Matthew 16:24-28


“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it:  and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.  For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?  For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.  Verily, I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”


Short-Term Missions


“Chapter 16, again if you’re visiting for the first time, I would just like to welcome you.  There are also little cards in the back of some of the seats in front of you.  If you feel led, you’re welcome tell us a little bit about yourself, your information if you so choose, you’re welcome to do that.  And if you’d even like to leave a prayer request.  There are folks that come here on Tuesday mornings who pray for those cards, so if there’s an area that we can be praying for you, we certainly will do that.  Just let us know on one of those cards.  And what you do is, after you fill it out, there’s what we call Agape boxes, you can just deposit those in those little Agape boxes.  This last week I had the privilege, you know I mentioned last Sunday that a few pastors, a couple pastors invited me to go down with them to Mississippi and the Gulf Coast, New Orleans.  Maybe you were here on Wednesday night, I showed some of the pictures, most of the pictures that I had, and then Friday night as we did a prayer gathering there at the Best Western, which I thought was a really sweet time, I also showed some of the pictures.  But we went down, and just by the work of the Lord, seeking to strategize and plan, you know, how we might as churches up here in New England and in other parts of the country just reach out at such a time [after the devastation of hurricane Katrina] and minister to the hurting.  So we went down to just kind of feel things out, meet with some contacts that we already had, and it was a God-led trip, that’s for sure.  I was tempted to show you the pictures this morning, but in the end felt led not to do it.  But boy, what a disaster-zone, that’s just, I have never seen anything like it, just the suffering and the damage is really incredible.  And there is months and months of opportunity for churches around this country to just love people and give them ‘the cup of cold water’ and to reach out to them and help them, and on and on an on.  And we’ll keep you posted, there are teams going from this church, there is Uncasville today, you can keep them in prayer, Calvary Chapel Uncasville, in Uncasville Connecticut, they’re sending a team today, they’re also sending a team next Sunday, and they’re going for a week.  Then come October we’ll also dove-tail with some of those teams and send some of our folks.  If you feel led to go, really it’s not all that expensive to go.  Couple hundred bucks will get you there, flying down, I think our tickets were pretty cheap, about $250.  And then to stay there is relatively inexpensive because a lot of this stuff is, where we’re working with the distribution of the meals, and all that, so the food is there, and sleeping on a church floor isn’t too expensive, it tends to be pretty cheap, or in a tent, those are usually pretty cheap to sleep in.  So overall it shouldn’t be too expensive.  You could probably go just for a couple hundred bucks.  So anyway, we’ll keep you posted, if that’s something on your heart, just sign up as you head out, you can put your name down.  If you want to find out more, you can even go to a website if you’re into the internet, you can go to, it’s a ministry out of Calvary Chapel Uncasville, and we’re working together.  [Also this is about Short-Term Missions, so check out:]  I went with a pastor from that church.  So, anyhow when we went down there, we did a lot of traveling too, all along the Mississippi coast, up to Jacksonville and back and forth there, Hattiesburg, Baton Rouge, so we traveled a lot, on airplanes too.  Joe is on the board of this church, so any opportunity I can spend with him, I can just discuss things with him, and now he is just a real brother to me.  So sometimes we were in areas just surveying the land, other times driving country roads, and not too much to look at. 


What is the popular “easy” or “social” gospel?


So we talked about a lot of different things.  And as pastors  we were talking about ministry and philosophy of ministry, and trends in the Church [greater Body of Christ].  And one of the things that we talked about, which is becoming a greater trend, and it certainly has been around for probably since the beginning of the Church, Church history, is what you could call an easy Gospel, or a social gospel, where in churches, maybe even in books that ministers produce, ministries on TV, Radio, whatever it is, not to point to any particular one---you have what you call a Social Gospel where you can go and be encouraged in the sense that you can learn about how to better yourself, how to be a better husband, how to be a better father or a better wife, better daughter, better businessperson, whatever it might be.  [Comment:  There is nothing wrong with those teachings, and a lot of them come from the principles and laws taught in the Bible, and we should learn from them, and apply them to our lives, like applying Proverbs to one’s life.  But these other teachings, Biblical as they might be, are not the simple Gospel of Salvation, and must not be confused with it.  And it is that Gospel which Jesus told us all to be preaching to the world, and using our ministry resources and financial resources promoting.  What is the Gospel of Salvation, or Gospel of Christ as some call it?  Log onto .  I have another website attached to this one called http://www.HOWMARRIAGEWORKS.COM .  It is a resource to help husbands and wives understand how marriage works, taking into consideration the differences between men and women.  It is not a Gospel outreach website, but one which is intended to help bolster the marriages of those who read it.  It’s a public service, but it is not a site that is proclaiming the Gospel, in that sense.]  And so you go and you learn, it’s almost as if you’re listening to Oprah Winfrey (nothing wrong with Oprah), you’re learning about just social types of things---important things, no doubt, and things we learn a lot about in the Bible, and we should hear in church.  But you could say ‘an easy gospel’ and that’s about all you ever hear, or things like that, things that would better yourself, things that are not necessarily offensive to you.  Maybe will poke you, maybe they’ll be straight with you, but yet it’s something that by and large doesn’t offend people [like proclaiming salvation in the name of Jesus Christ does].  Now that’s happening in the Church, and again, I can see how God even uses ministries like that [i.e. they’re specifically aimed at helping the Body of Christ within certain specific parameters, like marriage, family, etc., like the ministry of Focus On The Family] where nonbelievers can come and sit down and maybe it will peak their interest, and get them interested in spiritual things.  And that certainly is good.  I was with my wife in Altuna Pennsylvania a couple weeks ago, my kids too, we were visiting her family.  And one of my wife’s family members was sharing how she was watching this guy on TV, and I don’t know him all that well, watched him a number of times, but from what I could tell I would kind of put him in that group of this kind of the social easy gospel.  And I was thankful that she was actually watching it, because I didn’t know she had much of any spiritual interest before.  So I was thankful we were able to spiritually dialogue.  Although I told her, I said, ‘You know, if that’s all you’re listening to, there’s a concern here.’  And that’s what Joe and I and Al discussed, as yet there is a concern because if that is all you’re hearing, you can actually go then to a church, or read Christian books, and never realize that you’re not a Christian if you’re not a Christian, because you’re not confronted really with the Gospel, with the cross.  And you can also be a Christian, and be part of that, and be learning things, but never realize that maybe your life is very carnal and very inconsistent with what God desires for a Christian.  It’s shallow and it’s comfortable by and large.  And when we look at the verses we’re going to look at today, there’s nothing shallow about what is here, and there’s nothing comfortable about what is here.  As Jesus continues, as we have been looking verse by verse through the New Testament here on Sunday mornings [or Saturday mornings], now we’re in chapter 16, verse 24.  What Jesus says here, certainly would make a person uncomfortable.  What is here is depth.  And the Christian life, he basically gives to you and I a definition of what is a Christian, what is a true disciple.  And we’re confronted with some truths here that you could say are radical, I mean, a Christian life is radical life.  And so when you look at the ‘Social Gospel’ that is happening in our culture, yeah, man you can get really big ministries in churches and things get a lot of praise.  But yet there’s the great danger, and even potentially, it ultimately can be destructive when you consider what Jesus says here, destructive in my life today, and destructive in my life in the afterlife, in the future.  Because there are certain things that are radical that I need to know, foundational truths. 


The heart of a true disciple


And that’s what we’re going to consider today.  Jesus talks about the life of a disciple.  As he does that, just giving us a simple outline, and we’re going to predominantly look at verse 24, although we’ll go to the end of the chapter briefly.  But verse 24 really sets the stage.  We’ll see that within the heart of a true disciple, there’s four main things that he mentions here.  1), first there is what we would call “desire”, with the true disciple there is desire.  We’ll talk about what that means.  2), secondly, there is “denial.”  3), thirdly, there is “acceptance.”  4), and then fourthly, there is “pursuit.”  Let’s just say a word of prayer, and we’ll dive in here.  ‘Lord, thank you that we can stop on a Sunday morning as we do, and consider your Word.  Maybe in this room there are some that question whether or not the Bible is your Word, and I pray as you reveal yourself to people, I pray God that you’d speak to their hearts through your Word.  Your Word is living, it’s not just print on a page, it is living and it is active.  And I pray you’d speak to all of us, even maybe some that question whether or not this is your Word.  But as we come together, Lord, it is a privilege to stop and to seek your face.  I pray Holy Spirit, as we even spoke about last week, we need you to give light, we need you to illuminate these pages for us.  As we look at them as just men and women, as we consider these words as just men and women, we can miss the whole point.  But it’s when you turn on the light and reveal the depth of what is here, it’s just radical.  I ask you Holy Spirit that you’d be upon all of us, even upon myself now as we go through your Word, in Jesus name, amen.’


How do you see the Cross, as men do, or as Jesus does?


Chapter 16 verses 24-28, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For the Son of man will come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will reward each according to his works.”  Remember from our last week’s study, Peter is there with the disciples before Jesus.  Jesus poses the question, he says “Who do men say that I am?”.  We started with verse 13 last week.  And you know, they say ‘This is what men say’, and they gave ‘a prophet, John the Baptist,  Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah’, and then he says “But who do you say that I am?”  A critical question, ‘What do I think?’.  And then Peter says, “You are the Christ, you are the Son of God.”  And Jesus then says, ‘You know, that revelation, what you just said, what you are now seeing, you could not arrive there by just men’s doing, that is the Spirit of God, God has revealed this to you.’  And so as we were studying these verses and bringing out some of the truths that followed, we mentioned the great need for us to be in the Spirit [ie, Holy Spirit indwelt], to have the Spirit illuminate what is there.  From that point, Jesus says ‘Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jona, that’s just wonderful that you see these things as God has revealed them to you.’  And then he goes from that point, and he says ‘In a little while’, there’s six months before he goes to the cross, time to prepare these guys, he says ‘In a little while, we’re going to go to Jerusalem, and I am going to suffer under the hands of the Sanhedrin, that Jewish religious government, and I am even going to be persecuted by them, I’m going to suffer according to them, and I’ll be killed by them.’  And then he says ‘On the third day, raised to life’, which is going to the cross.  Now, Peter one moment gets praise, now he hears that, and he rebukes Jesus, he rebukes him.  He says ‘No way Jose’, that ain’t happening to you, that’s just foolish even to think about that.  Now I just put it into my own words.  But that’s the heart of what he just said, he just rebukes Jesus.  And then Jesus says to Peter, he says “Get behind me, Satan.  You are an offense to me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but of the things of men.”  As we mentioned last week, we can relate, Peter one moment, ‘Good job Peter!’, next moment, ‘You’re outa control, dude, out to lunch’, you know.  I go on that rollercoaster in my life, I’m sure.  But he sees one thing one moment, in the Spirit, and then the next moment he’s looking at it as men would look at it.  He’s confronted with the cross, and he sees the cross as only a man would see the cross.  And when a man looks at the cross, a man says “That’s bizarre, that’s peculiar, that’s weird.”  In fact, you’d say “That’s foolish to do such a thing.  Why would you do such a thing Jesus, that’s foolish?”  That’s the horizontal, that’s the man, looking at it.  He doesn’t see it with the Spirit, and what it is, it’s the most beautiful thing, the cross.  It’s so powerful, it’s so beautiful, it’s so necessary.  And so to rebuke Jesus, he’s out of line, and Jesus straightens him out.  I mean, Peter’s really thinking as the devil would think, rather than thinking in the Spirit [ie, under the influence of the Holy Spirit].  Now it’s with that, that Jesus then, we learn in Mark, as Mark gives the same story---but Mark gives us a little bit more detail than this.  Verse 24, he says that Jesus then, there’s other people around and Jesus gathers all the people at that point, and then with the disciples, he says what he says in verse 24.  Given what he just said, he says ‘I am going to the cross.’  He’s sharing wonderful, beautiful truth. 


1. A disciple, follower of Jesus must have “desire” to follow Christ


And he says “If anyone…if anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”  You know, those are words, part of the challenge of this Social Gospel is you don’t hear this verse quoted very often.  You don’t hear the truth that is there very often.  Sometimes they may go a little bit into this passage, and talk about denying yourself, how you need to put others before yourself---which is certainly important and Biblical, in my home I need to put my family members, at work, I need to put others before me, I need to deny myself in that sense.  And you’ll hear those kinds of things, but not the depth and the foundational truth that is here.  He is defining what it is to be a Christian truly and to follow Christ.  And it’s quite radical.  ‘If anyone desires’, when he says “desires”, the first point that we noted about a true disciple here, is it first consists of desire, “If anyone desires…if anyone’s willing, desires to come after me.”  So it starts with a desire.  Now the Greek word for “desire” is interesting, we don’t want to miss what he’s saying here.  The Greek word is thelo [Strongs #2309, to determine, choose or prefer…to delight in, desire…love] and it is not speaking of a passive desire, like you know ‘I like that concept of following you Lord, I like that.’  It’s not a passive thing, like you acknowledge it’s a good thing kind of desire, and ‘Yeah, I want to fit that into my life.  I’ve got all these other things that I do, and I like that idea, and I’ll add that on too, following you will be part of this whole package.’  It’s not a passive type of desire.  Instead, it implies volition and purpose, it is a very strong desire.  You could say it’s even a passion, it’s “I choose to come after you, I intend to, I delight to, I’d rather to” and then you can even use the word, because it’s part of it, “I’d love to---I’d love to come after you Jesus.”  So a passion, a sincere passion, a longing. “I long to belong to you.  I long to be with you.  I long to follow you.  My heart’s greatest desire is to know you, and to be part of your Kingdom, and to be your child.”  That’s in that word when he says “desire”, it’s not just ‘Well that’s nice, and I like that.’  No, it’s like “I long, this is what I want with all my life.  I want my life to be defined by coming after you.”  That’s really in that sense, it’s greatly desiring to be one of his, to being near him, and to following him.  “I really, really want to” is what is being said there.  You know, being a guy, being male, we think about truths differently.  In my mind (so maybe the gals for a minute will tune out, because they won’t relate), but in my mind I think of what he’s saying about desire, I think of a king and I think of a knight, maybe two kingdoms, two kings.  Here I am as a knight, I like to think of myself that way [bomber pilot for me], with my sword and my shield, all shiny and stuff, standing next to my horse, and here’s the king.  And I have a choice, I can follow this king or that other king.  This particular king, he’s got a lot of ego, he’s very prideful, he’s just a man’s man in the sense that he lives for the world, he gets what he wants.  He goes for it.  He’ll do whatever it takes to get what he wants.  Ambition is there.  Then there’s this other king.  There’s truth, there is humility, there is sincerity, there’s nobility, there’s virtue, there’s compassion, there’s love, there’s dignity, there’s glory.  And I have a choice.  And so in my eye, of course the dignity, the virtue, this king represents Christ to me.  And so here I am, on my knee, bent as a knight, I have my helmet removed, his hand is upon my head, and in kneeling before him I’m saying “I am yours, I’m your soldier, I’m your knight, I am at your command, I am in your army, I subject myself to you from this point on, in every way.  And so when you do that, the King then says, soldier Steve, knight Steve, go, be there, do this, do that.”  I am completely his, it is what I am.  So when he says, “If anyone desires to come after me”, that’s the way I think of that.  Maybe you think of it in another way.  [I’ve done that using a somewhat more modern analogy.  See]  But it is not this passive ‘I’m a Christian kind of thing, it’s part of my life and my culture,’ it is my very being, it is the passion of my heart.  “If anyone desires to come after me, anyone…”  Now the question I guess is, ‘Do you desire to come after him in that sense, making him, I mean, is there that longing in your heart, that he would be number one in your life?  What he’s speaking of is being radical.  The Christian life is a radical life, it is a radical life that he’s speaking of.  Now you may think, and we can do this, ‘OK, he’s speaking of being radical, but that’s an option for the Christian, you know, you can be the Christian, you know I’m a Christian, I like Jesus but, I don’t have to be too crazy about this thing.  You know, it’s just not my personality, it doesn’t quite fit for me anyway.  Some people are a little bit more radical.  And that’s what he’s speaking about, he’s talking to Billy Graham when he says this here, ‘Billy, come after me’, and Billy did it, but that’s not part of my life though.’  [I remember being drawn to Jesus, and I came to Jesus through a Sabbatarian Church of God, I had to count the cost, and be willing to pay it.  I had to get out of the military, eventually taking Conscientious Objector status.  I lost jobs over refusing to work on the Sabbath, all of which I did with ease and willingly for Jesus.  Now looking back, it was radical what I did, and a radical life I was now living.]  But if you then remember, turn back to Matthew chapter 10, saying similar truths, and he does the same in Luke 14, what he’s saying, when it comes to a Christian there is no option, this is what a Christian is.  Chapter 10, verse 38, “And he who does not take his cross, and follow after me is not worthy of me.”  So, you know, you see those words in Matthew 16 coming a little later, this whole picture of what he’s saying.  He says earlier, ‘If you do not do this, you’re not worthy of me.’  Now what does it mean to not be worthy of God?  Going back in my mind to a king and I’m a knight, if he says I’m not worthy of him, he’s saying I’m not worthy to be in his presence, I’m not worthy to have his name, I’m not worthy to bear the badge of his kingdom [ie, to wear the uniform, military uniform], I am not worthy of him, is what that means.  There’s a lot there.  So there’s no option, Luke chapter 14, Jesus says again, “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”  ‘Can’t be my disciple’, so there’s no option.  A true disciple, there’s no shallow Christianity, there’s no comfortable Christianity, a true believer, there is innate in a believer a desire, and it is a passion, it is a passion, it is radical.  [Comment:  As opposed to the ‘Social Gospel’, the real Gospel of Salvation is not a popular thing to proclaim or teach.  Log onto: learn about what the Gospel of Salvation, also called the Gospel of Christ is all about.]


2. “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself”


Secondly, “if anyone desires to come after me,” he says, “let him deny himself.”  So, we have desire, then we have denial.  And people will also take this different ways, you know, the comfortable way, the social way is just to talk about denial in the sense of self-denial, I’m gonna deny certain privileges to myself, ‘That’s not right for a Christian to do that, so I deny myself of that.  I’ll deny, I’ll put you before myself, so I’ll deny, you know, I won’t get first in line, I’ll let you be first in line’, and being a ‘good person’, that type of thing.  Now that is also Biblical, that of putting others before ourselves, and to go without things we shouldn’t go without with, that’s also Biblical.  But what he says here is a whole lot deeper, it means a whole lot more.  What does Jesus mean by denying ourselves here?  Well, what he means is that in every way, it speaks of renouncing everything about self.  It is renouncing any sort of self-dependence, any self pursuits, any self-glorification, I renounce all of that.  “I am at your service, I subject myself to you, I deny everything, there is nothing that is going to hinder me in any way from following you---Anything that could possibly get in the way, to slow me down, I put that off.  I deny that.”  That’s what he says, “If any man desires to come after me, let him deny himself…”  That’s the type of denial he’s referring to here.  So, again, it’s certainly not shallow or comfortable, it’s radical.  You know, I warned my wife this morning, I said I was going to use her as an example, and you have to be careful when you do this [speaking to all potential pastors], because, well, sometimes, I want to be personal, let’s talk about the nitty-gritty here, what some of this means.  And I can only give you an illustration from my own life.  So when I do that, I don’t want to sound like I’m boasting or not boasting or trying to get attention, but here’s a thought on it.  Deny yourself:  You know, my wife, I’ve watched my wife over the years grow in that type of heart to what Jesus is saying here.  I’ve watched her do that.  Early on when we were dating, I met her in San Diego, my company took me back to Boston, so I’m in Boston and she’s in San Diego, and we kind of know something’s going down here, thinking about marriage.  So we’re talking on the phone, and I mention to her, I say, ‘You know, I guess you’re moving to Boston.’  Well, my wife said something like ‘Yeah right.’  [I’m laughing]  I think it was something like that, it wasn’t what I expected, right?  This is my wife-to-be, she wants to marry me, she’s going to move to Boston---“yeah right.”  So what happened is I moved to San Diego, that’s basically how that worked.  [laughter]  I got a job there, nine months later, and that was ok by me, I liked everything about San Diego too.  But then God called us into ministry, and then God called us here.  Now, the gals can relate to this, if you couldn’t relate to the Knight in shining armour story you probably can relate to this.  My wife, as a woman especially, her family was very close, she longs to be near her family.  We’ve been here 11 years, and she still longs to be near her family.  I love my family, I long to be near them, but I’m different as a man I think, I can see them once in a while and everything’s just fine.  Maybe that’s a male thing.  But my wife longs to be with her parents and her sister and her nephew, she longs to be there.  Now it’s been 11 years.  And also the life she had before was much more comfortable than the life that God has called us personally into.  And so, there is this challenge also at times that, ‘Boy, there’s a little bit of cost’, or, ‘It’s just not easy.’  And boy if she had the choice, she could go back there.  Maybe she has the choice, but yet there is the sense that Christ has called us here, so because of that, she’s like, ‘OK, this is what he’s got.’  I’ve just watched her.  I’ll go a little bit further, because, and don’t take this wrong, or get the wrong idea, but recently San Diego, you know, the church [denominational HG] is out of San Diego, my pastor has what we call a Huddle every year, if you’ve been around here awhile you’ve heard about it.  But I’ll go out, sometimes with leaders in the church, it’s like a conference where there’s a lot of churches that have come out of this one church.  [This denomination, a sub-group off the Calvary Chapels from Costa Mesa CA is semi-autonomous.]  So hundreds of us come, pastors, missionaries, and we come and we get together, it’s a family outing.  It’s a Huddle, we just get together, Mike teaches, others share and we just enjoy it.  But it’s important that I go, I seek to go every year, boy, I want to hear from my pastor, I want to go and be with some of the fellow ministers that are in this denomination [they like Calvary hate being called a denomination, but they have a sufficient set of denominational distinctives to be classified as a denomination], it’s important, so I seek to go anyway.  This summer I could tell my wife, certain things I guess started it, but she was really longing to be near her family, missing her family.  And so, it’s during one of these seasons I get one of these little invitations to the Huddle, saying ‘This is when it’s going to be’, and I notice the Huddle, this year is on her birthday.  Now, in my wife’s family too, birthdays are a big deal, you’re like a king or queen for a day, and you know, you kind of grew up that way.  Your birthday, you’re a queen for a day.  My family wasn’t quite that way.  So a birthday is very important to my wife, and I recognize that.  So I know she’s longing to be with her family, I see this, I’m like, you know what, I don’t think I’m going to the Huddle this year.  Because when I go to the Huddle I also stay with her family.  So I’m thinking, ‘This is not a good idea.’  And I was thinking, ‘Man, she needs to be with her family.  And she can go, she’s a pastor’s wife, why doesn’t she go to the Huddle this year?’  So, we’re talking about this a little later, and honestly thinking she should go this year, obviously I’m not gonna go this year.  She says as we kind of worked through this, she says, “You know, you’re the pastor, and it is important that you go to the Huddle, and you need to be there.”  And I’m like “But it’s on your birthday.”  She goes, “But you need to be there.”  We’re kind of going back and forth.  And in the end, she’s like “This is what you need to do, and this then is what I need to do, and I need to just hang with this thing, and this is the way it is.”  Now that’s a little example, and that isn’t to build up my wife as a super-saint or anything like that.  We see it in one another as Christians.  Right?  We see this reality.  But when he says “Deny yourself” it is a denial in a sense, “I’m following you, and as I follow you, there are things that I’m denying myself, there are ambitions that I let go of, there are things that I’d rather do, or I wish I could do, but as I’m following you, at times I’m finding this is not what you have for my life.”  And so he says “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself”, that is continually deny yourself, continually deny yourself.  Now, I’m sure you have plenty of other illustrations, and that’s just a little taste of what he’s saying.  It’s not just going ‘Oh, as a Christian I shouldn’t go to that movie, I deny myself.  No, no, no, no, it’s you follow him, and as you do you are denying your will, you’re denying everything, you’re just following after him, you’re doing, and in some instances ‘This is not what I thought I would be doing with my life.  If that be the case, yet, I’ll do it.’  That’s what he’s saying.  Your pride, your ego, you know, God wants you to share the Gospel, he’s stirring your heart, there’s this person, and you know, ‘I’m not sure they’re going to like this.’  ‘But I feel God you want me to say something,’ and so you have to deny yourself.  [Comment: If you don’t know what the Gospel of Salvation is that we’re supposed to share, log onto:  and read through that article.]  You know, it’s a moment by moment thing, ‘I’m yours, I’m following you.  I want to please you, I live for you.’ 


3. “take up your cross”---to take up your cross is to accept and embrace whatever goes with God’s call upon your life


Well, it’s a desire, it’s a denial, then thirdly, he says ‘Then take up your cross and follow me’, so it is an acceptance.  And I tell you, in the Social Gospel, man, rare is the day.  I listen to this stuff to determine ‘Where is this church at?’  And if they’re not talking about the cross, in the sense of a personal cross.  Now, sometimes, the cross is taken this way, if you want to take it socially, you take it in shallow way, you say ‘The cross is, well, hey you were born with this physical disease, that’s your cross to bear.  You have this physical affliction, that’s your cross to bear, you’re bearing your cross.’  Or maybe you were born into, economically, a lower class house or home, if you were to use those words and that was your cross to bear.  That is not what he is speaking about right here.  That’s not what he is speaking about.  When he says ‘Then take up your cross,’ he is talking about following him wholeheartedly, 100 percent.  And the Bible is clear, when I follow Christ, what comes with that is also persecution.  What comes with that is also, in the eyes of the world, disgrace.  What comes with following Christ is also suffering.  What comes with following Christ is also pain, that’s part of following him.  That is that very path.  And so when he says “Deny yourself and pick up your cross” he’s saying there is an acceptance, ‘I love you Lord, I love you Lord, and you’re calling me to do these things, and it’s not popular.’  You know, I think right now, I was having one of those moments, I’ve shared this too, but I wonder where our culture is going, I got some email, and just in a few minutes into the email you hear California recently, the judge makes the stand that The Pledge of Allegiance is now illegal, or at least it’s unlawful in California.  That’s incredible that we would be there.  And then, you know I happen to be, as you know, I just teach the Bible for what it says, and that’s not popular to do today, when it comes to defining what is sin and what is not sin, what is right and what is wrong.  And so I’m looking through email, and considering and hearing about different legislations and laws, in one email I had a bunch of them come through about different parts of the world, and I’m thinking ‘Boy, where is this world going so quickly?’  But then thinking about what it is to be somebody whose preaching the Word [or like publishing it online, like here], I’m like, I had that sense again this week, going ‘Boy, what’s going to happen in a short time as I just teach the Bible?’  You used to be able to do this freely in our country.  But I wonder, I wonder, even the Congress this last week voted, and one of the votes and one of the legislations to me would put me in a place where I’m teaching the Bible, I’m going to be at compromise, you know, with that legislation.  [ie, soon it’s going to be against the law to preach straight out of the Bible on certain subjects which define what sin is.  We’re coming to a period in our history similar to the period of time the early Pilgrims in Plymouth Plantation went through before they came over here from England.  See get a glimpse of the coming times, for history is in the very process of repeating itself.]  So, what does that mean?  Well it means to me, God has called me to be a pastor and teach the Bible, whether or not it is politically correct or popular or not, and whether or not I’m persecuted, it does not matter whether or not, somebody says something, or a newspaper article gets written or whatever, because it does not matter, he is my King, he is my Lord, he is my God, and I will follow him, I will deny myself, and I will pick up the cross, whatever goes with it, it does not matter.  That’s what he’s saying, to you and to me…[tape switchover, some text lost]…”May it never come near the body of a Roman citizen, may it not even get near his thoughts or eyes or ears, it is so shameful, the cross.”  You know, we in our culture today, we’ve got crosses we hang around our necks, and from our rear-view mirror and we put up on our walls, and to us it conveys often certain things.  The Romans said, ‘Don’t even mention the cross, it’s so horrible, don’t even mention it.’  Crucifixion was initially developed by the Persians, that’s the Iranians, around the year 1,000 BC.  It was designed to bring a man such agony that not only would his body convulse physiologically, but he would also be tormented psychologically to such an extent that he would blaspheme and curse the very life that he lived.  Crucifixion would cause you to curse the very life that you lived.  Horrible thing.  The Greeks later picked up the practice from the Persians, and then the Romans later got it from the Greeks.  And Jesus is heading to a cross.  And now he’s speaking to his disciples, who will be crucified too, there was more than just the physical act of being put on the cross, you know from The Passion of the Christ.  Part of it was a thing of disgrace, you had to, as part of that execution, you also had to carry your cross.  And you would carry your cross publicly down the streets, to the point of execution.  You’ve got these heavy pieces of wood, these rough pieces of wood.  It is a burden, but also it was a point of disgrace.  Today in our culture, when we do executions we do so in such a way that we try to have dignity or whatever.  But when you were crucified, you were taken publicly in a path of disgrace.  It was a disgraceful thing as you went through the town and the city.  That was all part of the punishment, that was added to the punishment, part of the crucifixion.  So when he says “pick up your cross”, it’s very beautiful what he’s saying, but at the same time, to the man, to my flesh, there’s a horrible thing that he’s saying here.  It’s a deep thing, a difficult thing.  The point is, is I will, whatever the burden, whatever the trial, whatever the disgrace, I will follow Christ, no matter what the world says, I will do what my duty is.  No matter what persecution, disgrace, whatever shame, whatever the Bible says, I am a follower of Jesus Christ.  That’s what he’s saying, that’s what he’s saying.  You know, if you don’t have the cross in that way, as a part of the Gospel in your church, you don’t really have true Christianity.  [Comment:  The pastor is describing a lot of churches out there who don’t really possess the true Gospel, nor are they walking the walk, as they say.  If this is describing your church, then you need to find one that’s more spiritually alive.]  Charles Spurgeon, considered the prince of preachers in the 1800’s, he said it this way, “His followers must suffer loss and shame, be willing to do so, or they have not learned the first elements of the faith.”  Someone else put it this way, “We don’t simply contemplate the cross, we carry the cross.”  Sometimes we like to contemplate it, we have it on the wall, now it’s here in the heart, it’s here in the heart.  It’s not so important we have one hung in the back of the church, it’s more important that it’s there in my life.  The cross, the cross.  Luke chapter 9, verse 23, Jesus when he said this, he added the word “daily”, “take up his cross daily”.  This isn’t a one-time deal where we’re like ‘OK, I’ve been planted, I’m going to help the folks in the Katrina aftermath, I’m gonna empty my savings account, I’m gonna use up my vacation, and I’m gonna go sacrifice for Jesus’, and you do it that one time and you’ve got your little brownie-point, and there you go the rest of your life living as you want to live it.  That’s not what it means in verse 24, it is every moment of your life, every moment, he’s your Master and your Lord, and we have the Spirit within us, so he’s within me, man, he knows my thoughts, he knows my desires, everything. 


Living examples of carrying your cross


Here I think of, when we went to the Gulf Coast, these two other pastors and myself, you know, the Lord really led us.  And one particular time we were in Gulfport, Biloxi was the worst, the eye of the storm went through, and we were surveying things, and I was the map guy, Joe’s driving, so I’m trying to get us from Gulfport to Biloxi, and I’m looking at the map, and I didn’t read things correctly and I said to Joe, ‘Take a right here, this ought to get us going in that direction.’  Well as it turns out it was the wrong turn.  But don’t you know, we just took the turn, and right there is a big tent, Christ in Action it says across the tent.  Hey Joe and I go, ‘We know these guys!’  So we stop and we go into the tent, and there’s a big tent, and a few tents, all kinds of things going on, food being served, people being loved, stuff being given out, and President Bush was just there, it turned out, a couple hours earlier.  And as we’re looking around, there are all kinds of people there, we ask ‘Hey, whose in charge of this?’  And so they say ‘The guy over there, Denny, back table.’  Well there’s Denny on his laptop, he’s sitting there.  And as we walk over to Denny, Joe and I go, ‘Hey we know Denny!’  Turns out we know Denny from New York City, because after September 11th, if you were here then, their ministry went right in right after September 11th, and we also sent teams down and were able to minister there, at Ground Zero for awhile.  Al Cerino, couple days after 9/11 he went to New York City, checked into a hotel to see how he could be used of the Lord, and he stayed in that hotel for over a year.  Well he has family in Connecticut, stayed there for a year, went home on weekends to visit his wife.  Clearly, no doubt, God brought him there, and God used him, and it was a lot of difficulty and sacrifice and burden, but he stayed right there.  And you guys know that on one of the teams we sent down there, and we stayed in that hotel, and he just organized this whole thing.  Thousands of people came from around the country, as he organized teams to minister to New York City in that time.  Well Denny was a guy that did the same, and so they recognize each other.  You know, Denny, man, clearly busy, he’s been there for a couple weeks, sitting there with his laptop, people calling him, things going on, clearly tired, he says to us, “Hey, Carl Keyes is in Biloxi.”  Joe and I go, “We know Carl”, because he was really instrumental in New York City, Assemblies of God pastor in Manhattan that was really instrumental.  So he says ‘This is how you get there.’  So when we were done with our meeting we head off, and we go to see Carl in Biloxi.  Well the thing with Carl is, you know, there is this grocery store that was totally ruined by hurricane Katrina, and there was a gas station up front that was completely obliterated, all that was left was the steel uprights.  But Carl is pastor of a small church in Manhattan, got a call, ‘Hey, can you help us out, man?  You were really instrumental in 9/11, and can you help us out?’  He goes down there and very gifted, used to be a developer, actually developed part of Atlantic City.  So with his connections he goes to town.  Now we went to this one thing, and there is this big relief center set up.  But we also went into others that he did, he set up seven in Biloxi alone.  But as soon as you walk up to Carl, the same with Denny and other pastors…you could see the weariness immediately.  We sit down and talk to Carl, he points out the shower that was just built with some curtains in the parking lot, took his first shower, all excited, but he was tired.  He started to tell us, and they’re dialoging about New York City, he said “You know, I have not recovered from New York City yet.  I have just started to get on my feet.  Three years, man, it really sent me for a loop.”  He said, “I gained 85 pounds”, so emotionally draining to go through that, “Just getting back on me feet, and here I am, I’ve barely got my life together”, and here comes the call, and he says “I want to be home, I want to be home.  You know, God has me here, our church staff is so small, this is a strain on the staff that I’m not there.  But I can’t go home yet, nobody can run these distribution points.”  And so, I think of what he’s saying here, Jesus is saying “Let him take up his cross”, and I think of that type of man.  And it varies from life to life, but here’s a man that’s saying ‘You know I’d rather be home with my wife and kids in our church in New York, and I’m already weary, but this is what I’ve been asked to do.’  And it’s clear as there are others working with him, testifying to how he’s been used to set up so quickly these distribution points.  You know, FEMA checked into a big hotel right nearby, just a couple blocks away, of course it was damaged by the hurricane, but don’t you know, they check in, the first thing they do is fix the hotel.  They needed plumbing, I guess, before people needed relief.  That’s what we’re told, anyway.  But there’s an Assemblies of God pastor and goes right in, tired.  And when you drive into Biloxi, you don’t see FEMA, it has to be pointed out to you that they’re in the hotel, you see Carl Keyes and these seven distribution centers, loving the people there in that city.  400 people were working with him, and in time this has grown, and they’re taking meals to every single home in Biloxi where people are still living, every day.  But he’s tired.  Jesus says, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross…”  Carl says ‘I’d rather be somewhere else, God has me here.  This is hard, I’m tired, but I’m here because God’s called me.’  To take up your cross is to accept, it’s to embrace whatever goes with God’s call upon your life, with following Jesus, whatever it means. 


4.  “Let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”---Pursuit


Verses 25-27, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For the Son of man will come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will reward each according to his works.”  Finally, in this verse, the fourth point, “let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  There’s this point of pursuit.  You have desire, you have denial, you have acceptance of whatever comes, and then you have pursuit.  Pursuit, it’s a life of pursuing, I’m not just sitting still.  “Follow me”, I’m following him, I mean he’s the Son of God, the way he lives, the way he walks, the path he takes, I follow him, that very life.  He’s saying this to his disciples.  His path is heading to Jerusalem.  He’s going to the cross.  They’re going to scatter because of the intensity of it.  But later every one of these disciples, with the exception of John, will be martyred, every one of them, Peter is crucified upside down.  John survived being boiled by oil, and being exiled.  You know, when he says “follow me”, that’s in the present tense, it means to keep on following, every moment, I’m hard after Jesus.  It’s a pursuit, there’s a passion, “I follow you Lord, I serve you Lord, I’m not just kicking back.”  Paul said in Philippians “I press on to lay hold”, “of that which is laid hold of me I press on”, it’s a pressing on.  Nothing shallow or comfortable about it.  I think of a soldier, the knight with the king, it’s going into battle, man, thick or thin, it’s fighting the good fight, man, it’s whatever he’s got for you, ‘You want me on the front lines, you want me in the back.  Maybe I want to be on the front lines, but you’ve called me to kitchen duty, it doesn’t matter, I’m doing whatever I’m called to do, picking up my cross.’  Well, so vitally important because of what he says in verses 25, 26 and 27, because what he says here, putting it into my words, he says, ‘This is the greatest life, this is how you experience life, this is how you experience the purpose in your life---you do this---this is how you’ll get to the end of your life, and there won’t be dark days, there won’t be days of shame or regret, you’ll get to the end of your life, and you’ll go ‘I’ve achieved what I was called to do, this is what I was made for.’  He says, “For whoever desires to save his life will, in fact, lose it.”  You’re saying ‘I want to keep these things, this is what I’ve intended, this is the lifestyle I wanted, this is where I wanted to be, this is what I wanted to do, this is my ambition.’  And so, without consulting the leading of God you go out and do that, you’ll get to the end of your life, and you’ll find ‘I’ve lost the whole deal.  I’ve missed out, what a waste.’  “Whoever desires to save his own life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  But instead if you go ‘Lord, your will be done’, sometimes I find that he gives me desires, and doing his will is actually fulfilling the desires he’s put upon my heart.  But at other times it’s not that way.  But when I follow his will, and I just live for him, whatever comes, whatever that is, whatever it means---but when I get to the end I go ‘What a great life!  Man, there was purpose, there was meaning.  My life honestly counted, it meant something.  My life wasn’t wasted.’  Jim Eliot, you know, we often quote him, 1950s, this man and four other men go down to Ecuador to the jungle to reach out to this savage tribe, every one of them was killed.  But later their wives come back and actually lead those very same savages to Christ.  And you can read the books, incredible.  In fact, Elizabeth Eliot lives in Massachusetts, can tell you the story of how she and other ladies went back, and their husbands were killed by these savages, but they went back and led these guys to the Lord, pictures of them even baptizing the people that killed their husbands.  Jim Eliot, though, he just, he was called to live that way.  And yet, in doing that, hear about the joy and the life in his life.  This is from his journal.  I’m quoting to you from the first book Elizabeth wrote, Through the Gates of Splendor, about the whole story, page 26.  This is from his journal though.  “I’m longing now to reach the Acca’s.  If God gives me the honor of proclaiming the Name among them, I would gladly give my life for that tribe, if only to see an assembly of those proud, clever, smart people gathering around a table to honor the Son.  Gladly, gladly, gladly, what more could be given to a life?”  He’s like, ‘Oh man, what a great thing, I’d even go die for those guys.’  God is stirring his heart to go reach them, ‘What a privilege.’  Kind of radical.  Back to the point, that you need the Holy Spirit to reveal what Jesus is saying here.  If you don’t, then it seems bizarre.  This is so vitally important, because if I go do my own deal, and I’m not letting God direct my life, if I’m living for self, not living for him, then you get to the end---remember Solomon, we studied him two weeks ago, his life represents really the American life, the American life, even the American Church, we’re so caught up into the world, and so little focused on God.  And Solomon, this great man of great privilege, he had it all, he gets to the end, you guys remember, we studied Ecclesiastes, he says ‘I wasted my life, oh the days are so dark.’  Life of shame, life of regret at the end, so costly.  That’s what Jesus is saying, so costly.  In fact, look at the cost, look at the cost, it can even cost your own soul, “for what profit is it to a man, if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul.”  And then Jesus says, ‘What can a man give in exchange for his soul?’, and the point being---‘If you were given all of the world, if today you had the choice, and lined up on one side was every bit of gold on this planet, every bit of silver, every bit of wealth, every car, every home, every business, all the glory, all the honor, your face on every newspaper, in every TV show, and you had every bit of earth and island and dirt and all the universe, if you had all of that on one side, and your soul on the other---Jesus is saying, the value of your soul, how does it even compare with that?  If you chose that, what a waste, you’ve wasted your very soul.  Your soul is more valuable than all of creation, is what Jesus is saying.  The 1599 Geneva Bible says this, this is one of the early Bible notes, some 300 odd years ago.  “No men do more harm to themselves, in that they love themselves more than God.”  You want to harm yourself, love yourself more than God.  You want to ruin your life, love yourself more than you love God.  You want to miss out on life, love yourself more than you love God.  You want to live life, love God with all your heart.  Remember that rich man Jesus was talking about in the parable?  This guy had built the big towers and big silos for all his belongings, all his wealth, life was going pretty well business-wise, he had everything he ever wanted.  One day he’s like, ‘Ah, what do I do, I’ve got so much, I’ll just build more silos to store it in, more storage barns.  And as Jesus shares the parable, he says that this man says to himself, ‘So, you’ve got many goods laid up for many years, things have gone pretty well, take ease, drink and be merely.’  Jesus says though, ‘Then God said to him, ‘Fool, this night your very soul will be required of you.  Then who will those things be given to for what you have provided, whose will they be?’  Then Jesus says, “So is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”  I pray for you, and I pray for myself that we would hear what Jesus says here, that we’d know what he means, and that we’d have that life, and that we’d get to the end of our lives and go, ‘Ah life.’  What profit is it to you and I if we miss the whole boat, man, living for ourselves?  Well as he goes on a little bit further, I’ll quote to you Psalm 49, verses 6 to 9, the Psalmist says “Those who trust in their wealth, and boast in the multitude of their riches, none of them by any means can redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him.  For the redemption of their souls is costly and it shall cease forever---that he should continue to live eternally, and not see that Pit.”  [read this whole Psalm from verse 6 through 20, it is all about what the pastor, and Jesus, are saying here.]  The Psalmist says, ‘You look at the wealthy man, but what can he do with all those riches when it comes to purchasing the soul of his brother?  You can’t get enough to purchase a soul, the point being, is that money, possessions don’t mean anything compared to living for eternity, the Psalmist says that [in verse 15].  That stuff is just going to go away and it’s just temporary.


Our reward is coming to us with the arrival of Jesus


Well, one more point, why it’s so vitally important that we live for the Lord, is not only do we experience life, but he says in verse 27, that he’s coming back soon, and he’s coming to reward us!  And this little life is so short when I’m going I live eternally with him.  And what’s going to matter to me, what the wise man says,  is what am I storing up eternally.  Verse 27, “For the Son of man will come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will reward each according to his works.”  So, there’s a glorious moment coming, and if I’m living for Christ, then when he comes it will be glorious, there will be rewards.  I’ll go into that castle, you know, I’m the knight, I’m the soldier, I come off the battle-field, I go in, and I can say, ‘Man, I did my best, I tried to fight the best I could, I didn’t give in, it wasn’t easy, man, I got beat up, it was brutal man, I did my best.’  And he’ll say, ‘Knight Steve, I now pronounce you a knight’ or whatever.  That’s what’s coming, he’s coming soon and I’ll stand before him when he comes and he’ll say “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  If I’ve not followed Christ, if I’ve missed the boat, if I’ve lived for myself, then when I stand before him, Jesus goes on, we don’t have it in Matthew, but in Mark chapter 8 and Luke chapter 9 Jesus adds a few more words.  And you know these words.  You’ve heard them.  It’s foolish to not prepare and to live for the Lord, because Jesus says, “For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”  If I don’t do it now, you know if I’m worried about thinking of being disgraced by people, but to stand in front of God later having lived for myself and lived in fear of men, oh, that moment will be so sad.  I shared, you know, as we’ve come to the end of our time, I’ll just end with an illustration.  I shared this story two and a half years ago, I read this, and we were going through the Gospel of John, so I read it then.  But somebody had a dream and wrote this down, and at least that’s the way it’s told, and whether or not it was a dream or not, whatever that means, the point being, this little story makes a point, and I’ll share this story with you.  Maybe you might remember it from a couple years ago.  “I saw in a dream that I was in a celestial city, the when and how I got there I could not tell.  I was one of a great multitude which no man could number, from all the countries and peoples and times and ages.  Somehow I found the saint who sat next to me had been in heaven more than 1860 years.  ‘Who are you?’  I said to him.  We both spoke the same language of heavenly Canaan, so that I understood him and he understood me.  ‘I’ said he, ‘I was a Roman Christian, I lived in the days of the apostle Paul.  I was one of those who died in Nero’s persecutions.  I was covered with pitch and fastened to a stake and set on fire to light up Nero’s gardens.’  ‘How awful!’ I exclaimed.  ‘No’ he said, ‘I was glad to do something for Jesus.  He died on the cross for me.’  Well the man on the other side then spoke.  ‘I’ve been in heaven only a few hundred years, I came from an island in the South Seas, Paramango.  John Williams, a missionary came and told me about Jesus, and I too learned to love him.  My fellow countrymen killed the missionary, and they caught and got me too.  I was beaten until I fainted.  They thought I was dead, but I revived.  But then the next day they knocked me on the head and cooked me and ate me.’  ‘How terrible!’ I said.  ‘No’ he answered, ‘I was glad to die as a Christian.  You see the missionaries had told me that Jesus was scourged and crowned with thorns for me.’  Then they both turned and said, ‘What did you suffer for?  Or did you sell what you have for the money that sent men like John Willaims to tell the heathen about Jesus?’  And I was speechless.  While they were both looking  at me with sorrowful eyes, I awoke and it was a dream.  But I lay on my soft bed, awake for hours thinking of the money I had wasted on my own pleasures, or my extra clothing, costly car and many luxuries.  And I realized that I did not know the words of Jesus and what they meant when he said ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’”…[transcript of a connective expository sermon given on Matthew 16:24-28, somewhere in New England]  I am reminded of an old Death Valley Days episode on TV that I’ve never been able to shake out of my head.  This old-timer and this rich man were traveling across Death Valley.  The rich man had a bar of gold, and the old-timer had a can of beans and a canteen.  Some miles into the desert the rich man offered to give his bar of gold to the old timer for the can of beans and some water.  The old-timer just had enough for his own survival, and refused.  Needless to say, the old-timer made it through Death Valley and the rich man didn’t.  It is a cowboy version of Jesus’ parable that if you gain the whole world but lose your soul, what value is that to you.


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