Alright, let me ask you a question here.
Do you remember that commercial? “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” And, to be honest, I don’t even like Klondike bars. I mean, I do like ice cream, but for some reason, not those. Still, that catchy little tune from the commercial sticks in my head. It’s like, “What would you do for a Klondike bar?”
And thinking about that, I’m reminded of all the things people are willing to do for certain things. Nowadays, we have these new reality shows where people go to extreme lengths for wealth, like eating bizarre things or swimming in strange places, just for the sake of money. But you know, it’s nothing new under the sun. Even when I was a child, I used to watch shows like “Let’s Make a Deal,” and people were doing crazy stuff for prizes back then too.
And they had to dress up and do all kinds of stuff, and you go, “Really? You’re going to do that for…?” But they’ll do anything for money, and isn’t that how our society is now? I love the show “Dirty Jobs.” Anybody know the show I’m talking about? Have you seen it? I love that show, but it amazes me; there are some jobs I go, “I wouldn’t do that,” but let’s be honest, if they paid you enough, you would do it, wouldn’t you? Come on, let’s be honest. I mean, sometimes I look at that and go, “I can take a shower, you know what I’m saying? It’ll wash off.” But what people will do for money? How did money become so powerful in our lives? But it’s nothing new; people have been putting their lives on the line and doing bizarre things for money for centuries.
People will do such things for money, but yet tremble and fear to publicly show their love and appreciation for the price that Jesus paid on the cross. Some of you today may need to give your life to Jesus Christ, as Sophie and Jamie just displayed for us, but yet it scares you. I don’t want to do that; I’m fearful of that. Maybe some of you are sitting here today going, “Wait a minute. I’ve never been baptized scripturally. I need to be baptized, and I need to say, ‘Lord, I have decided.'” And you’re scared to death. Isn’t it amazing what people will do for money, but they won’t do it for Jesus Christ? And thus, I titled this sermon, “What would you do for a… but don’t say Klondike bar. What would you do for a life with Christ?”
What would you do to have freedom from the bondage and the penalty of sin? What would you do for the right to enter into heaven now? I understand some of you are saying right now, “What now, Pastor? There’s nothing required for me to do. Jesus has already done what needs to be done.” And you’re right, He’s done it. It’s by grace that we’re saved, not by works. But you must not have any other God above God. So, what are you willing to give up? Anything that you put as more important to you than God, then you need to deal with that. You made it a God in your life. Did you guys know that you can make even church a God in your life? You can make religion a God in your life. I know people who have done it, and I know none of you would. Because you guys are smart, you wouldn’t make your pastor have a higher place in your life. And I’m serious, there are some that worship the pastor. And folks, I want to tell you, worshipping me will get you nothing. Not even a free lunch, okay? We are here to worship the name of Jesus Christ and Him alone. Those two were baptized not in the name of Kevin, John, and Steve, but in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
So my question is, what are you willing to do? Jesus told us because I believe we’ve cheapened grace when people walk the aisle, and we say, “Just say this little prayer, and then you’re saved.” No, I want to tell you, Sophie is right. The phrase was, “I have decided to follow Jesus.” Jesus was the one who told them, “Wait a minute. Put your nets down and follow me.” To be obedient, He told the woman, “Go and sin no more.” There are things that we need to do. He says, “You cannot serve two masters, or you’ll love one and hate the other.”
He has to be the master of your life. He also says, “Count the cost.” There is a cost to serving Jesus Christ. But if you are truly in love with it, folks, can we just be honest? Is there a cost to marriage? I should get a bigger response than that out there. Let’s try this again. I want no lies in church. Is there a cost? Is there a cost in marriage? Yes. Sometimes you have to give in. Sometimes you have to give up. And sometimes you got to run away and hide in the bedroom. You know the address. When Deedra’s upset or something. Now you know what I’m saying? You got to count the cost and in Christianity, it’s the same thing.
So let’s look at the text and here Jesus is getting ready for the mount transfiguration. He’s going to be going into heaven and showing who he is and the power of who he is. And look at this. What he says, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, if anyone wants to come with me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life because of me will find it. What will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels and the glory of his Father, and then he will reward each according to what he has done. I assure you there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
I’ll tell you what, a powerful text, isn’t that a beautiful text? But boy, he’s pretty straightforward with them, isn’t he? He’s just laying it right there on the line for them.
As we look at this, we see that Jesus is preparing his disciples. He’s looking at them and he’s saying, “Who’s going to follow me and why are you going to follow me?” because Jesus wants us to follow him not because of what he can do but because of who he is. He is the Son of the living God, the Messiah, God in flesh. I’ve done a lot of study on it over the years about men and women that we’ve idolized in the Bible and what they were willing to give up. Let me just recap some of them for you real quickly, but everyone of them had to give up something.
Abraham in Genesis chapter 12, he gave up the security of home, family, and comfort. He was a very wealthy man, but God called him away to a land he didn’t know where to go, and he gave it all up. Even later on in his life, he would be willing to give his son up as a perfect example of God giving his son, Jesus Christ. Remember that he took Isaac up there, and he was going to sacrifice him, and yet God provided a ram. He was willing to even give his son up for the Kingdom of God.
Moses, what did Moses give up? Moses gave up power and authority. And what did he give it up for? Slavery and the unknown. All he had to do was to play the game and go along, and life would have been smooth for him.
Does that sound familiar in today’s world, man? The world just wants us to go along and play the game. When you hear me use words and phrases like “I don’t want to play church,” Jacob, when I talk about that in our life group, this is what I’m talking about. I mean, I don’t want to play church. I don’t want to just go along and keep the peace, man. I want it all, everything about Jesus Christ and only Jesus Christ, folks. Moses gave that up. How about Joseph and Mary, the earthly mother and father of Jesus Christ? They gave up reputation. I want to tell you, we’re so worried about what people will think of us. What do you think they thought of Mary being pregnant before she was married? What do you think they thought of Joseph? He could have stoned his wife-to-be. He could have killed her. But yet, they gave up their reputation. They gave up their future. They gave up their family plans, and they just said, “O.K., Lord, be it done unto me.”
How about the apostle Paul? Well, in Philippians 7, what did he give up? We’ll even look at this deeper later on in the sermon, but he says he gave up his position in religion. He was high up in religion, Pharisee, before he gave it all up. He gave up wealth. He was a wealthy man. I want to tell you, following Christ can be very bad for business if you’re Christ-like. So the question for us today in 2023 is, what are we willing to give up, let go, walk away from, and surrender to follow Jesus? I loved it when Sophie came in that shirt. “I have decided,” it fits the sermon. It’s a God thing. “I have decided to follow Jesus.” To do that means I must give up something, me, and surrender to Him.
So let’s look at the first thing that we see in this text. What’s the first thing He says? He says we are to deny self. Now, to deny self is not the same as self-denial. It’s not like putting off something for a while. It literally means to yield to His control. You know what it means to yield, to surrender, unless you’re like me…
I remember wrestling or fighting with my older brother, and I remember he’d get me down. He was stronger and bigger than I was at that time, and he’d hold me down. I would usually be the one who started it, and then he would hold me down. I’d say, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, let me rest.” He’d get up and say, “Do you say ‘Uncle’? Boy, try to make me whistle Dixie.” Well, I couldn’t whistle, and I didn’t even know what Dixie was, so I couldn’t do that either. Then he’d say, “You say ‘Uncle’,” and I would go, “Uncle, uncle, uncle, uncle, get off of me!” He’d get off of me then.
Now, what would Kevin White do? Church, come on, go ahead. Don’t be afraid to say it. I did it. I tackled him, I hit him when he wasn’t looking, and he’d say, “You said ‘Uncle’, you gave up.” I’d say, “I was just kidding.” Then he’d get me down again, hold me down, and say, “Say ‘Uncle’.” I’d say, “Uncle,” and he’d let me up. What would I do? I would do the same thing again. Listen, I love the Lord, but I didn’t say I was smart, okay?
My point is that’s how many of us Christians are. It takes us to get to a place of desperation where we’re ready to yield, to surrender, to yell “uncle.” But folks, it does us no good to get up and pick the same stuff up and do it again. Yielding means I give up, I’m done. I’m not going down this road anymore. I’m done with it. It’s to completely surrender myself. I have no rights whatsoever. I give them up.
Paul and the early church leaders referred to this yielding as a filling to be filled up with the Holy Spirit, where we are no longer the master of our lives, but the Holy Spirit is in charge. That’s when we’re dead to ourselves, and we allow Christ’s life to flow through us. It means giving up our rights. Oh, folks, as Christians and humans, we love to demand our rights. “I deserve to be noticed. I deserve this. I deserve that.” Come on, amen. I know I’m not the only one in the room who has done that. But when we are dead in our sins and alive in Christ, we yield to His will for our life.
Look at the verse, look at the screen. Galatians 2:20. What does Paul say? “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” In other words, the old Paul is dead. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
He says, “I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” So, what does he say? “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself.” Because He gave Himself for me, I am therefore giving my life to Him, and that’s the symbol of baptism. I am dead to self and resurrected in the newness of life of Jesus Christ. And we fight that, don’t we? Because we want to demand our rights. We want to say, “This is what I deserve. This is what should happen.” Yet, our biggest hindrance in taking this step in our lives is our fear of losing something.
Now, folks, we have to give that up. What do we own? What is really ours? And whatever is ours, guys, understand there’s nothing you’re going to be able to take to heaven. Wasn’t there an old saying, you know, whatever you’re trying to take with you, it’s either going to fall away when you go to heaven or burn away if you go to hell. Folks, you’re not going to be able to take it with you. Yet, we’re afraid to lose them. “I don’t want to lose my identity.” Do you understand your identity is Jesus Christ? If you give your life to Him, therefore, you are to act like Him. And I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying it’s not a day in, day out battle. It’s a day in, day out battle. I’m not even telling you I’m great at it. I’m just telling you that’s what we’re supposed to strive for in following Jesus Christ: to deny ourselves. The Bible says it, we’re to put more to outdo one another in loving one another.
So, we’re to think of others first, because of what Jesus has done for us. Maybe you may not be ready, because understand there needs to be brokenness in your life. See, we need to get sick enough of our sins. We don’t want to go down there. Some of you right now could stand up in this sanctuary and say, “I want to tell you about something. I struggle with, but I’m so sick of that life. I don’t want to go back to that life.” Jamie shared some of that with me. I forget, Jamie, how long you said you’ve been clean and sober, but praise God for you, brother. Man, stay away from that. It’s vindictive and destructive, but it’s the victory through Jesus Christ. Because you live in Christ, that old man is dead.
But let’s not just look at those kinds of addictions, folks. We can be addicted to ourselves. We can be narcissists, we can be arrogant, we can have all these things in our lives. We can be demanding, we can have anger issues. Folks, you name the list, it’s out there, we can all deal with it, but we need to deny ourselves. So my question is, are you willing to yield to God? Are you sick of that whatever it may be in your life that you no longer want to have it and you’re giving it up for Jesus Christ?
Number two, not only do we deny ourselves to yield, but we’re to take up our cross. Now understand that the willingness to take up our cross means to endure shame, suffering, or maybe even persecution. “Lord, I’m willing to take it up, even if I get some ridicule. Why? I don’t want other people to know I’m a Christian, they might make fun of me.” Folks, they’re probably making fun of you anyway. You know what I’m saying? See you later on, some of you guys will get that, you’ll look in the mirror and go, “Oh, I get it. I know what he’s saying now.” They’re probably already making fun of you there. But folks, we don’t have to be ashamed. Let’s not be ashamed of that.
How would you feel if somebody says, “Oh, I love you, but I’m ashamed of you.” You wouldn’t feel very loved, would you? Imagine hearing from your spouse or your baby, “I love you, I love you, I love you,” but then they say, “Can you not go with me? I don’t want people to know you’re with me.” How would you feel, wives, if that’s what was said to you? How would I feel if dinner guests went, “I love you, just don’t tell anybody we’re related.” You know what I’m saying? That would be really hurtful, and that’s what we do to Jesus Christ. We’re not willing to say, “Wait a minute, I love Jesus, and I want you to see it. And therefore, I want to carry that cross. I want to endure, Lord, whatever you want me to go through, not for my glory, but for your glory. I want to endure for your name’s sake.”
But understand, if we don’t have the first part of denying self and yielding to him, we will never be able to pick up the cross. This is stair-stepping, folks. This is in order. Jesus didn’t just say this randomly. He knew what he was saying. He says, first, you need to deny yourself and then, if you really yield, then you’ll be able to pick up that cross, and you’ll be able to handle it. Because if he’s not living in you, you can’t pick up that cross. Folks, we don’t have the human ability to carry that kind of weight. We need the Holy Spirit to help us out. Amen. We can’t do it. These are steps. This is not what you can do for the Kingdom, but what the Kingdom can do for you.
Let’s return to the example of Paul, who was dealing with those who were trying to bring works and actions into their relationship with Christ. I want you to think about it.
I want you to look at Philippians 3:4-6. I love this in the New Living Translation, and you’ll see why in just a moment. Hey, this is Paul talking to those. He says, “Though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could indeed. If others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more.” And listen, then he gives us a list. He goes, “You want to know who I am? If you want to get into this little spat. Listen, he says I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin. A real Hebrew if there ever was one. That’s why I like the New Living Translation because I can just hear Paul saying it because this is a living translation, you know, as a paraphrase. And I just hear Paul go, ‘Man, if there’s ever a real Jew, that is me right now.’ I mean, he says if you want to brag about things because that’s what we like to do. And folks, let’s not just cast it on them. We as Baptists, we as Christians. Sometimes we like to polish our nails and think about how great I am. And I’m such a good Christian folks. None of us are good absent from the presence of Jesus Christ. And so he says, ‘Man, if there’s anyone, man, I am a true-blooded citizen.'”
If there ever was a Hebrew of Hebrews, that’s me. I am a member of the Pharisees who demand the strictest of obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. Say what you will about the Pharisees, I want to tell you they followed the law. To be a Pharisee like he was, he had to memorize the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Now I don’t know about you, but I struggled just reading Leviticus sometimes. Okay, let alone memorize and recite it. He had to know it. He had to prove himself. He followed the law. He acted, conducted himself. He says all of that, man, if it’s all about works. But then let’s go a little bit further down. He was telling them it means nothing to me because look what he says in verse 10 of that same chapter. He says, ‘I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death.’ Folks, that’s not church. That’s a relationship.
I want to know Jesus. I don’t want to know about Jesus. Folks, that’s what I want in this church. That’s what I think God wants. I think that’s what many of you want, folks. We don’t want to just know about it. We want to know. I love that text. ‘I know whom I have believed in and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him.’ I know him. Now, some of you this morning I walked in and went, ‘Wow, who’s that dorky-looking guy playing guitar with Steve?’ That’s my son Beau. You guys know about him because I told you about him. I know him. Trust me, John, I know him. We’ll talk later. OK? Yeah, you’ll get the scoop. Alright. Bring tissues. It’s a sad story. Oh, in all honesty, he’s my hero. I love my son and I’m so proud of him, man. Lucky my shirts don’t burst. You know, they’re missionaries overseas and they’re home with us until January. So you’re gonna see a lot of him. In fact, he’s gonna preach a series for us in this fall. You guys are gonna enjoy that through the book of Acts. Enjoy that. Let’s see, I know him. I want to make sure you don’t know about Jesus but you know Jesus. I know him. He has saved me when I didn’t deserve to be saved. He’s forgiven me when I couldn’t forgive myself. He’s my savior and my salvation. And maybe you’re not ready for that yet. But I want to pray that God will take you to a place that you will be ready because you understand to pick up the cross is to know him. And he says, man, I want to identify with him.
I want to suffer. Listen, I want to die. And that’s what that whole picture is. I have died, and I’m following Jesus. I had this. I was at some. I have decided to follow Jesus. Come on, folks. I have decided to follow Jesus. What’s the next line? I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back. That’s what that means. I’ve died to who I am, and I’m going to follow you. I’m going to endure. Praise God for a little girl in a Baptist tee with a shirt that says I have decided to remind all of us, folks, it means to endure. Don’t give up. Don’t give up because you know Jesus Christ. Lastly, he says it, ‘Deny self. Take up the cross, and then follow him.’ Do you know what that means? That means to live as he lived. I understand that. That means we’re to act like him. In other words, that WWJD, when they say ‘What would Jesus do?’ We shouldn’t ask that question. We should just be doing what Jesus tells us to do. That means we need to correct ourselves when we start straying away. He say amen. If you’re going to do this, then follow me. Take my path. Take my trail. Don’t go down your old path. It’s going to be bad for you. We can’t follow him unless first we yield to him, and we can’t follow him unless we’re willing to endure because it might be a bumpy road. Living as he lived, that could involve humility. It could maybe even mean poverty, compassion, love, grace, and every other godly virtue that’s out there, as we’ll say, ‘O.K. Lord, I love what Paul said. He says I’ve been both rich and poor. But in whatever state I am, I am content. Why? Because I know Jesus Christ. That’s what we trust him.
I want to tell you God has been dealing with my trust issues because it’s sometimes difficult to trust, isn’t it? We need to be challenged to trust. We cannot say, “Jesus, I’m following you as long as the road is easy and I can have all the comforts that I deserve.” No, it’s, “I’m going to follow you, Lord. I yield. I surrender. I want to follow you.”
One last verse as the worship team comes up. Jesus even taught them from the first sermon that he preached, the sermon on the mount. Look what he says in Matthew chapter 7:13-14 on the screen. He says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”
In all honesty, that’s a sad verse, isn’t it? Tom? I mean, few find it. See, we want an easy straight path, but the Lord says, “You know, to follow me may not be easy.” Now, I’m not saying you won’t find peace, hope, and love. Yes, you get it? It’s Satan who hates you if you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, and he wants to do everything he can to destroy you. He wants to do everything he can to destroy God’s church. He wants to do everything he can to destroy Christian families. Do you understand that? That’s the bumps. But we need to be like them.
I encourage anyone here who has yet to follow through with baptism. Man, I’m gonna follow. It’s time for me to do this. I am out of excuses. There’s no other reason to have an excuse. I need to follow Jesus. I need to be willing to yield, give up, and not take it back. Give up. But I know who Jesus is. And I know what he’s done for me. And I don’t deserve any of it. I don’t even deserve the joy it is to be your pastor. I thought about that a lot this last week, the honor it is. I don’t deserve his forgiveness. I don’t deserve the privilege to raise the children I have. I don’t deserve the right, the privilege to work with you.
Steve, I’m just so blessed by you, brother. I love your heart, man. And I’ve just shared it. But most of all, I don’t deserve Jesus. See, we’re going to have the Lord’s Supper in just a moment, and that’s in remembrance of his blood and his body, and what he did for me on the cross. I know my sins. I know my failures. I pray that you would know Jesus this morning.
We’re going to have a time of invitation, a little old-school invitation this morning. I’ll be up here. We’re going to sing a very beautiful song. “I have decided to follow Jesus.” Folks, I want to tell you, if God is leading you to follow Jesus, maybe you just need to come to the altar and kneel and pray. Maybe you need to stay right where you’re at. But let’s not lose what the Holy Spirit is wanting to do here this morning.
Maybe you need to give your life to Jesus. You just come up here, take my hand, and say, “Pastor, I don’t know the next step, but I just want to yield. I want to give up. I’m hanging on to something in my life.”
Well, folks, I pray that we will respond to God. So let me pray for you, Father. This is your time. This is your response. Father, before we come to your table, I pray that we would come before your cross and get clean, Lord, that we would recognize who you are. Lord, that we would deny ourselves, pick up that cross, so that we would follow you. Because, Lord, there’s no greater place to be than in the presence and the security of you, Father. So, Lord, speak to us through your Holy Spirit. Move upon us right now. God, this isn’t about me or anyone else. This is about you, Father. Let us hear your voice and let our hearts respond in your name. I pray. Amen.