The True Disciple
I just want to let you all know that I’m super excited for the Vineyard. Like, I think a lot of changes have been happening, a lot of momentum has been growing, and it seems to me like we’re in a very good position to begin something incredible. Let’s just recap, for the summer, on Sundays we’ve been talking a lot about the motives and the theologies behind evangelism. On Thursday Bible studies, we’ve been trying to train ourselves up to be more equipped and ready to evangelize with the power of the Word. And last week during retreat, we talked about how our community and our devotion to one another reflects the Gospel to the world. And all of this stuff is good stuff, it’s all necessary and useful stuff to be talking about, but I think there’s something that we’ve been just a little bit forgetting.
We seem to be a group that is mostly interested in learning. And I don’t want to make that sound like it’s a bad thing. This is a very good thing. As Christians, we should be overwhelmed with a hunger and thirst to know our God. A culture of learning is a good culture. However, learning is dangerous if application doesn’t follow. Learning is destructive if application doesn’t follow. Knowledge is not the end. Knowledge puffs up. Knowledge alone has the potential to bring pride, apathy, and complacency. But love, love for God and for man, love builds up. And we must love as Jesus loved, not just with emotions or with thoughts but with radical action.
And so, again, we’re going over Radical. I hope that you’ve been seeing this with the past few series, that all these things, evangelizing, knowing the Word, committing to the community, and doing it all well, it’s all really, really hard. We can’t just cruise and expect to be faithful. To grow in our sanctification and in our maturity, we will need to work hard. We will need a radical devotion to Jesus. So like Crazy Love was meant to stir up in us a crazy love for God, Radical is meant to stir up in us a radical devotion to God.
Just some information, it seems to me that Radical is a very, very good diagnosis of the ways that we’ve misunderstood Jesus or we’ve blinded ourselves to an area of sin. So what we’re going to be trying to do when going over Radical is uncovering exactly what the Bible says about Christians and how we’re being unfaithful and maybe don’t even recognize it.
And again, I want to stress this, learning is dangerous if application doesn’t follow. If we read this book and change nothing about how we live, both individually and as a whole, we will have hardened ourselves to Jesus’ call and we will have a harsher judgement waiting us. If we read this book, we must commit ourselves to doing what it says. And, if I haven’t said it enough, this book will call us to do radical things. So take this as a warning, this will be hard, and if this sounds unattractive to you, then pray hard for yourself. But I really, truly believe that we’re ready for this. And not because we’re holy or anything, because I think we all know we’re not. But we can trust God that He will empower us to live as He has called us to live.
So in this message, I’m going to give a broad introduction to Radical. Actually, I must confess, about halfway into writing this message I realized that it’s actually very, very similar to the first chapter. So, sorry but you’re going to hear a very similar message next week. But hey, this is something super, super important so it’s worth it to hear two weeks in a row. Everything that we are going to read and hopefully be convicted by in Radical springs out of a few basic truths of who we’re meant to be as disciples of Christ. So we’re going to try to look at some of those truths today. If you could turn with me to Mark 8.
The main idea is this: The true disciple marvels at Jesus’ crucifixion, loses his life for Jesus, and knows Jesus is worth everything.
Read Mark 8:27-36 and pray.
Before we get very directly into this message, I want us to feel what the disciples felt when Jesus asked them this question. This is about halfway through Mark, and Jesus enters into Jerusalem in only a few more chapters. So they’ve probably been together for almost three years now. The disciples have seen Jesus cast out demons, heal probably hundreds, feed thousands, teach with an authority that was beyond anything that anyone had ever seen, and most importantly, they have never seen Him sin. So undoubtedly in the disciples’ minds, Jesus is someone really, really special. He’s someone unlike anyone that has ever existed.
So, again, let’s imagine, we’re part of Jesus’ twelve and we’ve left most everything behind for Him. We’ve left our families, we’ve left our jobs, we’ve left our homes. And already it’s hard to imagine, because these disciples were already so much more radical than us. But let’s keep thinking, we’ve lived three years with Jesus. We’ve probably laughed with Him, cried with Him, ministered with Him. And if you’ve ever been on a longer missions trip, you know that you get to know people really, really well when you minister with them. So we probably think, “Yeah, we know Jesus, we’re following Jesus, we understand what’s going on.”
And then one day, we’re going out with Jesus, probably gonna go heal some people, and He turns to us, and He asks us, “Who do people say that I am?” Ok, so we’ve known Jesus long enough to know that He’s not being self-conscious, so we give Him a straight up answer. “John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the prophets.” Pretty much, just a regular guy sent by God. A really good guy. A profound ethicist. An influential philosopher. But in the end, just a guy. And a lot of people still believe this about Jesus. He wasn’t that special. Yeah, He was a great teacher, but He wasn’t anything beyond that. And this belief is why the crowds eventually deserted Jesus. Because when it gets hard, “just a guy” is not worth following. And this belief is why America as a whole is deserting Jesus. Because America bought into this idea that Jesus isn’t special. He’s just another teacher. You don’t actually need to follow Him radically.
But not us! Right? We haven’t bought into that lie! Cause we’re the true Christians! We’re the true disciples! Right? That’s probably what Peter thought when Jesus asked him His next question. Jesus looks directly at him and asks, “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter boldly says, “You are the Christ!” You’re not just some good man! You’re not just some influential teacher! You’re God in the flesh! You’re the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings! Good job Peter! That’s the right answer! That’s probably what I would have said! What all of us true disciples would have said. And what did Jesus tell Peter to do? Did He tell him to preach the Gospel to the whole world? Did He tell him to go make disciples of the nations?
No, He tells him to shut up. He tells Peter to tell no one. He warns them to tell no one about Him. Jesus commands His disciples to not evangelize. And this must have astounded them. Why would Jesus not want His disciples telling others about Him? Well as we’ll see in this passage, Jesus knows that Peter has no idea who Jesus is. And Peter has no idea what Jesus’ disciples should be like. Peter knows nothing. If Peter were to evangelize, he would damage the kingdom of God. He would misinform people and draw them away from who Jesus truly is. It is a dangerous thing, to try to bring people to Jesus when you have no idea who He is or who He’s called you to be. We would be blind and lost, leading people to their destruction.
And when I read this passage sometimes I wonder if we’re the same way. I wonder if we’ve missed the point. We’ve missed who Jesus has called us to be. In this passage, Jesus goes on to describe a true disciple. He goes on to teach them probably the hardest message they ever had to hear. So let’s go ahead and see what He told them about true discipleship.
First, Jesus teaches them that the true disciple marvels at His crucifixion. Verse thirty-one, “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” I love that this is what Jesus begins His correction with. He doesn’t begin by telling them all of their sins, or by showing them how to be better people. He begins with the Gospel. Jesus knows that He’s about to tell them some hard things, so He prefaces it all with the Gospel. Everything that He’s about to say will flow from the Gospel. From the grace and the love and the mercy of God.
We’re not disciples because we work really hard to follow Him. The only reason we’re disciples is because Jesus died for us. No, the only reason we have breath is because Jesus died for us. The only reason we can enjoy anything at all is because Jesus died for us! We don’t deserve anything. Well, we deserve wrath and punishment. We deserve eternal hell. But God! The great creator, great sustainer, great redeemer, He loved us! He died for us! He earned for us eternal joy, eternal wealth, eternal fellowship with Himself. If that is not a reason to follow after after Him, I don’t know what is.
Jesus absolutely flips morality on its head. We didn’t earn His favor. And He didn’t wait for us to give us the reward. He, the perfect one, reconciled with us first. And He called us to action second. We did nothing for Him, yet He did absolutely everything for us and only asks us to respond to the good news. That doesn’t fit with the logic and reason of the world. And so Peter in verse thirty-two takes Jesus aside to rebuke Him. Because he could recognize that what Jesus was saying doesn’t make sense. Probably one of the most embarrassing moments of Peter’s life. Sure He may have denied Jesus, but everyone rejects God, Romans 1. Peter had the audacity to correct Jesus. That’s a crazy pride. But Jesus, it says seeing His disciples, so He’s trying to protect them, turns to Peter and says, “Get behind me Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
And this is at the heart of the issue. What God did doesn’t make sense to us. We’re human. We see that power should gain respect, perfection should earn reward, and sinfulness should be punished. Jesus didn’t deserve to go to the cross. He shouldn’t have died. Yet Jesus, the most powerful person to ever exist, He humbled Himself to death on a cross. Jesus, the most perfect human to ever exist, He suffered the full wrath of God. And us, poor, blind, and wretched sinners. We receive the reward that we never have earned. None of this makes sense! The Gospel should not make sense! And that’s what makes it so irresistible. The unbelievable, inconceivable truth of our redemption stirs us up into an unbelievable, inconceivable devotion to Jesus. The scandal and injustice of the cross should move us into action more than any other social or legal injustice. There’s so many organizations out there that exist to raise awareness of some atrocious injustice. But there has been no injustice greater than the injustice of the cross.
And maybe that’s why we’re not radical. Because we think we understand the cross. We think that the cross makes sense. And that shows that we believe that we somehow deserved the cross. And if we deserved it, then the Gospel is not that great anymore. So it doesn’t deserve a great devotion. But we didn’t deserve the cross, and that’s the point. We have a radically loving God. We have a radically gracious Savior. Radical to the point of being impossible. I really, truly believe that all of my sins, all of my problems stem from this: I forget that I have a radical Savior. So I fail to give Him radical devotion. But when I marvel at Jesus’ crucifixion, when I sit at the foot of the cross and really think about how illogical, how ridiculous, and how awesome our Savior is, I am moved into action. Think of what a great man we are following! What a great God we are following. Let the truth of His love for you and the truth of His work on the cross move you to action. A radical Savior demands radical disciples.
So then, in light of the incredible, unbelievable cross, Jesus gathers all of His disciples and teaches them that the true disciple loses his or her life for Jesus and the Gospel. Verse thirty four, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Do you see the logical conclusion here? If you want to follow Jesus, you must follow Him to the cross. If you are a disciple of God, you will die for Jesus. Who are the people who are being saved? It doesn’t say that those who are willing to lose their lives. It says those who do lose their lives will save their lives. All of Jesus’ disciples will lose their lives for Him. All of them. There are no exceptions. And not only this, but it will be painful. It’s not only denying yourself, it’s also taking up your cross, and that is not a pleasant thing to do. But that is what Jesus is calling us to do. And if it’s what He did for us, then we will do it gladly. So let’s look at this honestly and see, are we living the lives that Jesus has called us to live?
When you are a true disciple of Jesus, you are not yours anymore. You belong in whole to Jesus. And I think that we’ve forgotten what this means. We are slaves. We are instruments of His body. We are dead already, and it is Jesus who lives in us. Belonging to Jesus means denying yourself! You no longer pursue your desires, you pursue God’s desires. Jesus doesn’t ask for your possessions. Jesus doesn’t ask for your time. Jesus doesn’t ask for your abilities. He demands your life. And in your life you will have money, you will have time, you will have abilities, and you will give it all to Jesus. So I ask, do we do this?
When you’re a true disciple, you don’t give ten percent of your income to Jesus. You give one hundred percent of your income to Jesus. Maybe you give ten percent to the church, fifteen percent to the poor, twenty percent to missions, but you give one hundred percent to Jesus. The disciple doesn’t spend money on him or herself anymore. True disciples use all of their money on Jesus. So I ask, do we do this?
When you’re a true disciple, you don’t give your free time to Jesus. You give all of your time to Jesus. You don’t separate the time that you’re studying, the time that you’re working, the time that you’re hanging out. All of it is for Jesus. When you’re Christian, you don’t make the distinction between time for you and time for God. When you’re Christian, you don’t have any time anymore. All of your time is God’s time. It’s all devoted to God. It all belongs to God. So I ask again, do we do this?
When you’re a true disciple, you don’t give your abilities to Jesus. Everything you can do, everything that you have, every opportunity you get, it all goes to God! It’s not like you say, “Well I can play guitar, so I’m going to lead worship at church.” It looks like you saying, “Everything that I am physically capable of doing, I will do for Jesus.” If I have an unhindered body, I will build homes for the poor, and I will build them for Jesus. If I have friends, I will convince them of the greatness of Jesus, and I will build them up into disciples of Him. If I have a voice at all, I will shout the Gospel from every rooftop, I will encourage every brother and sister from every corner of the world, and I will sing the praise of Jesus until I no longer have breath. So I ask again, do we do this?
And when I say we give our lives to Jesus, I don’t mean we just think about Jesus while we do things. I mean that we have a thoughtful, conscious, and deliberate plan to further the kingdom of God with everything that we do.
When I say we give all of our money to Jesus, I mean that we buy books to read to grow in our love for Jesus. I mean that we buy tickets to movies so that we allow our non-Christian friends to meet our Christian family. I mean that we really consider if we need a two hundred dollar phone, or a free phone. I mean that we work extra hours so that we will be able to give more to missions. I mean that we buy food and we buy clothes not to enjoy them, but so that we can survive to the next day to glorify God in the world. And yes, we give our money generously and sacrificially to the church, to the poor, and to global missions. Everything that we spend our money on should clearly and deliberately advance God’s kingdom on this earth. We no longer spend money on ourselves. We spend all of our money on God.
When I say we study for Jesus, I don’t mean we just think about Jesus when we read our textbooks. We learn science and math and history to marvel at the glory of God in creation. We study philosophy and business and economics so we can better serve God with our resources. We strive to do our best in everything that we do so that we will be able to attribute our knowledge and our talent and our character to God. We no longer learn just to get good jobs. We learn to directly glorify God. And if you get a better job because of it, great. Now you get to give more money to Jesus.
When I say we give all of our time to Jesus, I mean that we sit down with our calendar and look at all of our open time and figure out how to meet up with people to build them up, how to read the Word for our growth, how to organize dinner parties to evangelize. We consciously devote every second that we have to either growing ourselves or growing others. I mean that we sit down with all of our obligations and ask, how do I cut away the things that don’t serve Jesus, how do I redirect the things that can serve Jesus, and how do I improve at the things that do serve Jesus. And, honestly, we sit down with our entire lives and we ask, “Is my life best spent here? Or would it be better if I lived in Japan. In Thailand. In India for the Gospel.” We aren’t flippant with our time, because our time is not our time. Our time belongs to Jesus. And we do not want to waste Jesus’ time.
And when I’m honest with myself, I think I can clearly see that I don’t do these things. I am only partially devoted to Jesus. And I don’t think these things are things we don’t know how to do. These are just things we’re not doing. We don’t need to learn more in order to be more obedient. We just need to do it! That is a scary thought. It’s not like we don’t know what to do. It’s not like you’ve never heard this verse before. We’ve all heard that we’re supposed to carry our crosses for Jesus. The scary thought is that we haven’t done it! We’ve acknowledged that Jesus has died for us. We’ve acknowledged that He’s now called us to live self-denying lives. And for the most part we’ve said no.
And how do I know that we’ve rejected Jesus’ call? Verse thirty four. Jesus describes our lives as the final march of a convicted criminal on his way to a crucifixion. That’s the metaphor He’s using for discipleship. He’s saying that from the moment that we are converted to the moment that we breathe our last breath we are dragging a three hundred pound tree from the court that called us guilty up to the top of a hill passing body after body of gory and bloodied remains, and all the while knowing that that’s going to be us by the time we’re finished. That’s how Jesus describes being a disciple. It’s a scary, difficult, and painful journey.
It scares me that my Christian life is not that hard. Doesn’t that scare you? It scares me that Jesus promises excruciating suffering for His disciples, and for the most part I’m taking it pretty easy. We’re all taking it easy. It scares me that we say that we’re walking by faith, we say that the Christian is defined by faith, but I can’t remember the last time when I legitimately had to trust in God. I can’t remember the last time I gave so much that I didn’t know if I could provide for myself. I can’t remember the last time I pushed myself so hard for God’s Kingdom that I knew that only the Holy Spirit could possibly sustain me. I can’t remember the last time I humiliated myself for the Gospel to the point where my only joy, my only pride, my only boast was the cross. And it just shows me that I’m not doing anything that requires faith. I’m so secure in my money and possessions and relationships that I don’t need God. Like we won’t say it, because we all know intellectually that it’s not true, but for all practical purposes, we don’t trust in God.
We’re like passengers going up to the cabin of a plane, boasting about our total confidence in the pilot while strapping on our parachutes. How insulting do you think that is to God? I’m really scared that we trust Him with our words, but not with our lives. We trust our money and our homes and our friends. But think, if we trusted God, if we knew beyond a doubt that He would get us through anything, how much would we cheerfully give up? How much pain would we be willing to endure? How many risks would we be willing to take?
You know why it’s so easy for us to be Christian? Because we’ve learned tons about what we’re supposed to do but we’ve absolutely neglected actually doing them. We know we’re supposed to help the poor, we know we’re supposed to evangelize, we know we’re supposed to be wholly devoted to each other, but we’re just not willing to do it. The Christian life is easy for us because we’re not doing the Christian life. We’re just plain not doing it. I mean, how hard are we working for our sanctification? How hard are we working to care for the poor? How hard are we working to seek and save the lost? If it’s not comparable to bearing a cross, then we’re not working hard enough! I’m not trying to say that we’re not saved. We’re saved by grace through faith, not by works. And praise God that that’s true. But the sort of obedience that Jesus is calling us to, the sort of radically different life, it’s just not here. There are people losing their homes, their families, and their lives for Jesus on the other side of the world, and we’re too scared of losing our comfort to give up our luxuries for the sake of the kingdom. Giving everything to Jesus is going to be hard. But we don’t need to know anymore about what that looks like. We just need to do it.
But the great news is that it’s worth it! Following Jesus is worth it! The greatest thing about following Jesus to the cross is that we get to follow Him all the way. And even though He suffered and died on the cross, He resurrected in glory. This life will be hard and painful if we truly desire to follow Jesus. However, we choose it gladly, because we know what’s coming. We know it’s worth it. The third thing that Jesus teaches is that the true disciple knows that Jesus is worth everything.
Jesus ends by saying, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Make no mistake, Jesus calls us to give up everything. But we give up everything to gain something greater. It is far better for us to follow Jesus.
By most accounts, we have everything the world has to offer. We have money and comfort and security. And honestly, these things will probably make us happy. We’ll probably be able to live for a good sixty, seventy years just enjoying these things. I’ve heard that if money won’t buy you happiness, you don’t know where to shop. Let’s just all confess, money has bought our happiness. It’s not a bad thing to enjoy the material things that God has blessed us with.
But sometimes, we really need to sit down and ask ourselves, how much do I value God? Is it really true that I can give up the whole world and Jesus will still be enough? And how much does that show in my actions? Do I spend time in prayer? Talking to Jesus? Casting on Him my concerns? Listening to hear His Spirit? Do I spend time in the Word? Seeking to get to know God? Hoping to just enjoy His presence? Do I spend time evangelizing? Do I talk to people about how awesome Jesus is? Do I try to introduce them to Him? Do I spend my money on Him? Do I buy the things, donate to the places that would bring Him joy? Do I earnestly seek ways to serve Him? Do I take responsibility for all the opportunities I have? Do I daydream about heaven? Do I think about God? Do I plan out how I can be following Him in all my life? Service, quality time, gifts, words.These are all things that would show how much I value a friend. So do we do these things for Jesus? The way we spend our lives reflect how much we value God. So then, let’s ask, how much do we value God?
But let us change. Because if we stay the same we would be wasting our time with mud-pies, yes? Because Jesus is better than food. Jesus is better than TV. Jesus is better than movies. It doesn’t matter if we give up everything. Our souls get to be with Jesus in paradise, and that is not worth comparing with any afflictions here on earth. Heaven can be a dark, cramped, musky room but if Jesus is there, it doesn’t matter. It’s still better than anything we’ve ever known.
Think of this! We get to have fellowship with God. With God! The one who made the universe! The one who gave each of the stars their names. The one who set the masses of protons and neutrons so that atoms could hold together. The one who defined the pull of gravity and the push of magnetism.The one who told the mountains to rise, the oceans to stop, and the valleys to dive. The one who made light with a word.
We get to have fellowship with God! The one who sits on the throne above, surrounded by thousands upon thousands of angels. The one who never sins. The one who always know the right thing to do. The one who defined what right was at all.
We get to know Him! We get to talk with Him! The one who loves you specifically. The one who bears with Israel, who bears with the church. The one who died to look over our sins. The one who chose to save you before the foundation of the world.
We get to be with Him! We get to love Him! We get to be His adopted children! We get to know God! If you think you understand that, you don’t understand that! What an awesome privilege we have. And the question is just how do we show the world that Jesus is worth everything? The answer: by giving Him everything.
And so, when we give up our lives, when we sacrifice radically for Jesus, and when we look upon everything we’ve lost, we will calmly and confidently smile, shrug our shoulders, and ask, “So what?” Because we will not have given up our lives, we will have saved them. We will not have sacrificed anything at all, because we will have gained the greatest treasure in the universe. We will have lost nothing. Because we were lost ourselves, and yet Jesus died to find us.
There is nothing that we can do to properly reveal how amazing Jesus is. No amount of devotion on our part can show how marvelous the cross is or how great God is. The closest we can do it give everything. The closest that we can do to show the world just how great the cross is and how loving our Father is, is give up our lives for Jesus. The only thing we can give God that will even remotely demonstrate our thankfulness and our gratitude are our entire lives. And it is no sacrifice because we know that Jesus is worth it. Jesus is worth everything. When we see the cross, when we see how much God loves us, there is no logical, reasonable response other than absolute devotion, radical devotion.
So let’s move, let’s just do it. We’re so full of knowledge, so full of Bible, that it’s not consistent for us to be doing nothing. And that’s why we’re going to be going through Radical. We have to do something. We have to move, both individually and as a group. We must serve God. And not out of obligation, although we are obligated. Not out of indebtedness, although we are in debt. We give God everything because He’s worth it. Our God is great. And He is worth all of our lives and more.