Be a Disciple

Date Preached: November 24, 2019
From the Series: Life on Life Discipleship
Topics: discipleship
Scripture: Matthew 16:24
Notes: Download PDF
Speaker: Gary Combs


Our flesh, our sin nature, constantly desires the easy way, the short cut, it wants its own way. But the way of discipleship, the way of following Jesus begins with a decision to “deny ourselves.” In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus described what it meant to answer the call to come after Him and be one of His disciples. We can answer the call to be a disciple of Jesus.


Below is an automated transcript of this message:

Good morning, church. Good to see all of you here this morning. We’re starting a new series today entitled, “Life on Life Discipleship.” We appreciate brother Josh Rollins giving his testimony about how that process has been beneficial to him. We want to talk about that more. We really want to focus on the call of Jesus to be a disciple. Next Sunday, we’ll talk more about what it looks like to be a disciple maker.

I don’t want to overlook the fact that you have these invite cards in your seat. You should have at least two of them in your seat. This series will start on Sunday, December 8th. This is three Sundays of Christmas-themed messages. The services will be full of beautiful Christmas music; they will have very evangelistic sermons and will be child, friend and family friendly . It will be the perfect opportunity to invite people who celebrate Christmas but don’t go to church; be thinking about who you’re going to invite with these invite cards. If you need extra ones, just ask. We encourage you to invite at least two people. If all of you did that, it would blow the building up in December. There would not be enough seats for people, but that would be fun. It’ll be fun to figure out and a great problem to have. So, invite people; we’re going to put them in your seats again next Sunday as well.

Today we’re looking at Matthew, chapter 16. In Matthew’s gospel, chapter 16, Jesus had taken his disciples north to a new area about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee into an area that’s called the District of Caesarea Philippi; it’s right at the base of Mount Hermon. If you love maps and you guys know something about me, right; you know, I love maps. Here is Caesarea Philippi. Over here is Syria and over here is Lebanon. So it’s right up there in modern day Israel, where it’s just right at the base of where the Golan Heights is located. This is where Jesus took His disciples; He probably didn’t go into the city of Caesarea Philippi, but stayed out in the countryside, which is beautiful. My wife and I have led trips to Israel several times. Go to the next slide, and you can see how beautiful it is.

This area is amazing because this is the source spring where the snow melts off of Mount Hermon and runs down and comes out this spring. It’s the source of the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee and also ultimately the Dead Sea. All that water flows down. Go to the next pictures. We’re going back to Israel and in June of 2020 so hopefully you’ll sign up. That picture is of me standing in the very area where Jesus is talking to his disciples in Matthew, chapter 16. The places in the Bible are real places. The Bible’s a real story. It really happened. It’s real history; if you go there you can visit these places. So he’s probably in this beautiful area where all this water and all of this lush vegetation is. But this is one of the most idolatrous areas in all of first century Israel. Because of this area, to this day, it’s still called “Banias” or “Panias.” It comes from the Greek god Pan; they had an area there that they worshipped the Greek god, Pan. This area was a very gentile area, thus it was called Caesarea, named after Caesar; Caesarea Phillipi. This is where Jesus is when he begins to talk to them and perhaps they’ve encountered all this idolatry.

Jesus asked these questions; He asks, “Who do people say I am?” That’s a key question. And so in Matthew, chapter 16, we hear the disciples reply with, “Well, some people are saying that you’re John the Baptist, come back from the dead, or that you’re the prophet Jeremiah, or that you’re the Prophet Elijah. There’s a lot of people who have a lot of ideas about who you are.” Then, Jesus says, “Who do you say I am?” They’re all quiet for a second and then Simon Peter stands up and says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus looks at Peter and He says, “Peter, this has not been revealed to you by man, but my father in heaven has revealed this to you. And I say unto you that upon this rock I will build my church.” There’s a little play on words there in the Greek; upon this Petra, I will build my Petros, upon this little stone, upon this little confession of faith, I will build my church. Long before there was a wrestler called, “The Rock,” there was Peter, the original rock. That’s Peter; he’s the man.

But, you know how Peter is; things could go really well one minute the very next minute thinks could just fly all apart for him. Can I get a witness? Have you ever had that going on in your life? Jesus has just heard Peter’s confession. He entrusted to them His future. He entrusted to them His purpose. He began to tell them this over and over again many times and He said , “The Son of man must suffer at the hands of the Sadducees and of the chief priests and the scribes. But on the third day, he’s going to rise again.” The disciples are really quiet, wondering what he is talking about. Peter is the newly elected rock. Let’s talk; let’s have a private talk with the rock over here. He puts his arm around Jesus and says, “This shall never be Lord.”

Jesus takes Peter aside and begins to rebuke him. Peter is being rebuked by Jesus! Now, has this ever happened to you? “Far be it from you, Lord…” and the rock who was on the mountaintop is suddenly plunged into the valley as Jesus turns and looks at him and says, “Get behind me, Satan, because you care more about the things of man than you do the things of God.”

Peter is basically saying to Jesus, “Spare yourself, Lord.” That’s what the flesh always says. Peter, still walking in the flesh at this point, has got plans. He’s the rock now, and he’s got Jesus. Who does the Christ have? Great plans are in store and Peter’s gonna help Jesus because Peter is a little naive, he’s not understanding some things. Peter thinks that Jesus doesn’t need to go this way; he tells Jesus to spare Himself. But then Jesus tells him that’s the way of Satan. How do you become His disciple? Don’t spare yourself but deny yourself. That’s the first step to following Him. You see, the way of discipleship begins with a decision to deny yourself. That’s a tough one, isn’t it?

In this generation, in this world, we still talk just like Peter did. Spare yourself, spare yourself the trouble. Spare yourself the pain. It sounds kind of like some famous commercial. You can have it your way. Have it quick and easy; take the fast shortcut . That’s the way the world works today. We want it quick and easy. We want this as easy as we can get it. We love our comfort. We hate change.

Jesus says a very discomforting thing to Peter. He says that the world talks like that; that the the philosophy of hell is to spare yourself. But the philosophy of heaven begins with the first step; deny yourself. I unpacked this because that’s the background, that’s the place where Jesus then teaches them the three steps of how to be a disciple of Christ.

Let’s look at this one verse and then we’re going to drill down. Matthew 16:24 (ESV) “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” This is God’s Word. Amen.

Let’s look at it together now. Here’s the first step on how to answer the call to be a disciple of Jesus. Let’s keep it simple shall we? Jesus keeps it simple.

Here’s step one on how to answer the call to be a disciple of Jesus:

(1) Deny yourself.

Deny yourself, he said. You must deny yourself. That’s how it begins. Then, Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone…” How many “anyones” do we have in the house? Everybody qualifies, right? Anyone? If anyone here wants to come after Jesus, the first step is to deny yourself. If you want to come after Jesus, if you want to walk in His footsteps and be a disciple of Jesus, step one is to deny yourself.

Gary, that’s kind of vague. Well, I think Jesus left it that way on purpose, because, for each of us, that might look different. There might be something unique to you that you need to deny. That might not be a problem for me, and I’ve got another problem over here. So deny yourself, I guess, is more of a focus on denying “your Self.” Get your Self off of the throne . Get out of the driver’s seat.

Remember what I’ve told you about the bumper sticker. No more of those “God is my co pilot” bumper stickers. Let’s get those off of our bumpers, right? God is my pilot. He’s in charge. Listen, I’m not even in the front seat. Some of us need to get in the trunk. Put Him in charge; deny yourself.

I think he left it vague on purpose, perhaps, but certainly it’s all three of these three statements: (1) Deny yourself (2) Take up your cross and (3) Follow me. All three of them are in the Greek imperative. What that means is these are not suggestions; these are three commands. These are requirements, prerequisites for being a disciple of Jesus.

In this first one, deny yourself, certainly. Jesus gives us the example. Philippians 2:5-7 (ESV) “5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” He had the right to be God because he is God. He didn’t hang on to it. He didn’t grasp it. He had the rights of royalty but he let go of it and He emptied himself and became a human and even humbled himself unto death.”

Unlike Adam and Eve, who reached for that which did not belong to them, He surrendered that which did belong to Him and became identified with us. He became like us so that he could take our death in our place. This is what He does. He denied himself. Jesus denied himself.

Then he said, as a prerequisite, if you’re going to follow me, you must empty yourself of self. You must deny yourself now. I think he was unspecific, as I’ve mentioned before for a reason, but may I say that I think He had this in view. He’s saying to get rid of anything that’s not good for the journey. We’re going on a journey so pack lightly Don’t carry so much temporary stuff. Just bring the stuff that you need for eternity with you. This is gonna be a marathon; this is gonna be a fast walk and we’re going off road.

We begin to see instructions like this from the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:23 (ESV) “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.” Here’s the reality. When we follow Jesus, we’re forgiven and we’re no longer under law but we’re under grace. So we have this great freedom. We’re no longer judged by the law. So all things are lawful. But not all things are good or beneficial. Not all things edify or build up. So instead of looking at is this lawful, we should look at is this helpful for me following Jesus? Is this going to build me up so that I’m more able to follow Jesus? And so that’s a clarifying way, instead of boundaries, instead of guard rails, to keep you from running off the road. Now you have a person that you’re following, and so you strip away those things that would hinder you. You deny yourself.

In another place, Paul talks about it in 1 Corinthians 6:12 (NLT) “You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.” That’s the thing; you have to watch it if you go back and toy with some of the old sin habits. Oh, you say, “I can do that because I live under grace.” You lie to yourself because it can snare you afresh. It could get you again. You can step into a snare, and it’ll slow you down from being able to follow Jesus. It can become a trap.

Chuck Smith tells a story of two animals that were trapped once; a monkey and a muskrat. Would you like to hear the stories about the monkey and the muskrat? Here’s the story of the monkey trap. The natives in Africa used a hollowed out coconut. Have you heard about this story to trap a monkey? They hollow out the coconut and drill two holes on either end; one end is drilled a very small hole, and they put an anchor inside with a rope and they tie it to a stake and stick it in the ground. On the other side of the coconut, they make the hole a little bit bigger, just big enough for a little monkey’s hand to go in. Inside, they put something like maybe a ball of rice or some nuts. Then, they sprinkle that same food around the coconuts. The natives step away out of sight and wait for the monkey to come up and start eating. food The monkey then smells and sees there’s food inside the coconut; it slips a little hand in there and grabs a handful of that. And when it tries to get its hand out, his fist closed with the food in the coconut. The monkey can’t get loose; the monkey is trapped and it begins to beat the coconut and scream. Then, the natives come and they kill the monkey and they have monkey for dinner. Why? Because the monkey cannot deny itself. Once it’s taken hold, it has grasped that which is immediately food, the flesh of the monkey says that I would rather have this than my freedom. That’s a foolish decision that the monkey makes. So that’s the monkey trap. You understand this story right?

Then let me tell you about the muskrat traps. Chuck Smith tells a story that when he was a younger man, he was in the north part of the United States and some other fellas that he had met said, “Hey, you want to go walk our traps with us? We’re gonna go early in the morning and check our traps. We have been trying to capture muskrats near the swampy area of the rivers.” So, they came upon the first trap and they lean over to check it. Sometimes, when they step their foot in a trap, the muskrat will chew the foot off, because muskrat would rather have three legs and be free than to have four legs and be trapped. That’s pretty terrible, but it’s pretty smart. He’d rather be a three legged muskrat than be a pelt nailed to a board and dried for the fur.

I have told you two stories; one about the monkey and one about the muskrat. Which one are you? The monkey or the Muskrat? You may not want to be either one of them. Yet. Jesus tells the story, and it’s one of the hard sayings of Jesus. It’s Matthew 5:30 (ESV) “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” We skip those verses when we’re reading the Bible, right? Here’s what I want to say to you; I’m not sure specifically what it will mean for you to deny yourself, but I can guarantee you this. It’s gonna hurt like you had to cut off your hand. It will be something that you love and think you can’t live without. I don’t know what it will be, single person. It might be an inappropriate relationship that you’re in right now and you’re thinking, “I know he doesn’t trust the Lord, and I know he doesn’t believe in God, but I love him and I just have given my heart to him.” You know he’s not right for you but you can’t give him up. It’s going to hurt. Jesus would really ask me to do that? Yes He would. Deny yourself. Put Him first.

You’re sitting there thinking, “I’m glad not single; the pastor is not talking to me.” I am not finished. Give me a chance. Maybe it’s that addiction, that thing that you say, “If I don’t have this, I can’t live. I have to have this. This is what helps me cope with life.” It’s going to hurt. Listen, there’s gonna be withdrawal pains, but you better cut it off. It’s hindering you from following Jesus. Maybe it’s a bad habit. Maybe it’s an addiction. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the way you manage your life. Maybe you just can’t get off the throne. You’re a control freak. You are afraid of where Jesus might take you. It’s going to hurt. It’s gonna feel like you had to cut your hand off. But you better do it. It would be better to be a three legged muskrat than to be monkey dinner. Which one are you ? Do you understand what I’m saying when He says to deny yourself? It’s going to cost you something; you’re going to have to say “no” to self.

Self likes to be in control and self loves comfort. But Jesus is going off road, and if you’re going to follow Him, you have to say “no” to self and “yes” to Jesus. Did you get it? Do you understand what I’m saying?

Here’s what the author of Hebrews describes; he talks about a race that we are engaged in. It’s the race of life. He says, Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV) “1 … let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Listen, if you’re going to follow Jesus, you need to set aside, get rid of, that backpack of stuff that you’re trying to run the race with. Strip down to some running clothes and get yourself fit for running. Deny yourself and follow Jesus. Stop being so entangled in temporary things that will not last. Deny yourself. Sure, it’ll be painful, but it’s all worth it.

That’s the first step. Peter said, “Lord, spare yourself,” and Jesus said that this was the philosophy of hell. Get behind me, Satan. Deny yourself instead. Don’t spare yourself. Deny yourself. Follow me.

Here’s the second step. The first step is denying yourself. The second is:

(2) Take up your cross.

Take up your cross. Can you see where I’m getting these? It’s really ? right off the page, right? He says to take up His cross. He’s talking to His disciples.

I noticed a couple of things. First of all, the instruction to take up. As I’ve said before, this is the Greek imperative. It’s not a holy suggestion. It’s a command. Deny yourself. It’s a command. If you want to follow Me, this is the cost of discipleship. Deny yourself and then take up. Now what does it mean to take up? Take it up, put it on your shoulders and take it with you. I told you what it is; yet, He said, cross. We need to unpack that; that’s a metaphor for something. It means something. We need to think about that for a second. The thing that you have to decide is to do what Jesus wants you to do. He says to say no to who you used to be. You used to be in control and say yes to you as Lord. But He is telling you to take up what is unique to you.

He doesn’t say to take up His cross. Jesus carried that cross and it was too heavy for us. We can’t carry that one. He didn’t say take up His cross. He said, “Take up your cross.” Your cross will be unique to you. It’ll be exactly what you need in order to fulfill God’s purpose for your life. It’s your cross.

Matthew Henry, in his commentary on this passage, said, speaking of Jesus, “He bore the heavy end of the cross, the end that had the curse upon it, that was the heavy end, and so made the other light and easy for us.” Jesus took the cross that had the curse on it; we’re to take up that other cross. It reminds me, as I was reading Matthew Henry, he said, “light and easy.” I know where he got that, don’t you, where Jesus has that invitation to ”Come unto me, you that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Why is he carrying the heavy end? He’s carrying the old cross that’s got the curse of sin and death upon it. The cross that he gives us, I think, is a twofold cross. Let’s kind unpack that.

Look at Luke, chapter 14, verse 27, and notice the requirement; “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” I think this cross that belongs to us is at least two things. He’s not talking about that piece of jewelry, that gold necklace that some of us have around our necks or that tattoo that we have on our arms of the cross. You may think, “I’m carrying a cross. I got it on my pierced earrings.” That’s not what He’s talking about. He’s talking about that instrument of execution by which you would crucify the old nature. So the twofold purpose of this, when He’s talking about taking up the cross, is, “What’s God doing for you in you? What’s his purpose for you as a believer? If you’re visiting for the first time, you may know that for the past few Sundays, we have been going through the book of Romans. We’re gonna do that over again in January. What’s God’s purpose for you? What’s He up to in you? He’s making you like Jesus. He’s already counted you; that is justification. He’s making you like Jesus; that’s sanctification. He’s making you like Jesus. You may be wondering, “Why am I going through this?” Believers, sometimes we’ll say, “Lord, why am I going to this?” He’s making you like Jesus. When you take up the cross willingly, you are taking up the instrument of your sanctification and you’re crucifying. You are joining with His purpose for you and saying, “Yes, I want to put to death the old ways. I’m not just going to try to have a self improvement course here. I want the old way of thinking to be put to death in me so that I have the new righteousness of the new way of thinking so that’s first in view. When we talk about taking up our cross, we are cooperating with the Holy Spirit’s work in our life, and that is to be sanctified.

Secondarily, I think it’s taking up God’s purpose for you, which is unique to you in a way that we know that He called all of us to be disciples and then to make disciples, so we have that purpose in common. But the way you do it is unique to you . He’s got a calling for your life; taking up your cross has something to do with your calling.

Let’s think about Jesus Why did He come? He came to die in your place. He came across the shadow of the cross to overshadow the cradle. When that baby was born, he was already aimed. He was already aimed at the cross. That’s what he was trying to tell Peter and the disciples. He needed for them to understand something; He came here to die and rise again. That was His purpose. The cross represented Jesus and His calling. When he says to his disciples, “I want you to take up your cross,” He’s saying to take up your calling from God. Take it up willingly; I’m not going to force it upon you. Take it up and I’m gonna help you carry it. But you must take it up. If you want to follow Me , you have to take up God’s calling on your life.It will sanctify you. The second part that’s in view, is it will be that thing unique to you that God’s calling you to do for His kingdom. He’s got a purpose for your life. He’s making you like Jesus. But He also has this secondary purpose for you that you are uniquely in place in order to pursue that for which He pursued you.

Paul says, in the book of Philippians, he says, “I want to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me.” Don’t you want to take hold of that? Take up the cross, take it up and carry it. Hebrews 12:11 (ESV) “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

You know, it’s kind of painful carrying a cross. You get some splinters in your shoulders. People might make fun of you. What’s that on your back? Why are you carrying that around? Why are you always talking about Jesus? That’s the only thing that matters in this world. You might get persecuted. It’s not so bad. Being persecuted in America usually just means somebody talks funny to your ear, doesn’t like you or something like that. We think that’s pretty important, but really compared to the rest of the world, it’s nothing. Take up the cross. It can sometimes be unpleasant and painful, but it yields the fruit of righteousness.

Jesus said in Matthew 10, verse 38, “Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” You know what? I can’t imagine the worst thing to hear from the lips of the Lord God would be, “You’re not worthy of me because you won’t claim me. You won’t deny yourself and take up the cross that I’ve given you to carry.” I mean, it’s one thing to be called the devil like Peter was called. That would hurt my feelings pretty bad. But for Him to say, “You’re not worthy of me.” Oh, Lord, I will deny myself and I will take up the cross You’ve given me to carry that’s unique to me.

How about you? Are you going to join me in this? Take up your cross, which is your sanctification and you’re calling. Everyone has their own cross to bear when they follow Jesus. Yet, Jesus says we must take it up. You must decide to do it. If you would come after Jesus, you’ll deny yourself and take up your cross.

And then , finally, we have the third command:

(3) Follow Jesus.

He says, “Follow me.” So follow Jesus. This is another Greek imperative. The New Testament is written in Greek, originally translated into English here for our benefit. The first two commands are in more of a past tense; since you’ve already decided to deny yourself and since you’ve already decided to take up your cross. But then the third command is in present tense, which for the Greek means continuous activity. So it almost could be worded like this: following me, continuously following me. Now why is that important? Everything about the Bible is important. We must not even overlook the grammar because we believe in the inspired, infallible word of God. So we don’t even overlook the grammar. Why is it in the present? It’s because Jesus is on the move. If you don’t keep your eye on Him, you’ll lose your way. You have to continually ask Him, “What would you have me do in this? What would you have me say? What do you want me to see? What do you want me to hear? Where are you at in this Jesus?” This is a dynamic relationship. He doesn’t call us to a philosophy, He calls us to a person, Himself. He doesn’t call us to a religion. He calls us to a relationship, Himself. He says, “Come follow me.” There’s no other like Him. His invitation is to follow Me. To be a Christian is to say, “I will follow Jesus. I will deny myself. I will put him on the throne in my life as Lord. I will take up whatever he wants me to take up. That’s my cross to bear. It’s my calling. It’s my sanctification that He’s working in me. I willingly yield to that, and I will follow Him wherever He leads.”

As I said before, trust me in this, He’s going off road. He’s taking the narrow way, not the broad way. There will be some hills. There will be some difficulty, but that’s the way He leads. In Mark, chapter three, as He’s calling his disciples, I want you to notice how He called them. It says he appointed twelve whom He also named apostles, so that they might be with Him and He might send them out to preach. He called them first to Himself. Then He sent them out.

What’s the call of discipleship? Jesus calls you first to Himself that you might be with Him. And then He sends you out to invite others to come and be with Him as well. Follow Me, He says. Follow me. Oh, what a wonderful calling that He would call us to Himself. Are you close to Jesus this morning, or would you say He’s far off from you? Where’s Jesus at in your life today? Are you far from Him or is He near? Do you hear His voice when he speaks?

Well, Gary, how is that possible? Because I believe the scripture. 2000 years ago, He was crucified for my sins, He was buried and raised again. He’s with the father now. How’s He speaking to me? He sent His Holy Spirit, the spirit of Christ, and He still speaks to those who say “yes” to Him. He lives within us and He speaks to us, but he has a very quiet voice, very gentle, and the chaos and busyness of this world crowds for attention. To compete with those loud voices, we have to turn the volume of life down and say, “Jesus, I want to follow You.”

If you’re gonna follow Him, you better follow close because He’s on the move and he’s leading us on an adventure. You know, Peter, he had his up days and his down days, and often he shot his mouth off like many of us, like yours truly here, does sometimes and then we have to pay for it. But Jesus never gave up on old Peter, you know. The night that Jesus was betrayed, the night before He was crucified, He told his disciples once again as he broke bread with Him, “This is my body broken for you.” As he passed the cup, He said, “This is my blood shed for your sins.” They had been to many Passovers since they were little kids, but had never heard one like this before. What’s He saying ? He’s describing His imminent death on the cross.

And so, then, He’s talking about this and He tells the disciples all of you will betray me, but I’m praying for you. Peter, I’m especially praying for you because the devil wants to get you, but I’m going to pray for you. When you overcome it, encourage your brothers. Peter says, “Lord, I would never deny you; I would die for you.” And Jesus says to Peter, “I tell you the truth before the sun comes up, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times this very night. They go to the garden of Gethsemane after the meal and Jesus is praying. There comes Judas; he gives Him the kiss of betrayal. Following close behind Judas are the soldiers and they take Jesus into captivity. They begin to drag him away; the disciples take off running.

But Peter, the scripture says, followed from afar, out of sight. He followed and he knew somebody at the gate of the high priest’s house, as Jesus was led to the house of the high priest, Caiaphas. Peter warmed his hands by the fire and someone came up to Peter and said, “You’re one of disciples ” to which Peter replies, “I am not.” And then someone else comes up a little later says, “I recognize your accent. You’re from the galley area. You’re one of his disciples.” Peter says, “I am not.” And then a third person makes the same accusation, and Peter curses, (blankety blank), “I am not!” And right at that moment, the scripture says Jesus, having been beaten about the face and falsely accused, was carried from Caiaphas’ house and headed over towards King Herod and to Pilot for that whole kangaroo court that was coming. As He comes out the door, He makes eye contact with Peter, and Peter begins to weep and runs off into the wilderness.

Listen, friends, if you follow from afar, you lose your way. You might even deny Jesus instead of denying yourself. You see, really, that’s your two choices. Deny yourself or deny Jesus. Peter found out the hard way, Peter meant when he said, “Lord, I would die for you.” But then he hit the crossroads of what that was going to cost, and he found out the narrow way that Jesus was being taken. And he didn’t know he’d have to do that.

Are you thinking that right now? I didn’t know it would cost that. I think I’m gonna sort of hang back a little bit and see how this works out before I follow Jesus so closely because I didn’t know it was gonna cost that. Be careful to follow Jesus from afar. You might end up denying Him instead of denying yourself. I’m so glad that Jesus didn’t give up on Peter, aren’t you? Since He didn’t give up on Peter, that means He won’t give up on me or you either.

Jesus told Peter to encourage his brothers. Peter still was beat up. He wasn’t healed up yet. And so he did what he used to do. Let’s go fishing. I’m good at that. I’ve ruined my reputation. I’m not the rock. I’m the fisherman. So he’s out fishing, but the risen Lord Jesus is on the beach. This is toward the end of the gospel of John if you want to read about it. Jesus is on the beach, cooking some fish and He gestures for them to come ashore. They’re looking at him and wondering who this guy is on the beach. And I think it’s John who says, It’s the Lord, “ and Peter jumps overboard, swims ashore and comes running up to Jesus. They brought their fish and they had a little breakfast of fish.

Then He turns to Peter, “Do you love me?” “Lord, you know all things, you know I love you. We know that He asked Him three times. Why three times? Well, that’s obvious, isn’t it? Why, three times? He’s restoring Peter. Peter, it’s always been about love. It’s always been about relationship. It’s always been about , Do you love me enough to follow me? And if you love me enough to follow me, you’ll deny yourself. You’ll take up your cross daily, as we read in Luke 9:23; because we need to do it every day. You’ll follow me; you’ll deny yourself instead of denying me.

Where are you on this journey today? Are you willing to follow Jesus? I would repeat to you this verse from Mark 3: 14. It says He appointed twelve whom he also named apostles, so that they might be with Him. Are you with Jesus? Is He near? Are you following from afar? Be careful. If you lose sight of him, you’ll lose your way.

Jesus told his disciples, in Matthew 4:19, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” If you follow Him, you’ll hear what He said to Peter as He restored Him. Peter, do you love me? Yes, Lord, You know I love you. Feed my sheep, Peter. Do you love me more than these? I don’t know if he’s pointing at the fish or the other disciples. Maybe both. Do you love me more than your occupation? Do you love me more than these? Feed my sheep. Feed my lambs! Peter, if you love me and follow me, go make some more disciples so that you could tell them about Me too.

I don’t know what cares, what concerns you have today. But denying yourself is going to hurt. It’ll be something that you have to cut off. That’ll feel like cutting off a limb. I don’t know what it would be for you. And then you’ll take up your cross. It’ll be unique to you; shaped uniquely for you. It’s your calling. It’ll have some similarities to all those around you. It’ll be rough. It’ll be challenging to take it up. It’ll be worth it all. And when you come close to Jesus, come near, come filled with the one who says, “Come follow me.”

Let’s pray. Let’s talk to the Lord about it right now. I pray first for that person that’s here today that has come in far from you, at a distance. Someone invited to church and they came in on a thin thread. Maybe they’ve been coming a few weeks and just kind of scoping it out. Lord, I don’t know. You’re talking to them right now. Would you hear his voice? He’s calling to you. Come follow me. Would you say yes to Jesus? Right now? Right in your seat. You can do it by praying. Pray a prayer like this. It’s not so much the words as it is the attitude of your heart. Pray believing. Dear Lord Jesus, I believe that you died on the cross for my sin. I believe you were raised from the grave on the third day and that you live today and that you’re at the right hand of the father. I believe the gospel and I surrender my life, denying myself and I say yes to you as Lord and savior. Will you come into my life and make me what you want me to be? I want to be a child of God. Would you save me and bring me near? Oh, how the Lord loves to hear a prayer like that. You can do it. Pray that prayer believing from your heart and he will make you a child of God. Others are here today and you’ve prayed and you’re a follower. But somewhere along the way , like poor old Peter, you took a road that you were afraid to step a foot on. You’ve been following from a distance ever since. It’s the cost is too high. You tell yourself I’m not ready. Would you repent of that? Would you say along with Peter, Yes, Lord, You know I love you. Would you be restored? Would you re-commit right now and say I want to follow close? I want to be known as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Oh, may it be so in Jesus name. Amen.