Giving Up Our Lives

  • Giving Up Our Lives
  • Matthew 6:21-27
  • Brian Brownlow
  • March 18, 2018
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3-18-18 Sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

Surrender. Usually that word is not used in a positive sense. Whether it be in a world war or a friendly game of checkers, the losers surrender. Nobody wants to be a loser. We want to be a winner. We want to persevere. We want to dictate the terms of the surrender to the losers who are offering us their surrender. You always want to be on the right side of the surrender business. I don’t know about you but I want to plant the victory flag, not wave the white flag. Can I get an Amen?!

If you’re like me, and you don’t do surrender well, you’ve probably struggled a little bit over the last several weeks as we have done a lot of giving up. We’ve taken this whole idea of giving something up for Lent pretty seriously. We’ve given up control and expectations. We’ve been told the shocking and inconvenient truth that we are not superior to everyone else. Last week Lyndol even had the audacity to tell me I need to give up my enemies. Well, that’s fine as long as they’re the loser and I’m the winner. I’m glad that Lyndol is here today so I can tell him on behalf of all of us, don’t make this so hard. If I’ve got an enemy, all they have to do is come to me and surrender – problem solved. No more enemies. It’s really not that hard! Give up our enemies; where in the world did he get that from? Well, actually that comes from a little book called the Bible. So, I guess we’re going to have to listen.

Okay, while we’re all ears, let’s take a look at what else the Bible says about giving up.

21 From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. 22 But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”  23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”  24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.  25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?  27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.

Matt. 16:21-27 NLT

 

 

“Get behind me Satan.” We use – probably misuse – that phrase quite often. It’s typically uttered in the context of some type of temptation. Sometimes we use it to reference, not Satan himself, but another person, who we perceive as a source of temptation or perhaps a threat. Get away from me, leave me alone, quit bothering me. But here, Jesus literally coins the phrase while speaking to one of his most trusted disciples – Peter. Wow, that’s a pretty strong rebuke coming from your mentor. When someone that we respect and is in authority over us gives us such a strong rebuke that really hits home. What could Peter possibly have done to warrant Jesus calling him Satan?

Well, we see from the context that this exchange between Peter and Jesus is a result of Jesus’ very pointed discussion about His own betrayal and death. It says in verse 21 Jesus spoke plainly about what was to come. He didn’t mince words. Not only was He going to be killed, but He was going to suffer greatly before his death. Now, Jesus had hinted about these things but His comments had always been somewhat vague and veiled. Before, the disciples didn’t know, or didn’t want to know, what He was talking about. Now, He was unloading this information with both barrels. Before, there were general references. Now it’s detailed and specific. Jesus is giving them who, what, when, where, and how. He’s laying it all out on the table. “We’re going to go to Jerusalem and when we get there I’m going to be betrayed by the religious leaders. I will suffer many terrible things and then they will kill me. On the third day I will be raised from the dead.” This time, Jesus leaves nothing to the imagination. You can’t get any more plain than that.

Of course, our buddy Peter, being the firebrand that he is, isn’t going to stand for any of this kind of talk. He jumped right in the middle of Jesus and says, “Heaven forbid, Lord.” Interesting choice of words don’t you think? “This will never happen to you!” Peter  just never learns does he? The guy means well he just always says the wrong thing at the wrong time. It seems like he can’t ever get out of his own way. Can anybody relate? I sure can. Peter gives me great hope. If God can use him, maybe there’s a chance for me.

A few weeks ago I was heading down the hall to my pickup which was parked on the south end of the building. As I went down the hallway that opens up into our activity center, I saw three posters of Raider Red – the Texas Tech mascot. They were taped along the wall and from my vantage point they look like those silhouettes that they set up at a firing range. You know what I’m talking about? It’s a silhouette of an intruder – a bad guy – and he’s holding a gun. Well, Raider Red is there on the wall, three identical poses, side-by-side, and he’s got his gun. Okay, maybe you’re not so sure, but that’s what it looked like to me.

Anyway, I walk into the activity center and there are a couple of teachers taking things down. The Texas Tech soccer team had come to visit the kids earlier that day. So I proceed to make a joke about setting up a gun range in the activity center. Well, the teachers just kind of laugh nervously and I can tell they don’t get the joke. Look, my wife has told me over and over again, “Brian, don’t try to be funny. It just doesn’t work for you.” Hey, I thought it was funny. So I start heading back out of the building and I pass the office of our CDO/preschool director Laurie McKee. I think to myself, “Laurie will get a chuckle out of this.”

I noticed that there was a woman sitting across the desk from Laurie, but she was writing intently in a notebook and Laurie was just sitting there so I retell my joke about setting up a firing range and guns. Laurie gets this stricken look on her face and says, “This is Brian Brownlow. He is our executive pastor. Brian, this is (she gave the woman’s name) she is with the state licensing department.” The state did not shut us down. I was able to smooth things over – all is well.

I can relate to Peter. I just seem to have a knack for saying the wrong things at the wrong time. I mean well, but it just doesn’t always come out the right way. As a result, sometimes Jesus has to set me straight – put me in my place.

Here in verse 23, it says Jesus turned to Peter. He turns to Peter and He addresses Peter, but I’m going to suggest to you this morning that he is speaking to Satan. Okay, let’s be clear. Peter is not Satan and Jesus does not mistake him for Satan. Peter is not possessed by Satan. I will add that I don’t say that because it’s an impossibility. Certainly, being possessed is a real thing. In our modern world we tend to dismiss that as being a superstition; I don’t believe that is the one supported biblically. However, in this instance, it is not suggested and nothing that we see scripturally about Peter would give any indication that that is the case. But, do you know that we don’t have to be possessed by Satan to be influenced by him? Jesus clarifies what’s going on here immediately after he rebukes Satan. In the last half of the verse Jesus says, “You see things from a human point of view, not from God’s.”  The issue is Peter’s perspective and his priorities. He is not possessed by Satan, but he is being influenced by his perspective and he’s taking on Satan’s priorities.

Why do I say that? Because Peter is essentially denying Jesus here. Peter’s insistence that these things cannot happen to Jesus is a direct reply to a statement Jesus has made. Jesus – who has the perspective and the priorities of the Father – has just stated to the disciples, including Peter, that all of these things are about to take place. He will be arrested, he will be treated horribly, he will be killed, and he will be resurrected. What Peter is objecting to is Jesus’ teaching. In response, Jesus puts him in his place. He’s not calling Peter Satan. He’s telling Peter that he has taken the perspective and the priorities of Satan.

The Bible often refers to the perspective and the priorities of Satan as the “flesh.” The term is not referring to the soft tissue on our body. It’s the desire to have our own way. It’s the height of arrogance that would lead us to do what Peter is doing here. Telling God that our way is better than His way.

After rebuking Peter for taking the perspective and the priorities of Satan, Jesus turns to the other disciples and expands on what he’s teaching Peter. “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” Jesus makes a conditional statement here. He says, “If you want to be my follower.” These twelve men have been following Him for some time now. It’s pretty clear that they are His “followers.” However, Jesus is raising the bar here. He’s telling them that if they want to be followers they must belong to Him. They are going to have to follow in his footsteps, not just from a physical standpoint by following Him from place to place. They don’t merely accompany Jesus, they literally become one with Him. Jesus has already told Peter that He will be crucified. Here He tells His disciples that they too will have to take up their cross. He’s raising the bar for what it means to be a true disciple. Church, we need to hear this. I believe this place is full of followers but Jesus is taking us to a new level.

Our perspectives and our priorities have to be reversed from what our “flesh” tells us. The flesh tells us to preserve our life at all cost. By preserve our “life” I mean our perspective and our priorities. The perspective and the priorities of the flesh. The flesh says think of yourself first and get as much for yourself as possible. What we want out of life, if we’re honest, is to gain the whole world. We want it all. If we can’t have it all – at least we want to get the biggest part. Reversing that is believing in faith – not just intellectually, in our mind – that gaining the whole world is a hollow and worthless pursuit. Believing that giving up the worldly point of view and embracing a life lived in freedom through Jesus Christ is the greatest victory we can ever win. A victory that is only won through the cross of Jesus Christ. Nothing in this world – nothing of the flesh – is worth forfeiting our soul. What Jesus is saying to His first followers, and I believe what He’s saying to us as His followers today, is if you want to truly follow Him then you have to do what He has done. You have to voluntarily give up your life.

I’ll stop here and address the idea of being a martyr. Sometimes we use that word flippantly and lightly. Often I hear it in the context of someone who’s just trying to get attention. “Oh don’t be such a martyr!” I have the greatest honor, respect and admiration for those who have literally been martyred for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who have laid down their lives in order to win others will undoubtedly be counted among the saints in eternity. I don’t want to diminish or cheapen that level of devotion and surrender to God. I will say to you this morning that many here – almost certainly everyone here – will not be asked to die a physical death for the gospel. I would also say that all of us – yes I mean literally – should be willing to do that very thing if necessary. However, for the vast majority of those who follow Jesus our purpose and calling is to live, act, and speak in a way that brings life to everyone around us. The only way that we can do that is to completely reverse our perspective and our priorities that are rooted in the flesh and fed to us by our enemy. We must give up control, expectations, the need to feel superior, and the right to hold onto and punish our enemies. Yeah, pretty much give up our life.

To give up all of these aspects of our life means to totally give up our life. Lyndol was been saying each week that Lent is not about giving up something for a time so that we can say we’ve done it. We give up our perspectives and our priorities so that we can take on the perspective and the priority of God. Jesus’ words to Peter speak right into my heart and your heart, “Get behind me Satan. You’re seeing things from a human point of view, not from God’s!”

Jesus finishes this conversation with his disciples with a reminder. Take a look at verse 27, “For the Son of Man will come with his angels and the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.” Some would say this is a warning – or even a threat. I think it’s a reminder. What difference does it make? A threat is something to fear. Jesus is reminding them – and us – that judgment is good news for those who have turned over their life to Him. When Jesus returns in His glory and judges all of mankind, those whose lives are bound up with Him will be caught up to spend eternity in glory with Him. The only ones who have to fear judgment are those who choose to gain everything in this world and forfeit their soul.

Today, I want to ask each of us to take some time to reflect on the promises of God. I want each of us to take some time and ask God what area of our life do we need to give up so that God can give us something better. You see, that is the beautiful promise of the gospel. When we give up our lives, God gives us a life that is infinitely better than the worldly one we could gain by holding on. Is God asking you to give up some aspect of your life? Perhaps some of the things we’ve talked about over the last several weeks? Maybe for you it’s control. Perhaps its expectations or the need to feel superior. Maybe there’s forgiveness that needs to happen in your heart.

Perhaps you here today and you need to turn everything over to Jesus. You need to make that commitment today. You need to accept Him in faith believing that He died for you. His death, burial, and resurrection was just so that He might have a relationship with you that would result in eternal life. If you’re in that place this morning, I would invite you to come to this altar as we begin to pray here in a few moments. Perhaps some of you may need to stay right there in your seat or on your couch, if you’re listening to this through our online feed. Those who are worshiping down the hall in LakeRidge Praise, there will be those who are available to pray with you if you need someone. Here in this space there will be those who are available as well. If you are listening to this online and you need someone, call the church and we’ll connect you with one of our ministerial staff or our fabulous prayer team. Don’t put it off or delay. When you give up your life for the sake of Christ He will give you something eternally better.