Lent #2 – 2011

This sermon was recorded at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on March 20th, 2011.             To listen to the audio of this sermon, just click on this link – Mark 8-9.

MARK 8:31-9:13 CONFIDENCE, SUFFERING AND THE CROSS

This 2nd week in Lent, as we continue to move towards the cross, we want to take up the issue of our confidence in God during times of darkness and trial.   This morning we want to see what the Scriptures say about suffering for the cause of the Gospel.

WE TEND TO PLACE OUR CONFIDENCE IN THE AVOIDANCE OF SUFFERING.

What is Our Response to the Cross?   He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.  He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

Peter’s response to Jesus’ words is interesting – it is violent and angry – angry enough to rebuke his teacher, whom he held in great respect.   The idea that Jesus would suggest that it was God’s will for him to suffer and be shamefully treated and killed, offended Peter.

Why?  Because for Peter, as for most of us, the idea that God would allow, much less plan, suffering for our lives does violence to what we want God to be like.   We want a God of comfort – a God who is a winner and looks attractive to people – to us.  We want to believe that God’s will is for our comfort and his victory to flow seamlessly together.  In truth, we want a God who is not too demanding – and not too intrusive – who overcomes while allowing us to “live our lives”.   What we want is not at all God – we want a gigantic, comfortable blanket of a God, who makes good things happen while he shields us from harm and inconvenience.

Matt.16:22 expands on Peter’s rebuke – Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”   This has become, for many in the church, the slogan we live by and the hope we hold onto – that God will never let anything heartbreaking, too painful or difficult or shameful happen to us.  God will never let us fail

JESUS CALLS US TOWARDS A SERVICE THAT WILL INVOLVE SUFFERING.

Get Behind Me Satan!  Jesus’ response to this attitude and these words in Peter is equally intense.  Obviously this desire that Peter expresses is a big temptation for Jesus.  Of course he wants to be safe and secure and comfortable – to avoid suffering.   But Jesus recognizes in Peter’s words the same kinds of temptations that he was tested with in the wilderness – by Satan (Luke 4:1-13).  If we are to understand, we must see that…

1) The glory of Creation is broken and we are rebels against God.

2) The suffering and death of Jesus brings forgiveness for the treason of all who turn to Him.

3) Because the world is complacent in its sin and brokenness, and because Satan fights to keep it that way – there is no way to avoid suffering to carry out the purposes of God.

This is what makes Jesus so angry – Peter still seems unaware of his rebellion and the brokenness of the world.  He feels that following Jesus is about being moral and  being on the right side, while still being able to live his own life just as he wants to.  But Jesus next words shatter Peter’s false understanding.  If he is going to continue to follow Jesus he needs to turn from his false ideas…

Towards Self Denial:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves…

Towards Mission:  … and take up their cross…   This needs a bit of explanation – it’s a metaphor.   Jesus obviously was not saying that the disciples should go find a big piece of wood to carry around – nor was he suggesting that to be a follower of Jesus you have be literally crucified.  Jesus used his words carefully.  He had just said he was going to be crucified – that was his mission.   Jesus is suggesting that each of us has a mission and that it will involve suffering.

You were called out of the worldly life of pursuing your own ends, for your own purposes, by your own means – so that you could begin to find out God’s purposes for your life, and live by God’s pattern.   This does not mean we are all called to be missionaries – but we are all called to creatively pursue the work of God’s kingdom – telling others about the Gospel – promoting the Gospel in society towards the poor and those in need – showing the love of the Gospel to those around us – in our jobs and lives and families.  We are all called in our lives to the mission of the Gospel.

Towards Obedience:  … and follow me.   Which is to say – we are called to obey the teachings of Jesus and imitate the pattern of his life.

AVOIDING SUFFERING IS DANGEROUS TO THE SPIRITUAL LIFE.

Not only are we not to place our confidence in the hope of avoiding suffering – but, Jesus says, that to try to avoid suffering is destructive to our spiritual lives.

In Attempting to Save Our Lives, We Lose Them: For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 

If your goal is to avoid suffering you are going to kill your spiritual life.  Many have done this.  Those churches that have stopped talking about the uncomfortable topic of sin have made Jesus and the Cross irrelevant.  The man who does not discipline himself to know the word becomes vague and ignorant about his faith.  The woman who does not address injustice in her workplace becomes a silent, enabling partner with it.

On the other hand, if we are willing to suffer for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel – to suggest to those, comfortable in their sin and rebellion, that they are rebels against God – to address corruption in a prayerful, prophetic and loving way – to confront sin in our own lives and relationships – then we find that God opens opportunities for us to share the Gospel, and our own spiritual lives grow and experience life and even joy.

If We Exchange Our Cross for the Gains & Security of This World, We Will Lose Our Souls:  What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?  Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

In the same way, the person who chooses to avoid the suffering that is involved in turning from and confronting a rebellious, complacent and broken world, makes an exchange and forfeits their soul.   Gaining the world and following Christ are diametrically opposed options.   We can serve only one mission.

To Avoid the Shame of the Cross is to Face the Shame of Christ:    If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

God Is Patient With Us!  (the Transfiguration)

God’s Desire and Hope for Us is Glory!  The hope of the cross is that we will one day be raised from death and given immortality – with all of the beauty and glory that we were made for – our bodies and characters made glorious.  That we will live in the ecstasy of joy in the glory of our God, who made us for his presence.   Jesus takes three disciples with him about a week later and they see him transfigured along with Moses and Elijah – they see, in part, the hope of the cross.

God is Patiently Carrying Out His Mission in Us – Graciously:   But Peter and the others, who are privileged to see these things, fail to understand.  Vs.5 – Peter shows that he has forgotten all about the cross – he wants to stay on the Mtn. with Jesus.   Vs.11 – the other disciples show that they still don’t even really get what Jesus means when he says he is going to die and rise from the dead.

The fact is that God has entrusted the mission of the church to people who are imperfect in understanding and obedience.   Jesus alone has perfectly carried out his mission and because he has done so we have received confidence – not that we can avoid suffering – but that God will take our suffering and our very imperfect service and use them to create meaningful and glorious lives – revealed at the resurrection.

This morning, as we continue to move towards the cross, let’s confess our false confidence and ask God to lead us into the mission and suffering of the cross.


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