Deny, Take, Follow

Mark 8:27-38 (NKJV):

27 Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them,“Who do men say that I am?”
28 So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”

29 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.”

30 Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him.

31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33 But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
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? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

When reviewing the feedback from couples who attended the 2014 Committed for Life Marriage Retreat, it was encouraging to us to see how many positive comments were written in reference to Dr. Johnny Parker‘s session based on verses 31-36 of the passage above.  Although Mark 8:34b is key, and commonly-quoted, it was eye-opening to consider it in context with events that preceded, and with the full content of Christ’s declaration.

As the text reveals, the fact that Jesus is the Messiah was a certainty in Peter’s mind.  Nevertheless, Christ’s actual immediate future did not coincide with Peter’s worldly expectations.   Jesus then clarified for His disciples that real allegiance to Him required that they esteem Him – and the proclamation of the good news – more than they valued their very lives!  Then, and now, The Lord has instructed each Believer to:

1) DENY yourself – This concept goes far beyond the idea of settling for a Toyota, rather than a Lexus.  In this case, it means to renounce (to abandon) your right to act as though your life belongs to you.

2) TAKE up your cross – This, of course, is not fashion advice about what type of jewelry to wear.  In the age of Christ’s ministry on earth, those dwelling in Israel were all too familiar with the practice of forcing condemned men to carry the beams upon which they would be executed.  Here again, He calls you to regard your life as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1), given up for Him.

3) FOLLOW Him – In our marriages, our careers, or even our ministries, we can find ourselves wishing, “Lord, here’s where I want to go; please come along and help me reach my goal.”  Conversely, when we understand what He means by “follow”, our prayers will sound more like, “Lord, lead me daily – through Your Word, and by Your Spirit – in the way You want me to go; my life is in Your hands.”

To deny, take, and follow requires deliberate, selfless action.  You miss the mark as a disciple if you’re more concerned about preserving a way of life that is comfortable for you and inoffensive to lost sinners, than you are about giving your life wholly to The Lord.

So, here is the challenge: to choose obedience to The Savior over the temptation to compromise in the face of opposition, giving top priority to Christ’s will and purpose, above and before personal agendas.  Just as The Son denied Himself, took up His cross, and followed The Father’s will (to bring us salvation), let us be husbands and wives that embolden one another to maintain a deny-take-follow attitude, and to represent the cause of Christ in every aspect of life.

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