal.

When we were last in the Gospel of Luke, we studied the great confession of Peter.  In response to Christ’s question, “Who do you say that I am?”  Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”  We now come Christ’s response to Peter and the disciples.

Perhaps the greatest concern of the modern church in America today is that church buildings all over our country are filled with a great number of people, many of them very good people, who are not followers of Jesus Christ.  And the terrible heartbreak of the matter is that so many of these people do not even know it.  If you asked them, they would say, “Yes, I am a Christian,” or, “Yes, I am a follower of Christ.”  If we then asked, “How do you know you are a Christian?”  or, “On what basis are you a follower of Christ?”  And then we find them saying, “Well you see, a person visited my home and quoted the Bible, and I bowed my head and said, ‘Yes,’” or, “I went forward in a service,” or, “I raised my hand in a revival meeting.”  We then would ask, “Is that all?  Is this the thing upon which you base the eternity of your soul?  Is there nothing else?  Is this all you can say?”  And too often, this is all they can say.

On the one hand, becoming a Christian requires . . .

No more than the exercising of

Simple faith and repentance.

We come to Christ broken and we believe He is who the Bible says He is.  We surrender to Him as Lord.  It happens at a point in time, but . . .

Becoming a Christian is not just

Some decision that is made

In the past as though nothing

Else were required.

If what we did at a certain point in time – whether we bowed our heads or came forward in a service –

If what we did was really

The exercising of simple

Faith and repentance,

Then our lives change.

We begin a journey that is observably different to all who are around us.  We are changed.  We are different.  We have new desires.  We love Jesus Christ and His church and we live for Him.  He is Lord.

Not all who say they are Christians are actually truly Christians.  Preaching and teaching the Word of God is often about taking us back to the Word to correct this problem in order to save souls from everlasting destruction and hell.  Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

I agree with John MacArthur, Jr., who says, “I am really convinced that most popular evangelism today lures people into deception.  It promises a wonderful, comfortable plan for everybody’s life.  It says nothing of a small gate, or narrow way.  Its subject is the love of God, there’s no mention of the wrath of God.  It tends to see people as deprived rather than depraved.  It’s full of compassion and understanding without mention of sin and wrath and judgment.  No summons to repentance, no warning of judgment, no call for brokenness, no expectation of a contrite heart, no desire for sorrow over sin.  It just calls for a moment, a hasty decision, a few words and then some promises of health and happiness and blessing.”

Of course, the irony of this is that  . . .

You and I read the verses of our text

And we see that following Christ is a

Matter of total commitment and surrender.

It is a life decision.  There is nothing in these verses that says anything like, “Just sit in the comfort of your home, bow your head, repeat some words, become a Christian, and then spend the rest of your days doing what you want to do. You do not need to go to church.  You do not need to be baptized.  You do not need to tell anyone else.  You do not need to study and live by the Bible.  That is for the ‘real religious’ people.  You are in.  You are okay.  Just enjoy the wonderful life.”  There is nothing here in these verses that says anything like that.

Rather Jesus says, “You want to follow Me?  See people carrying their cross to their Roman crucifixion?  See the trials and difficulties that await them?  Pick up your cross every single day and follow Me.  You want to follow Me?  You want to save your life?  Forget it.  Lose your life for My sake and you will live.  You want the world?  You want all the pleasantries and niceties and comforts that the world offers?  Fine.  Take them, but you will lose your soul.  Whoever desires to save his life will lose it.  What profit is it if you gain the whole world and lose your soul?  Are you ashamed of Me?  Then I will be ashamed of you.  Following Me is not easy.  It will get tough.  It is a battle.  It’s ‘Total Commitment or No Commitment.’  End of lesson.”

There is nothing in verses 21-26 that says anything about any kind of “easy believeism.” No where do we see Jesus teach that all we need to do is bow our head and repeat some words and nothing else is required.  It is “Total Commitment or No Commitment.” 

Two main truths are taught in this passage.  Let’s look at them together . . .

I. Jesus Christ Was Totally Committed To Our Salvation – Verses 21-22.

Right after Peter’s confession in verse 20, “You are the Christ of God,” Jesus strictly warns the disciples in verse 21 not to tell this to anyone.  Why?  Because at this point to proclaim publicly that Jesus Christ was the Messiah was certain to bring conflict between the Jews and Rome.  Jewish conceptions of Messiah were almost entirely nationalistic and political.  The Jews looked for a messiah the way many voters look for a president.  They looked for someone to save them politically.  As a whole, the Jews – as well as everyone – completely misunderstood the first coming of Christ.  He was not coming to be a political savior, but a spiritual Savior.  So, He tells them what is going to happen in verse 22, “…The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”  Jesus Christ is speaking of Himself.  The designation, “Son of Man,” is Christ’s preferred way of referring to Himself.  He says, “I will suffer many things, be rejected by the three groups of the Sanhedrin, and then I will be killed, and raised the third day.”

One of the truths that surfaces from this statement is . . .

That the cross was no accident.

The cross was part of Jesus’ divine plan.

The grammar even suggests this.  Jesus says, “The Son of Man must suffer.”  It is a divine necessity.  It is in fulfillment of a divine plan.  The Bible says in 1 Timothy 1:15, “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.”  That is why Christ came.  He came to die.

This leads to the other truth that surfaces from verse 22.  Jesus Christ was totally committed to our salvation.  He came to die for us.  The Bible says in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”  Jesus came to lay down His life for us.  He died on the cross for our sins.  Jesus Christ was totally committed to our salvation. 

This means, secondly . . .

II. Our Salvation Requires Total Commitment To Jesus Christ – Verses 23-26.

See how these two truths go together? 

Jesus Christ was totally committed to our salvation;

Our salvation requires total commitment to Jesus Christ. 

He died for us (Verses 21-22); we die to Him (Verses 23-26).

What does total commitment look like?  Four things . . .  

1) We Must Deny Ourselves.

 Jesus Christ says in verse 23, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself.”  What does this mean?  It means we no longer live a self-focused, self-centered life.  Our focus is upward and outward.  Jesus Christ is the center of our lives.

My mom used to say to me, especially when I was a teenager, “Contrary to what you may think, the world does not revolve around you!”  She was right.  That statement could be made about everyone in the universe except Jesus Christ.  Because everything does revolves around Jesus Christ.  This whole book, the Bible, points to Jesus Christ.  This world points to Jesus Christ.  He came to redeem us from sin.

Just look around and you will see our need to be saved from the effects of sin.  This is not a perfect world.  It once was, but Adam brought sin into the world, and we are living in the fallout until Christ returns.  This is why we have natural tragedies, suffering, and death.  Jesus Christ came to redeem us from sin.   

We must deny ourselves.  Denying ourselves means ourselves and our things do not belong solely to us.  We are quick to give ourselves credit.  But Jesus asks us in Luke 10:27, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?”  “What does it profit a man if he lives for this world?   

Secondly . . .

2) We Must Take Up Our Cross Daily.

Jesus says in verse 23, “Take up your cross daily.”  In Jesus’ day, people did not have to look around too long before they saw people carrying their crosses to a Roman crucifixion.  It was not an uncommon sight.  Consequently, this is a good metaphor for following Christ which is – Live a life of self-denial, giving your life up for Jesus Christ, being willing even to die for Him.  Jesus says, “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”  Total commitment or no commitment.

One of the most moving letters I’ve ever read about someone totally committed to Jesus Christ was written by a man named Christopher Love.  Christopher Love was a Welsh, Protestant preacher who was beheaded for an alleged conspiracy against Oliver Cromwell in London, England.  He was beheaded on Tower Hill, the Tower of London, in August of 1651.  During his imprisonment, he wrote many letters to his wife, but perhaps the most moving letter he wrote is the one he wrote to her the day before he was executed.  What would you write the day before you were executed?  Christopher Love’s letter reflects a life of total commitment to Jesus Christ.  Listen as I read a few small excerpts from it:

My most gracious Beloved,

I am now going from a prison to a palace: I have finished my work, and am now going to receive my wages.  I am going to heaven, where are two of my children, and leaving you on earth, where there are three of my babies.  These two above, need not my care; but the three below need thine.  It comforts me to think, two of my children are in the bosom of Abraham, and three of them will be in the arms and care of such a tender and godly mother.  I know you are a woman of sorrowful spirit, yet be comforted, though you sorrows be great for your husband going out of the world, yet your pains shall be the less in bringing your child into the world; you shall be a joyful mother, though you be a sad widow; God hath many mercies in store for you; the prayer of a dying husband for you, will not be lost.  To my shame I speak it, I never prayed for you at liberty, as I have done in prison.  I can write much, but I have few practical counsels to leave with you, namely:

1. Keep under a sound, orthodox, soul searching ministry. Oh! There are many deceivers gone out into the world, but Christ’s sheep know His voice, and a stranger they will not follow.  Attend any minister that teacheth the way of God in truth; and follow Solomon’s advice in Proverbs 19:27.

2. Bring up your children in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord.  The mother ought to be a teacher in the father’s absence, Proverbs 31:1, “The words that his mother taught him…”  And Timothy was instructed by his grandmother, 1 Timothy 1:5.

3. Pray in your family daily, that yours may be in the number of the families who call upon God.

9. Study the covenant of grace, and merits of Christ, and be troubled if you can; you are interested in such a covenant that accepts purposes for performances, desires for deeds, sincerity for perfection, the righteousness of another, namely that of Jesus Christ, as it were your own alone.  Oh! My love! Rest thou in the love of God, the bosom of Christ.

10. Swallow up your will in the will of God.  It is a bitter cup we are to drink, but it is the cup of our Father which has been put into our hands.  When Paul was to suffer at Jerusalem, the Christians said, ‘The will of the Lord be done!’  Oh! Say ye so, when I go to the Tower-Hill,’ The will of the Lord be done!’

11. Rejoice in my joy.  To mourn for me inordinately argues, that you either envy or suspect my happiness.  The joy of the Lord is my strength; Oh! Let it be yours also!

Dear wife, farewell: I will call thee wife no more: I shall see thy face no more: yet I am not much troubled, for now I am going to meet the Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus, to whom I shall be eternally married.

Farewell dear love, and again I say farewell.  The Lord Jesus be with your spirit, the Maker of heaven and earth be a husband to you; and the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ be a father to your children – so prays your dying, your most affectionate friend till death,  Christopher Love, written the day of my glorification, from the Tower of London, August 22, 1651.” 

Do you hear the commitment to Jesus Christ in that letter?  Total commitment or no commitment. 

Thirdly . . .

3) We Must Follow Christ Continually.

Jesus says in verse 23, “Follow Me.”  The verb is in the imperative mood.  Following Christ is not an option.  It is a necessity.  We cannot just “believe Christ” and not “Follow Him.”  The two go together.

There is a false teaching that goes like this, “There are two types of Christians: those who believe Christ and then those who have surrendered to His Lordship.”  No, that is not true.  There is only one Christian . . .

The one who has believed Christ

And surrendered to His Lordship.

Jesus gives us no other option.  He says, “Follow Me.”  It is an imperative.  And the verb is in the present tense.  It suggests continued activity.  Following Christ is a continual endeavor.  True followers continue to follow Christ.  They do not stop.  This truth is accentuated by Christ’s using the phrase, “Take up your cross daily.”

If we are true followers of Christ, then we will seek to follow Him every moment of every day.  It is not just a weekly thing or even twice-weekly thing: go to church Sunday, go Wednesday. 

Following Christ is a life-change that

Results in moment-by-moment following.

This is why we have to question the guy who says, “Sure, I was saved way back in 1975.  Bowed my head and did what the preacher said.  But, I do not go to church.  I do not witness.  I do not read my Bible.”  We want to say, “Then how can you be saved?!”   Christ says “Follow Me.”  Total commitment or no commitment – the difference that Jesus makes as Savior and Lord affects my love for Him and my living with Him. 

Number four . . .

4) We Must Not be Ashamed.

Are you ashamed of Christ?  Do you speak for Christ at work or at school?  Are you ashamed to let others know you are a follower?  If you are ashamed of Christ, verse 26 speaks specifically to you, “of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.”  Can the truly saved be ashamed of Christ?

He was totally committed to our salvation;

Our salvation requires total commitment to Him.

Last year I read John Bunyan’s Christian classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress, through for a second time.  The book is an allegory that describes the life of a Christian, the journey from start to finish, from salvation to glorification.  In an early scene, the main character of the book, whose name is Christian, is learning from another person, whose name is Interpreter.  And the two are watching a scene where people are becoming followers of Christ.  Christian sees heaven and he sees people beginning the journey and he sees some who hold back, afraid to begin the journey.  Then Christian sees one valiant man enter the door to become a Christian.  It is a picture of total commitment, a picture of what true followers of Christ look like and what they will receive in the end.  Listen to it as I read.  Bunyan writes . . .

“I saw also that the Interpreter again took Christian by the hand and led him into a pleasant place, where there was a stately palace, beautiful to behold, and Christian was delighted at the sight.  He saw also, upon the top thereof, a certain person walking, clothed all in gold.  Then Christian said, ‘May we go in there?’  Then the Interpreter led him up toward the door of the palace.  At the door stood a great company of men who desired to go in, but dared not; while at a little distance from the door, at a table, with a book and his pen before him, sat a man taking down the name of any who should enter there.  He saw also that in the doorway stood many men in armor to protect it, ready to do what hurt and mischief they could to the men that would enter.  Now Christian was amazed.

At last, when every man stayed back for fear of the armed men, Christian saw a strong and determined-looking man come up to the man that sat there to write, saying, ‘Set down my name, sir.’  And when he had done this, the man drew his sword and put a helmet upon his head and rushed toward the armed men, who attacked him with deadly force; but the man, not at all discouraged, cut and hacked fiercely.   After he had received and given many wounds to those that attempted to keep him out, he cut his way through them at which there was a pleasant voice heard from those who walked upon the top of the palace, saying: ‘Come in, come in; Eternal glory thou shalt win.’  So he went in and was clothed with garments like theirs.”  (John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress)

It is a picture of what true followers look like and what they will receive in the end.  Jesus Christ wants men and women who will say to the one writing down names in the Book of Life, “Set down my name, sir.”  Put me down.  I am willing to enter into a lifelong battle by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  I know it will not be easy.  I know it is a matter of total commitment or no commitment.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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