The Essential Calling of Every Christian

Josh Greiner January 17, 2021 Mark 8:27-38
Outline

1 Corinthians 12:14-20 - For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body.

3 choices followers of Christ must make every day

I. A Purposeful Decision to Deny Yourself (v. 34)

Mark 8:34 - And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”

“The verb deny (from the Greek aparneomai) is a strong term, meaning ‘to have no association with’ or ‘to disown completely.’ The same word is used to describe Peter’s denial of Jesus (Mark 14:30–31, 72) and Christ’s denial in heaven of those who deny Him before men (Luke 12:9). The Lord’s point was that those who wished to follow Him must be willing to disown themselves and give up everything for His sake.” (John MacArthur, Mark 1-8. MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2015)

“It is important to note that self-denial, cross bearing, and obedience are not meritorious works that somehow earn salvation. Nor do they comprise a list of sequential steps that must be followed to be saved from sin. Rather, they are the inherent characteristics of repentant faith and the new birth, which is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8; 2 Tim. 2:25) imparted by His Spirit at the moment of salvation. Those whom God saves He transforms, giving them a new heart (cf. Ezek. 36:25–27), so that out of love for the Savior, they eagerly deny themselves, endure suffering, and submit obediently to His Word.” (John MacArthur, Mark 1-8. MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2015)

A. By putting God first

B. By putting others before yourself

Philippians 2:3 - Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves…

II. A Willingness to Daily Take Up the Cross of Christ

A. Because of your faith you may experience pain and shame

Mark 8:38 - For whoever is ashamed of Me and 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.

Hebrews 12:2 - …fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

B. Because God is using your faith as an example

2 Corinthians 1:6 - But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation…

C. Because of your faith, we must be ready to lay down our lives

“Not every believer will die as a martyr, but 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 (2 Tim. 3:12). Thus, to take up the cross is a metaphor for being willing to pay any price for the glorious gift of life He gives (cf. 1 Peter 4:12-14). True conversion causes a person to view the Lord Jesus and the hope of heaven as so precious that no personal sacrifice is too much.” (John MacArthur, Mark 1-8. MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2015)

Mark 8:33 - But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

John 21:18-19 - “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”

III. A Readiness to Follow Christ Wherever He Might Take You

“The verb follow (a form of the Greek word akoloutheō) is the same verb found in John 10:27, where Jesus described believers as His flock, ‘My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.’ Like sheep submitting to the voice of their shepherd, genuine followers of Christ are characterized by loving obedience to Him and His Word.” (John MacArthur, Mark 1-8. MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2015)

John 21:20-22 - Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”

Romans 9:19-20 - You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?

IV. The Results of The Choices God Calls Us to Make

A. Trying to save yourself will not work

Mark 8:35a - For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it…

Mark 8:36 - For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?

Mark 8:37 - For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

B. The only way to be saved, is to surrender your life to Christ

Mark 8:35b - …but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.

This Sunday is a Sunday where at Faith East, Pastor Viars is launching the first of the sermons on the Gospel of John. Last week he announced this year’s new theme Life in His Name.

Our preaching schedule this year is really exciting, but it is also a bit complex.

Take for example next week…there will be three different passages preached next week

Now, that will happen a few times this year where the preaching schedule is just a bit crazy. But our promise to you is that we will always make sure to bring the word of God in an accurate fashion but also in a way that connects all the dots for you if things are a bit wonky…

But, in order for the plan to work, this week, Faith West has a “bi” week if you will where we can study any passage that we want…and so I chose Mark 8. If you have your Bibles, please feel free to turn there.

Today we are going to be looking at

The Essential Calling of Every Christian

One of the metaphors that Paul uses to talk about the Church is “a body” and that body is made up of different parts that serve different functions, but are equally needed.

For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. (1 Corinthians 12:14–20, NASB95)

The point is, there is great diversity in the Body, and that is a good thing…but today I would like us to consider today is what is required for every Christian.

Meaning, not every Christian needs to be a pastor. Not every Christian needs to be a deacon. Not every Christian needs to lead a small group, be an usher. But there is something essential that for all members.

What I hope for us to see in our text are

Three Choices Followers of Christ Must Make Every Day

[Read Mark 8:27-38]

Now we are going to read 8:27-33, but for the purposes of our outline, it will be verses 34 and following that we are going to really study and apply today.

The first thing that we see for all Christians is there must be a

A purposeful decision to deny yourself (v. 34)

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.

Today we do not live in a day and age where it is popular to “deny yourself” in fact, would you agree that the most popular message that our world throws at us is just the opposite? Be the advertisement to get a new credit card, or a catchy slogan from a large corporation…the message to us is “bless yourself” not deny yourself.

But this idea of putting yourself first infiltrates all over beyond just our spending habits. So much of secular thinking is rooted in the idea that we need to be true to ourselves and the most heinous way that it has played out is in the transgender movement. Be true to you is the mantra that is repeated time and again.

But the Christian hears a different message from Christ, he does not hear be true to you…he says, “deny yourself.”

The verb deny (from the Greek aparneomai) is a strong term, meaning “to have no association with” or “to disown completely.” The same word is used to describe Peter’s denial of Jesus (Mark 14:30–31, 72) and Christ’s denial in heaven of those who deny Him before men (Luke 12:9). The Lord’s point was that those who wished to follow Him must be willing to disown themselves and give up everything for His sake (MacArthur, John. Mark 1–8. MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2015.)

Now, before we get too deep into this message, and you hear a lot of “here is what you need to do, I want to draw your attention to a summary of what John MacArthur says about this passage that I think is really helpful.

It is important to note that self-denial, cross bearing, and obedience are not meritorious works that somehow earn salvation. Nor do they comprise a list of sequential steps that must be followed to be saved from sin. Rather, they are the inherent characteristics of repentant faith and the new birth, which is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8; 2 Tim. 2:25) imparted by His Spirit at the moment of salvation. Those whom God saves He transforms, giving them a new heart (cf. Ezek. 36:25–27), so that out of love for the Savior, they eagerly deny themselves, endure suffering, and submit obediently to His Word. (MacArthur, John. Mark 1–8. MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2015.)

So here me when I say, these are the marks of a truly saved person that is living out their love for Christ, not our attempts to earn our salvation.

And there are two ways to do this, the first is by

  1. By Putting God first

This point might seem a bit obvious…wow, the preacher said to make God first…

Fair enough, but it may be a good time to just ask, then, as we start this year, what evidence is there in your life that God is first…that you are denying yourself….and making him first

  • Is there evidence that you are reading his Bible every day in a private worship setting…we normally call that devotions, but I think it might be just as helpful to call it “private worship”
  • Is there evidence that you are praying each and every day in a meaningful way?
  • Is there evidence that you are faithfully giving to the church?
  • Is there evidence that you are working to increase your knowledge of God by doing other reading than your private worship time in the morning?
  • When it comes to the private life style choices you make such as TV and entertainment…is it evident that you put God first?

I agree, the point that the passage is making is not profound…put God first, and praise God that he isn’t making it complicated? Have you ever thought about that? It’s amazing how simple, in some ways Christianity is…Love God above everything else.

Have you ever studied some of the other world’s religions? They can be incredibly complex. And that is part of the alure…if we see something that is complex, we tend to think it is a bit more effective.

God says, put me first…how you doing at that?

The second is way that we deny yourself is

  1. By Putting others before yourself

The idea of putting others before yourself is paramount to what it means to be a follower of Christ. We will see that later in our study of John at a number of times, but most profoundly when Christ washes the feet of his disciples.

Paul records it this way…

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;” (Philippians 2:3,)

And this is just a natural time to ask, if we were following you around, would there be evidence that on a regular basis you are putting others and God before you?

For example, when it comes to helping out around the house, do you consider putting your spouse way before you or do you take advantage of their willingness to just do the dishes, take out the trash, or clean up the laundry?

Or when it comes to helping out in your small group, maybe with something just as small as cleaning up or teardown down when the meeting is done…do you think about it as, “I need to put them first?”

I know that for me, serving others and considering others is really hard. I want what I want…so it’s not like when you become a pastor, all the sudden this just goes away :)

But there are two primary things we can accomplish when we do what this passage says:

First, we will communicate a crazy message to the world…look at what I do and what I think about myself… If our goal is to be holy, set apart, different for the purpose of evangelism.

When people see how you act, they will see Jesus

Second, you are going to change for our own benefit. By serving and putting others first, you are going to find real and true joy in doing this.

So, here is my challenge for all of us this morning. To consider what do we need to change—today—to put God first in any of the areas that might be lacking

Second, that next week, if I come and talk to you, and I say, “Hey Pastor Birk, how did you intentionally choose to deny yourself and put someone else first” that you will have an example just falling out of your mouth.

Our text also says that there needs to be a

A Willingness to daily take up of the cross of Christ

Now, we talk about the cross today probably a bit different than what Jesus meant by it. When they talked about the cross, they were not talking about a annoyance or petty inconvenience.

They were not talking about a piece of jewelry or wall art…they were talking about the Roman system of execution that today.

And what he is saying that you need to be willing…

  1. Because of your faith you may experience Pain and Shame

The cross was all about pain and shame…I mean you are nailed to a tree completely naked…not much more shame than that…and you died a slow and painful death.

But as followers of Christ, we need to be 100% OK with pain and Shame because of our faith.

I sometimes wonder if we are OK with both of those?

Are you OK with the world shaming you because of your beliefs? For example, you might struggle to allow persons to know that you do believe a literal interpretation of the Bible. Jesus was born of a virgin. He did die and rise again.

And I think that feeling of Shame is anticipated in our text…that idea that we might consider denying God.

Which is why Christ will say at the end of our passage

“For whoever is ashamed of Me and 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.” —v 38

We’ll talk more about it later, but the point that Christ makes is there will be shame at some point.

Either you can experience the shame that the world tries to heap on you for following Christ, or you can feel the intense power of the Shame when Christ returns…

My prayer is that we would all be willing to pick up our cross and endure that pain and shame the way Christ did.

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2, NASB95)

To despise the shame means to think very little of it. Yes, the world tried to Shame Christ—they nailed him to a tree completely naked and they left him there to suffocate and die…they tried to shame and the world will try to shame us…but if we do what Jesus did, fix our eyes on him and the joy that is before us—then the shame the world is trying to give will not work.

We also know that we need to be ready to take up our cross

  1. Because God is using your faith as an example

It is amazing how many times when one person is going through an intense amount of pressure and suffering, that God will one day use it as an example for someone else.

Paul says it this way in his second letter to the church at Corinth

But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; …” (2 Corinthians 1:6, NASB95)

So, we are called to pick up our cross because we know that others are watching and can be benefited by that.

Kids will watch their parents, and they will learn.

Employees will watch their bosses and they will learn

And I feel the weight of that too. I’m not saying the congregation parrots everything I do, but I feel the good weight of my testimony being lived out.

The point is, be willing to pick up your cross and know that it will lead to pain and shame but God may also use your suffering and the taking up of that Cross for the edification of others.

But lastly, I want to be clear that…

  1. Because of your faith, we must be ready to lay down our lives

I want to just let that sit for a moment…I’m not trying to be dramatic here…but if you are a follower of Christ and you are not sure that you would lay down your life for Christ…then I would ask you to consider what the text says.

Listen again to what Pastor MacArthur would say as he comments on this passage.

Not every believer will die as a martyr, but 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 (2 Tim. 3:12). Thus, to take up the cross is a metaphor for being willing to pay any price for the glorious gift of life He gives (cf. 1 Peter 4:12–14). True conversion causes a person to view the Lord Jesus and the hope of heaven as so precious that no personal sacrifice is too much(MacArthur, John. Mark 1–8. MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2015.)

You don’t need to rush off to the most dangerous mission field to prove you are ready to die for Christ, but if the idea of dying for your faith sounds bizarre to you.

If you are thinking, “I would be willing to put up with some hard times…I would be willing to give of my time, my talents, my treasure, I would be willing to do so much…but if you told me that I was going to die…then I am not sure that I am willing to go along with this…”

If that is how you are thinking, then I want to say this as lovingly and kindly as I can, there is a chance you may not actually be a follower of Christ.

In our Intro we read about Peter…I love that Peter is in there so many times, I find a lot of resonance with him…praise God the Bible does not just make the characters in it perfect…

Right before the verse we are talking about Christ asks, “who do people say that I am?”

Peter says, The Christ…but then when Jesus teaches that the Christ must suffer and die….Peter rebukes Jesus and gets the harshest words in the Bible

“But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”” (Mark 8:33, NASB95)

I got to believe Peter was a bit shellshocked.

Here Peter just got some great praise for calling Jesus the Christ, then he gets “Get behind me, Satan.”

But do you remember some of the last recorded words in Jesus’ life?

It was after Peter had denied that he knew Jesus…Jesus appears on the beach after the resurrection and in the moment of restoration for Peter, he asks if he loves him, Peter says he does, and then Christ says to him to “Feed my lambs”

And then Jesus ends with a prophecy that would come true.

““Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”” (John 21:18–19, NASB95)

For Peter, picking up your cross was not a metaphor…it was the actual end.

It was an end that thousands of Christians would meet throughout the history of Christianity and I am not saying that you will meet this end…but if you are not OK with that end…well, then something is not right.

I know that I would be happy to talk with you…or you could talk with one of the other pastors…but our job is to equip you, to do what Christ said to Peter on the beach, “Feed my Sheep” and if the concept of dying for Christ is so outside of your realm of willingness…then let’s talk.

Now on the corollary…before we move on…let me say that some of you were easily able to check in your mind…yes, if Jesus came here and said I need you to die…you would be happy to…I would just also ask us to remember, Jesus also wants us to live for him…there must be a…

A Readiness to follow Christ wherever he might take you

Christ does call us to deny ourselves, he does call us to be ready to die, but the majority of our lives will be spent simply following him—living and doing life the way that he call us to.

“The verb follow (a form of the Greek word akoloutheō) is the same verb found in John 10:27, where Jesus described believers as His flock, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Like sheep submitting to the voice of their shepherd, genuine followers of Christ are characterized by loving obedience to Him and His Word” (MacArthur, John. Mark 1–8. MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2015

Do you agree that if Christ is in charge, he gets to decide what we are going to do with our lives? That can be really hard because we see so much that happens around us and we just don’t like it that God is God.

I’ll admit that in my own life it can be hard to see that God is in total control most when things are going the way I don’t want them to go. I am OK with suffering, and injustice a lot but when God does something that I don’t like or t hink is right…that is hard.

Remember that scene on the beach with Jesus that we just talked about with dear Peter? Do you remember what happened next?

Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”” (John 21:20–22, NASB95)

That probably was a bit hard of a pill for Peter to swallow, but it was needed…and don’t we all need it. Don’t we all need to hear…don’t worry about this, don’t worry about that…YOU….YOU FOLLOW ME!

And that is a joy to follow Christ…would you agree. It is a joy to do what he calls us to do.

Paul would later think about following Jesus to the degree we are talking about like this…

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?” (Romans 9:19–20, NASB95)

It is also because of this desire to follow God that on Sunday mornings, and throughout the rest of the week, your pastors and deacons try to not get sidetracked on so many of the pressing issues that our culture is trying to talk about.

We could talk about ever little thing that is happening in our society right now…but we are in worship…we are here to lift up the name of Jesus and think about how amazing he is and then to focus our hearts around that.

And we do that because it is all about following him…he says to follow him, and not to follow anything or anyone else…

But when you think about what it means and looks like to follow Christ….

Let me give three really practical things for us to take away as we think about what it means to following Christ.

First, it means we don’t grumble when we follow. You can’t say that you are following if you are upset about it…do you agree. Brothers and sisters, if there is an area of life that God is leading you in and to and you upset about it…grumbling about it…can I ask you to consider are you really following him?

Second, I think it means that you trust what God is doing. God says that he is doing everything for his glory and our good. But he didn’t say that he as going to spell out every last detail for us. It says that Peter’s death glorified God, but we don’t know so much about it.
Let me encourage you to be trusting of where God is leading you and don’t let fear and worry fill your hearts.

Third, as you consider practically what it means to follow Jesus, remember to enjoy the journey. Life is a gift and this year may be full of all sorts of hard time, painful times, and challenges, but also see that God wants us to enjoy our life.

Our series this year, is “Life in his name” Christ wants us to have life in his name, and that will come with lots of Joy!

Lastly, the text ends with the

The Results of the Choices God calls us to make

Why does our text ultimately point to the reason we should deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him? Because…

  1. Trying to save yourself will not work.

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, —v 35a

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? —V 36

For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? — V 37

Ultimately this message is in the context of Peter’s declaration of Jesus being the Messiah, and Christ teaching what that means.

Christ told his followers in advance why he needed to die and they just could not get that into their heads. As we consider the importance of this passage and its call…I hope that you will see that you can’t save yourself.

You can work to gain the world, but you will lose your soul….there is nothing that you can give in exchange for your soul…the only thing to save you is the blood of Christ.

Trying to save yourself and exchange what you have for salvation is a bit like using monopoly money to buy food at Meijer…it is not going to work. You can stack up all the monopoly money in the world…you can bring stacks up on stacks of money to the check out line, but that clerk will not let you buy even one gallon of milk with all that fake money.

Rather, the text is saying…

  1. The only way to be saved, is to surrender your life to Christ

    but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.—v 35b

Brothers and sisters, let’s make sure that everything in our life is pointing to the fact that we need to follow Christ, making him Lord of our life…because ultimately there is no other way to be saved.

You will not be able to stand before the thrown and claim to be saved just because you mentally assented to God’s existence.

J.C. Ryle, in commenting on this idea highlights that there is a verse in the Bible that shows that salvation at the very last minute of life is possible, and this is given as a hope to us…but there is only one story that alludes to this lest we think that this is the normal method that we live by.

Let us be a people that deny ourselves daily, that are willing to take up our cross in all of its meanings, and follow Jesus, now matter where he takes us…

Authors

Josh Greiner

Roles

Pastor of Faith West Ministries - Faith Church

Director of Faith West Community Center - Community Ministries West

Vice-Chair of the CDC Board - Northend Ministries

MABC Instructor - Faith Bible Seminary

Director of Biblical Counseling Training Conference - Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries

Bio

BA - Political Science, Purdue University
M.Div. - Faith Bible Seminary
Th.M. - Biblical Counseling, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Ph.D. - Biblical Counseling, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (in progress)

Pastor Josh Greiner joined the staff at Faith Church in 2013 after being a part of the three year internship at FBS and oversees the Faith Church West Campus. He also serves as an ACBC certified counselor, grader, and fellow in training; he teaches in Faith’s Biblical Counseling Ministries and serves as an adjunct professor for Faith Bible Seminary (M.Div. and MABC); and serves his community on the Board of the Faith Community Development Corporation and as the chaplain of the West Lafayette Fired Department. Josh is married to Shana and has four children: Winston, Cecilia, Lorelai, and Edwin.

Read Josh Greiner's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Greiner to Faith Church.