Mark 8:34-38 The Cycle of Discipleship

Mark 8:34-38 The Cycle of Discipleship November 17, 2013

Mark 8:34-38 The Cycle of Discipleship

The Christian life may begin with at the mountain top, but it travels along the valley. Look with me at the beginning of this set up. The disciples are with Jesus at the top of a mountain. Peter makes the great confession – that Jesus is the promised Redeemer of Israel. He is the Savior who will save the people from the oppression.

“But you,” He asked them again, “who do you say that I am?” Peter answered Him, “You are the Messiah!”” (Mark 8:29, HCSB)

Jesus tells them to not reveal this to other people. The main reason was because it was not yet time for people to accept Him as the redeemer of Israel. Then Jesus reveals a new truth to his followers. He says that He will die and then resurrect on the third day.


Mark 8:34-38 The Cycle of Discipleship

Then He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, be killed, and rise after three days.” (Mark 8:31, HCSB)

This was news to the disciples. They never expected Jesus the Messiah – the Savior of the world to suffer. This was the example which Jesus wanted people to learn. This was His commandment.

“Wait a minute, Jesus…I thought you said that I was right when I claimed that you were the Messiah?”

He was openly talking about this. So Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.” (Mark 8:32, HCSB)

Peter takes the time quietly to tell Jesus that Jesus was wrong. He was supposed to be the Redeemer of Israel. He was supposed to protect us from the wrongs of the Roman Empire. “Jesus, you are supposed to fix this problem in my life.” “I am supposed to have a good life and You are the One who can make it happen.” “Fix my problem, Jesus.”

Sounds like how people want to treat Jesus today. Be my redeemer, my fixer-upper. Clean my mess up. Solve my problems.



Mark 8:34-38 The Cycle of Discipleship

Summoning the crowd along with His disciples, He said to them, “If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34, HCSB)

So Jesus reveals the discipleship process. It is not an easy one. He says if you really are going to follow Me, then you will go through a cycle of three steps.

  1. Deny myself
  2. Take up my cross
  3. Follow Jesus

This is essentially Jesus’ Church Growth Program. It must be important, because it is recorded in three of the Gospel accounts:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24, HCSB)

Then He said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23, HCSB)

Does He record it elsewhere? No. But it becomes part of the process that He teaches with each believer. Paul records it as his way of discipleship, which he taught to others.

You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:1–3, HCSB)

John tells us that we should “walk just as Jesus walked.”

The one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked.” (1 John 2:6, HCSB)

Peter says it is part of being called a Christian:

But if anyone suffers as a “Christian,” he should not be ashamed but should glorify God in having that name.” (1 Peter 4:16, HCSB)

James tells to expect difficult time and that it is part of the “happy” Christian life:

A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12, HCSB)

Hebrews contrasts the suffering of Jesus with the enduring city which we will receive in the end. He also compares the sufferings of Jesus with worship. We praise God by confessing Him as we go to Him, not as a King of glory, but as the disgraced, rejected, suffering Servant that He is.

Let us then go to Him outside the camp, bearing His disgrace. For we do not have an enduring city here; instead, we seek the one to come. Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name.” (Hebrews 13:13–15, HCSB)

Jude warns about the people who would like to turn the grace of God and His way of doing things into the easy life which says to me: deny Jesus as your Master and Lord.

For some men, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.” (Jude 4, HCSB)

In other words, I am talking about “Lordship salvation,” or more precisely “Lordship discipleship.” It is easy to confess Jesus as Lord when I get saved. It becomes harder to show what I believe by following Him.

Let me show you the process which we all go through. Jesus went through it. He told us that we all will go through it. The process involves three steps, but at each step, there is a potential temptation to stop growing and stop following Jesus.

First, you have to deny yourself. You have to suffer something. Something you go through will cause you to either say: “I will accept Your will God or I will go my own way.”

You do that by “mortifying” the sinful nature – by killing the selfishness. It has happened. It happens every morning when you wake up. It happens with every decision.

For through the law I have died to the law, so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:19–20, HCSB)

For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny  {deny yourself} godlessness and worldly lusts and to live {take up your cross} in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait {follow Me} for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works {follow Me}.” (Titus 2:11–14, HCSB)

You are continually asking yourself: What do I have to give up today? 

Second, you have to take up your cross. You have to be rejected. You are going to see challenges in your life that are heavy, burdensome, and difficult to do. Following Christ and growing to be like Him means that I am going to take on these challenges, not shrink from them.You are continually asking yourself: What challenges are I going to see today? 

Third, you have to follow. This type of following requires a death. It a death to my own concerns and I start watching out for God’s concerns. You are continually asking yourself: What does God want me to be concerned about today? 

But turning around and looking at His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan, because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s!”” (Mark 8:33, HCSB)

Satan is out there trying to tempt me to be interested in other concerns. Which brings up the issue of temptation. Following Christ does not eliminate temptation. Following Christ means that I have a way out of temptation.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, HCSB)

Temptation and suffering are not the same thing. Temptations can be avoided. Sufferings cannot be avoided. Temptations are cheats out of discipleship. Suffering is the test of discipleship. Temptations don’t come from God, they come from Satan. Trials which make us suffer do come from God.
At each point in this process, I should expect that I will be tempted. However, I can overcome temptation and learn to be obedient. This has enormous implications for my personal life as well as the life of this church. For the church, it means the following:

Sometimes, the church is going to suffer. We should never expect the world or the nation to truly understand the church. Persecution from outside should be expected. The sad news today is that most the persecution comes from other churches and Christians.

The church will be rejected. There are people in the world who will reject the church. The church takes up a cross when it has been condemned by the world. It does not mean that we refuse to engage the world. But it does mean that there are some who will reject the message of the church. We are still called “to go” but it does not mean that what we share will fall on accepting ears.

The church has to be die in following Jesus. Just as it says in Hebrews: “We bear His disgrace.” We have to go outside the camp. In one sense, this means that we are not like the world we are in. We look forward to another city. In another way though, it does mean that some things in the church have to die. We have to leave our “comfort zone” to be ready to do things that God may never have told us because as a church we didn’t deny ourselves.

What do I mean? There are some things that God can only do through the church when the church decides to “deny itself.”

We are used to doing things a certain way. There is a comfort in doing those things. The Southern Baptist Convention, the Missouri Baptist Convention, and the Association. These agencies are the means through which we have been comfortable in doing our work. In recent years, we have been comfortable doing our work through certain activities. At some point, we may have to say: “What we seem to be doing does not promote God’s concerns, but our concerns.” Maybe we need to take to heart as a church the saying Jesus said:

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35, HCSB)

Because of the Gospel’s sake and Jesus’ sake, as a church, we are going to lose our way of life. We may have to lose some ways in order to save the life of the church. This requires change. Most people are not comfortable with change. What’s got to go in order to save the church? Probably traditions that don’t work anymore. But more importantly, attitudes which don’t help the church. The church can fall into the temptation of a critical spirit during a time of change. This critical spirit tempts us to leave the cycle of church growth. The temptation to give up and crawl in my hole, or get “out of the habit” of church.

not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25, HCSB)

Actually the habit is to get out of church, not to stay in church. To be part of the church should be as natural as breathing. To stay away from the church takes a habit of abandonment. I get in the habit of leaving. Jesus never called us to leave Him. Wives are never expected to leave their husbands. The Bride of Christ should not leave their husband. But that is what Christians do when they stay out of meeting as the church. He called us to stay together, encouraging one another, especially as get closer to His return. Why? Because the temptation is going to be stronger to stay away from the church.

There is also the cost to my following Jesus. There is also a cost to not following Jesus:

For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”” (Mark 8:38, HCSB)

When Jesus returns, will He be proud that I followed Him? Or will He say that He was ashamed because I was like the rest of the world? Did I choose to follow Him as He wanted me to? Or did I choose to follow the world’s ways?

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