Welcome to ReCreate Ministry. Our mission is helping people become new creations in Christ. One of my favorite things has always been drag racing. Ever since I was a kid, I have been around cars and racing. If you’ve never experienced drag racing in person, there’s absolutely nothing like it. A pair of top fuel dragsters taking off registers a 2.5 on the Richter Scale, and it’s a noise that can be heard from as far as 15 miles away. It really is something you have to experience in person to understand. Growing up, we would spend almost every weekend from March until October out at the track. My dad has always loved cars, and ingrained in me a deep love of cars as well. What are the things in your life that you love? Is it your family? Your job? A particular sport or sports team?
This week, we are starting a new series called Commit. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be looking at the times where Jesus talks about what is expected of those who are going to be His followers, at the challenges they faced, and at what it means for us as His followers today.
Our text this week comes from Luke 9:18 – 26 (NIV), but we are going to break it down into three sections. We will start with 9:18 – 20, which says, “Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.’ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘God’s Messiah.’” My first point is this:
Whether you realize it or not, we all choose a god. Many of us have even done so without realizing it. We like or follow a certain sports team, celebrity, politician (yuck), band, clothing line, video game, movie franchise, or anything else you can think of, and before we know it, we have put that thing in the place of God. We didn’t mean to, but the thing that we started to like ended up consuming so much of our time, energy, and focus that it became an idol. Timothy Keller said, “An idol is anything that is more important to you than God. Anything you seek to give you what only God can give. Anything that is so central and essential to your life, that should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.” Haven’t we all done that with certain things in our lives? For me, it’s been relationships. Not just the romantic kind, though those have been a huge part of that, but any friendship/relationship that I’ve had in my life. I’ve put so much emphasis on trying to make people like me that I lost sight for many years of who God was calling me to be.
Jesus initiates the conversation here which comes to a head with Peter’s confession. Jesus wants more than just the crowd’s response. He wants to know exactly who the disciples believe Him to be. After hearing that the crowds believe Him to be a prophet, he asks the disciples who they believe Him to be. This is His way of beginning a new phase of learning for them. The disciples have seen Him perform miracles and heard His teaching. You would think they would know by now who He is.
The first question and the answers He receives are similar to the reports about Herod’s concern over Jesus’ identity. Jesus digs deeper, though. He asks a second question, indicating that He isn’t happy with the answer He is given, or the beliefs by others as to who He is. He rejects those answers, asking His disciples directly who they believe Him to be. This is the first time we see a human being recognizing Jesus as God’s Messiah.
So, what does it mean to recognize Jesus as the Messiah of God? This is something we will be looking deeper into over the course of this series. In Isaiah 9:6 (NLT), Jesus is referred to as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This was hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth. The angel Gabriel had identified Jesus as Messiah in religio-political terms as the one who would rule over an everlasting kingdom. The Spirit of the Lord had anointed Jesus so that He could carry out the eschatological work of bringing about the salvation of mankind. Jesus is the Messiah whose status not only encompasses, but surpasses that of a prophet.
Peter is the one who speaks up, confessing that Jesus is God’s Messiah. Does Peter (and do the other disciples) actually understand what this confession means? Do we? I was having a conversation a few weeks ago with a friend of mine who was getting ready to teach a group of Jr. High kids at his church, and he needed some help making the text he was using relevant to them. One of the things in the text was Jesus saying that the world would hate Him for calling out it’s evil, so I told my friend to ask his students to think about a time when the world hated or looked down on them because of the decision that they had made to follow Christ. As followers, we need to understand what it means to be followers of Christ, which brings me to my second point.
Not only do each of us have to choose who or what we believe God to be, but we also have to be aware that, no matter who or what that choice is, there is always a price. I know several people who are so obsessed with certain politicians or certain political parties that they will believe absolutely anything that is said by that person or a member of that particular party. There are some who do the same thing with celebrities, athletes, musicians, actors or actresses, even tv series or movie franchises.
Luke 9:23 – 26 (NIV) says, “Then he said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.’”
Jesus is saying that we should be willing to lay our own desires aside and focus on what He has called us to. The life of a disciple was not going to be easy. Taking up a cross is uncomfortable. Surrendering our life to Jesus means that we don’t get to pick where we will go, what we will do, or even who we will do it with. Jesus doesn’t want casual fans. He wants committed followers. He doesn’t call us to a life of comfort. He calls us to come and die. That means we die to our own desires, and we live the way that He has called us to live. For most of us, this seems like a good idea, but if we’re being honest, it’s not something we’re actually all that interested in. Kyle Idleman said, “The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians, but aren’t actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them.”
Which one are you? Just like the question my friend had to ask his Jr. High students, when was the last time that being a follower of Christ cost you anything? Was it something you were actually willing to lose to follow Him? Like I said earlier, for most of my life, I have put relationships with other people (especially women) ahead of my relationship with Jesus. As I look back over all of the times where I’ve chosen a person over Jesus, I can’t help but regret all the things that I’ve missed out on because I wasn’t willing to put Jesus in His rightful place. You see, Jesus doesn’t just want to come along for the ride. He doesn’t even just want to be the driver. He wants to drive, pick the destination, and even determine what all stops are made along the way, or He doesn’t want to be in the car at all. The call to be a follower of Christ means that we have no control at all, and it usually means that we go without knowing fully where it is that we’re going. Is that a price you would be willing to pay? My last point is this:
Luke 9:21 – 22 (NIV) says, “Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.’”
The disciples had to maintain their silence because Jesus knew that He would suffer and be vindicated. This meant, first, that Jesus suffering and vindication had not yet integrated into the messianic conception, and second, that the time for proclaiming openly the messiahship of Jesus would come following the events that Jesus had predicted. Those responsible for His suffering were not the Jews in general, but the elders, chief priests, and scribes – the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem in particular.
Jesus knew that He would not be the only one to suffer, but that each of His disciples would as well. This is why He laid out so clearly what was expected of His followers. Are we, as Christians, willing to pay whatever the price might be to follow Him, or are we just in it for the benefits? My hope is that, over the next few weeks, we all take a very close, introspective look at ourselves and decide what we would be willing to do or to give up doing to follow Jesus.
Thank You for being willing to send Your Son to pay the ultimate sacrifice for us. May we be a people willing to sacrifice everything to follow You.
Next week, we will be talking about the cost of following Christ. If you would like to learn more about what it means to follow Christ, I would invite you to reach out to us here. Have a blessed week!!!!!