Now, What Do I Do With the Cross?

Meditations on the Cross April 7, 2024 Luke 9:21-25 Notes

Imagine yourself on a path. That path is the collection of the choices you are making right now about what is important in life, what is the priority in how to spend your time, your energy, your thoughts, your desires, your essence. Not how do you want to spend all that. But how are you actually spending it? Now, look down that path. Where is it leading? Where are you heading? If you keep just doing the things you are doing right now, are you confident that it is going to end up where you want it? That it will lead to a satisfaction and a reward that is eternal in value? Jesus is here, today, inviting you to follow his path towards the best that the creator of the universe has for you. And, spoiler alert, it involves a cross…

In Luke chapter 9, Jesus told His disciples He would soon suffer, die and be raised on the third day and that their greatest reward would come when they chose to follow Him in this same way. When we choose to follow Jesus, we are choosing to live a self-sacrificial life that brings eternal reward.



My name is Jonathan. I'm one of the pastors here, and I'm really happy and fortunate to be up here bringing the message to you all. This morning we are finishing our series that we've entitled meditations on the cross. We've spent the last four weeks in the lead up to Easter and then Easter itself, talking about, what is this cross of Jesus? What does it mean for us?

What did he accomplish on the cross? What does it mean for us? We talked about the empty cross. We talked about the thieves on the cross and which side of the cross you're on. We've been kind of really thinking about Jesus cross.

And so today we want to ask one more question, one more meditation. Is there anything for me to do with the cross? We've been looking at Jesus' cross, and that's absolutely correct. That's a big deal. Is there anything for me to do with the cross?

Just has God asked me to do something with a cross? That's what we're going to talk about today. As Americans, sometimes we get this thought, we're fiercely independent. We are in control of our own destiny. That's sort of the American idea.

And so we bring this to our lives and we say, you know what? There's nobody controlling me. There's nobody forming me. I'm in charge of my destiny. I'm the one that's deciding what life is going to be like for me and for those in my sphere of influence.

I have control over where my life is headed. And sometimes we forget about the fact that we are influenced by the environment that we're in, by our parents and what we grew up in and our experiences, and also sort of how we're choosing to allow ourselves to be influenced by others. There's a quote here that I want to give you. This is from John Mark Comer. He's written a book called Practicing the Way, and this is how he opened up this book.

Who are you following? Everybody is following somebody, or at least something. Put another way, we're all disciples. The question isn't, am I a disciple? Or it's who or what am I a disciple of?

You ever feel that nagging thought tug at the back of your mind? Is the life I'm living the life I most deeply desire? Is this it? Maybe that's you this morning. You're thinking, oh, is this it?

Am I getting everything I really want out of life right now? I want you to imagine that you're on a path. We're all walking on a path, and that path is the sum total of all the choices you're making collectively, like right now in your life, how are you choosing to spend your time? How are you choosing to spend your energy? What are your goals?

What are you seeking after? What are those things that are causing you to organize your life in a certain direction? What desires do you have for life, and how are you putting those in practice and not how do you want to be? If someone asks you and you're on camera and you give them the sanitized answer, no, how are you actually spending your time and your energy and your efforts, all that? That's sort of the path that you're on.

And I want you, if you can just sort of imagine way down that path, like way into the future. If I'm just doing the things I'm doing right now, where is this path leading me? What do I end up with at the end of this path? And is it really what I want out of life? If all I keep doing for the rest of my life is all I'm doing right now, is it worth it?

What's the reward? What's the gain? What's the end of this path that I'm on? This is sort of the question he's asking, is this it? Jesus is here today inviting you to follow his path.

And this path leads to the very absolute best that the creator of the whole universe wants for you. That's the path he has. And here's the spoiler. It involves a cross. That's the path that we get to follow that actually leads to the best thing you could ever want.

We're going to learn about, how does this work? In Luke chapter nine, Jesus was talking to his disciples, and he told them, hey, I'm getting ready to suffer. I'm getting ready to die, and I'm getting ready to be raised again. He told them this before it happened, and then he said their greatest reward in life would come by doing the same thing he did. The best possible thing they could hope for is to follow him in that path of laying his life down on behalf of others.

When we choose to follow Jesus, we're choosing to follow this self sacrificial life that's others oriented, and it's Jesus kind of love, and it's self sacrificial, even to the point of a cross. That's what following Jesus means. So how can we do this? How can we get, how can we organize our lives towards this eternal reward, the very best that the creator of the universe has for you? We're going to learn about that today.

Y'all ready? You have your bibles? I didn't. I saw a couple notes. Okay, I'm just going to take that and I'm going to go.

We're going to read together Luke, chapter nine, verses 21 through 25. If you have bibles, turn to that, and we're going to put it up on the screen, too. If you didn't bring one, that's cool. Let's read this. This is Jesus speaking.

He strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, the son of man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And he said to all, if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself. Take up his cross daily. Follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it.

But whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses, forfeits himself God's word. Amen. Let's see what he's trying to teach us here in terms of the way how to live the sacrificial life that brings eternal reward.

1. Deny yourself.

We're going to camp out kind of in verse 23 there. We're going to get our points from there. That's really what he said. Okay, here's what's getting ready to happen. Here's what I want for you.

These three things. Deny yourself. Number one, let's not zoom over the speed bump, though. At the beginning of that verse, he says, if anyone would come after me. Okay, so we always have to put ourselves in the.

In the mind and in the place of the original hearers and the real life actors of this story. We got to put ourselves back there first to really kind of grasp how should this hit us. Now, imagine you're back there, and I learned something in studying for this. That this statement that Jesus says, if anyone wants to come after me was actually pretty radical in and of itself. So Jesus was not the first rabbi.

He was not the first rabbi that had disciples that would follow a rabbi around and do the sorts of things that the rabbi did. He wasn't the first one. This was a part of sort of life in first century jewish culture, that there would be a rabbi who has sort of come through the jewish educational system and reached the pinnacle, and then he would invite others who have been through primary school and middle school and high school. And he invites that select few that have made it through that gauntlet to say, okay, you've proven yourself worthy. I'm going to allow you to come follow me now.

So it's like this pyramid that gets smaller and smaller at the top where there's this rabbi that says, okay, there are a few of you that might be worthy to come follow me. And so imagine it's kind of like today. Like if you go into an Ivy League school like this is. This is like the pinnacle of what you're supposed to be. If you are a jewish child being educated in the ways of Judaism, this is it.

This is the highest level, and only a few get there. Here's Jesus saying, anybody want to follow me? Anybody? You don't have to be the best and brightest. You didn't have to get straight a's in school.

And so they're like, I'm a tax collector, and everybody hates me. He's like, yep, come on, you're good. I'm a prostitute. Is that cool? He's like, yep, you want to follow me?

Come on. Anybody wants to follow me? Come on. I'm a blue collar fisherman. I did not do very well in school, and that's why I'm a fisherman.

He's like, yep, come on, you're good. Come on. Anybody else want to follow? I'm a political zealot, and everybody gets tired of me talking about politics. They're like, yep, come on, let's do it.

You know what's most famous verse in the Bible? For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him, this is a radical, radical invitation that Jesus is giving to the first century Jew. Anybody can come follow me. You don't have to be the cream of the crop. Anybody.

So he's here saying this to us this morning. I don't know what you came in here with. I don't know what you got in your heart, what you got in your mind, what you got in your past where you're like, well, I guess I missed that opportunity. I didn't do so well at that part of life's school, and so I'm just going to have to kind of stay on the sidelines and let other people follow Jesus fully. I'm just going to have to kind of manage over here.

Here's Jesus invitation to you today. Doesn't matter. You want to follow me? Can you be in one of my disciples? I'll let you in.

Whoever, if anyone wants to come after me. Here's what it looks like, though. The invitation is open. Here's what it looks like. Number one.

Deny yourself that word. Deny. Find it very helpful trying to figure out, okay, what do we mean by deny? What does that actually mean? Because you have words in one language, and then you try and express that word in another language, and sometimes it's like, well, what does that word really mean?

So there's this thing called the strong's concordance. I'm giving you the behind the curtain. Here's how this works. And it's out there. It's on the Internet.

It's called strong's concordance. And you can look up and say, what's that word right there? And it'll say, here's that word. And here's every place in the entire Bible where that word was used. Pretty helpful.

This word deny right here, where he says, deny yourself, is only used in two contexts in all of the New Testament, and here in a couple different places where it's repeated, this invitation of Jesus to deny yourself. And then the only other place that's used is in the context of Jesus saying, peter, you're going to deny me. And then when Peter denied Jesus, that's the only other place that this word is used. So my first reading of this, I think about it like, it's like some sort of, like, physical impulse that you must deny. You must deny your physical impulses.

As if purely hypothetically, I loved ice cream. And it's like, I want ice cream, but I will deny that impulse. I will push that down. I'll push that impulse down and not eat the ice cream. And sidebar.

I'm really glad that's not what it means. Okay. That's not really what it means. Although, I mean, like, placing your physical desires in a subservient position is certainly part of it, but it's not all it is. And really what he's talking about is, like, deny association with yourself.

You do that like, I don't even know. Peter says, I don't even know the guy. That's the kind of deny he's talking about, man. What does that look like? Well, I love the fact that Jesus didn't just say things.

He also lives out what he means by those things. Any of the big things Jesus says whenever you ask, well, what did he mean by that? Well, look at how he acted. And he'll show you what he meant by that, because he doesn't just say things, he demonstrates it. And so how did Jesus demonstrate denial of self?

How did he do that? Well, we have examples. So here's an example. Luke, chapter four, one, two, and Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the spirit in the wilderness for 40 days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days.

And when they were ended, he was hungry. Okay, so denial of physical, like, wanting bread and food and, okay, it's part of it, apparently, but we learn from here. Jesus chose to deny that impulse, though, and say, you know what? I'm going to set this aside because I have a higher goal here. This makes me laugh.

I laugh at strange things. Luke is recording this. He's like, hey, he didn't eat anything for 40 days and he was hungry. It's like, yeah, no duh. But then I was sitting here thinking, well, why did he say that?

Because of course he's hungry. Then I was like, well, what would I have thought if he didn't write that? Might I have come to the conclusion, or others come to the conclusion that Jesus was so divine that he didn't even get hungry? I'd have come to that conclusion, and that would have been wrong. And so he's like, no, no, he was hungry.

Trust me. Like, thank you for the clarification, Luke. We're moving on. We learned something about Jesus here, that he had physical desires and needs, and he sometimes would put those aside and say, I'm denying that for something greater. Look at John 1431.

I do as the father has commanded me so that the world may know that I love the father. Rise. Let us go from here. So he denied his own plans. Basically, he said, look, I'm leaving an agenda behind.

I don't have an agenda anymore. Not my agenda. It's the father's agenda. I'm just going to do what he tells me to do. So I'm denying my, he says, I'm denying my agenda, and I'm getting on the father's agenda.

He denied his own status. So being a rabbi with followers, this is kind of, this is impressive. And what does he do? In John chapter 13, three through five, Jesus rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, taking a towel, tied it around his waist.

He poured water into a basin, began to wash the disciples feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. So he denied his own status and says, you know what? That's not important to me. Something way more important. I need to show you how to love each other, and that's to become a servant.

So I'm going to do that. I'm going to deny what I could be claiming, and I'm going to put that down here. So that's Jesus denying himself and then kind of the pinnacle, if you want, like, one little nugget that really shows you what it looks like to deny yourself, I think, is in the garden the night before he was crucified. Luke 22 42. He says, father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me.

Yet I want your will to be done, not mine. That's what it really means to deny yourself. Say, you know what? Everything that I want in life is not as important as what you want. That's denial.

And deny yourself. So the word identity, we've talked about this. Identity is, like a big deal for us in the modern world, and it's because we've decided it's sort of a modern invention, that our identity is found deep inside ourselves and that, like, no, no, you must go deeper. No, I think it might be this. No, no, probably not.

Go deeper. No, it's probably that. What do you really want? What do you really desire? Who are you, really?

And we keep going deeper and deeper and deeper, and then if you'll allow yourself to go deeper and deeper into yourself, you will find yourself. That's sort of the modern conception of identity, and it's a modern invention. And I like modern inventions. I like espresso machines that make tasty beverages. That's a nice modern invention.

This is not a helpful modern invention. Really isn't, you know, this thought that we must look inside ourselves to find out what's most important about ourselves, I think we can see the fruit of that, that it's not a helpful invention. We're putting so much pressure on ourselves and on our young people that you must find yourself. You don't know yourself. You must find yourself, and you must do all these things and try on all these things, and maybe some of you might find out who you really are.

That's not helpful. That's not how God has wired us. And it's leading to a lot of damage, specifically around our young people identity. What is at the core? What is at the core of who you really are?

I think Tim Keller says we need a new catechism or a new common saying about identity as christians, because we need. We need to understand what this is about. If that's what the culture is really geared towards, is finding your identity, well, then let's make sure we know as christians what this is all about. And so I've sort of tried to repeat this to myself, like, okay, what is most important about me as a follower of Jesus? I think it's.

I'm a child of God that's my identity. I'm a child of God. I'm not outside the family. I'm in the family. I'm not a slave.

I'm a child. I'm not even just a friend. I'm a child of God. And he's my father. And he's called me to join him in his mission to transform the world into his kingdom.

That's my identity now. That's what's most important about me, is that I'm a child of God. And he's called me to join him on his mission of transformation of the entire world into his kingdom. That's what's most important now. It's not that we should be uniform then.

And like back in the day, sign up for Twitter, you'd get the egg. Everybody looked the same. Faceless egg. That's not what God's after either. It's just that those things that are unique about each one of us are not our identity.

They're not the most important thing about us. If our identity is, we're a child of God, that's our true self. I've laid down my stuff about me, and I've laid that and put it in its rightful position is down here, and I've put my identity in Christ up here. It doesn't mean that stuff is gone. It just means it's not as important anymore.

And it means it's a tool now that I get to give to God and say, okay, I got some unique things about me that seem to be different from other people. Like the country I happen to be born in, the color of my skin and my culture, the things that I happen to be good at. Like, I look around, I go, wow, this seems to be easier for me than it seems to be other. Everybody's got one of those. What are those things where you're like, that's easy for me.

And everyone else seems to struggle. That's how God has gifted you. That's different. It's unique. Your experiences, like, you may have been hurt at the hands of someone else.

Think back in your life and say, okay, yeah, someone did something really bad to me. Is that my identity now? No. You look at yourself. I tend to struggle in this sin over here.

Is that your identity? No. If you say, you know what, I have a lot of money, or I don't have any money, is that the most important thing about you? No, not, here's my job, here's my career. Here's how I've decided to make a career.

That's the most important thing about you. No, they're just things. Some of these things you need to give to God and say, shape this, carve this away. This doesn't look like you. This is part of me.

But I need your help of carve this away. Some of this, you're like, I need more of this. God, I need you to use more of this. But it's this constant conversation now of saying, I'm bringing myself, I'm putting that underneath this new self that I have of being a child of God. And I'm saying, God, what do you want to do with this?

That's a much healthier way of looking at identity rather than trying to look inside of ourselves. We're looking to God's identity for us. I think that's a part of what it means to deny yourself in today's modern age is to say, you know what? Me is not so important. God through me, way more important.

The good news, the gospel is not really just about sin management. It's not about saying, okay, well, you're gonna do bad stuff, but don't worry, God will forgive you for the bad stuff. Now let's move on. It's more about, God wants to take you and transform you into someone who bears his image, who looks more and more like him. So your old self now becomes someone.

You're like, you know what? I don't really have a lot of association with that old self anymore. I kind of deny that I even know that person anymore. They're gone. I got a new self now.

That kind of denial. All right, so that's number one, I got to move on. Wow. Okay. Number two, we're looking back in verse 23, he says, deny yourself.

2. Take up your cross daily.

We look at this and we say, okay, Jesus said, take up your cross. What he did not say was, take up my cross. He had a cross.

He did something. He was the only one who was able to do what he did with that cross. He was the perfect lamb. He was the atoning sacrifice for our sins. None of us can do that with our cross.

We don't have that kind of capability. We are not God. Come to earth to save mankind from their sins. That's not us. That's him.

That was his cross we've talked about for the last four weeks. What does he tell us? Well, now you get to take up your cross. You need to do the thing that I did. I'm getting ready to suffer.

You want to come after me? Here's what it's going to look like you're going to do the same thing I did. I'm going to take up a cross. You're going to take up a cross. Jesus invitation is really to join him in his crucifixion.

Look at Galatians 220. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live. So Paul just kind of put these two things together. I've denied myself to the point where I've crucified it with Christ.

No longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. He tells us that his way of laying his life down is the greatest example of love, and we get to do the same thing. Look at John 14 12 13. This is my commandment.

Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There's no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends. My self sacrificial love is the greatest, highest example of love. And now I want you to do that too. That's what it means to follow Jesus.

Philippians, chapter two. It's, I think, one of the most beautiful chapters in the whole Bible, as it's simultaneously very practical, but also incredibly poetic and meaningful. Here's a little selection here that kind of shows us this Jesus doing something and calling us to be alongside him. Don't be selfish. Don't try to impress others.

That's practical. Be humble. Thinking of others as better than yourselves. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Oh, that's why we're supposed to be like, because that's how Jesus, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal's death on a cross.

Oh, to that extreme sea. He wants us to follow him. Like I said, it's always important to kind of put yourself in the mind of the original hearer of whatever happened. Put yourself in the story as much as you can. I've spent some time thinking about this because it's just always like, how did those first disciples react when Jesus said, take up your cross daily?

How did that hit him? Well, it's helpful to think about this. Was Jesus the first person to be crucified? No. Many other people were crucified.

His was unique because of who was crucified. But the method of execution itself was not unique to him. In fact, 600 years before Jesus was crucified, it was the first recorded instance of crucifixion. And just thinking about this crucifixion is a terribly inefficient way to kill somebody. Okay?

Right. Like, you've done the crime, you're guilty. Here's your punishment. Like that. This is a very inefficient way of doing it.

So the first recorded crucifixions were King Darius of Persia. 3000 of his enemies. He wants to crucify, he crucifies at the same time. Just think about the logistics here, okay? That's a lot of wood.

You got to put all the wood together. You got to create 3000 crosses. You got to come up with 9000 pointy, big nails. You got to dig 3000 holes. And the earth is heavy, no matter where you're at.

And the earth is heavy. That's a lot of work. It takes a long time. So the preparation took a long time. And then the actual act of crucifixion was recorded to sometimes take two, three, four days.

This is a long. Like, we have swords, we could use them. It would be much quicker. And Darius is like, no, we will do this. And then there's a lot of cleanup afterwards.

You know, like, this is not. It's. And I'm not trying to be morbid about this, but just trying to think about why. Why crucifixion? Why would that be the method of execution versus some other thing?

And it's got to be about the display of it and the fact that other people are seeing this. So it's communication. It's saying, I'm in charge. My government is in charge. You are to do what I say.

And this is what we do to people who don't do what I say. It's got to be about communication. It's got to be about political communication. Really? We're in charge.

You're not. Get in line. This is what will happen to you if you don't follow our rules. Much bigger than just, you did a crime. Here's the punishment.

And so Jesus, he made a lot of people mad, and that's why he was crucified. They didn't just crucify him because they're like, eh, let's find somebody. No, he earned it by making people mad. He primarily made the jewish ruling party mad by, number one, claiming to be God and blaspheming according to them and then also exposing them as frauds, that, hey, you claim to be representing Jesus. I'm sorry, God.

You claim to be representing God. You claim to be his representatives on earth, and yet you're using that to just keep people in your enslavement in this new enslavement. That's fraudulent. That's kind of his message towards the Pharisees. And they did not like that.

And then the Romans were kind of scared of him because people were starting to follow him. And they're like, I'm not sure about this. Yeah, let's let them do what they want to do, and let's. Okay, here, we can do a crucifixion. You want to do a crucifixion?

Sure. He just, he made a lot of people mad, and he could have won those games. All he had to do was just make one of those parties happier and say, you know what? Okay, I won't ask you that anymore. Let's just make a peace.

Let's make a coalition here. We're good. And he wouldn't have been crucified, but instead he chose to lose that political game and say, yep, you win.

You're right. I have crossed. I have not played by your rules, and I will allow myself to be crucified. And so to the original hearers of this, they've got to be thinking, what you want us to do? What?

So this might be a stretch. I'm trying to think about how would this hit us today if Jesus were to come and give the same invitation today in our world? What would this sound like? I think it would sound something like this. You want to come after me and be a disciple?

First, you have to deny yourself. Second, you have to allow yourself to be beheaded. Live streamed on the Internet by ISIS daily. And follow me, we'd go, that doesn't sound like a really good idea. Jesus, he has a history of making these kinds of, there's other examples of him saying things that make people go, like, for example, after he feeds the 5000 people are like, hey, he heals people.

He provides a lot of food. This is a cool guy to be around. Everyone's like, yes, like this Jesus guy. So the crowds start gathering. Crowds start gathering.

He's like, hey, you want to be my disciple? You have to eat my flesh and drink my blood. They're going, yes, thank you, Jesus. I think we have enough information here to make our decision. We'll be talking.

And don't call us, we'll call you. Thank you. Have a nice day. A lot of people just left and they're like, that's not a good idea. And the disciples were like, hey, jesus, are you aware that you said kind of something that kind of offensive to people and they didn't really like it?

Yeah, you want to leave too? What do you say to him, so Jesus is not, you know, he doesn't play games. And so he's saying this really harsh thing, you must follow me in my self sacrificial, even to the point of death on a cross life that ends in self sacrificial death, that is on behalf of others. So the way of the cross is self sacrificial, others oriented love. And Jesus is saying to us, you must follow me to the extreme in that.

So this is sort of what we have to be asking ourselves on a daily basis. It's something we have to ask of our whole life, and it's also something we have to ask of, like, every day, every moment of the day. Jesus, how do you want me to be self sacrificial today and others oriented today? How can I love people around me like you loved me? How can I be more like you, even to the point of complete and total sacrifice myself, denial of myself towards your greater cause, which is your love and your kingdom come on earth.

This is something we can ask. If we have the Holy Spirit, he can lead us to be more like him. And in fact, that's what he's told us the christian life is about, is following that example. Okay, third, so deny yourself, take up your cross, and then follow Jesus. You want to come after me?

You want to follow after me? You want to be one of my disciples? Deny yourself, take up your cross...

3. Follow Jesus.

...follow me. Okay, looking at this word follow, this is a really fascinating word to me. It is a compound word.

One part of the compound literally means road or path, and then the other part of the compound word means to join the path. And so what he's saying is, follow me. What he's saying is, I'm on a path, and I want you to follow me on that path, get on my path, and we're going. So follow. It's used 92 times in the New Testament.

So deny was like, twice or two different contexts. This one's used a lot. Turns out it's really, really important to the life of the Jesus follower. It turns out to be the thing that we're called to do, to follow Jesus, to get off our path. We talked about the path at the beginning.

Like, what is the sum total of everything you're doing? That's your path without Jesus. That's informed by the world. It's informed by our enemy. It's informed by our own fleshly desires.

It gets well trod. The ruts get deeper and deeper. As we keep following that path, it gets harder and harder to escape. It's wide. It leads to destruction.

That's the path that all of us are on. And here's Jesus calling us, saying, get off that path. Get on my path. Follow me. I got a different path.

Follow Jesus, get on his path. Beautiful word. Amazing call. So the gospel is more the good news. What we preach, what we believe, what makes us who we are as a church, as a body of believers, is more than just Jesus saying, hey, feel free to stay on your own path.

But whenever you sin, whenever you do stuff I tell you not to do, just call over to me on my path over here. Just call over every once in a while and say, hey, Jesus, can you forgive me that thing that I did over there? And he yells over, yeah, you're good. Keep going on your path. That's not, that's not the gospel.

The gospel is, get off your path and get on mine. Now, the good news here is that he's made it. He's made it possible for you to join him on his path. He didn't say, get yourself together. Get your sins forgiven, make atoning sacrifice for yourself.

And once you're done with all that, now you get to be on my path. The good news is, he says, I've done the work. You can follow me on my path, but get on my path. Get on my road. That's what following Jesus means.

It's kind of mind blowing when you start just thinking about this as the metaphor for who we are as believers. What did Jesus say? I am the way. I. Whoa.

I am the way. The word for way is another word for road or path. He's like, get on my path. I'm the path. I'm the way.

To get on the way. I'm the way. You know what the early christians were known as? Not christians. They weren't known as christians.

You know what they were known as followers of the way. That's how they were referred to in the book of acts. When the followers of the way, when the people who got on Jesus path showed up to that town, that's what they were known as. Christian was used only in a pejorative sense, and it just meant little Jesus. And so people who didn't like these followers of the way were like, you're just a little Jesus.

Like, if someone says, and they don't mean it nicely, you're just like your daddy. You're little Jesus. That's what they, that's kind of what they meant. And then the followers of the way were like, yeah, I'm just like my daddy. I'm a little Jesus.

They took it on, and that's why we call ourselves christians. It was not meant as a good thing. It was meant as an insult. But anyway, that was used a couple times. What was mostly how they referred to these people who would come to a place to hear somebody preach and sing songs would be followers of the way, people who got on Jesus.

So I just want you to imagine this, that like who we are as a body of believers and joining together with all the other believers across Wilson and across our state and across the world and all throughout the human history, before us and after us, all these people who say, I follow Jesus. What we're really saying is that we're a bunch of people that got off our path. Praise the Lord. Jesus made it possible for us to get off our path, and we've joined him on his path. And we're all carrying crosses behind us, all next to each other going, this is awesome.

Come across. And we're all coming from different roads, different messy places, all different experiences, and all these different things. What is it that unites us is that we're all in Jesus path. We're followers of the way. That's who we are.

And that's Jesus invitation, not come get your sins forgiven. That's critically important because we can't follow the way on our own. We have to have Jesus make the atoning sacrifice so we can be on his path. It's not that, it's not that. It's just that it's bigger than that.

Follow Jesus, get on his path. And here's where it gets critical. Remember that show, let's make a deal. That show, I think it's still on, right? So they get chosen, woohoo.

You go up there and they're like, here's a watch. And you're like, whoa, that's amazing. Or here's dollar 300. You're like, yes, I need dollar 300. They say, however, I have a deal.

You can take this $300. So this watch, computer, whatever, or behind door number two. Well, you don't know what's behind door number two, so you have to make a choice. You have to take a risk, right? Because sometimes you choose door number two and there's a zonk back there.

There's like a can of shaving cream. Like, should have taken the $300, right? Understand this is the game. You ever watch the show, okay, there's a risk involved. There's something you know and there's something you don't know, and you have to make the choice between the two.

And it's kind of like that in the christian walk in, being a follower of the way, it's kind of like that. So we have our path. We're pretty familiar with that path. We are pretty familiar with where that leads us with sort of life. We're getting on that path.

It's what it is. Jesus says, hey, I got a path over here. And trust me, there's an eternal reward all the way at the end. Now, notice he doesn't say it's all going to be peaches and cream on the path. He says, if you're going to try and save your life, you're going to lose it.

If you're trying to live for this moment right here, it's not going to work. You've got to look all the way into eternity and trust me that there's a reward on the other side of this path, way at the end of this path, there's a reward that you're not going to want anything for. It's the best. This turns out to be the fundamental faith step we all have to take. So when we say, I believe you, Jesus, I believe in you, Jesus, what we're saying is, I believe your path is the better path.

And even though I can't see that reward, you're telling me it's better and I'm going to trust you, I'm going to walk your path, I'm going to accept your invitation, follow that path, and I'm going to not just say I believe it, but have enough faith and a trust to say, I'm going to get off my path and I'm going to get on Jesus path because I believe it. That's what faith is. That's the invitation Jesus gives all of us. And it requires faith. It requires trust.

It requires believing and putting our faith and trust in his atoning sacrifice to forgive us of our sins. And it also requires faith and trust to say, now I'm going to start trying to do the things through your power, through the power of the Holy Spirit, through your grace, Lord, help me keep, help me to stay on this path, help me to do the sorts of things you did, because I trust. I believe that's what's best for me. You're the creator of the universe and you told me that you've designed this path to be my ultimate good.

And it does not always look like success to the world. A lot of times it looks like the opposite of that. It doesn't always look like us getting what we want, things turning out easy. In fact, most of the time, Jesus says, you're going to have trouble in this world. Chances are you're going to have more of that.

What it really means is at the end of that, all of that stuff, even if we were to get it, Lord, I'm praying for promotion. Lord, I need a better house. Lord, I need this situation to be fixed. Lord, I want this. Lord, I want that fixed.

Even if we were to get all of that, it would all look like a zonk compared to what we got in eternity. And so here's your little teaser. Next week, we start a new series called Heaven. We're talking about, what is that reward that living in eternity with God turns out to be the greatest thing? And here he says, I'll show you how to get there.

Follow me. Pick up your cross. Deny yourself. These are the actions that it takes to lead towards the ultimate fulfillment of what we really, really want in life. So we get to look in our own hearts and say, okay, what part of me am I ordering my life to be on that path, to be seeking after and through the power of the Holy Spirit, to be being more and more transformed into what God wants me to be and who he wants?

Am I on that path? And so if you were to go to the doctor and they're like, your cholesterol is a little high.

What are you putting in what's forming you? What is making that cholesterol high? I would be like, certainly it's not ice cream. Got to be something else. He'd be having conversations with me about, hey, all this stuff you're putting in is turning into something that turns out to not be good for you, right?

I mean, it's kind of obvious. So if we're looking at our spiritual life, we say, okay, am I experiencing what God wants for me when I'm not, I have to look at, what am I allowing to form me? What am I allowing to disciple me to? What am I following? And is it.

Is it Jesus path or is it my own path? Which of those you have to look at it and say, okay, am I getting what I want? And an example. And if you know me, I tend to beat this dead horse a lot. But social media is sort of like the thing right now in our world, and it's pretty new.

It's 1520 years old, but it's just, like, taken over all of our time and our communication and our relationships and our news and our entertainment. It's just kind of, like, sucked it all out in 15 or 20 years. But we actually, there's research done on this, and we've sort of begun to come to an understanding of what it's like. What is the outcome of this? And there's three particular things that.

And if you've been on social media for any length of time, and the more you're on it, you kind of know. Yeah, yeah. That's the outcome of being there. You know, you get more and more self centered because, well, I would say for me, you post something, you're like, where's the likes? Give me more likes.

They didn't think that was funny. I thought that was funny. But, you know, only two shares, really. That person over there shared it, you know, posted something that they got ten shares. I'm funnier.

Why don't they share mine? It becomes a self centered, self navel gazing kind of exercise. It also leads to anger and contempt towards those that are not like you. We know this. This is not like a.

I wonder if that would happen. No, we know that this is what's happening. The more and more you're on social media, the more you are likely to have contempt and anger towards those that are not in your crowd. And mostly, you're not even on the social media with people that are not in your crowd. It's other people who are in your crowd talking about people who are not in your crowd.

And you're like, yeah, this guy's the worst, right? And it leads to that kind of like us versus them and segmentation. And that's kind of what's happened as a result of social media. The other thing is a discontentedness with your own life. You start playing the comparison game like, well, their house is nicer than mine, and their vacations are nicer than mine, and their hair is better than mine, and their life is better than mine.

Their activities are better than mine. Man, I wish I had their life. It leads to that. And so there's probably others, but I'm just kind of thinking about those three things that we know, that being on social media leads to these things. Then you ask yourself, is that Jesus path or is that the world's path?

Is that my path? And you're like, well, those three things. Self centeredness, anger towards those that are not like you, and discontentedness with your life turns out to be the exact opposite of the character that Jesus wants to form inside of us.

It's the opposite, right? What did he say? Self sacrificial love is the way, not self centeredness. He said, deny yourself. He said, love your enemies.

But this is generating the opposite of that, an anger and contempt for our enemies. And he said, look at the birds of the air. Look at the lilies. They're good. Stop worrying about this stuff on this earth.

It's all good. Don't worry about it. And we're like, I'm worried about it more and more. So it's like going to the doctor and they say, your cholesterol is too high. If you're looking at your life saying, well, these are areas where I'm not looking like Jesus right now.

I'm not experiencing the best. What inputs am I putting in that's leading to something that's the opposite of what Jesus wants from me? Well, let me stop putting those inputs in because I believe that Jesus path is better, because he told me I'm going to trust him. So I'm going to start putting more inputs in from him and less inputs in from myself and from the world. This is discipleship.

This is following Jesus path. It involves talking to your friends and talking to your small group and talking, saying, I really want to be more like Jesus. Do you? Okay? So I'm struggling with this area right here where I'm not acting like Jesus, okay?

How can I organize my life to be more like Jesus? How can I rest in his power and stop trying to do it myself and stop trying to follow the world and stop trying to follow the flesh? How can I follow him better, be more like him? And this is the way. This is followers of the way.

Are we going to be that as a church? People who are bound together going, yeah, let's get on Jesus path together and let's be more like him. That's what it means to be followers of the way. This quote from Dallas Willard, he says, the greatest issue facing the world today, with all its heartbreaking needs, is whether those who are identified as christians will become disciples, students, apprentices, practitioners of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the kingdom of the heavens into every corner of human existence. So this is important for us, but it's also important for Jesus mission on planet Earth, which is to transform planet Earth into his kingdom.

The greatest issue is, are those who say they are christians actually going to start following Jesus? That's the greatest issue. I skipped over a passage I really want to talk about. This is Luke, chapter 646 48. Jesus talking.

He says, why do you keep calling me Lord, Lord, and you don't do what I say? I'll show you what it's like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It's like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the flood waters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. This is the context of having that firm foundation of the, you know, the old songs, build my house on the rock.

This is the context. Jesus says, you know what building a solid foundation looks like? It looks like doing what I say. It looks like being on my path. It's the best.

Are you willing to do that? You know, that's what he's asking. Are you willing to do what I say? Are you willing to follow me on my path? You trust me that much that you'd actually do that?

That's what faith looks like. We get to follow Jesus in this. Hebrews, chapter twelve two, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. So again we see this beautiful picture that Jesus, he was the founder and perfecter. He created the path.

He is the path. What did that look like? Well, he denied himself. He despised the shame that came with it and says, you know, that's not important. He endured the cross.

He took up his cross. And why? For the joy that was set before him, for the reward. He saw what was on the other side of it, and he pushed through and did what was necessary for us to be able to follow him. That's what being followers of the way looks like.

Will you be a follower of the way today, increasing more and more today and tomorrow and the next day, and asking God, the Holy Spirit, to help you be more and more like him, to deny yourself, to take up your cross daily, self sacrificial, other centered love, and follow Jesus to get on his path? Turns out that's all we could ever want out of life, because the reward he's going to give us at the end of that path is eternity with him. And nothing else matters than that. Will you do that? Will you become a follower of Jesus today?

Let's pray. Lord, we thank you. We are so, so grateful that you are the way that we don't have to come up with the goods. We don't have to make it possible for ourselves to escape our path, our wide path that leads to destruction, or that you made a way for us through your cross, through your atoning sacrifice, and that trusting in that sacrifice makes it possible for us to follow you. We are so grateful.

Help us not to take advantage of that or to believe that in vain that we would then not follow you, not receive the reward that you have for us, which is for us to be more like you, to be children of God, to be part of your adventure on planet Earth, and then also to live eternity with you. Help us to pursue that with everything that we have but our own selves in service of that goal. Thank you that you made that possible. Lord, I pray for anybody here this morning that is still on their own path. They are working to make themselves right, to bring about the best in life all by themselves, struggling, not being able to measure up, not being able to be worthy enough.

Lord, help us to lay that down and to accept your free offer. Forgiveness, grace in your way that you made possible the death your son crossed. Pray that we would follow you that would repent from those old ways, turn to you and ask you to help us to grow more and more like you. We pray this in your name, Amen.


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