June 19, 2016

Pastor Mark F. Bartels

Old Testament Lesson; Zechariah 13:7-9

Epistle Lesson; Galatians 3:23-29

Sermon Text; Luke 9:18-24

The text we will take at is taken from Luke, chapter 9, verses 18 through 24. We hear this in our Savior's name.

Now it happened that as He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him. And He asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” Then He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”
And He strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

And He said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

These are your words. Heavenly Father, lead us in the way of truth. Your Word is truth.


I am going to start out by asking you a question. “Is your relationship with Jesus more like 'sitting in an easy chair', or is it more like 'carrying a heavy cross'?

Is your life more like this, as if Jesus had said to His followers, “If anyone would come after me, let him take up his 'easy chair' and follow me”? Has your life, as a Christian, been pretty easy, pretty uneventful, no big problems? Does everything seem to be going great? “Nobody has issues with me, and my Christian faith. It has been an 'easy chair'.” Is that how your life is, where Jesus, as it were, said to you, “If anyone be my disciple, let him take up his 'easy chair' and follow me”?

Or, is your life more like this, as Jesus really said,

“If anyone would be my disciple,

let him deny himself,

take up his cross,

and follow me.”

Has it been hard being a Christian? Has it been a challenge? Has it been difficult? Have you run into people who really give you a hard time? That really is what today's lesson is all about.

I want to talk particularly about this 'easy chair', Christian faith. I really believe, if we have a faulty view of Jesus, that faulty view of Jesus can lead to this 'easy chair', Christian life. It is as if Jesus said, “If you want to be my follower, take up your 'easy chair', and follow me.”
Let me explain what I mean. By the time of today's text, Jesus had been preaching for a good, well-over, two years. People were really starting to have to make some decisions about Jesus. They were having to decide, “Who do I think Jesus is?” In today's text, we find out there were a lot of faulty views about Jesus. So, He asked His disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” As you listen to these answers, I want you to notice that not one of these answers has anything to do with Jesus' suffering, dying, or anything bad, or difficult happening to Jesus. Nothing like that.

The disciples said,

       -“Well, some people say you are John the Baptist, come back from the dead.”

And some people thought,

       -“You know, now that John the Baptist came back, he is really going to get even with Herod, since Herod is the one who beheaded him.”

Other people were saying,

       -“Well maybe He is Elijah.” Elijah had been taken up into Heaven, by a fiery chariot. They were thinking,

       -“Maybe now Elijah is back. He is not the Messiah, but He is going to get us ready for the Messiah.”

That has nothing to do with suffering.

Then, Jesus asked the disciples, “But, what about you?” “But, who do you say I am?”

Peter gave the correct answer, when he said,

“The Christ of God.”

That is the same as The Old Testament word for 'Messiah'.

You are the Messiah.

You are the Anointed One.

You are the Chosen One.

We also know Peter, in one of the other gospels, had a faulty view of what that meant that Jesus was the chosen One. Jesus said to Peter, “I am going to suffer and I am going to die”, and then Peter said, “No, no, NO! That will never happen to you.” You see, he was saying, “Jesus you are not going to have a hard life. You are not going to suffer. You are not going to die. That is not the type of Messiah we are looking for.” Peter had this faulty view, as did many people of the day, that the chosen One, the Messiah was going to come, and He was going to establish this great, earthly kingdom. He was going to make Israel great, again. The people were going to be great. The economy was going to be great. The Romans were going to be driven out. Their lives were going to be easy. Everything was going to be great, again.

So, they had this faulty view of Jesus.

Now, let's fast forward to today 2,000 years later. There is probably not anybody today in the world who would say, “Yeah, I think Jesus was John the Baptist.” Or, “I think Jesus was Elijah come back from the dead.” But, there are plenty of false views of Jesus, today. We can fall into these false views of Jesus, ourselves. They can lead to what I am going to call, 'an easy chair Christianity'.

I love cartoons, and there is a Christian cartoonist, whose name is Adam Ford. He writes satirical cartoons, so it is kind of this biting humor. He came up with this very interesting cartoon. It is a bunch of pictures, and the question of the cartoon is: “Which Jesus do you follow?” Then, he describes a whole bunch of Jesuses. (Now, remember this is a cartoon.)

       -The first one is what he calls, “A John Lennon Jesus”. So, here he has a picture of Jesus giving a peace sign, wearing the wire rimmed glasses. Here is what 'Jesus' is saying in the cartoon. “All you need is love. That is all I care about, really. Not truth, or anything like that. It is all about peace, and love, and love, and peace, and spirituality.”

You see, if that is the 'Jesus' we follow, and we think, “Jesus' primary concern is love. He is not all that concerned about the truth”, that leads to an 'easy chair Christianity'. If Jesus is only concerned about love, but He is not concerned about truth, then you will never have to talk to anybody about what is right, and what is wrong, what is true, and what is false. You will never get into discussions about doctrine, which certainly can lead to troubles, and trials in your life. Having this faulty view of Jesus that He is more concerned about love than He is truth, can lead to an 'easy chair Christianity'.

Here is another example he gives and asks, “Is this the type of Jesus you follow?”

       -He calls it, “The Cool Dad Jesus”. He has Dad trying to kinda look cool, in his drawing. 'Jesus' says, “I am technically in charge here, but hey, I am no Buzz Kill. You do whatever you want. I am not going to punish you. I am not so lame as that. I just want everybody to be happy.”
If that is the type of Jesus you follow, and if you think Jesus wants everybody to be happy, and not want to offend anybody, it is going to lead to an 'easy chair Christianity'. You will never have to talk to anybody about sin, because it is not fun to talk to somebody about sin. You won't have to point out their error, or falsehood. You won't have to call them back. Again, those things can all lead to trials, and persecution.

Those are two examples, and I could go on, but having a faulty view of Jesus can lead to an 'easy chair Christianity'. All of us have to admit, “My sinful nature wants to fall into these 'easy chair' views of Jesus, so I don't have to confront people in the truth. I don't have to talk about someone sinning, going astray, and maybe hurting a relationship, somehow.”

And so, in today's scripture reading, Jesus wants to make it very clear, and very evident that this 'easy chair' view of Jesus is not the scriptural view. When Peter said, You are “The Christ of God”, Jesus went on to explain to His disciples what that means to be The Christ, or The Appointed One, or The Anointed One. He says, “This all has to do with suffering”. Now, most people think, “Suffering? That is not a good thing. Why would we ever want Jesus to suffer? How would that lead to anything good?” But, He says,

“The Son of Man (talking about Himself) must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

So, Jesus here now is saying, “I have not come to live an 'easy chair' life. I have come to live a very difficult life. Here is what is going to happen to me. I am going to suffer, and I am going to go to the cross. I am going to die, there.” He says, “I am going to be rejected by the Teachers of the Law, the elders, and the scribes.”

Do you ever go to the store, pull out a 20 dollar bill, and try to pay with it, when the cashier picks it up, holds it up, and maybe takes a special magic marker to put a line on it? If it were 'counterfeit', it would be rejected. It would be given back to you. That is the Greek word used here. Jesus says, “I am going to be rejected by the Teachers of the Law. They are going to check me out, and they are going to say, “He's a 'counterfeit'.

That is what happened to Jesus. They said He was a 'counterfeit'. And, as a result, we see Jesus suffer intensely. They mercilessly, mercilessly crucified, and killed Him.

Now, I am going to ask you a few questions.

       “Would you prefer a 'cross-less Jesus'? Would you really prefer a 'cross-less Jesus'?”

       “Would you prefer a Jesus who doesn't have nails driven through His hands, and didn't have His back whipped, and beaten?”

       “Would you prefer a Jesus who didn't get spit on, mocked, and punched?”

       “Would you prefer a Jesus who didn't have people tell Him, 'If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross'?”

       “Would you prefer a Jesus who didn't bleed, and suffer intensely?”

       “Would you prefer a Jesus who didn't take the immense weight of your own guilt?”

       “Would you prefer a Jesus who didn't take the entire wrath of God's anger against your sin on Himself, and suffer whatever it took to wash that away?”

       “Would you prefer a Jesus who didn't bleed, suffer, and die on the cross to wash you clean from your sin?”

I need a Jesus who suffered.

I need a Jesus who went to the cross.

I need a Jesus who paid for my sin.

If I don't have a 'Jesus' like that, I am in the deepest trouble I could ever imagine, and would never be able to get myself out of it.

So, this is the 'Jesus' we have, and we see from His suffering the ultimate good can come, and the ultimate good did come. It is the salvation of my soul. And, it is this 'Jesus' who then tells His followers, “Your life, as my follower, is not going to be an 'easy chair Christianity', not if you really understand who Jesus is, and you follow Him.”

You really understand, “Jesus loves me so dearly that He suffered everything in my place, and my salvation is in His hands. He has purchased me, and forgiven me. I want to follow Him.” Jesus says,

“Whoever would follow after me,

let him deny himself.

Take up his cross and follow me.”

Now, what does that mean to deny yourself? We get a perfect picture of that what it means to deny somebody, when we look at Peter. Do you remember how Peter denied Jesus? How did he deny Him? He was asked, “Do you know Jesus? You know Jesus, don't you? You are one of His disciples, aren't you?”

What did Peter repeatedly say? “I don't know the Man.” “I don't know Him.” “I don't know who He is.” “I don't know Him.”
Jesus says,

“If you come after me,

you need to deny yourself.”

What does that mean? You have probably heard me use this example before, but I love this example. In about the year 300 AD there was a young man in his late teens/early 20s. His name was Augustine. At the time, he was an unbeliever. He had kind of fallen away from the faith. He had fallen into a very sinful life. He had taken up a mistress. They were not married, and he had gotten her pregnant.

His mom kept telling him he should not be doing those things. But, he just laughed at her, mocked her, and made fun of her.

Then, he went off to college. He was visiting a town, and was away from his mistress, at that time, when he happened to meet a Christian man. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, he witnessed to Augustine, and Augustine became a repentant believer in Jesus, as his Savior. He then wanted to live a repentant, Christian life.

One day, after he went back home, he was walking down a sidewalk. His mistress, who did not know he was back in town, was walking toward him. They made eye contact, and she started waving at him, but he just kept walking, and acted as if he didn't even see her.

As they got closer, and closer, she was getting more filled with anticipation. She started to say, “Augustine. Augustine!”

But, he just kept looking right past her, and kept walking.

Finally, they got right next to each other, and she said, “Augustine!”

He walked right past her.

She spun around, grabbed him by the shoulders, turned him around, and said, “Augustine, it's me!”

He looked at her, and said, “But, it's not me.”

You see that is what it means to deny yourself. He wasn't the same person, anymore. He wasn't going to follow his sinful nature, anymore. He was saying, “That is not me. I want to follow Jesus. I want to live for Jesus. I want to live according to His Word.”
It is not easy to deny your sinful nature. It is a daily struggle we go through, as Christians. It is hard. Our sinful nature is powerful. The world loves to tempt our sinful nature. It is hard to deny ourselves, and say, “That is not me. That is not me, what my sinful nature wants me to do. I want to live for Jesus.”

If you are a young person,

       -it is really hard when the world is telling you, “Go and find yourself”.

       -Your sinful self may tell you things that are not true.

As a Christian, we need to deny ourselves and say, “That is not me”.
As you are older, in middle age,  

       -we have all kinds of things we need to do,

       -our priorities might start getting messed up,

       -and maybe they start to lead us away from God, and His Word. We need to say, “That is not me. That's not me. I want to stay close to Jesus and His Word.”
As we get older,

       -maybe we get to be more calloused Christians, and we can get crotchety. We might think, “Well, I am going to be crotchety”. Or we think, “I am going to just let them know what's on my mind. It doesn't matter what they think”.

Well, that is not me. It is hard to deny ourselves, but Jesus says,

“If you are my disciples,

and you come after me,

deny yourself daily,

and take up your cross and follow me.”

A cross is heavy, and it is hard. It is intended for suffering.

It is hard to be a Christian,

       -when you speak about the truth, in love.

       -when you say there is a right and a wrong.

       -when you talk about sin.

       -when you talk about forgiveness.

       -when you call people back from sin.

That can bring lots of, (even though you wish it wouldn't), anger, and struggles.

       -It can happen at home.

       -It can happen at the workplace.

       -It can happen anywhere.

It is not easy to be a Christian, and not live this 'easy chair', Christian life.

Since today is Father's Day, I am going to talk about the forefathers of the faith, who were willing to be persecuted for Jesus' sake, who were willing to endure the cross, for the sake of Jesus, because He was that important, that critical to them.

The first martyr in the world, Abel, died because he had a great profession of the Christian faith.

Moses, the Bible says, was willing to give up all of the riches of Egypt, and suffer for Christ's sake, rather than have all of the riches of Egypt, because that was more important. Jesus was more important.

Joseph, when he was tempted by Poitier's wife to commit adultery with her said, “How can I do this great evil, and sin against God?” He ended up getting thrown in to prison. Jesus was more important to him, than the 'easy chair' way of Christianity.

John the Baptist, spoke the truth to Herod, and ended up being beheaded. Jesus was more important to him in his own life.

You can walk down through the ages of history, with the great reformers in the 1500s. Some of them had their houses taken away. Their churches, and their schools were burned, simply because they professed Jesus, as the true Savior of the world, and salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. But, they were willing to cling to that cross. That was more important to them. They knew Jesus had suffered for them, and if they had to suffer for Him, they would do that.

Later this year, we are going to talk about the forefathers of our synod who were willing to be persecuted, and stand for the truth. I am going to tell you this, and I am not saying this to brag in anyway, but one of the most profound things I ever got to experience was watching my dad be persecuted for his faith in Jesus. He was a pastor. When I was a kid, he was in a situation where he had to speak the truth in love. He had to call out false doctrine, and call out false practice. It was really hard. I saw his car get vandalized. His house got vandalized. I saw him lose his job. But, it was such a privilege to be able to realize Jesus was more important. Jesus, and His cross was more important than anything in the world.

And, to you dads out there today, our kids are going to have to face things that probably no generation before us has ever had to face. I really want to encourage you to sit down at home, when you are at the dinner table, when you are driving down the road, or whenever, and talk to your children about how dear the cross of Jesus is. And, talk about the fact that we may, we may be called to suffer for the sake of Jesus. We might. We might speak the truth in love, and we might be called all kinds of bad names, or other bad things may happen.

Christ's cross brought the ultimate good.

If Jesus permits persecution to come into our lives,

we believe it is for our ultimate good.

The disciples rejoiced, when they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ. They considered it pure joy, to suffer for the sake of Jesus.

So, Jesus didn't say, “If you would be my disciple, take up your 'easy chair', and follow me.”

He did say,

“If anyone would come after me,

let him deny himself,


and take up his cross,

and follow me.”