Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lesson 28: Taking Up The Cross

Brief 4-to-5 Minute Teaching Lesson

Why? and What is the Purpose? in My Life SERIES

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Lesson 28 of the Discipleship Making process.

I left you last time with this question, “What is one thing that you can give up to serve another?”

It is September, three years after Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River. The summer harvest is nearly complete and the autumn winds of change are in the air. Jesus senses the change too. He knows His time on earth is short and he has many things left to teach them. It’s time to prepare them for the unexpected . . . His impending death. Taking the disciples with Him, Jesus travels to Caesarea Philippi (originally home of the Canaanite sanctuary known to be the entry point to the realm of the dead . . . the gate of Hades) at the foot of Mount Hermon . . . a fitting place to talk about the subject of death.

Read: Matthew 16:13-28, 17:22-23, Mark 8:27-9:1, 9:30-32, Luke 9:18-27, 9:43-45

Jesus introduced the subject of His death by asking the disciples who people thought He, the Son of Man, was. They respond by saying that people think He is one of the prophets who has returned from the dead. Then He asked the disciples who they thought He was. Peter answered for them, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

By his answer, Jesus recognized that God had reveled to Peter the identity of the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13-14). Immediately He responds with several shocking statements, the importance of which would not fully be comprehended until after His resurrection from the dead:
  • Jesus referred to Peter as Barjona, which means son of Jonah, prophet who also took his message to the Gentiles.
  • Peter’s real name was Simon, but Jesus called him, “Peter”, meaning a rock or small stone which is solid and strong but can be moved.
  • Jesus referred to Peter as the rock (this rock means a foundation stone, solid and strong but cannot be moved) which His Church would be built.
  • Jesus said He would build His “Church”, called out ones - assembly, congregation, or community (referring to people, not an institution or a building).
  • He also said that the gates of Hades would not overpower His church, meaning 1) that the church could never be killed, as it would last forever and 2) that the church could not be prevented from taking souls out of the realm of the dead.
  • In addition, Jesus said He would give His disciples the keys to the kingdom for authority in prayer and communal life within the body of Christ. One key locks/binds the gates of Heaven, thus barring entrance and keeping blessings from being released. The other key unlocks/looses the gates of Heaven thus allowing entrance and releasing of its blessings.
  • Finally, Jesus tells the disciples that He must go to Jerusalem where He will be persecuted and killed, but then He reassures them that He will be raised from the dead on the third day.
If the previous revelations weren’t enough, Jesus challenges His hearers with this statement. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross (Deuteronomy 21:22-23, Galatians 3:13) daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Jesus makes it quite clear that discipleship is costly. There is no “cheap grace"("Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate." (The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian whose Christian convictions put him at odds with the Nazis and cost him his life, in his stance against the contemporary mindset, including topics like "cheap grace.") Right now cheap grace theology is proliferating around evangelical Bible colleges, seminaries and Christian ministries.) in being a Christian or path of roses to follow in doing God’s will. Jesus’ statement is a sobering thought to all who call themselves, Christians or better defined Christ followers.

The point of the lesson is to understand that being a disciple of Jesus Christ will cost you your life.

With that, allow me to leave you with this question to consider, along with a little homework assignment until my next posting:

Do you have a desire to know the future?

. . . and the homework assignment . . .

Prayerfully reflect on the true cost of discipleship, by asking yourself these questions:
  • Can I deny myself . . . by giving up what I want to do to serve another?
  • Can I embrace and carry my cross daily . . . the very thing that just kills me to do?
  • Can I follow Jesus . . . by obeying what He tells me to do?
Until next time . . . Godspeed!

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