Topic: Eternal Gains Verse: Luke 9:23–9:26
Theme: Genuinely following Jesus Christ is the mark of those who know eternal life.
Introduction: Many of us begin our careers with aspirations of success and financial independence, with some strategizing how they can become financially capable of retiring at an early age. For others, retirement is a distant and remote concern, choosing to spend their income as they receive it. One financial counselor advises that a person from early in life should “live like no one else” in saving and investing so that later in life they will be able “to live like no one else!”
Even though we do not think of our spiritual future as “retirement” per se, we are told that we must “store up treasure in heaven” as we know that such an “investment” will not be susceptible to corruption, inflation, or any insolvency. Yet, we often live with such temporal, worldly concerns and priorities that our spiritual faithfulness is seriously compromised. This “compromise” can actually signal a deep seated or covert rejection of Jesus Christ. While one may conspicuously and publicly profess that Jesus Christ is who they serve, their secret or private commitments reject the Lordship of Christ and they remain committed to the world and its value.
In our text today, Jesus is calling for the comprehensive, wholesale devotion to Him with a complete forfeiture of allegiance to the world and its allures. The disciples have just made a profound profession of faith – declaring their awareness of Jesus identity as “the Christ of God” – the One to whom they must turn for eternal life. Jesus, with gravity and painful clarity, emphasizes what being a genuine follower of Him means; that salvation is not granted to those who are casual in their submission to Christ – that being saved is inevitably displayed in a radical self-denial … as if one has died to self and has begun to live for Christ Jesus. The Apostle Paul summarizes this very sentiment in Galatians 2:20. Luke provides us several points of consideration from what Jesus demands: The Commitments of Discipleship, Contradictions in Discipleship, and the Counterfeiting of Discipleship:
I. The Commitments of Discipleship – 9:23
A. The Desire to Follow – “If anyone wishes to come after Me …”
- The context set up the demands of what Jesus is saying to the disciples – they had just confessed Him as the Messiah of God to which Jesus had responded that they were to hold the truth of this close since He was going to suffer and die.
- Our text begins with a continuation of the conversation that Jesus was having with the disciples: “And He was saying to them all …”
- The significance of what Jesus was telling them was slow to sink in – He IS the Messiah, but He was going to die: it didn’t yet make sense to them.
- Nevertheless, Jesus acknowledges that despite their failure to comprehend all of the significance of what He had said, they were “wish[ing] to come after [Him]” as His disciples.
- Jesus was not given to the manipulative ploys of charlatans who attempt to make belief as easy as possible – Jesus wasn’t an adherent to “easy-believism!”
- Rather, He constantly called upon those who were going to follow Him to realize the difficulty of doing so – cp. John 6:66-68;
- The Holy Spirit produces a desire to follow Jesus that is indomitable & inexhaustible – a relentless desire to stay with it despite the challenges, difficulties, discouragements and obstacles – something also called the perseverance of the saints – John 8:31; Hebrews 6:11-2; Romans 8:37-39.
B. The Denial of Self – “… he must deny himself …”
- This desire to follow is seen in the fact that Jesus becomes far more than a mere option – He becomes the preferred One, even over oneself!
- The word “deny” [ἀρνέομαι] – is a term of intensity and definitive action – to refuse to consent to something or to disdain something; it can also mean to disclaim association with someone … to repudiate.
- The significance of this is that there is a total abandonment of self-interest, self-value and selfish ambition of a person is going to follow Christ – cp. Philippians 3:7-8.
- That is, life is no longer about oneself, but about Jesus and what He desires – it is the assessment of oneself as undesirable and the desire for conformity to Christ becomes the basis of repentance … the complete disassociation with oneself through a change of one’s mind, the grieving heart, and deliberate choice to pursue the way of righteousness.
C. The Devotion to Christ – “… and take up his cross daily …”
- This is not something that is a “once and done” event – as if it is to be considered historical.
- Many point back to an historic moment when they decided to follow Jesus, but in reality it is something that should be discounted if it is not true today – something that is done “daily”
- The idea of “take up his cross” would have utterly shocked the 1st century believer as the “cross” was the symbol of absoluteness and totality of Roman execution.
- It refers to the certain termination of a life – there are no recorded survivors of crucifixion; indicating the complete commitment to not only dying to self, but willingly enduring whatever one’s faith would cost them.
- This is a decisive act whereby you “take up” [ἀράτω] the “cross” – a reference to a willingness to willingly subject oneself to whatever following Christ includes – even death for Christ’s sake in the same tortuous end that the Lord had faced.
D. The Deference to Christ – “… and follow Me.”
- This is the demonstration of submission and deference to the Lord – when we “follow” it means that we obey Him and His Word.
- The term “follow” [ἀκολουθέω] – Pres. Act. Imperative – indicating the constant or continual pattern of one’s life whereby one “moves behind someone in the same direction or to obey them.”
- We are told that obedience is the watershed in who actually is following Jesus – cp. Matthew 7:21; Luke 6:46
- This constant state of “following Christ” results from having known the desire stirred up by God’s Spirit to follow Christ, one repents of what one is without Christ, fully devotes oneself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and allows Christ to command one’s life.
- This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
- It seems that the focus of discipleship rests squarely on Christ Jesus; what focus is properly placed on oneself?
- What are some of the ways that you have found to be necessary to “daily” take up your cross?
- Which of these areas of discipleship remains the most challenging and what do you believe ought to be done to gain greater victory?
II. The Contradiction in Discipleship – 9:24-25
A. The Contradiction of Priorities – v. 24
- The self-abandon demanded by Jesus is not without His promise of blessing.
- However, when we feel that giving up everything for the Lord is too costly, Jesus provides a better view – “For whoever wishes to save his life …” – that is: the one who desires to preserve their own priorities and self-interests “… will lose it” – that is, there will be nothing for them but condemnation and despair in the life to come.
- However, the person who “loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”
- That is, if a person abandons self and one’s own commitment to personal interests and prefers to live for Christ Jesus and His glory (“for My sake”) – this person will be able to rejoice eternally.
- This extends to small matters of service as well as the more full measure of devotion – even unto martyrdom!
- This is really the expectation of the Lord – who after having given His life for us on the cross, calls upon us to lay ourselves down before Him to live for Him – cp. John 12:25.
B. The Contradiction in Profit – v. 25
- Jesus emphasizes His point by asking a question designed to clarify Himself – “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?”
- Essentially, Jesus asks us “what is more important than your own soul?”
- Clearly, in Jesus’ estimation, the only acceptable answer is “nothing!”
- There is nothing more important than the destiny of your soul – if you could “gain the whole world,” but in order to do that you forfeit your soul, is it worth it?
- The “whole world” [τὸν κόσμον ὅλον] – refers to anything that can possibly be hoped for “with no limit” – if you got it but had to forfeit your own soul, Jesus declares that it would be a poor bargain.
- The ideas here are a reference to condemnation:
- The word “loses” [ἀπόλλυμι] Aor. Act. Part. – to experience destruction or ruin.
- The word “forfeit” [ζημιόω] Aor. Pass. Part - refers to suffering damage or being punished -
- For the person who refuses to take a back seat to Jesus Christ – his life will be lost, forfeited and their eternal destinies are set for condemnation; but for the person who prefers to live for the glory of Jesus Christ – even to the point of death – their eternal destinies are set for glorification.
- What stands in the way of your total abandonment for the glory of Christ Jesus in your life?
- How is your commitment to Christ gladly demonstrating an abandonment of “worldly” values?
- What is the best way to preserve a focus on “eternal values?”
III. The Counterfeiting of Discipleship – 9:26
A. The Compromise of the Word
- Jesus boils it all down to a matter of a personal rejection of Him – both Him personally as well as the embodiment of the truth about Him – “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My Word …”
- “ashamed” [ἐπαισχύνομαι] – means to know a sense of loss of status because of something or someone.
- In this context it refers to choosing to reject or disassociate oneself – essentially to reject the “sacrifices” associated with a relationship with Jesus Christ.
- The heart of those who may profess Christ up until a point when there is an actual cost for following Him – when they choose the approval of men rather than the approval of God – John 12:37-43 .
- These are hard sayings for people who may think that they can skate on the edges of following Christ and remain in the world – those who attempt to navigate carefully between the Way and Word of God and the ways and worldliness of the Godless.
- Jesus declares here that if a person desires to certify their eternal destinies, they must be all in.
B. The Condemnation by the Word
- Otherwise, there is a promise by Jesus that in the end, “the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father, and of the holy angels.”
- There is this promise that when Jesus returns, there will be a retribution for the rejection of Christ and His Word – 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9
- Those for whom personal faithfulness to Jesus Christ and for whom the obedience to the Word of God was too much to ask will find that saving them will be too much to ask.
- “Participation in Jesus’ future glory … cannot be deferred to the future; it can only be decided now – daily (v. 23) – ‘by rejoicing to be counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus’ (Acts 5:41; cf. 2 Tim 1:8, 12; 1 Pet 4:16).”
- How does your interaction with the Word of God impact your ability to interact with the Son of God?
- Are there ways that God’s Spirit is repeatedly calling on you to respond differently to God’s Word?
- What must you do in your own life to avoid Jesus being “ashamed” of you when He comes in His glory?