"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Luke 9:18-27--Fan or Follower?

Luke 9:18 (ESV) Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?"
Jesus actually asked after the rumors concerning him. The implication of his question was that the common people were a bunch of crowd-followers who had no idea as to the truth of who he really was and didn’t really care. On a number of occasions he pegged them as opportunists, tagging along because they wanted a free lunch.
Today’s churches are filled with those who want the respectability of religious association, social and business networking, the power of a big spoke in a small wheel, or even some vague notion that religion will make them good enough for, “The Man Upstairs.” Seeking these church perks is no less opportunistic than joining the crowds following Jesus, hoping to fill their bellies.
The New Testament tells of Jesus-fans who spread their cloaks and palm fronds on the road into Jerusalem and cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” but later demanded his crucifixion. Today’s church too often models its behavior after those crowds by raising our hands and joyfully singing praise choruses in church, but denying Jesus with our gossip, hateful attitudes, and worldly entertainments and excesses. Self-centered expectations kill our marriages and embitter our children, dooming them to a life of cynicism and unbelief because they don’t know what to believe.

Verses 19-22 don't directly apply to this study, so I'll leave them for another time.

Luke 9:23 (ESV) And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
What a contrast with our religious carnality, yet this is Jesus’ standard for discipleship. What does taking up our cross mean? By Galatians 3:13 we see that Jesus’ cross was his curse: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree." (quoted from Deuteronomy 21:23) So we might conclude that he meant, Take up your curse and follow me, but for the fact that only Jesus could do that.
So, what else was the cross to Jesus? It was the means by which he was put to death. Apostle Paul explained in Romans chapter 6, the role of death in our redemption:
Romans 6:3-8 (ESV) Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (4) We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (5) For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (6) We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (7) For one who has died has been set free from sin. (8) Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
Jesus may as well have said, Take up your death and follow me.

Luke 9:24 (ESV) For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
More death, but not in the sense that we normally think of it. Death carries a morbid stigma because of the coldness and corruption of the flesh that we associate with it. Jesus’ death, however, involves none of that. King David prophesied about Jesus’ death in Psalms 16:9-10 (ESV) Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. (10) For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. So in Jesus, death is not ugly, but a beautiful thing, unless, of course, we value our own mortal lives higher than the eternal life we have in him.

Luke 9:25 (ESV) For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?
Obviously, the correct answer to this question is, “Nothing!” Problem is, the world is so seductive to us that it blinds us to what we know is the truth. And speaking of seductive things, Satan’s lies, cloaked in partial truths, lead us gleefully into his pit of perdition. Apostle Paul dealt with one such lie. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2 ESV)
What a popular lie! Only we don’t think of it in exactly those terms. We think, “Oh, I can’t help my compulsions. Anyway, that’s what grace is for; God’ll forgive me for this little thing.”
Another of Apostle Paul’s Spirit-led insights smashed that “reasoning” to bits. Galatians 6:7-8 (ESV) Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. (8) For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Luke 9:26 (ESV) For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
This pretty much speaks for itself.
The big question is, “Do I want to be a Jesus-fan, or a Jesus-follower?” One is easy. The other is hard. One costs more than you can imagine. The other pays eternal dividends.

Discussion Questions
  1. In Luke 9:18, why did Jesus ask what the crowds were saying about him? He already knew the answer, so what point was he trying to make with his disciples?
  2. We’ve all heard the expression, “It’s my cross to bear.” How does that compare with Jesus’ statement in verse 23?
  3. In view of Galatians 3:13, why can’t the cross Jesus calls us to bear daily be a curse, as it was for him?
  4. How do you feel about death?
  5. People are willing to sacrifice their eternal spirit for a lot less than the whole world. Can you think of anything you could gain that would be worth losing your soul?
  6. What does being ashamed of Jesus and his words look like?

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