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Mark 126 - Next Step

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.

Mark 8:34,35

In the Broadway musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, there is a famous line in the show where Caiaphas sings:

One thing I'll say for him: Jesus is cool.

This is not far from the expression many use in referring to God when they call him,

The man upstairs.

The problem is that Jesus doesn’t describe himself like this. He doesn’t think of himself as cool, or as someone upstairs. He says that he is God and that if we want to follow him, it’s not a free ride. It’s going to cost us something. Listen to the three kinds of currency that Jesus says it’s going to cost us to follow him, be his.

· Deny

Jesus says that we need to forget ourselves. We need to lose sight of our own interests. And when we do this, we leave the land of selfishness and self-absorption and enter into a new land. The land of thinking first about God and others. We cross the border, leaving the present land in order to enter into a new one. We cannot be in both at the same time. It’s one or the other. When we cross over, we immediately begin to lose sight of ourselves and our own interests.

· Take up their cross

We don’t see crosses alongside the roads like they did in Roman times. They were an instrument of public humiliation, torture, and death. It wasn’t like lethal injection, decapitation, hanging, or a bullet to the head. It wasn’t immediate but took time. It also wasn’t done behind a wall or indoors, it was a public execution, allowing people to watch and learn what happens to people that break the rules. We each have been assigned a cross. It’s our cross and no one else’s. It belongs exclusively to us. The purpose of a cross is to kill, and our cross is to kill our selfish pride. Again, we either pick up the cross or leave it laying on the ground at our feet. We can’t be picking it up and ignoring it at the same time. It’s one or the other. When we pick it up, we immediately start the process of death.

· Follow me

When Jesus asks people to follow him, it is not a following behind, but a following beside. We’re to accompany him on his personal journey of denying and carrying a cross. We’re to be on the same road as Jesus, walking beside him, shoulder to shoulder with him. Not just going in the same direction, toward the same destination, but at the same pace that he takes. This isn’t passive, but an active, decision-making process. Moment by moment, step by step. This following isn’t a silent following, but an active encountering, communicating, and relating with Jesus as you walk along the path of life together.

Along with his claim to be God, there is a call to follow. But following comes at a cost. It requires not just looking the other way, away from ourselves, but looking at Jesus. And the looking requires that we match our direction and speed with him.

At the start of every NASCAR race, there is a pace car that everyone follows. While they match their direction and speed to that pace car, they’re behind it. And just before the green flag is dropped, the pace car pulls off and everyone puts the petal to the metal.

That’s what many people think about Christianity. We follow behind for a while. But then we have to do it all on our own, at our own pace.

But Jesus’ directions are very different. The essence of being a Jesus follower is to drop doing things our way, pick up our cross of instruction, correction, and sacrificial death. This is followed by a daily, moment by moment, following alongside with Jesus for the rest of our days.

Not very glorious, not very compelling, not very elegant, or modern. But it’s the way we were made to live. The way we were designed to enjoy life, worshiping and serving God while we love on people.

This is our next step. Our ultimate life. Our ultimate destiny.


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