Jesus’ Faith and Modern Faith Contrasted Jun29


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Jesus’ Faith and Modern Faith Contrasted


Jesus was a revolutionary. There is no doubt that much of His preaching was aimed at pulling the rug out from under the modern idea of saving faith. The purity of truth was dropped into the acid of cultural counterfeits and the chemical reaction was volatile. Interestingly enough, when Jesus’ words are reexamined against today’s popular definitions of saving faith, the contrast is just as stark. Jesus proves to be the ever-present revolutionary.



Examine the three actions of genuine faith Jesus preached in Mark 8:34, and contrast it with the popular message we hear today regarding being a “person of faith.”



And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me,

he must 1.) deny himself, 2.) and take up his cross 3.) and follow Me.” (Mk. 8:34)



Three Actions of Genuine Faith:


I. To Be a Follower of Christ, One Must Deny Himself


One Greek lexicon defines deny as, “to reject as having no authority or binding force. It is an absolute refusal to recognize relationship, validity, power, presence, etc.”


Notice how “deny” is used in Titus 1:16.They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him.”


These people confess to follow Jesus with their mouth, but their actions and lifestyle choice show that they reject God’s claim of authority over their lives as having any binding force.


Deny is also used in Titus 2:11-12. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires…” How is the follower of Christ to deal with ungodliness? Flirt with it? Be entertained by it? Dabble in it? No! He is to deny it—refuse to acknowledge any authority, relationship or binding force it would have upon him.


Consider Peter’s three-fold denial of Christ. When that servant girl accused Peter of being a follower of Christ, Peter did not say, “Well, yah, I knew of him but we’re really not that close.” No, Peter said, “I do not know the man!” That’s denial. It is absolute.


Now bring that term back into Mark 8:34. “If any man wishes to come after me, he must deny himself…” What does that mean? It means to deny and renounce any authority or claim you have upon yourself. You are not your owner. This is not your life. You are created by God, sustained by God, and morally obligated to God. Your self cringes at this reality. So self must be totally, ruthlessly and brutally denied.


Walter Wessel says, “By denial of self Jesus does not mean to deny one’s self something. He means to renounce self—to cease to make self the object of one’s life and actions. This involves a fundamental reorientation of the principal of life. God, not self, must be at the center of life.”


We are all born art thieves. We are canvases upon which the image of God has been painted. We belong to him. But from birth we have said, “This is my life. I live for my pleasure and passions.” We either do this openly as a true secularist, or we verbally admit we belong to God, but live in such a way which proves our insistence to self-ownership. We have stolen God’s art as our own. So salvation is God saying, “It’s time to renounce your ownership of yourself and give yourself back to the Artist who made you.”


Only when we do this, will we discover that we were created/painted to give glory to the Artist of all creation. We are painted to be displayed in the museum of His glory!


1Peter 2:9 says, “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies (or beauty) of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”


We cannot do this as long as we think we are our own.






Few people have influenced the face of the modern, evangelical church like the late Robert Schuller. Listen to this statement he made in his book, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation, and contrast it with Mark 8:34.



“What do I mean by sin? Answer: Any human condition or act that robs God of glory by stripping

one of his children of their right to divine dignity. … I can offer still another answer: `Sin is

any act or thought that robs myself or another human being of his or her self-esteem.‘”

“If the gospel of Jesus Christ can be proclaimed as a theology of self-esteem,

imagine the health this could generate in society!”



Instead of self-denial Schuller champions a “gospel” of self-promotion. But from A to Z, the Bible presents man’s problem not as a self-esteem issue, but as a selfishness issue (Is. 53:6; Rom. 3:10-18; Ja. 4:1-2; Eph. 2:1-3; 4:17-19). Love of self explains arrogance, as well as suicide. Often the reason why people hate themselves is because self-image has become so obsessively important to them that they would rather die than live as the person they don’t want to be. The psychologized definition of self-esteem misses the heart-issue by a mile. The path to finding our worth in Christ is the path of self-denial not self-esteem.



Schuller, and many others, have strung up salvation, gutted it of Jesus’ demands for self-denial, and stuffed it with the vanity of self-promotion. Is the gospel you hear from your church, favorite authors and speakers one of self-denial, or one of self-promotion? It makes all the difference in the world.



II. To Be a Follower of Christ, One Must Take Up His Cross



When Jesus uttered those words, “take up your cross”, he had not yet died on the cross, so no one would have thought of a crucifix. His mention of the cross would have conjured three, chilling associations:


A. Association of Gentile Oppression


Jesus was teaching from Caesarea Philippi and John MacArthur states, “Not many years before Jesus and the disciples came to Caesarea Philippi, 100 men had been crucified in the area.” This act of terror inflicted by the government was fresh on the minds of the people. It was an offensive and chilling symbol of Gentile oppression.


B. Association of Torture and Humiliation


Though the cross can be dated as far back as the Persian empire (5th century B.C.), Rome perfected the cross into an art. It was by far the worse way to die. It combined prolonged torture with absolute humiliation.


In the actual procedure, the criminal was first whipped to the brink of death and then made to carry the vertical beam to the location of execution. The leader of the four-man execution squad followed the criminal, carrying a sign indicating his crime. On location, the criminal was stripped totally naked, arms stretched out and nailed, or tied to the cross.


Contrary to modern depictions, the crosses were closer to the ground, allowing the family of the victim to further mock and torment the criminal.  Typically, the corpses were left on the cross to be eaten by beasts and birds.


C. Association of Social Stigma


Julius Scott writes:

“The social stigma and disgrace associated with crucifixion can hardly be overstated. This stigma extended to the family and

friends of the victim; to be known as an associate of one who had been crucified was a mark of utmost shame. In the Jewish world

crucifixion bore an additional disgrace. According to Deut. 21:23 the very method of death brought a divine curse upon the crucified.”


I am not saying that there is a spiritual equivalent for each of these associations. But I am saying that Jesus was using this barbarous tool of execution to make a simple point.


It was as though Jesus was saying, “Make no mistake about it. Your natural self loves to live for yourself. Your self will repackage, reshape and reconfigure God in any way to make Him compatible with your quest for self-honor. Therefore, you must tear self from his throne and crucify him if you really want to taste the joys of submitting to the reign of Christ.” This is what salvation is! When we repent from our sins and trust in Christ for salvation, we are dethroning self and surrendering to the reign of Christ. Any definition of faith and repentance that is devoid of this self-denunciation is not the faith Jesus taught.





Rick Warren, arguably the most influential pastor in America, famously wrote in his book, Purpose Driven Church, “It is my deep conviction that anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the key to his or her heart, and the most likely place to start looking for that key is within the person’s felt needs.”



In other words, if a person comes to church and they’re going through a messy divorce, just plug the Gospel into their heartache and you’ll lead them to Christ. Or if a person is struggling with depression, just plug the Gospel into their depression and they’ll come to Christ. You’ve discovered their “felt-need.”



The only problem with this is that Jesus did not die on the cross to fix divorce and alleviate depression. He died on the cross to take our punishment that we deserve for our sins! To make the Gospel about felt-needs, instead of our heart of sin, eclipses the entire point of the cross. Of course, the Bible offers so much help and hope for the broken marriage and the depressed soul. But this is not the heart of the Gospel.



Here’s the issue. If I come to God to get my problems fixed, I’m not coming to God prepared to take up my cross. I’m coming to have my quality of life improved, rather than to surrender my life.


A.W. Tozer saw that within his own Denomination the message of the cross was under threat from shallow, watered-down preaching. While on a train to Chicago one night, He wrote the following words:


The old cross slew men; the new cross entertains them.

The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses.

The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it.

The old cross brought tears and blood;

the new cross brings laughter.

The flesh, smiling and confident, preaches and sings about the cross;

…–but upon that cross it will not die, and the reproach of that cross it stubbornly refuses to bear.”

We love to sing about the cross. But we hate to carry it.


III. To Be a Follower of Christ, One Must Actually Follow Christ


The final faith-action Jesus demands is to “follow Me.” Earlier in the chapter, Jesus told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan,” because Peter had attempted to redirect Jesus from the cross. In the Greek, “follow Me” is the same as “get behind me.”


When God spoke directly to Satan he said “Go!” But when he spoke to Peter he said, “Get behind Me/follow me.” In other words, “Peter, know your place! You are to follow me, not run ahead and steer the ship.”


The essence of the Christian life is to follow Christ. If He calls us to glorify Him through suffering, then we follow Him. When he calls us to honor Him by obeying a very difficult command in Scripture, then we must follow Him, no matter the cost.


When the believer stiffens his neck against the dark paths of self-denial that God calls us down to, we are playing the role of Peter and walking ahead of Christ instead of following Him.


Perhaps the biggest proof that someone is not following Christ is if he does not regularly open his Bible to see how to follow Christ! How can we follow Christ if we don’t know His instructions for following?


Typically, what people follow is the Jesus who has been re-branded and marketed to the popular culture. This Jesus has been evacuated of scriptural substance and has been replaced with what the world thinks Jesus wants—to be really, really, really, super-duper nice to people. Following Jesus means infinitely more than that! And he’ll tell you, if you study his words.


If you follow Him, you let His words dwell in you richly (Col. 316). A failure to read and apply is a failure to follow. It’s that simple (Ps. 119:11; Lk. 6:46; I Pet. 2:2).


If you are intimidated by the idea of denying ownership of yourself and surrendering your life to God, let me encourage you with the example of another saint, St. Augustine, who lived 1,600 years ago. Before his salvation he lived a sexually corrupt life, amongst other things. When he heard of Christ he, too, was afraid to give up the “sweets” of sinful pleasures.


After his salvation, however, he sang a very different song.


“How sweet all at once it was to me to be rid of the sweets of folly.

Things which I once feared to lose it was now joy to put away.

You drove them forth from me, you, the true and highest sweetness, you drove them forth

and in their place you entered in, sweeter than every pleasure, but not to flesh…”

St. Augustine learned what the Puritans would eventually pray.

Let me learn by paradox

that the way down is the way up,

that to be low is to be high,

that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive,

that the valley is the place of vision.

     -Valley of Vision

 “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.” (Mar 8:35)