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Taking Up the Cross

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
August 28, 2022 7:00 pm

Taking Up the Cross

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew

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August 28, 2022 7:00 pm

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We have your Bibles with you this morning. Turn with me, if you would, to Mark chapter 8, and we're going to be looking at verses 34 through 38. This is a prophet of man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul.

For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation of him, will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. Bow with me as we go to our Lord in prayer. Heavenly Father, we're dealing with the subject of discipleship today. These verses were not spoken by Jesus to make me comfortable.

They were written by Mark to convict me and to challenge me, and they do. When Jesus tells me to take up the cross, my mind goes back to his crucifixion. The cross was the instrument of execution for Jesus. He died on the cross. He gave his all on the cross. Is that what I'm being called to?

It may be, but it could be a call not to just be physically murdered, but to purposely intentionally die to self. Father, there's one statement in this passage that I'm asking you to plaster across our minds. Jesus said, what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? May that question ruminate in our hearts today. Please be glorified in this message. Help me to feed your people with the word of God, for it's in the precious name of Jesus that I pray. Amen.

You may be seated. I want to begin today by speaking to you some verses of Scripture that speak very powerfully about how God saves us. 2 Corinthians 5, verse 17, If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation.

Old things are passed away. Behold, all things are become new. Ephesians 2, 8, and 9, For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. Romans 5 and verse 8, that says, For God commended his love toward us, and that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. John 3, 16, For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Romans chapter 6 and verse 23, That says, To the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Ephesians chapter 2 and verse 1, That says, For you has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. Folks, those verses encapsulate the gospel.

And they teach us that we are saved by grace through faith plus nothing. What does it mean to be dead in trespasses and sins? That's what the scripture says that we are before we're converted. Does it mean physical death?

No. Before I was converted, I was very much physically alive. I could walk, I could talk, I could speak, I could breathe, I could eat, I could sleep, I could work, I could play. Very much physically alive. Well, what's part of me is dead. Is it my soul? The soul is the real me. It's who I am as a person. It's my mind, my will, and my emotions. Was that dead before I was saved?

Absolutely not. It's very much alive. Well, what was it that was dead?

It was my human spirit that was dead. That's the part of us that God communicates with. John chapter 3 and verse 3, Nicodemus had come to Jesus by night. And Jesus said to Nicodemus, Except a man be born again, he shall not see the kingdom of God. The word see in that passage is a word that means to perceive or to understand. When a person is born again, God raises up his dead spirit and gives that dead spirit life so that he can understand that Jesus Christ is our only hope for salvation.

Folks, this is something that we deeply need to understand. A man does not express faith in order to be born again. But he's born again in order that he might express faith. Jesus told us that in John chapter 10 and verse 26 when Jesus said you believe not because you are not of my sheep.

Listen to that carefully. Jesus doesn't say you are not my sheep because you don't believe. He says you don't believe because you're not my sheep. In other words, God is in total sovereign control of our salvation. And so what does Paul tell me? He says as a result of that, don't brag.

Don't think that you're something special. Don't think that you're wiser or more spiritual or better than others. Give God the glory, for it was God who did it. Folks, before the foundation of the world, God declared our salvation. And then 2,000 years ago, Jesus died on the cross to purchase our salvation. And then in time, God accomplished and activated our salvation through regeneration and what we call the new birth. This is what Paul was talking about in Titus chapter 3 verse 5 when Paul said, Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to his mercy he has saved us through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit. So my salvation is a gift of God.

Once I understand that, what question do I need to ask myself? I think Francis Schaeffer got it right when he asked this question, How should we then live? How many of you know people right now that call themselves Christians and you look at their life and you can't see anything but the world? They don't look anything different than people who are unbelievers. They care very little for church. Their Bible sits on a shelf collecting dust.

Their motivation is materialism and fleshly indulgence and popularity. And yet they've got this feeling inside that they are perfectly safe for all of eternity. Jesus had a word for them over in Matthew chapter 7 verse 21 when he said, Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven. Folks, in the passages that we are looking at today, Jesus shares truth with us that should shake us all the way down to our bootstraps. The passage in no way that we are looking at today says that we are saved by works. We are not saved by works. We are saved by grace and that's it. We are saved by grace. But if you've genuinely been born again, there should be proof.

There should be evidence. There should be fruit and there will be. And what is that? It's discipleship. You should be his disciple. All right, I've got three points I want to share with you today.

Point one is the principle. Look with me again at verse 34. And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up the cross and follow me. Now in the verses immediately before this, Jesus told the disciples that the time was soon coming when he was going to suffer on the cross, that it would be brutal, that it would be painful, that it would be very torturous, that he was going to the cross, he was going to die. Peter didn't like that. And Peter got mad when he said that and rebuked Jesus and said, No, no, no, Lord, that's not going to happen. Don't worry about that. We're going to protect you.

We won't let anything happen to you. In other words, the cross is not really necessary. And Jesus rebuked Peter and said, Get thee behind me, Satan.

Get thee behind me, Satan. Peter did not understand that the cross is a great, great part of God's plan of salvation for us. Peter and the disciples were looking for a king, an earthly king that would rule over Jerusalem, a king that would break the yoke of Roman oppression and exalt the Jewish people. Jesus said to Peter, My kingdom is not of this world.

I will have to go to the cross and suffer the hell for every person who goes to heaven. Then Jesus gathered the disciples close to him. He gathered the crowd into him so they could hear him and hear exactly what he was saying. And Jesus said this, If anyone come after me, let him deny himself, take of his cross daily, and follow me. Jesus lays out three things here for true disciples, three things that true disciples must embrace. And brothers and sisters, I want you to know that I'm not just preaching to you as a congregation this morning. I'm preaching to Doug. Doug needs to hear what Jesus is saying here. And I've known and I'm confessing to you that I fall far short of what Jesus is asking us and what he's commanding us to do.

I don't need to be braggadocious in any way, shape, or form. I need to give God the glory for what he does and cry out for his mercy. So folks, what we have here is no greasy grace or sloppy agape or easy believism.

What we have here is a call to discipleship, and it's extremely important. Well, the first command is self-denial. If you're a true disciple of Christ, you will deny self.

And what does that mean? It means to disown completely. This is the word that was used to describe Peter's denials of Christ. Remember the night before the crucifixion? Three times people come to Peter and they say to Peter, Peter, we know you. You're one of the disciples.

You're a follower of Jesus. And Peter each time said, no, no, no, I'm not. And then finally a little girl came and said to Peter, you're one of the disciples.

We saw you with Jesus. And Peter cursed and swore that he did not know Jesus. It was a disowning of Christ. He said, I don't know who Jesus is. I don't know the man.

I don't know what you're talking about. He disowned Jesus. Later he went out and he wept bitterly because he realized what he had done.

He had disowned Christ. That's what this word means. So what is it that we are supposed to be denying ourself of? Well, I think, first of all, self-righteousness and ambition. This is what the Pharisees were guilty of. They believed that by their own works and by their own personal goodness, they had right standing with God. And God said, no, no, no, no.

They were filled with selfish pride. Denying self means I know that I've sinned and come short of God's glory. I know that I have no righteousness of my own. I know that I would die and go to hell if it had not been for Jesus taking my sin, washing it with his precious blood, and then giving his righteousness to me.

I realize that and I know that. I tell you what, I am shocked today to see all the people who claim to be Christians who see themselves as almost sinless before God. Folks, if that's the way you're feeling today, let me tell you something. Then you don't understand the holiness of God or you don't understand your own heart. Years ago, Charles Spurgeon was preaching in a Bible conference. He was preaching to preachers. And his message that day was that preachers need to repent.

And after the sermon was over, one of the preachers came up to Spurgeon and he said, Reverend Spurgeon, I just want you to know something. He said, I have not sinned in years. And Spurgeon immediately began to quote to him 1 John chapter 1 verses 8 through 10 that says, If we say that we have no sin, then we have deceived ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we say that we have no sin, we declare God a liar and his truth is not in us. And the man kind of rolled his eyes back. He said, Reverend Spurgeon, I assure you, I have not sinned in years. Well, a little bit later on, all the pastors were having lunch around this table. Spurgeon walked right up behind this man as he was eating. He took a glass of cold milk and he poured it right over his head. And that man jumped up and screamed and cursed and threatened Charles Spurgeon.

He said, why didn't you do that? And Spurgeon said, I did that to assure you that you are indeed a sinner. And he said, not only that, but that sin that you committed today of cursing and losing your temper is nothing compared to the pride that you are exuding every single day. In John Getch's devotional book on revival, he said the following.

After one of D.L. Moody's August conferences, a man approached him and boasted of his own holiness and piety. Why, I have not sinned in years, he bragged. Haven't you, replied Moody. Well, before I shall accept your word for it, I should like the testimony of your wife. Moody's son later described the man's response.

The perfectionist thereupon gave such an exhibition of temper as to warrant the spectator's sympathy for his wife and Moody's skepticism. It seemed that many have forgotten what sin is. We think it is only wrong if we get caught.

Or we think that if everyone else does it, it's surely okay. 1 John 5 17 gives a simple, succinct definition. All unrighteousness is sin. The standard for righteousness is not your neighbor, your boss, or even your pastor. The only righteous one is God. Can I get an Amen?

Amen. Self-denial necessitates repentance. Your flesh tempts you to sin, but your love for Jesus says deny it, deny it. Folks, we have deceived ourselves if we as husbands and fathers stand up in our homes and say it's not really my responsibility to be the spiritual leader in my home. We deceive ourselves if we say it's okay for me just to get angry and lose my temper and just blow a gasket. We deceive ourselves if we think it's okay that we gaze at a scantily clad lady at the mall. We deceive ourselves if we think it's okay because we've had a rough day to get a little bit intoxicated with drink or drugs.

Folks, it's not okay. The disciple of Christ denies himself so that Christ will be honored. This is what Paul was talking about in Galatians 2-20. When he said this, he said, I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless, I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.

In the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. Deny self. Alright, the second command is cross-bearing. Cross-bearing. The cross was an instrument of suffering and shame and execution. During Jesus' lifetime, the Romans were executing people who stood against them by crucifixion. That was what was going on. And they would do it publicly. Most of the time, they would crucify people on the street right beside the road so that everybody could see what happens to those who stand against the imperial authority of the Caesar. During Jesus' lifetime, there were over 30,000 Jews that were crucified in Jerusalem. So, everybody there knew exactly what Jesus was talking about when he said for them to take up the cross. Let me ask you this.

What does that mean? If you were to fall down and scrape your knee, would you say, well, that's just kind of my cross to bear? No, that's not a cross. Physical suffering happens and we ought to trust Jesus through it, but physical suffering in itself is not the cross.

Let me share with you what Kent Hughes said, and I think he explained it well. He said, the cross is for all who follow Christ. Christ leads the procession carrying his cross and we, his followers, treading his steps, bearing our own crosses, we march to death. What are our crosses? They are not simply trials or hardships. It is typical to think of a nutty boss or an unfair teacher or bossy mother-in-law as our cross, but they are not.

Neither can we properly call an illness or a handicap a cross. A cross comes from specifically walking in Christ's steps, embracing his life. It comes from bearing disdain because we are embracing life. It comes from living out the business and sexual ethics of Christ in the marketplace and the world.

It comes from embracing weakness instead of power. It comes from extending oneself in difficult circumstances for the sake of the gospel. Our crosses come from and are proportionate to our dedication to Christ. Difficulties are not an indication of cross bearing. Difficulties for Christ's sake are. We need to ask ourself if we have any difficulties because we are following close after Christ.

The point that Jesus was making was this. People hating and people that follow Jesus are hated as well. What religions are persecuted? Islam is not persecuted. Hinduism, Shintoism, Confucianism, even Satanism, they're not persecuted. It's the Christians who are persecuted.

And why? Because Christianity is truth and they don't like the exclusivity of the gospel. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life.

No man comes to the Father but by me. Folks, this country is not what it was 20 years ago. There is an unbelievable divide in this country and secular America today is viewing Christianity as its greatest enemy. They know that we don't stand with them concerning the LGBQT movement. That we don't stand with them when they want to bring in drag queens into our elementary schools and kindergartens to teach and entertain our children. That we don't stand with them when it comes to abortion. That we stand against those things and we as Christians have a joy in our heart to go out and share the gospel with those who don't know it.

Folks, we are hindering their agenda and their hatred of us and their desire to cancel us and their desire to persecute us. That is the cross that Jesus is talking about. John MacArthur said this, not every believer will die as a martyr. That every faithful follower of Jesus will love Christ so fully that even death is not too high a price for eternal joy. All believers inevitably suffer to some degree because the world hates those who belong to him.

Thus to take up the cross is a metaphor for being willing to pay any price for the glorious gift of life that he gives. The third requirement is loyal obedience. Jesus simply said, follow me. In John chapter 10 verse 27 Jesus said, my sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me. We can't follow Jesus like Peter and James and John did. They were with him.

They could get behind him and see exactly what he was doing and were with him day by day. We can't do that. So what can we do? We can follow the example of Jesus that he gave us in his word. For example, did Jesus make money an idol? No. Did Jesus revel in debauchery? No. Did Jesus compromise his convictions? No.

Did Jesus lie in order to save himself from trouble? No. Did Jesus care for the poor and helpless? Yeah.

Did Jesus take spiritual warfare seriously? Yes. Did Jesus know and love the word of God? Yes. Did Jesus make prayer a priority?

Yes. How do you follow Jesus? You take who Jesus was, what Jesus did, and you follow that.

Point two, the paradox. Look with me at verse 35 through 37. So whosoever would save his life will lose it, but whosoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?

Now listen carefully. Those unwilling to surrender their lives to Christ, choosing instead to cling to sin, selfish ambition, and acceptance by the world will one day lose their souls to everlasting death. But those willing to abandon everything for the sake of Christ will receive eternal life.

Listen to this parable that Jesus taught in Matthew chapter 13 verse 44. The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which the man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

I want you to picture a man. He's going to work. He goes out of his own property. He walks across another man's property, walks across his field.

There's a little wooded area there. He's going through that to get to work, and as he's walking, he stumbles over something. He can't figure out what that is, so he reaches down.

It's the little tip of a handle. He said, I wonder what that is, and so he gets down to his knees. He starts digging, and he realizes it's the handle of a chest, and he digs further, and he takes that chest, and he opens it up, and he can't believe it. It is filled with treasure, gold and silver coins and diamonds and all this stuff. I mean, the wealth is just unbelievable in that chest.

It's probably over 300 years old. Nobody has any idea that it's there, but he's seen it, and so what does he do? He takes that chest, he covers it back up with dirt, and then he puts leaves and dried limbs over the top of it so nobody will have any idea that he's even been through there, and then he runs back home, and what does he do? He sells his house. He sells his property. He sells everything that he has, and he takes that money, and he runs to the field owner, and he buys that field from him. Why does that man spend everything that he has and everything that he owns? Why does he do that in order that he might buy the field? He does that because the treasure is in the field, and the treasure is worth everything that he has.

Folks, how important is that? Jesus said that's the way we're supposed to think. Jesus is worth more than anything and everything that we have, and when we get Jesus, then heaven is just a side benefit.

Just a side benefit. Now, why do I say that? Because the person of heaven is greater than the place of heaven. Martin Luther said this. He said, I'd rather be in hell with Christ than be in heaven without him, and there's a reason for that because heaven without Christ is not heaven. The joy that the man in Jesus' parable had over the treasure that he found in the field is a picture of the hunger that we should have in our hearts for heaven. And why should we hunger for heaven? Because Jesus Christ is there. Folks, we'll get excited when we see the streets of gold.

That'll be awe-inspiring. We'll really have the biscuits knocked off our table when we see the gates of pearl, but that is nothing compared to what it's going to be when we see Jesus Christ. He is the priority of heaven, and we ought to hunger for that. Not only hungering for Christ in heaven, but also hungering for all those who love Christ who are already there.

C.S. Lewis said this. Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exist. A baby feels hunger. Well, there's such a thing as food.

A duckling wants to swim. Well, there's such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire. Well, there's such a thing as sex.

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. A few weeks ago, I was sitting on Bob Reynolds' back porch with Bob Reynolds and Randy Presley. Both of these men, over the past few months, had experienced the death of their wives. They knew that their wives had moved away from this earth, and they are in glory, and they are with the Lord Jesus.

I know these two men well. They love the Lord. They love the Bible. They love this church. They love their wives. But the homegoing of their wives has done something to these men's heart. They could not quit talking about heaven. They knew that their wives were in the very presence of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and they also know that one day they're going to be with them, and they're going to be in glory with Jesus in heaven forever and ever and ever. So they've got a joy in their heart, a joy in their heart because they know what's coming. And the thing that they're saying, I think more than anything else, is this. Take the whole world and give me Jesus. I want us to look at another verse here.

I think it's very important. It says, What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his own soul? When I was in college, I went every day to the university post office, and, you know, the way they do it in college is they've got five million little post office boxes there with numbers on them. Everybody's got a key. Go in and get your mail. First time I went into the university post office, right above my particular box, there's a white wall. Somebody had taken a magic marker and written across in bold letters this very verse.

This very verse, it says, What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his own soul? It wasn't up there because the post office put it up there. Somebody wrote it up there. But nobody took it down. Nobody washed it off.

Nobody painted over it. And for a year, I had to look at that. Now, I was not a Christian at that time. I didn't know it was in Mark chapter 8. I didn't know it was in Matthew chapter 16. I was a churchgoer, but I was not yet a Christian.

And I remember the first day I walked up and I looked at that verse, and I mean it hit me like a ton of bricks. What's worth keeping to keep me away from Jesus? If I have everything this world has to offer for a few short years, how do you compare that to knowing Christ in heaven for all of eternity? It was a couple years later that I put my trust in Christ, but there was conviction every single day when I walked into that post office and I saw that great verse.

What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? I didn't have the whole world. I wasn't rich. I wasn't famous. I didn't live in a mansion. I didn't even own much property. I had an old Volkswagen that had 200,000 miles on it.

Ten years old was on its last leg. I had a catcher's mitt and tennis racket. I had a few books, a couple of pair of pants, and a couple of shirts.

That's about it. I didn't have the whole world. I had just a little. I was having to ask myself, wow, do I want to hold on to this stuff so much that I'm willing to give up a relationship and fellowship with Christ? The day came, two o'clock on a Monday morning. I was down on my knees knowing that I needed Jesus more than anything in the world.

Two o'clock in the morning. Chip Sloan had shared the gospel with me. I went through those verses, those gospel verses, and then it hit me once again, this particular verse, what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? I knew this at that point in time, as great as I've ever known it, there is nothing that is more important than your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Point three is the punishment. Look at verse 38. For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. Jesus said, whoever is ashamed of me and my words. What does that mean?

What did he mean by that? The word ashamed comes from a Greek word that means to despise, to reject, to refuse to accept. Jesus said if that's your attitude or toward his word then he will be ashamed of you when he comes at his glorious second coming.

How serious is that? I think of all these woke pastors in our world today who are compromising with the word of God in order to accommodate the culture. I think not only are they denying the word but they are actually arguing that God's infallible, inerrant word is wrong and that people don't need to obey it and that people don't need to bow before his word. And I think to myself, my goodness, have they not read this verse? Do they not know what Jesus has said here?

Do they not know what will happen at the final judgment? There will be a rejection and a condemnation of those who compromise with the word of God. And Jesus said that he'd be ashamed of them.

Listen to this very carefully. To be ashamed of his word is to be ashamed of him. To be ashamed of Jesus' word, the Bible, is to be ashamed of him. But they say, well, we don't want to be canceled by Facebook. And we don't want to be rejected by Instagram. And we don't want the culture to think we're just old-fashioned fuddy duddies who don't love their agenda. We just don't want that. Folks, discipleship means going against the flow.

It means taking up the cross and dying to self. Many churches in America are rejecting those commands right now. I'll be honest with you, we're not doing that at Grace Church. We're not rejecting those commands. We don't stand with the LGBQT movement. We don't stand with bringing in people to teach non-truths in our public education systems. We don't stand for abortion. We stand against all those things. My question is this. Although we don't stand for those things, are we guilty if we remain silent?

Are we guilty if we remain silent? I think we have a call in this passage that we are to love the Word of God, proclaim the Word of God, and see people saved by the Word of God. I want to close with a paragraph by John MacArthur. He said, Having abandoned this world for the sake of Christ, they will live with Him forever in the world to come. As the Lord Himself promised, speaking of the glories of the new earth, He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be His God, and He will be my child.

Let's pray. Heavenly Father, this passage is tough to read. It's tough to embrace. It's tough to carry out, and it was tough to preach. Father, I pray that everyone in this congregation understands that I understand how far short I come on being Christ's disciple. Help all of us to be challenged by your words but not devastated by them. Help us all to realize that if grace is real, then we must take these words of yours to heart. It's in Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-04 22:42:41 / 2023-03-04 22:56:18 / 14

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