Friday, March 23, 2012
Mark 8 The Cost Of Being A Pastor
34 When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it.
36 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?
37 Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
The October 8, 1990, issue of Christianity Today, p. 54, mentions an incident in writer Frederick Buechner's life. As a young man, he attended a very posh dinner party on Long Island where his hostess said to him, "I understand that you are planning to enter the ministry. Is this your own idea, or were you poorly advised?"
You and I would agree that the cross is first and foremost a means of redemption: there is no other way that salvation can be gained. It is through the cross alone that Jesus purchased our salvation. "He who knew no sin became sin for us in order that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." The cross marks the beginning of the Christian way. There is no journey without the cross, and no salvation apart from it. Jesus came to set us free. Nowhere do we more clearly see that on the cross on which He died. Billy Graham has said, “Salvation is free, but discipleship costs everything we have”
The cross is not only the means but also the manner in must we must live our life. Not only is it the entry point of our lives in Christ, but it must be the essence of what the Christian life is all about. It is determinative as way of life for those of us who choose to be His disciples. We must also face suffering even though we will be tempted to take a different path.
1. The rigid requirements of true Christianity
34 When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
The Lord Jesus made a public declaration about a cross for every disciple. In his gospel, Matthew tells us that this was necessary because of Peter’s desire to protect Jesus from suffering (Matt. 16:22ff.). Keep in mind that Jesus is talking about discipleship and not sonship.We are not saved from our sins because we take up a cross and follow Jesus, but because we trust the Savior who died on the cross for our sins. After we become children of God, then we become disciples.
The closest contemporary word to “disciple” is probably “apprentice.” A disciple is more than a student who learns lessons by means of lectures and books. He is one who learns by living and working with his teacher in a daily “hands on” experience. Too many Christians are content to be listeners who gain a lot of knowledge but who have never put that knowledge into practice.
He presented to the disciples two approaches to life:
deny yourself or live for yourself
take up your cross or ignore the cross,
follow Christ or follow the world
lose your life for His sake or save your life for your own sake,
forsake the world or gain the world
keep your soul or lose your soul share His reward or lose His reward
"I don't mind being a servant of Jesus Christ, I just don't want to be treated like one." His words have come back to me many times as I have sought to live out my life as a follower of Jesus Christ. On occasion I find myself wanting to be a disciple of Christ but on my own terms. This setting of pre-conditions for discipleship was familiar to Jesus during his ministry. He said to one man, "Follow me," only to hear in response, "Permit me first to go and bury my father." Another man told Jesus, "I will follow you, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home" (Luke 9:57-62). True discipleship, however, has no pre-conditions. Having placed our faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, as 1 Corinthians says, "our life is no longer our own; we have been bought with a price."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who gave up his life daily on behalf of the German people during the time of the Nazis, and finally died for his faith at the end of a rope in a Nazi prison, once said, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." These were not ivory tower academics for Bonhoeffer, who paid the personal cost of discipleship in execution at age 39 on April 9, 1945. He had bravely resisted Hitler and the Nazi State when most of Germany’s clergy supported the Third Reich. In 1943 he was part of a group that tried twice but failed to assassinate Hitler. The word “fuehrer” in German literally means “leader or guide.” Standing up as Christ’s disciple on a radio broadcast in Berlin he had bravely rebuked the German Church for having allied with the Nazi, “‘There can only be one Fuehrer for Christians, and it isn’t Adolf Hitler.’ The radio address was brought to an abrupt halt, a foreboding prologue to things to come”
This was not the kind of self-denial we see in pagan religions, where for a chosen length of time food or other worldly pleasures are laid aside for the purpose of meditation and introspection.
This was not the kind of self-denial we see in the monkish sects, where vows of silence are taken to cleanse the soul and give evidence of devotion.
This is the kind of self-denial which follows recognition that man’s only worth in existence is to worship and obey the Giver of life. It is the kind of denial that recognizes that because of our sin nature and our sinful tendency to usurp God’s authority over our lives, self must be denied and His will done, or our purpose for life itself will have been laid aside and wasted.
This is the mind that recognizes that a long life serving self and no other, is an utter sham...while the briefest of lives here, wholly serving the will of God, is the life most fulfilled and valuable.
Discipleship is not part-time, volunteer work. God refuses to accept a minor role in one's life. He requires a controlling place. Jesus said that we must deny ourselves. One cannot live as a disciple as many people watch television: sitting in a lounge chair with the remote control ready to switch channels any time something unpleasant, or convicting, or demanding appears on the screen. I recently heard an actor remark on the success of his science fiction television show. He said that it "tapped into the 'search for spirituality of this age.' People are hungry for that tingle you get when you feel God." God is more than a tingle. True spirituality involves much more. It involves self-denial. It is not merely asceticism and the denial of something to the self. Rather, it is the denial of the self. It is a fundamental reorientation of a principle of life that God becomes the center of our world and not ourselves. Dietrich Bonhoeffer defines self-denial this way: "To deny one's self is to be aware only of Christ and no more of self." Is that not supremely wonderful? Self-denial takes different forms. For some it may mean leaving a job they like, as it did for the disciples. For the proud, it means renouncing the need of status and honour. For the greedy, it means renouncing an appetite for wealth. The complacent will have to renounce their love of ease. The faint-hearted will need to abandon the need for security. The violent will need to repudiate the desire for revenge. On and on it goes. Each individual knows that hinders him from giving everything to God? Jesus said, "If you would come after me, you must deny yourself."
How contrary this is to our self-centred nature?
“As I walked by myself, I said to myself, And myself said again unto me:
“Look to thyself, take care of thyself, “For nobody cares for thee.”
“Those who are bound for heaven must be willing to swim against the stream.” — Matthew Henry.
Several months back I asked a group of children ‘What is a church?’ Some of course gave fairly typical answers like: ‘It’s the building with the spire’ but one answer stood out to me: ‘It’s where you go to die’ said one boy.
Thomas A. Kempis? “Jesus today has many who love His heavenly kingdom, but few who carry His cross.....Plenty of people He finds to share His banquet, few to share His fast. Everyone desires to take part in His rejoicing, but few are willing to suffer anything for His sake.
Jesus does not ask for modest overhauls in our lives but major adjustments. He does not come to us offering self-fulfillment, He thrusts a cross before our disbelieving eyes. He does not invite us to try on the cross for to determine if we might like it. This cross is not a fashion accessory or a piece of jewelry, worn but seldom borne. This cross, this Roman gibbet, separates the disciples from admirers. There is much more involved than surveying the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died. The cross means that we must count our richest gain as loss and pour contempt on all my pride! The cross is not something one is naturally attracted to. Our Lord Himself shrank from it. He kneeled in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane under the shadow of Golgotha and prayed, "Lord, take this cross from me!"
For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession. Like men to die in the arena, we have been made a spectacle to the whole universe .....We are fools for Christ...we are dishonored!.....we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, brutally treated and homeless. (I Cor. 4:9-11)
John Bunyan said “A Christian man is never long at ease; When one grief’s gone, another doth him seize.”
“I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back.” This is a hard call! You are saying today as you said so many years ago, you are willing to die for Jesus. No an even harder requirement is that you are willing to deny yourself and live for Jesus!
This is a hard call!
We who are reformed tend to brush over the challenge and the cost of this call. We don’t want to be legalists. We don’t want to deny the wonderful mercy and grace of the gospel. And sometimes we shut our ears to this rigid requirement. It is not the requirement for salvation, for salvation is a free gift from God, but have no illusions, the Lord Jesus calls you to follow Him, and the way is not easy! In fact, it will cost you all you are and have.
Strangely we pastors are called to even more stringent costs than the congregations we challenge with this truth.
Do you not think that it will cost you all you are as a man to be a faithful servant of Jesus Christ?
Every decision in your life will be affected from one of two places . . . the World OR the Word of God, the Bible.
What will it be? Pleasure, Possessions, Prestige, Power or Position or Popularity.
Will you decide to stand against these powerful influences over your life?
“The world behind me, the cross before me, no turning back, no turning back!”
Gal 6:14 But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
2. The compelling causes 35-37
Your Personal devotion is called for examination For My Sake
To lose yourself is not an act of desperation; it is an act of devotion. “I have heard the voice of Jesus, Tell me not of aught; beside; I have seen the face of Jesus, All my soul is satisfied.” We love Him because He first loved us.
2 Corinthians 5: 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
"Love to God produces a desire to be with him; a desire to be like him, a longing to be with him eternally in heaven, and this breaks us away from worldliness; this keeps us from idolatry, and thus has a most blessedly sanctifying effect upon us, producing that elevated character which is now so rare, but which wherever it exists is powerful for the good of the church and for the glory of God." - SPURGEON
The Love of Christ compels us.
E. Stanley Jones, the great missionary to India, told of a time when he looked at a platform where two preachers sat. They had approached ministry in different ways. One took the method of looking out for himself and saw that he received the proper place on committees, proper recognition and authority. He knew how to pull strings and to move situations in his own behalf. He arrived at a place high in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. After he got there, however, he was sitting upon an empty throne. Jones said, "When he preached to us, we couldn't hear anything he was saying for we would always recall those methods by which he arrived at that place. His history spoke so loud to us we couldn't hear anything he said." Beside him sat Sadhu Sundar Singh. He had asked for no place of authority and had given himself to the people for Christ. What happened in his life? He had an authority over people's spirits that was tremendous. If it was known that Sundar Singh was going to preach somewhere, the whole city rushed to hear him. He had lost himself and he found himself in a place of authority.
Your Practical Duty is called for examination “for My sake and the Gospel’s”
Never more God-like than when loving others.. sacrificing for others John 3:16… sacrificing for others that they might have eternal life.
Personal devotion should lead to practical duty, the sharing of the gospel with a lost world. “For my sake” could lead to selfish religious isolationism, so it must be balanced with “and the gospel’s.” Because we live for Him, we live for others.
Discipleship is a matter of profit and loss, a question of whether we will waste our lives or invest our lives. Note the severe warning Jesus gives us here: once we have spent our lives, we cannot buy them back! Remember, He was instructing His disciples, men who had already confessed Him as the Son of God. He was not telling them how to be saved and go to heaven, but how to save their lives and make the most of their opportunities on earth. “Losing your soul” is the equivalent of wasting your life, missing the great opportunities God gives you to make your life count. You may “gain the whole world” and be a success in the eyes of men, and yet have nothing to show for your life when you stand before God. If that happens, though you did own the whole world, it would not be a sufficient price to give to God to buy another chance at life.
Is there any reward for the person who is a true disciple? Yes, there is: he becomes more like Jesus Christ and one day shares in His glory. Satan promises you glory, but in the end, you receive suffering. God promises you suffering, but in the end, that suffering is transformed into glory. If we acknowledge Christ and live for Him, He will one day acknowledge us and share His glory with us.
Pastor you have already paid a high price. Your congregation may not recognise the interminable hours spent in ministry on their behalf… the lack of free time with your family; the continual responsibility for all the churches; 2 Cor 11: danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;
27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?
Merrill Tenney sets the scene: “Jesus withdrew to Caesarea Philippi to confer privately with his disciples. His situation had become critical, and he needed to give them further instruction and to elicit from them a commitment of loyalty. The impending event of the Cross made it necessary for them to declare their values. Would they, in the stress of the days before them, choose the safety and comfort of living for themselves? Or would they accept his values and adhere to him at all costs?” Who really is the Boss here?
It is here that Jesus asks the famous question, "Whom do men say I am?" And it is here that Peter gives his confession, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." The scene at Ceasarea Philippi should grip our minds. As the Lord Jesus calls His disciples to follow Him, the “where” of where they will follow Him was abundantly clear. Ceasarea Phillippi was the city Herod’s brother Philip built in honour of the Roman Emperor Caesar. Herod had built lavish palaces, a race track and a theatre beside the sea For Rome’s emperors should they ever want to run away for a summer holiday! Philip built one in the mountains just below Mount Hermon, where the beautiful crystal clear and cold waters of the Jirdan commenced flowing from snow clad Hermon, on the border to Syria. And to make Ceasar more comfortable there were temples to the Roman Pantheon of gods carved into the rock that is almost the border of Israel. The Lord Jesus was saying “Follow me into a pagan world with the message of One God, One Saviour, One salvation to this pluralistic multicultural world.” Jesus is seeking for more than a confession; he is seeking for commitment!
Pastor The Lord Jesus calls you to follow Him into this world with His Gospel to save the lost.
Dr. Watts says:
“Must I be carried to the skies On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize And sailed through bloody seas?”
3. The bountiful benefits
He that wills to serve God for nought, will find that he does not serve God for nought.
Our motive must be free from selfishness, but in the end the Lord will reward all the faithful. Satan asked, "Doth Job serve God for nought ?" But we might answer, "Dost thou think that God is such a Master that he would let a man serve him for nought ?"
It effects your Eternal life
If you try to "save" your life, in the end you "lose" it. But if you dare to "lose" it for Jesus' sake, in the end you "save" it.
Many years ago, archaeologists discovered the tomb of Charlemagne, the great 8th- and 9th-century king and emperor of France. When the tomb was opened, after being closed for centuries, the men who entered it found something amazing. They found certain treasures of the kingdom, of course. But in the center of the large vault was a throne, and seated on the throne was the skeleton of Charlemagne, with an open Bible on his lap, and a bony finger pointing at the words, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" What a tremendous lesson from history to those of us who follow!
It effects your earthly labour
Brother “Why are you doing this?” Working for Christians stinks.
In 1992 a comedy movie called "Sister Act" was released. It starred Whoopi Goldberg as Deloris Van Cartier, a Reno lounge singer who witnesses her mobster boyfriend killing an employer. She was assigned through a witness protection program to live, of all places, in a convent. You can imagine that a lounge singer has a struggle fitting in as an imaginary nun with her new friends, Sisters Mary Patrick, Mary Lazarus and Mary Robert. After Mother Superior catches Deloris taking her new nun friends to a bar, she orders Deloris to join the convent choir.
Not only does Deloris join the choir, soon she is directing them and turns the choir into the swinging, singing sisters! They are a hit with the neighborhood and soon the church is filled with new ministries and folks from across the city coming to hear them sing. Only they aren't singing "Amazing Grace" and "Rock of Ages," they are singing secular songs with spiritual overtones. The movie climaxes with a rousing concert in the church's gothic sanctuary with the Pope present. The choir, directed by Deloris, who has been given a new name, Sister Mary Clarence, brings down the house in its grand finale, a teenybopper romance song from the 60s with these timely and meaningful words:
I will follow Him - Follow Him wherever He may go,
and near Him, I always will be,
For nothing can keep me away,
He is my destiny
I will follow Him, Ever since He touched my heart I knew,
There isn't an ocean too deep, A mountain so high it can keep,
Keep me away, away from His love.
I love Him, I love Him, I love Him, and where he goes,
I will follow, I will follow, I will follow.
He'll always be my true love, my true love, my true love,
From now until forever, forever, forever.
General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was asked the secret of his amazing Christian life. Booth answered, ‘I told the Lord that He could have all that there is of William Booth”
Have you told the Lord He can have all of you?
Will you tell Him this now?