11 Minute Read

TODAY’S BIBLE READING:

Leviticus 19:1–20:21
Mark 8:11-38
Psalm 42:1-11
Proverbs 10:17

TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):

Mark 8:34 (CSB): “Calling the crowd along with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

REFLECTIONS ON TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):

What does it mean to follow Jesus? Can we simply trust in Him to forgive us and to give us eternal life … and then live as we want? Or does following Him require something so much more?

Jesus’ words in our Verse for Today provide for us a theme that consistently runs throughout the New Testament.

If anyone wants to be a Jesus-follower, if anyone wants to end up in Heaven for eternity, then there are some things that must be true of them.

And we are talking about salvation, after all.

Someone might allege that Jesus’ words in Mark 8:34 aren’t the signs of someone who is truly saved. Instead, they would say that Mark 8:34 describes someone who simply wants to progress in their walk with Jesus beyond the point of salvation.

However, the words that came from Jesus’ mouth immediately after speaking the words of Mark 8:34 make it clear that He is talking about salvation.

Mark 8:35-36 (CSB): “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me and the gospel will save it. For what does it benefit someone to gain the whole world and yet lose his life?”

Clearly, the words of Mark 8:34 are talking about the cost of discipleship. Jesus’ words describe for us exactly what it looks like to be saved, to be a Jesus-follower.

So, let’s spend the remainder of this post trying to understand what those stipulations are.

Mark 8:34 (CSB): “Calling the crowd along with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

Jesus begins His speech by noting the essence of what it means to be saved. As I pointed out above, Jesus is clearly talking about salvation. But, He doesn’t use those words in Mark 8:34. He says “follow me” instead of “get saved.”

I believe this is because these terms are synonymous. To get saved is to commit to following Jesus and to follow Jesus is to be saved. This is a gracious invitation offered by the God of Heaven. Salvation is received by grace, it is completely free … but it will cost us something.

So, what does it mean to follow Jesus?

It is doing what the disciples did when they responded to Jesus’ words. They spent time with Him. They listened to Him and made adjustments to their thinking and behavior. They developed a relationship with Him and enjoyed being around Him.

But, there’s one more thing that we see in Jesus’ initial words. He’s calling potential followers to count the cost. He is essentially saying, “If you want to follow Me, if you want to be saved, then there are some things that it will require of you. I want you to know what it requires before you make the commitment and decision because the cost will be high.”

Mark 8:34 (CSB): “Calling the crowd along with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

“Lordship salvation” is clearly taught throughout all of the New Testament. Essentially, this means that when someone gets saved and receives the free gift of eternal life, they receive Jesus as Savior AND Lord.

This means that if someone is truly saved, they don’t simply get a “get-out-of-Hell-free” card. They aren’t just saved from Hell and God’s coming wrath. They ALSO receive Jesus as Lord which means He’s now their boss. He’s the one that calls the shots in their life.

Now, some don’t understand “Lordship salvation” when they are saved and they need to be taught. But, it’s quite another thing for someone to know they should submit to Jesus’ authority and then knowingly reject His authority over their life.

Simply put, if we are genuinely saved, Jesus is our Lord and we aren’t living for ourselves anymore. We are called to further His interests, not ours. We are to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) and say “no” to our own desires if they are not in line with His. We are to realize that “(we) are not (our) own for (we) were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), so we are to live our lives to demonstrate and point to God’s goodness and say “no” to anything in ourselves that would distract from this endeavor.

And if we look closely enough, we will realize that almost all of the New Testament writers used slave language to describe themselves. The New Testament writers knew that slaves denied themselves because they were owned by their master and therefore were to say “yes” to him and “no” to themselves.

Just listen to how the following New Testament writers described themselves (I will use the NLT since it accurately translates the Greek word, doulos, which ALWAYS means “slave,” not “servant” as it is so often erroneously translated.)

Romans 1:1 (NLT): “This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, …”

Philippians 1:1 (NLT): “This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus. …”

Titus 1:1 (NLT): “This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. …”

James 1:1 (NLT): “This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. …”

2 Peter 1:1 (NLT): “This letter is from Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ. …”

Jude 1:1 (NLT): “This letter is from Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.

Revelation 1:1 (NLT): “This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the events that must soon take place. …” (The word “servant” in this verse is the same Greek word that was translated “slave” in all of the previous verses.)

There is a clear understanding in the New Testament that to be saved means to deny oneself because we are the slaves of our benevolent Heavenly Lord and Master. Therefore, to be saved means to say “no” to ourselves so that we can say “yes” to Him. That’s what slaves do, after all.

Mark 8:34 (CSB): “Calling the crowd along with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

What does “take up his cross” mean? Some people claim that it means that life will be a burden. In fact, when some Christians have been going through a particularly difficult time in their life, they have said: “It’s my cross to bear.”

Friend, I don’t believe that Jesus meant that when He said the words of Mark 8:34.

The Romans had a way of getting the last word. When someone under their authority violated one of their laws, then Rome reserved the right to exercise the death penalty if the crime was grievous enough.

But, the Romans didn’t simply take the criminal to the cross .. they made those criminals carry their own cross. Do you know why Rome made criminals carry their own crosses upon their backs? So that it could powerfully illustrate that the criminal, who thought that he could violate Rome’s laws, was now under the weight of Rome’s authority. Carrying the cross demonstrated that Rome had the last word and was the final authority.

So, when Jesus tells us that to be saved is to “take up our cross,” He is saying that we are submitting to God’s authority that we once resisted. In a lost condition, we lived for ourselves. But, as a follower-of-Jesus, we are willingly submitting to the authority of King Jesus over our life.

But, when we realize how benevolent He is, we will WANT to submit to Him. We don’t submit to His authority out of drudgery or duty. We do it because we love Him and find delight in living to please Him, the One who loved us so much that He would rather die for us than spend eternity without us.

Mark 8:34 (CSB): “Calling the crowd along with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.

Jesus ties up the stipulations of salvation where He started – following Him. If we want to follow Him, it means that our life is no longer about ourselves but about Jesus. We say “no” to ourselves and “yes” to Him.

But, one final word: I’ve noticed that the closer I get to Jesus, and the more time I spend with my Bible, the more I realize that my desires have changed since I was saved 40 years ago. I’m saying “no” to myself less now because my desires are being conformed to Jesus’ desires.

Essentially, I’ve learned that as a Christian’s desires line up with Jesus’ desires, they will be able to say “yes” to Him and “yes” to themselves simultaneously – because the desires are the same.

There is so much more than I could say about this but this post has already gotten far too lengthy.