Updated: Oct 28
In Mk 8:34-38 the Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed His gospel,
“And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.  For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?  Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Corresponding or parallel texts are Matt 16:24-26, Lk 9:23-26, 14:25-15:32, Jn 12:24-25 and others.
These verses are at the heart of the teaching of Jesus. The subject of these passages is, “Whosoever will come after me.” (v. 34). This is about approaching Christ, for what? For life, for eternal life, for salvation.
This text is not an invitation to higher kind of Christian living but an invitation to salvation. Every time Jesus said this, He was not calling Christians to a higher level of living but calling people that were not Christians to become saved, to be born again, to be redeemed. That is what it means to “come after [Christ].” This starts with self denial. The first step to the instantaneous act of salvation is to deny self. Not self fulfillment.
So how did the gospel get turned and spun into self-fulfillment when it’s so obviously self-denial? Sounds like a trick of Satan who does such things, corrupting the gospel and who Jesus is (2 Cor 11:3-4), and he does come as an angel of light and his ministers as ministers of righteousness (2 Cor 11:12-15).
The gospel that Jesus proclaimed was a call to follow Him as Lord, it was a call to follow Him in submissive obedience. It was far more than a plea for prayer, or for someone to raise their hand, or to walk an aisle, or to sign a card or a plea for someone to do some ceremonial thing to get off the hook of God’s eternal wrath. While the gospel of Jesus Christ was and is the offer of God for the forgiveness of all sin and the promise of eternal life, it is at the same time a call to self denial, bearing the cross and following Christ.
This is a Bible text on how to come after Jesus (“Whosoever will come after me”), how to be saved, how to become a Christian, how to be redeemed, how to be born again. Coming after Jesus, is to approach Christ.
When the true gospel is presented, it inherently has a rebuke to superficiality, to shallowness, and outward hypocritical response, for the true gospel is an enemy to these false responses. Hence the lack of true conversions in “evangelical” and many fundamental churches. The heart and soul of the gospel is the offering of forgiveness of sins and eternal life to those whose faith is not superficial—it is deep repentant faith by evidence of self denial, cross bearing and submission, as illustrated in Jam 2:14-26. In essence this reflects true Biblical repentance versus the false and superficial repentance that only changes the mind.
There is this movement in evangelicalism and fundamentalism that separates salvation from obedience, separates Jesus as Saviour from Jesus as Lord, separates believing from obeying, separates justification from sanctification. It’s a disjointed emphasis and unbiblical distinction and it truly is a scandalous event.
Sinners are told that if they want to be saved and go to heaven, they just need to accept Jesus Christ, accept that He died for them, they just need to ask Jesus to come into their hearts or invite Him in, which are common and unbiblical phrases suited to a deluded gospel. It’s not Biblical language. I challenge you to find that language anywhere in the Bible. Well intentions and hoping for someone to be saved does not excuse the deluded and diluted gospel.
Those who hold to this position turn Jesus into a deeper or higher life teacher. Someone who is saying to people who allegedly are already saved, you need to come up a bit higher and be a disciple, that is you need to get serious and start obeying and then start denying. This is the second level of saved experience. When you get saved you are accepting Jesus as Saviour and He saves you from the penalty of sin (hell) and then sometime later on you start denying yourself and recommit yourself and then maybe even later or at that time you start taking up the cross and start following Him, at which point in time you might say you have been saved from the power of sin.
It’s a scandalous gospel that creates two levels of Christianity and two-fold children of hell. This distinction between salvation and discipleship makes them two different things. That is you’ve got salvation and then you’ve got discipleship. Perhaps nothing is done more to undermine the authority and accuracy of Jesus’ evangelistic message. Everything that takes that side strips Jesus of the evangelistic intent of what He says. This is no minor issue. If Jesus said that He came into the world to seek and to save that which was lost (Lk 19:10), then we oughta know what it was that He had in mind when He said it.
The call to salvation is a call to follow Christ. There is a lot of people who think they are saved, but they are not following Christ, that is, they are not doing what the Bible says they should be doing. They aren’t obeying. They see follow Christ in the Bible but do not believe that this is a prerequisite to being saved, for they have been taught that is something that occurs sometime after you are saved and that it’s not a prerequisite to being saved. So you don’t have to follow Christ to be saved. And you don’t have to deny yourself to be saved. Allegedly these are only for those people that already saved, down the road.
The great commission is to make disciples of Christ, that is to teach people to become saved (Matt 28:18). All saved people are disciples, for they became disciples at conversion. The call to follow Christ is a call to salvation.
True salvation is when someone counted the cost, on good and receptive ground, not on stony or rocky soil, not thorny ground in love with the world and riches, and thus received Christ by submitting everything to His Lordship. The call of salvation is a call to full commitment, nothing knowingly held back, and there is no more definitive text than this one, and others that are similar to this one (like Matt 10:32-39; Mk 8:34-38; Lk 9:23-26; 14:25-15:32; Jn 12:24-25). The true gospel does not exclude the cost.
When you want to know how to witness to people, how to communicate the gospel, this is how Jesus did it. Evangelizing someone to the realization for them to be saved, to be a true disciple, to be a Christian, requires them understanding they must deny themselves, take up your cross, and follow Him. This is the hard message of evangelism, and if people won’t buy into this, they can’t be saved. We can’t change the terms to get the desired effect — you want them to be saved so you present something less than what the Bible says about salvation, and then when they do that, you claim them to be saved. Its a shell game. You are teaching something that isn’t actually salvation. And probably inoculating them to the truth.
There is likely no greater damage done to the gospel amongst evangelicalism and fundamentalism then corrupting salvation into sanctification, or changing gospel requirements into something post-salvation — coupled with wresting salvation passages into something post salvation, for practical sanctification. This happens to be the backbone of easy believism and quick prayerism. This is one of the great errors, one of the great false doctrines, that has created a tremendous amount of damage to where there is a lot of unsaved in evangelical and fundamental churches. Making salvation passages into something post-salvation severely diminishes the opportunity for someone who thinks they are saved but have not given up their life, to give up their life sometime in the future and be genuinely converted.
We know right away this is about salvation when Jesus says, “Whosoever will come after me,” an invitation to salvation by God the son, followed with three parts of the crux of the gospel in coming to Him, to being saved by Him, and three parts in v. 34: (1) let him deny himself, and (2) take up his cross, and (3) follow me.
“And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
To “come after [Christ]” (v. 34) is always an invitation to salvation in Scripture, noted also in Jn 14:6,
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: NO MAN COMETH UNTO THE FATHER, but by me.”
All three of these things, denying self and taking up the cross and following Christ, are simultaneous, not a process. They are not a step by step process and they do encapsulate repentance and faith. These aren’t a work. They are faith, a description of having faith in the Lord. They are what it means to “come after [Christ],” that is, what it means to be saved. God the Son is breaking it down to what it means to believe in Him, and we will follow suit and break down each statement as to what is meant here by the Lord to the Biblical requirement of saving faith.
1. Denial of Self.
“let him deny himself,” (v. 34)
One thing strikes a man right from the outset from these passages which Jesus is preaching to “the people” (v. 34), “to them all” (Lk 9:23) which is “the multitudes” (Lk. 14:25) of unsaved “followers” of Christ, following Him for the bread He gave and the miracles He performed, is that coming after Christ requires self-denial. Its not about having your needs met, getting what you want, not about self-fulfillment as today is mostly preached and expected. This really is the very start of approaching Christ, which is to deny self. That is the first thing that is said at the start of the gospel — self-denial, and not self-fulfilment. It is about you saying “no” to all your needs, desires, hopes, ambitions, dreams, needs, schemes and plans. Thats the point. Why would anyone do that? Why would anyone say “no” to themselves? For the Pearl of great price. For the treasure hidden in the field.
There is an attempt to replace the gospel, the biblical gospel with a new gospel of self-fulfillment and self-esteem, which translates into the seeker-friendly movement which has hijacked evangelicalism. It’s a kind of quasi “Christian” narcissism, self-love which is characteristic of false teachers according to 2 Tim 3:1-2, who are “lovers of their own selves” which is what Christianity has become, a get-what-you-want rather than a give movement.
The replacement or counterfeit gospel is about yourself, about you. In the self-fulfilment false gospel, Jesus is viewed as a utilitarian genie — you rub the lamp and He jumps up and gives you what you need or what you want. Its all about you.
The charismatic segment of evangelicalism says Jesus wants you well and if you aren’t well it’s because you haven’t claimed your healing. Jesus wants you prosperous and rich and if you’re not, it’s because you haven’t claimed it. Jesus wants you free from debt so if you give enough money to churches or evangelists, you can free yourself or debt. Health and wealth prosperity preachers and other charismatics, preach the gospel is health, wealth and prosperity, and that Jesus wants to deliver you from the demon of debt (they often call it that). Because Jesus doesn’t want you to have any troubles or problems, your salvation is a guarantee of health, wealth and prosperity. Psychological man-centred neo-evangelicals tell you that Jesus gives you peace, Jesus gives you joy, Jesus makes you a better salesman, Jesus helps you hit more home runs, Jesus picks the best looking girlfriend for you, and on. Jesus really wants you to feel better about yourself, wants to elevate your self image, wants to put an end to your negative thinking.
The divine intention for the gospel has been prostituted. The glory of God has been replaced with the satisfaction of man. Abandoning your life for the honour of Christ is replaced with Christ honouring you. So it’s all twisted and the real gospel is no longer in vogue. When you preach the true gospel, people don’t like it.
The true gospel however is not about you. Its about God. But it’s also about you in this sense: you’re not going to make it if you hang on to yourself—you’re not going to be saved, if you’re going to hang on to you.
Why would you give up you? When we understand who you is. You is not worth hanging on to. Its a strong expression, “deny himself,” to disown something, which is yourself. The Greek word (“aparneomai”)is usually described as dissociating with someone or disowning someone. So this is about dissociating with yourself. You need to disown yourself. How is that possible? Coming to Christ starts with the attitude of ‘I’ve had it with me. I don’t want anything more of my own life.’ Its not, ‘I like my life, and I like the world, and I like the direction where I’m going, but Jesus could you move me up the ladder a little faster and a little higher.’ Its all about ‘I’ve had it with everything I am, I am sick of my natural, depraved, impotent, sinful self.’ Self is worthless. Self is depraved. Self I am ashamed of. It is disowning yourself and desiring to never associate with the way you are anymore, ‘I’ve had it with me, I’m sick of myself, I don’t want anymore of myself.’
This is the stuff of true conversion. The heart sees in itself only sin, only impotence, only failure, only unworthiness, and seeks to be rescued and not setting any terms. They are desperate enough and in total panic to be rescued from the sea of their own sin. This is the way of salvation. Just tell me what I need to do—self is cast totally away. And that requires for you to see self for what it really is: worthless (Is 64:6), shameful (Rom 6:21; Eph 5:12), sinful (Rom 3:10-18), wicked (Jer 17:9), and ungodly (Rom 5:6). That is why such call on the name of the Lord to be saved, because they see their predicament.
But sadly this is not what most people want. They want to go to heaven but at the same time keep their life, their grade. Still think they are okay. You must give up all the dependence of yourself, trust in yourself, confidence in what you are by nature. Its akin to the man who bought the pearl of great price after selling everything he had (Matt 13). He valued the treasure of greater value than everything he had. The pearl is Christ. The selling everything is the essence of salvation. It’s giving up everything for the treasure. I deny myself. I offer my life both in terms of death if need me and obedience. The man gave up everything he owned and had, to get Christ. This is what Is 55:1-7 teaches. This is the gospel. This is what we preach, even if people don’t like it or buy it. Paul the apostle illustrated this in his salvation, which he reiterates in Phil 3:3-10, a chapter that is all about the gospel and Paul’s testimony. He counted all things loss and dung—in man’s eyes he was considered great—for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ and to win Him. This is salvation. Most people aren’t willing to do that, and it gets harder and harder as life goes on. Paul wanted to know the power of His resurrection. Self can’t resurrect. Christ can. So he gladly gave up everything for Christ. Likewise, the man who sold everything to buy the field with the buried treasure (Matt 13). He literally gave up everything he was, everything he had cumulated, because Christ was so precious to him. You deny self, because of Christ, and you can’t have both. But the amazing thing about salvation is, when you give up self, you get self and Christ, “whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.” (v. 35b).
Its really about coming to an end of yourself, a kind of spiritual desperation. This requirement for salvation also doesn’t change between adults and children. You can’t come to Jesus and hang on to you. He said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself.” (v. 34). Its not about you and the little things you want to have and bring, and Jesus the goody master gives your hearts desires. “No man can serve two masters” (Matt 6:24). The first thing that has to be realized is the death of you. If you want to enter the kingdom, Jesus starts the beatitudes with you having to first be “poor in spirit” (Matt 5). Thats a word that means spiritually bankrupt. You are not offering terms and conditions, but coming with desperation and understanding how doomed you are. You cannot enter the kingdom of heaven without firstly understanding your spiritual poverty. You don’t have anything. You are poor. You have nothing in your hand.
This type of attitude can be converted and understands how precious His forgiveness is, how great salvation and eternal life really is, how great and loving God is, how amazing His blessing is, so you are not about to set any sort of terms or conditions. You willingly give up everything for the pearl of great price, for the hidden treasure. You come poor, mourning, meek/humble, and hungering and thirsting after God’s righteousness and what He has to offer, and not about to set terms:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Matt 5:3-6)
“The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Ps 34:18).
That is the reason why Christ preached the Sermon on the Mount, to show that the law was given in order that it might crush men, not as a standard by which men could achieve salvation, but a standard by which men could recognize their spiritual bankruptcy. You don’t go to the law and claim you can be saved by keeping this, but rather see God’s holiness, His standard is to high, I cannot attain to it. So you give your way up, your self up, your own pursuit of righteousness. This is what Jesus was referring to when He said,
“And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Matt 21:44)
That is why true Biblical preaching cannot be a marketing strategy of sorts to play people along until they decide to take Jesus into their life. This is not Biblical gospel preaching. People won’t be saved because they do not understand their spiritual poverty, or how wicked they are, or helpless they are, or how desperate they are. The marketing strategy of making the lost feel comfortable in church, that they will be very happy if they ask Jesus into their lives, they will have many friends, is corrupt and eternally damaging. Its not salvation.
The law of God is crushing, breaking, devastating, cutting sharp as a two edged sword, where sinners either revolt against the work of the law and volts back to the sin and wanting to get as far away from the exposure of their sin as far as possible, which is how it typically goes, or he is crushed under that law and realizes his wickedness before a Thrice Holy God and spiritual bankruptcy and cries out for forgiveness and mercy. The Bible is loaded with examples of this, such as the praying publican in Lk 18. A sinner comes to Christ in that desperation at the end of himself, eager to self-deny because he knows there is no actual value in himself. No value, and that attitude continues after conversion. As the saint grows in grace, his opinion of self keeps going down, and opinion of Christ keeps going up.
Of course all this is completely in contradiction to the false gospel of self-fulfillment and self-esteemism that is purveyed practically by every single evangelical church today (including here are all Protestant churches, Reformed Calvinist churches, etc), and many fundamentalists as well. Its also in contradiction to the “grace” and “love” they parrot practically non-stop, where the grace and love they have is geared towards self. Then they go on to live the “Christian” life, but its not based on the victorious position of true salvation, but a counterfeit, faux position. These people keep reaching, reaching and reaching, climbing and climbing, crawling and crawling, but never attain because their lives are powerless and non-overcoming. Some do this to reach a higher level, but that is not Biblical sanctification, and the product of a false gospel. When someone is truly saved they are not trying to reach a higher level, because the moment they are born again, they have reached the pinnacle or apex of spirituality. They have the indwelling Holy Spirit and every spiritual blessing in heavenly places. They have all things that pertain to life and godliness. Its not about getting some promise or prestige, because the repentant sinner turned saint has been put to the top at the very moment of salvation. And now as a regenerated saint ihe s all about giving and giving because he has everything. He has in a sense reached the finish line by faith. I am already in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. My citizenship and inheritance is reserved in heaven, incorruptible, undefiled, that cannot fade away. I am already a child of God, that can’t be plucked out of His hands. I have every spiritual blessing already in Christ Jesus.
2. Death of Self; Self-Abandonment.
“take up his cross,” (v. 35).
An aspect of denying self, is to take up your cross.
Thy life in my death. Death of self is the true gospel, the gospel of self-abandonment. The true gospel is not about exalting me but about slaying me. That’s what Jesus said and preached. It’s the death of self. You win by losing, you live by dying. And that’s the core, the heart of the gospel.
“Take up the cross . . . For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.” (vv. 34-35).
The “cross” is not my boss, my car is not my “cross,” my leaky faucet is not my “cross,” my wife is not my “cross.” You don’t need to go to a deeper life conference to understand what this means.
What you think the Jews thought of when Jesus said to take up your cross? The Jews were no stranger to crucifixion. Roughly one hundred years prior to Christs entrance into the world, King Alexander Janias crucified eight hundreds rebels at Jerusalem while he was feasting in public. Antiochus Epiphanes during the inter-testimonial period was a Greek ruler who had many Jews crucified for revolt following the death of Herald the Great. The pro-counsel Verias crucified two thousand Jews. It is said that the Romans crucified thirty thousand Jews in the era surrounding the life of Jesus Christ.
So when Jesus said take up your cross, what do you think the people in that day thought He was talking about? They only thought of one thing —horrific suffering, pain and death. This is a willingness to endure suffering, persecution, hatred, rejection, shame, and even death. And ready even to do it every day (Lk 9:23), but it starts with salvation. In other words, you had to count the cost. Understand, this life you are going to live for Christ, could end in crucifixion. And it did for many, including most of the apostles.
This is a willingness to endure persecution, and to do it every single day. Persecution is promised for the true believer.
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Tim 3:12)
Jesus gives this as a gospel presentation. If it means life, okay. Death, okay. The desperate sinner wants God’s forgiveness, mercy, grace and eternal life, at whatever the price, I will give it all up for that. This is not a “happy” experience, where God has a wonderful plan for your life. Its about carrying a cross, where you yourself may be executed. The attitude that comes to true conversion is the attitude that Jesus is worth anything and everything; there isn’t anything in this life that is temporal that could even be compared to the value of what is eternal.
“And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matt 10:38-39)
To be worthy of Christ, is to die to self, so Christ the Master may alone Shepherd the servant (Matt 6:24).
Paul describes his own salvation in Gal 2:20,
“I am crucified with Christ…”
That is the same thing. Take up your cross, I am crucified with Christ, which he refers to in the past tense. When did he do that? At his salvation of course (Ac 9). He had given up his life. He had denied himself. He was as good as dead as far as he was concerned.
There is no earthly kingdom that has any value to me. I have no desire to make my way on earth, to go big time here. I don’t care for that anymore. It doesn’t mean you might not battle this in the flesh after salvation; what it means is you’ve given up you. And Jesus constantly tested this in those that proclaimed to follow Him, whether they actually really meant that or not (e.g. Lk 9:57-62).
3. Follow Christ.
“…and follow me.” (v. 34)
When someone truly desires to follow Christ in truth and in spirit (Jn 4:23-24), he would have to believe that what he was getting was better than what he already had. That Jesus was better than their life. That being crucified was better than the alternative.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” (Jn 10:27)
Are there any of Jesus’ sheep that don’t follow Him? So if someone doesn’t follow Him, what is the conclusion? They are not one of His sheep.
You do desire to follow Him to be saved, and that is not front-loading works. Your will is out, and His is in. We go where He goes, we do what He tells us, we say what He says.
Who is it that enters into the kingdom of heaven? It is he who does the will of the Father:
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt 7:21)
The first will of the Father is to obeying the gospel of Christ (2 Th 1:8; 1 Pet 4:17; Heb 5:9), which is repenting and believing in surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord (Phil 2:10-11; Mk 10:17-22), as noted right here in our text: Mk 8:34-38.
If you are a friend of Jesus, or want to be a friend of Jesus, you will do what He says:
“Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” (Jn 15:14)
Saul of Tarsu called Jesus “Lord” and then asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Ac 9:6)
If you want to follow Jesus, then hate yourself. The utter dissavaluing of one self in our unredeemed condition (or even in our redeemed position, where everything we are and have is entirely of the Lord, and we are mere tools picked up by the Lord by His grace) is the required state of conversion.
Verse 34 is the crux of the gospel: deny self, take up the cross and follow Christ.
4. The Paradox, or Contradiction of Salvation.
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.  For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (vv. 35-37)
Here is the contradiction or paradox in the gospel. If you want your life to be saved, you’re going to have to lose it. If you want to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it.
Here Jesus is explaining and expanding on what He had said in v. 34, the requirement to “come after me” which is to deny self, take up your cross, and follow Him. What Christ is saying here is for those that want their lives to be saved, you have to deny yourself, that is give up your life, you have to sell all (cf. Mk 10:21), you have to forsake all (cf. Lk 14:15-31), you have to deny self and die to self (cf. Jn 12:24-25) You abandon everything for Jesus. We don’t add Jesus to our life, which is the false gospel of self-fulfilment; No, we give ourselves up, we abandon everything, sell everything, forsake everything, and in so doing, gain everything. If you want to rescue yourself, you have to lose yourself. Thats the paradox or contradiction of the gospel.
On the other hand, whosoever wishes to save their own life, keep their own life for themselves, speaking of our eternal souls, will lose it, eternally. If you want to be lost in eternal hell fire and brimstone, suffering punishment and torment forever, then just hold on to your own life. That what this saying, a salvation text. This is not a saved person giving up his life and then gains life in some way. This is someone that doesn’t have life, giving up his own life for eternal life.
Matt 10:39 is another place where Jesus says this, which is pretty much routine preaching for Jesus:
“He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”
Jn 12:25 He uses the terminology, hate your life,
“He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.”
Unless you hate your life, Jesus says. What was the passage prior to v. 25?
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” (Jn 12:24).
Hating your life comes from denying your life, which means dying to self.
Those that love themselves, embracing self-esteemism, having their little needs met, indulged themselves with all their dreams, fantasies, hopes and ambitions, fulfilling the “pride of life” (1 Jn 2:16), the Disney life, you are going to lose your life in eternal hell. Like the rich young ruler (Mk 10:17-22). But if you hate yourself and your life like Zaccaheus did (Lk 19:1-10), you will save your life forever and receive eternal life.
The life that is saved is the one that loses his life “for my sake and the gospel’s,” Jesus said. This is not about some social justice, or selling yourself out to a cause, like a Catholic self-emulation, or Islamic suicide bomber going to a BarBQ out of his devotion to Lucifer, aka. Allah, and seventy-two black-eyed virgins on green pillows. Christ isn’t saying sell yourself out to some self-deceived or religiously devout cause, but for Christ’s and the gospels sake. You get life by losing yourself, for His and the gospels sake. There is no value or virtue or credit accrued to their account for what unsaved people do for self-sacrifice. This is what false religion does, and keeps the system breathing. If I only do a little more, and do enough, if I tally up enough merit points maybe I can get there. But they are deceived, self-deceived and demonically-deceived (2 Cor 4:2-4). God has to have all of you, not just some of you. What Jesus is talking about here is a man abandoning himself, denying himself, from the desperation of his sinful condition and giving up his life to Jesus Christ.
One of the great errors, one of the most destructive and damaging errors in evangelical churches (and fundamental ones for that matter), is to make these passages post-salvation, practical sanctification passages. So you have people that have not given up their life that think they are saved and then planning on as alleged Christians to give up their lives at some point. This is where Keswick theology is so dangerous, giving credibility to their unconverted estate. But these have never given up their lives, never lost their lives and only had to pray a prayer without any clear repentant faith somewhere down the line or make a confession of easy believism after walking the aisle. In itself praying a prayer is not necessarily wrong, as we see with the publican praying what we could call a sinners prayer, calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus and God justifying him on his repentant faith and not emphasizing the prayer, and of course believing is how we are saved, but praying without repentant faith and not surrendering to Jesus as Lord, thus hanging on to your life, not losing your life, is not a salvic prayer, that is a dead prayer, or what we would call quick prayerism that doesn’t produce or change anything. The prayer doesn’t mean anything. You are not saved. The same with faith that is dead, not repentant faith, not surrendered faith, not submitted faith, faith that loses ones life for a new life, that is faux faith and doesn’t save, what we would call easy believism. Salvation is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ but it has to be true, Scriptural, living faith and the object of our true faith, the true Lord Jesus Christ.
What these passages in Mk 8 are teaching is what it means to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and what it means to repent. You can’t believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and in yourself; no, you have to hate yourself, lose yourself, deny yourself. Why would someone do that? Those that actually, truly believe in Jesus. The one that knows who Jesus really is. There is salvation and righteousness in Him, but what I have in myself is nothing, but if you don’t understand that in you there is nothing, you’re not going to want the real Jesus, so you pick “another Jesus” (2 Cor 11:4), one that fits what you want. Unless we turn from our way, our wicked and sinful ways, relinquishing our will, and stop believing in anything else but the true Jesus Christ of the Bible, we will perish. We can’t put Jesus on the shelf with all our other gods, whether they be the god of self, or sin, or careers, or money, or riches, or people, or other idols. That’s not believing in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the way (Jn 14:6), so we can’t go our way; we must turn from our way (Ac 14:15-16). The farrow grand must be broken up, before fruitful seed can be planted. Before the heart can be circumcised, it must first be stripped of its self-righteousness, pride and sin. This is the message that Jeremiah preached:
"For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings." (Jer 4:3-4).
God teaches in His Word by way of paradox that the way down is the way up, to be humbled is to be exalted, the broken and contrite spirit is the healed and rejoicing spirit, the repenting soul is the victorious soul, to have nothing is to possess everything, to give is to receive, to lose your life is to save your life, to give up everything is to gain everything, to wear the cross is to wear the crown, to surrender is to have freedom, finding God’s light in my darkness, receiving God’s joy in my sorrow, God’s grace in my sin, God’s riches in my poverty, and God’s life in my death. This is the true Biblical gospel, the gospel of self-abandonment and self-denial, but it’s been hijacked by a counterfeit version, the “gospel” of self-fulfillment.
Verse 36 is a hyperbole,
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
Jesus is preaching this to an audience that had a lot of stuff they had to give up: personal ambitions, careers, love of money, positions in the synagogue, honour, ambition, power, a life that was worth a lot, riches, and more. In Lk 9 Jesus refers to this in some that would follow Him and others He called to follow Him, who would not give up their lives, their things, their plans, their own ways, for Him:
“And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (vv. 57-62).
There is an obvious paradox here but also a hyperbole. The hyperbole is in Jesus saying, ‘lets say you own the whole world,’ while no one actually owns the whole world or has ever owned the whole world, but let’s just say, ‘you did.’ You have all its possessions, houses, businesses, cars, clothes, lands, food, toys, etc, and then honour, prestige, power, and all its ability to deliver you to everything that it has to offer for material benefit or worldly honour or accolades, or prestige, you name it, you have it all — what advantage is it, what profit or benefit or use or help or good is it, to have all that in the world, if you have it all, but then lose it all, while forfeiting yourself in the process. You don’t get to actually keep any of it, but not only that, you actually lose your own soul in the process. You exchanged your soul for something you could never actually keep. The world, Satan, lied to you. This is precisely the lie that many have embraced in this world, making pacts with “the god of this world” (Satan, 2 Cor 4:3-4) for their soul — to be famous, prestigious, powerful, rich, funny, and more, only to discover that all that is in this world is only very temporal, it doesn’t satisfy, but really only leads to a life of misery, unhappiness, depression, unfulfilled joy, oppression, and then only to climax with an exit out of the world into an eternity of unquenchable torment of hell fire. You don’t get to keep any of it, and then you lose your very soul, which you exchanged for it all. A pottage of soup, for life. The wisest and riches man that ever lived had everything he could have, but he said “all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” (Ecc 1:17; 2:11, 27, 26; 4:4, 16; 6:9).
You could actually never gain the whole world to start with, because it was never yours to keep, since it was never yours to begin with. It always belonged to God. It wasn’t yours. So you gained the whole world and you think you have a lot to hang on to, so it would be a bad decision to give that up for this. But what you are actually doing by not giving it up, you’re losing it. But it doesn’t stop there. You lose the most important thing by a million-fold (actually immeasurable), which is your soul, and that you lose to eternal punishment and darkness. This is a paradox and the paradox goes both ways. You think by hanging on to it you are keeping it, but in reality by hanging on to it, you are losing it. And those that are losing their lives and everything, gain not only everything, but also get to keep their lives, their souls. They gain at salvation, an eternal inheritance. They gain everything. The kingdom of God. The earth (Matt 5).
What or how much is your eternal soul worth?
It is worth more than the whole world, in time. You’re going to be dead in a few breaths but you’re going to live forever. Again, its a hyperbole, because no one gets the whole world, but if you owned it all, let’s say like Alexander the Great who conquered the whole world, is it worth it if you lost or exchanged your soul for that? How temporal is this life? The dash between DOB and DOD. James brought this out for that purpose, “For what is your life?” he asks. The answer:
“It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (Jam 4:14).
Life is also likened to a ship on the sea, or like a weavers shuttle (Job 7:6). Why would you not trade this very temporal, fleeting, pain-stricken, suffering, difficult life, for something that is eternal, without all the pains, hurts and sorrows? That is true life, but its also eternal life, to know the Father and the Sn (Jn 17:2-3). Why not deny yourself in this life, even if it means going to the cross, since salvation requires a cross, “take up [your] cross” Jesus said? The temporal pain and grief, like what Christ suffered, is eternally worth it. Jesus said if you literally gained the sum total of all earthly riches, everything that your heart could desire on this earth, which is all vanity, which you wouldn’t get anyway because this world is not giving it to you, but lost your eternal soul in the process, that is a bad bargain. You have no advantage. You lost big time. Big time. You find out it was just cotton candy, a pipe dream, pure vanity and vexation of the spirit, and then when you open your eyes after you’ve taken your last breath and find yourself in eternal hell fire, you realize real quick how vain it all was and what a very, very bad and poor decision you made in this temporal life, while those that have Christ, what they have in Him is actually real, true, eternal and never regretted for even a nano second.
Tragically, millions and billions of people make the bad choice. They have very near sighted vision, and live for the here and now. Their love of sin and self exceeds their love for righteousness, forgiveness, and eternal life, and they would rather have the former, what their heart desires, a few vapours of pleasure, then the former, which is eternally of value, and then also blessings upon the earth, receiving more than you could’ve ever lost in this lifetime.
These passages of course make it very plain that salvation is the only meaning of them. “Soul” (vv. 36-37) and “life” (v. 35) or even self, can be used interchangeably. Matter of fact, “psuche” is the same Greek word translated here as both “soul” and “life,” and another 80+ times in the Bible. So you are giving up your “psuche” to keep your “psuche.” Of course the grammar and syntax of these passages are very clearly referring to salvation, and nothing else. Saved people don’t “lose their own souls.”
So you have to be willing to make that exchange. Where you take your worthless life and give it to Christ, and He gives you back His righteousness, his eternity, His perfection, and your whole life becomes wrapped up in Jesus, and then upon entering eternity you will hear,“well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21), versus “depart from me, ye that work iniquity,” and “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41), the choice is incomparable.
So better to give up your life now and the recognition that it isn’t anything anyway, and then it’ll be something glorious, wonderful, blessed, joyous, powerful, peaceful, honourable, forever and ever and ever, and that is the message of the gospel, and the choice that you make.
And this is the message that people really need to hear, The True Gospel of Self-Denial and Self-Abandonment that saves the wretched sinner verses The False Gospel of Self-Fulfillment that doesn’t save but damns unto eternal darkness and torment.
5. Never Ashamed Again.
“Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (v. 38).
There are two opposite manners of men that are shameless. The pendulum swings two ways. Some shameless people are very wicked, immoral reprobates (Rom 1:18-32), living very wicked lives, having their conscience seared so as to avoid guilt and remorse no matter how many of God’s laws they break or how frequently they break them. On the other end of the spectrum is another type of shameless person, not an overtly wretched and wicked and evil person but a covertly wicked person who on the surface is religious and self-righteous convinced in his own mind that he in his own human goodness and charity is acceptable to God, that he doesn’t break any of God’s ten commandments. He is shameless also. He feels no guilt, no remorse, because of his success of deceiving himself about his true condition. He doesn’t feel any shame, even though he should. He is shameless. Israel during the time Christ sojourned on earth, was filled with all sorts of seamless people. Reprobates, prostitutes, petty criminal’s, the riffraff, tax collectors, openly outwardly shameless people, representative of the “sinful generation.” Worse in many cases and harder to reach were the religious elite. These were shameless because they believed they had no guilt before God. By their own self-righteousness, they had erased their cupribility. They are reflective of the “adulterous . . . generation,” being spiritual adulterers. In both cases they had things to be shamed off. The outwardly, wicked had their wretchedness and unbridled immorality to be ashamed of, while the religious wicked had their bridled hypocrisy to be ashamed of. Both sides are shameless.
Paul in Phil 3:19 speaks about false teachers that are proud about things they should be ashamed of,
“Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)”
Sinners are very good at self-deception and about feeling good over themselves, which is easily helped along in our society of self-esteemism and self-love today. Sinners train themselves to feel not ashamed. In that sense they are shameless.
Jer 6:15 provides some good insight into this, describes the generic sinner in inescapable language, saying,
“Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD.”
They didn’t know how to blush, they did not even know they were shaming themselves. They train themselves to not feel it. All sinners, whether irreligious immoral or religious hypocrites, have plenty to be ashamed of. The Bible makes much of this, finding the word associated with “shame(d)(less)(full)” throughout scripture.
“Ashamed” in Rom 10:11 is translated from the Greek verb “kataischuno” which also carries the idea to be disgraced and dishonoured to the point of blushing. What is to be expected as a natural reaction of the natural man (1 Cor 2:14; 1:17-31) who lives a chameleon-like life, imitating, conforming to the dogmas of Christianity without supernatural regeneration. He is as the leopard attempting to change his spots. An actor. A pretender. Yea, the very definition of a hypocrite (Rom 2; Matt 7:1-5). He doesn’t really like to speak of Christ and His Word, but merely uses Him for personal benefit and advantage, until its not advantageous.
I know people like this. They have no issue talking about themselves, work, weather, TV, sports, entertainment, a house, cars, hobbies, music, recreation, trips, or jokes but rare to no mention of Jesus Christ or His Word. This person doesn’t love Jesus Christ but is ashamed of Him, with their face, nose, lips, fingers, and minds in the world. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:” (Pr 23:7). The Lord Jesus gives this warning to such: “by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Matt 12:37).
Feeling shame rather than being proud, is much more valuable in that it brings humbleness and repentance. Salvation comes down to the issue of shame, which ties into the previous four passages. Those that have shame, have hope for salvation. If you feel ashamed of yourself, you have hope. There is grace, forgiveness, eternal life, to those that are ashamed of themselves. To those that are not ashamed of themselves, they have no hope. There is no grace, forgiveness, or eternal life, to those that are not ashamed of themselves.
And that is the choice, which Jesus makes clear here in v. 38. You can’t be ashamed of Christ and be saved,
“Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
So when the Son of man comes in His glory, He’s going to have to deal with sinners and the only attitude a Thrice Holy God could have towards unforgiven sinners is to treat the sinners with constant and permanent shame.
So for those who will not be ashamed of themselves, God the Son will be ashamed of them. So either be ashamed of yourself or be ashamed of Christ. These are the two options, the two choices that man must make. There is no other choice.
Those who rather than being ashamed of their sins (Rom 6:21; cf. Rom 1:16; 2 Tim 1:8, 12, 16) are ashamed to repent, confess and follow Jesus and His Words in this evil and adulterous world, will have Christ ashamed of them at His return and be denied by Him (Lk 12:8-9; 2 Tim 2:11-13) and eternally damned in hell—for Christ is “not ashamed to call [true believers] brethren (Heb 2:11), “God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Heb 11:16). A remnant “concerning the house of Jacob” has always been converted and unashamed before God, and one day “Jacob [Israel] shall now not be ashamed” and will “sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel.” (Is 29:22-24).
The ones that resist the gospel the most are the ones who think the greatest of themselves, who think they are okay, which was the religious Jews, Pharisees, scribes, chief priests, in Christ’s day. In their minds they think they are very accomplished people, but Christ told them that they were blind, corrupt, painted white on the outside and in the inside stinky dead mans bones, corpses, spiritually bankrupt hypocrites and prisoners to their own iniquity and bondage to their false religion. They however wouldn’t receive Christ’s message. His very neighbours, friends, and extended family took Him to the edge of a cliff to throw Him off and kill Him after His first sermon in his hometown synagogue (Lk 4). That is how much they hated Christ’s message. The bottom line was, it called on them to be ashamed of themselves. Their self-righteousness infuriated them to such a degree that they sought to execute Him after one sermon. They wouldn’t be ashamed of their sin and self, but were ashamed of Christ. Every single sinner needs to be especially ashamed of themselves if they are in anyway ashamed of Jesus Christ. What are they ashamed of in Christ? His perfect holiness? His perfect righteousness? His condemnation? His perfect virtue? His perfect grace? His perfect mercy? His perfect compassion? His perfect power? His perfect justice? Sinners need to ashamed of being ashamed. They need to be ashamed of their selfish glory. “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:31).
Those that are ashamed of Christ are not saved. Period. If that is you, you are unsaved, and there would be other reasons we would know that to be true. Ashamed means to not confess him publicly especially under inconvenient circumstances, or to be offended because of His Name or Word, like the stony offended soil which is unsaved (Matt 13). It also refers to not obeying Scripture, motivated by shame. Mk 8:34-38 (like Matt 10:32-39; 16:24-26 and Lk 9:23-26) notes that being ashamed of Jesus Christ and His words (v. 38) is categorically connected to refusing to become Christ’s disciple (vv. 34-37) — by refusing to exchange masters, from self and this world to the Lord (vv. 36-37), refusing to deny self and losd one’s life for Christ and the gospels sake (vv 34-35), refusing to take up the cross and denying self and following Christ (v. 34) — whose end will be an eternity in the unquenchable fires of hell.
Would a truly saved person be ashamed of Him who died on the cross and shed His precious blood to deliver me from my sin, of Him who loved me with a perfect love from before the foundation of the world, for the One who choose to be my friend and my redeemer, of the One who has gone to heaven to prepare a place for me in the Fathers house and receive me unto Himself to dwell in His holy presence forever and ever? What in that is there to be ashamed of? Heb 2:11 says,
“For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,”
The Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect Sacrificial Lamb of God has plenty to be ashamed of when it comes to me, so its an amazing act of grace that the Lord is not ashamed to call me, ___________, His brother. So here is Jesus, not ashamed to call me His brother, so how could I be ashamed of Him? Similarly Heb 11:16 says,
“But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”
Speaking of born again believers, those who live by faith, walk by faith, God is not ashamed to be called their God.
Jesus despised the shame received from men (Heb 12:2). The world heaped shame on Him and still do. Every sinner still crucifies Christ afresh and puts Him to open shame (Heb 10) when they reject the gospel. They disgrace Him and embarrass to even relate to Him. Jesus despised that but He came anyway, even though He knew of the rejection and the offence and the shame of men. He despised that shame but came anyway. He treated it as nothing, in order that He might not be ashamed to call us His brothers. In other words, Jesus despised the shame, so He might not be ashamed to call us brothers. So God might not be ashamed to say we belong to Him. So He could be called our God.
Shame for Jesus Christ and our shameful and ungodly lifestyle pre-conversion is wiped away permanently. Obliterated forever and forgotten, as far as the east is from the west,
“What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” (Rom 6:21-22).
A true born again Christian is someone that is not ashamed of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul gives our testimony for us in Rom 1:16,
‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
I am not ashamed of the gospel or of Christ or of any truths found in the Word of God. I will proclaim His message, without shame, because its the truth, the truth that saved me and set me from (Jn 8:31-36). Its the only saving truth, and I am happy to be associated with the gospel, with the Lord Jesus Christ, with the Bible.
“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.”
In nothing I shall be ashamed. I will not be shamed of Christ and will never be put to shame because of Christ. He will never be shamed by those who are unashamed of Him. But I might be put to shame by those who are ashamed of Him. We see this in 1 Pet 4:16,
“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.”
If you suffer shame for Jesus, never be ashamed of that. The unashamed of Christ will not make haste (Is 28:16) to run away from the sufferings he meets with in the way of his duty, and not be ashamed of the despised true religion of Christ. He understands that persecution and suffering is the way of life for the redeemed, since “The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.” (Jn 15:20). The following texts reflect the truth that saints will receive and endure persecution for their faith and not make haste or shame: Jer 20:11-13; Matt 5:10-12; Jn 15:18-20; 16:1-4,33; 17:14-18; 1 Th 3:2-4; 2 Tim 3:10-12; 1 Pet 2:18-25; 3:13-17; 4:12-19; 5:10; Rev 12:17.
The ones that make haste do not like the trials and offence that comes with professing the name of Christ. They become offended at Jesus Christ and His Word, being ashamed of Him and proving to be of the stony ground, professors of Christ but not possessors (Matt 13:20-21). They never counted the cost (Lk 14:25-35), and did believe in “another Jesus” and “another gospel” (2 Cor 11:4), one that they yoked with their imagination and love of the world and self. The ashamed “believer” will also get offended when questioned about his “salvation” testimony, while the truly saved will declare:
“Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what He hath done for my soul" (Ps 66:16).
When a repentant sinner is converted to Christ, he is never ashamed of Him again, as he was prior to his conversion,
“Hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Rom 5:5).
The hope of salvation that stems from true conversion, does not bring shame. Shame is removed in conversion forever, replaced with love for God by His indwelling Spirit, spread abroad in our hearts, referred to also here in Mk 8:38, like Lk 9:26.
We know this because the very act of supernatural salvation fulfills the prophecy of never being ashamed again: Rom 10:11; 1:16; 5:5; 9:33; Heb 2:11; 11:16; ref. Is 28:16; 54:4; 45:15-17.
The popular passage of Rom 10:9-10 explains how salvation comes about and then the verse that follows is one of the effects of true conversion: “For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” (v. 11). “For” could be interchanged with “because,” both of which connect to the previous passage that the one who wills to be truly converted makes confession with his mouth of the gospel of Christ unto salvation (v. 10) based upon repentant faith in the heart. This person will no longer be ashamed of Christ, not by word or deed.
Rom 9:33 declares similarly:
“As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”
Jesus Christ, the Chief Cornerstone, is “a stumblingstone and rock of offence” to the unconverted but those truly redeemed are not ashamed of Him. This is referenced by Paul from Is 28:16,
“Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.”
Not making “haste” here has the same connotation as not being confounded or ashamed. The truly converted are unashamed for they fell on this Stone and were broken, while the ashamed will have the Stone fall on them and be ground to powder (Matt 21:42-44).
Where does the scripture say or prophecy that him who gets saved will no longer be ashamed, as we read in Rom 10:11, “For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed”? In Isaiah 45:15-17 and 54:4.
Is 45:15-17 reads:
“Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour. They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols. But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.”
Personal salvation doesn’t change one iota between Jew or Gentile, so the same truth is applicable to both. Salvation brings about an end of shame for Christ or being confounded, that is, a shameful life that denies Jesus Christ in both confession and manner of life.
Is 54:4a reflects the same truth:
“Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth.”
The shame of sin is turned from and forgotten and the shame for Christ is gone. 1 Pet 2:6 speaks to this:
“Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.”
Confounded means to be made ashamed, to be falsified or discredited, to fall away. The truly saved will not be. Like “haste,” “confounded” also carries the idea of not being confused or discombobulated over doctrine, which is shameful. Sadly today many professing Christians in both “evangelicalism” and “fundamentalism” have seared some of that shame, though they attempt to placate it by gathering hand in hand as if a majority of people suddenly reflects truth and makes shame acceptable. They are in fact “confounded” and find Jesus “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence,” and “stumble at the word, being disobedient” (1 Pet 2:4-8). Their “Jesus” is yoked with their world and church, living perpetually in spiritual adultery. They are in fact enemies of Christ:
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (Jam 4:4).
These are those that explain away large chunks of Scripture and dumb Christianity down to cheap grace that allows them to fit into some of Scripture, not all of it, so they can be “Christian” but live like they want. They “turn the grace of God into lasciviousness” (Ju 1:4). They make grace an occasion of the flesh. And thats really just being ashamed of His words. They don’t like what the Bible says about them, or what it truly means to follow Jesus. Of course darkness and evil do not like the light (Jn 3:19-21). They haven’t denied themselves (Mk 8:34-35). They attempt to separate Jesus from His words. They are only in church as a matter of convenience, some attempting to work their way to heaven, while others displaying their hypocritical self-righteousness. The churches are full of people that are ashamed of Jesus, of His words, of His gospel, of His righteousness, His holiness, His godliness. They are ashamed of the true Christian life so they conform scripture to themselves rather than themselves to scripture.
What makes it easy to follow Him is when you are dead, you are crucified, you left your old life behind and then your righteousness rests not in you but in Christ. You are not hanging on to yourself anymore,
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.” (Ps 23:1-3)
I am following Jesus. I have trusted in Him. I have found rest in Him. He is my God, my Lord, my King, my Saviour. Its not just being enamoured with Jesus but embracing what He preached, what the whole of Scripture says, doing everything He says, and living according to His will.
No text in Scripture indicates that God will be “ashamed” of His people born again — He is not and will not be ashamed of them (Heb 11:16) and no true believer will ever be ashamed of Christ. The repentant sinner that was truly converted is never again ashamed of Christ again (Rom 10:11; 9:33; Heb 2:11; 11:16; Rom 1:16; 5:5).
It really comes down to this. You either are ashamed of Christ or you are ashamed of yourself. You cannot be ashamed of Christ and be saved. It really cuts it right there. You have to give up your entire life, not just part of it. Its no longer yours, it belongs to God (1 Cor 6:19-20; 7:22-23).
Repentant sinners who deny self, take up the cross and desire to follow Christ have an overwhelming sense of shame for their sin, for themselves. So it all fits together. Those that will deny self and lose their own lives for Christ and the gospel, are ashamed of themselves, of their sin, their idolatry, their shame. They are ashamed of their lives and gladly give their lives, their whole life, entirely over to Christ, and count it all as loss that they might win Christ. Unrepentant sinners on the other hand refuse to see themselves in their own shame, and have a strong shame for the gospel. They have their shame reversed. The cross is a stumblingblock and foolishness, a shame, to those that are perishing (1 Cor 1:18, 23). Jesus is offensive to those that want to hold on to their sin, whether it is immorality or morality. Why? Because they love self. They love sin. They love this acceptance from others and they don’t want to live a holy, righteous and pure life if they are immoral. They don’t want to lose their friends, they want to be accepted. The religious lost, hypocrites who are focused on the preservation of self, don’t want to admit they are sinners, and are afraid of losing their religious friends, being alienated or ostracized from their hypocrite friends or both, which is especially true as they get older, and the immoral lost are afraid of losing their immoral friends, who are also ashamed of Jesus. Both are equally ashamed of Jesus. The self-righteous hypocrites have their circle that they value greater than truth and Christ, which holds the grip on their shame, and makes them ashamed of the true gospel and unmasks them as wretched sinners doomed to eternal judgment. Thats why they wanted to take Jesus and throw Him off that cliff, because they were not ashamed of themselves, but of Him. ‘How dare you preach that message to us. We want to hear how good and great we are. We’re not blind, we’re not poor, we’re not needy.’ They are an adulterous generation.
Verse 38 is looking forward to the coming of Christ, for those that are not ashamed of Him when He comes. Those that have “obeyed the gospel” (2 Th 1:8; Rom 10:16; 1 Pet 4:17), by obeying the call repentance and faith (Mk 1:15; Ac 20:21) by coming to Him through self denial, losing life, taking up the cross and following Him (Mk 8:34; 10:17-31; Matt 10:32-39; 16:24; Lk 9:23, 57-62) are happy to see Him, they are glad that He is here. You’ve been looking forward to His return. When Jesus comes in full blazing glory, the glory of the Father, His own glory and the attendant glory of the accompanying angels, a scene described in the prophetic portions of scripture Daniel, Matthew, Luke, Revelation, when Christ returns to sit on the throne of judgment, He’s going to have nothing but shame to heap upon those that are ashamed of Him. Dan 12:2 says some will arise to everlasting life and others to shame with everlasting contempt,
“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
The shame and everlasting contempt (abhorrence) will come from God the Father. These words in Mk 8:38 are tired directly to an OT text that was familiar to the Jews that heard Him say these things, to Dan 7:9-10, which is tied directly to Matt 25 and throughout Revelation. Here is the text from Daniel:
“I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. . . . I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.” (Dan 7:9-10, 13)
People that are truly saved, born again, redeemed by the Son of man, are longing for His appearance and are not ashamed of Jesus, or His words, or His gospel, or the Word of God.
The true gospel of self-denial is where repentant sinners are ashamed of themselves, and they come to Jesus Christ to be forgiven. They are not ashamed of Jesus or His words (the whole counsel of the Word of God, doing what He says), they are ashamed of themselves, of their sin, their selfishness, their ungodliness, their unrighteousness. Because of this, Jesus forgives them, washes them and cleanses them of their sin (Is 1:18; 1 Cor 6:11), and He is not ashamed of them. Those that go to heaven forever were ashamed of themselves, but not of Christ and His words.
The true born again servant of Christ is of those that “shall not be ashamed that wait for [Christ]." (Is 49:23b). He shall not be ashamed of his hope in Christ (Rom 5:5), nor disappointed of his end. It is our duty that we must not and it is our privilege that we shall not be ashamed of our faith in Christ. The truly saved shall never have cause to repent of his confidence in reposing such a trust in the Lord Jesus.
The false gospel of self-fulfilment on the other hand continues on in their shame of Christ and His words, but not shame for self, their sin, their love of the world, etc. And then when Christ returns, He will be ashamed of them, and say unto them, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matt 25:41). Those that go to hell forever were ashamed of Christ and His words. Nothing could ever, ever could come close to the seriousness of the shame of Jesus Christ and His words. Its eternally disastrous, as we have noted in the second half of this passage in Mk 8:38,
“of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
6. Putting it All Together.
Jesus gave the details here on what it means to “come after me.” If any man wanted to come after Christ, that is to become a servant of Christ, this is what was expected or required. Deny self, take up the cross, and follow Christ, which is losing ones entire life for Christ forever and the gospels sake, is the crux of the gospel, and they occur simultaneous, not as a process. This fits in with all the other places where Jesus talks about this, such as Matt 10:32-39; 16:24-26; Mk 10:17-31; Lk 9:23-26, 57-62; 14:15–15:32; Jn 12:24-26; etc. These three things define what it means to lose your life for Christ and the gospels sake, thereby saving it. They encapsulate repentance and faith, and are not a work. They are faith, a description of having faith in the Lord. God the Son is really breaking it down to what it means to believe in Him, the requirement to saving faith. You giving your life over to Christ, surrendering to Him, and He saving you. You don’t and cannot muster these things up and pat yourself on the back for having the required faith and response to be saved. They are simply the product of a truly repentant heart that fears the Lord, which has by God’s grace been convicted, enlightened, reproved and then granted repentance because of His goodness (Rom 2:4). There is no boasting in salvation (Rom 3:27; Eph 2:8-9). Salvation is entirely of the Lord, of His grace. He gets all the credit and all the glory. “Salvation is of the LORD” (Jon 2:9).
The paradox of losing life to gain life is intimately intertwined with the crux of the gospel. The hyperbole of gaining the world, will never happen. Losing your soul for the whole world is a great self and demonic deception and utter foolishness. Losing your life for Christ and the gospel is worth it. You gain everything for nothing, but most importantly you gain eternal life, and miss spending eternity in the fires of hell. It is this people that are not ashamed of Christ any longer, because they were ashamed of themselves, of their sin, of their idolatry, of their unrighteousness before a Thrice Holy and Righteous and Just God.
In a generation and culture of self-lovers (2 Tim 3:1-5), one consumed with ego-building, hero’s, where you need to achieve something worthy of honour, where everything is awarded whether awardable or not, parents living their lives wanting this for their children — people don’t want to hear this message. Sinners are consumed with pride, consumed with themselves. Self love has become a dominant virtue in our wicked society and these people are not only proud, but exalt pride as a virtue of virtues. These people are in love with themselves, and seek to fulfill every ambition, every whim, every desire, every lust, every dream, every hope, and seek to be every thing they could be and seek to set value in all they say, are and do. And they really want the church to be like this as well, wrapped up in that.
These people don’t want to be low, but you have to start with being low. God gives grace to the humble, the low, but resists the proud (Jam 4). If you think you are great, or wonderful, or are all set, you are in a bad place. You can’t come to Christ unless you walk away from what is most characteristic of the culture, and that is pride today. A church that will truly, Biblically represent Christ will clash with the culture in the most significant way. Those who need God and seek to enter His kingdom veritably have an overwhelming sense of their own sinfulness. Job who was the best of men, said in Job 42 that he hated himself. Paul the apostle called himself the chief of sinners (1 Tim 1). There was nothing about Paul that commended Paul to Paul. When Isaiah saw God, he said, woe is me for I am unclean (Is 5). Peter in presence of God the Son said depart from me for I am a sinful man (Lk 5). We see the same attitude of the publican in Lk 18, who drops his head and wouldn’t even look up to heaven because he doesn’t think he even has the right to look up lest God should look in the face of such a wretched sinner, and cried God be merciful to me a sinner. These hate themselves so they see the death of the cross as a way of escape. And it is. When you become a Christian it’s not suddenly what you have to offer God. Interestingly, all these testimonies of sinfulness reflect their estate before salvation, as unsaved sinners, besides Job.
This of course is completely alien to the culture we live in, who have every whimsical desire legitimized, being whoever they desire to be, having all their desires fulfilled and insisting on their rights, privileges, respect, honour and affirmation. Everyone is entitled, as they think. But those who seek to enter into Gods kingdom, do not insist in any of that. They don’t think they are deserving of anything. They hate what they are because they think all they are is sinful and wicked. This is the grounds of producing repentance. The most neglected of all doctrine associated with the gospel, is the most hated. They won’t repent because they think they are good, that they are fine, and don’t want to turn from that or from the sin they dearly love.
The true gospel produces a turning, a longing of deliverance and rescue from what you are to what you are not but what you long to be, something that is good, worthwhile and righteous. In Lk 5:31-32 Jesus said He did not come to call the “righteous” but sinners to repentance. Those that think they are already righteous, cannot be helped. You cannot help anyone that is impressed with themselves, impressed with their religion, impressed with their morality, impressed with their money, impressed with their education, or impressed with their achievements. Paul addresses such people in 1 Cor 1:20-31, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:” (v. 26). Jesus cannot do anything for these people, ‘I did not come for them, they don’t hear my message.’ To such people Jesus said, “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Lk 13:3). This is you — except you repent you will perish.
This type of message just doesn’t sell well in our society. Its not seeker friendly. Its not meeting the popular culture at its own level. Hence why there is no such message ever found in “evangelicalism.”
Rejection of this message is a rejection of repentance, which is a rejection of the gospel. But there is never any salvation apart from repentance. There are three Greek words used in the NT referring to repentance, and address all three elements of repentance. “Metanoia” used in number of scripture, such as Lk 11:32; 15:7, 10, and expressed as a reversal of your thinking, your mental attitude. “Anonia” essentially refers to the mind. You change your mind, so one of the facilities repentance deals with is the mind. You have to change your mind about yourself, how you view yourself, the way you really are, the way Scripture says the way you are, how God says you are, to see yourself as a fallen, corrupt, and wicked sinner from the cranium to the feet. You acknowledge that you are a guilty filthy, wicked sinner under the wrath of God, and hell-bound. “Metamelomai” is another Greek word used for repentance seen in Matt 21:28-32, and it emphasizes regret and sorrow, the emotional faculty of man. Once the mind grasps the new definition of who I am, there is a consequential emotion that goes from the mind to the feelings, and there is godly sorrow (2 Cor 7:10) and shame. This aligns perfectly with what Jesus said in the beginning of the sermon on the mount, “blessed are the poor in spirit,” so you understand who you are, you are spiritually poor, spiritually bankrupt, you have nothing, so what do you do? You actually are sad then, “Blessed are they which mourn, for they shall be comforted.” So you see your condition, you see your spiritual poverty and you mourn over your lost and unrighteous condition. A third word, “epistrepho,” found in places such as Lk 17:4; 22:32, means you changes direction in your life and refers to your will, your volition. It starts in your mind, moves to your emotions and activates your will. It has to start in the mind, you understand the truth, you know what it says. 2 Tim 3, “from a child thou has known the holy scriptures.” So you have to know it, understand it first, and actually love it, “receive . . . the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Th 2:10), before it can get down to the emotional and volitional levels. Its a self-assessment that matches up with what God’s Word says about you. You want to go away from yourself, and go after Him, “come after me” (Mk 8:34), thats the turning of repentance, turning from your ways, your sins, your idols and your loves, to God. That is the volition, and it starts with a self assessment that is dramatically different than anything you have ever viewed yourself. You have to hate yourself to the degree that you would literally die if needs be, deny self, take up the cross, a symbol of death. When someone sees themselves for who they really are, they won’t make something sacred out of their life, knowing how bad they are, how wicked they really are. It’s not just a fanciful idea what Jeremiah stated,
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9)
I want forgiveness for my sin, I want righteousness for my life, I am weary and tired burdened about with heavy laden of what I am, I want to abandon all of that. I want to come to Christ. I want to go down a different path, I want to be a different person. You are willing to die because you know that is necessary to have this life, just like it was necessary for Christ to die so that we might have have life and forgiveness, and righteousness, and to enter a new path unto eternal life. Taking up the cross is to die so that God can use this unworthy tool, at best a clay pot, a valueless servant doing what is his duty (Lk 19), giving up all things as loss, a life of dung for Christ, Pauls testimony of conversion (Phil 3).
This is the message of salvation. Jesus in His preaching sought to get sinners to this point and the people who resisted the message the most were the people who felt the best or highest about themselves. The ones that resist the gospel the most are the ones who think the greatest of themselves, who think they are okay, which was the religious Jews, Pharisees, scribes, chief priests, in Christ’s day. In their minds they think they are very accomplished people, but Christ told them that they were blind, corrupt, painted white on the outside and in the inside stinky dead mans bones, corpses, spiritually bankrupt hypocrites and prisoners to their own iniquity and bondage to their false religion. They however wouldn’t receive His message. His very neighbours, friends, and extended family took Him to a cliff to throw Him off and kill Him after His first sermon in his hometown synagogue (Lk 4). That is how much they hated His message. The bottom line was, it called on them to be ashamed of themselves. Their self-righteousness infuriated them to such a degree that they sought to execute Him after one sermon. They wouldn’t be ashamed of their sin and self, but were ashamed of Christ. People need to be especially ashamed of themselves if they are in anyway ashamed of Jesus Christ.
Jesus constantly sought sinners to self-hate, producing such amazing testimonies of salvation like Mary (Lk 7:36-50), which is actually given in contrast to the love-of-self Pharisee (Lk 7:36-50). Loving self terminally is actually damning self. Its a deadly disease that destroys and kills, eternally. If you love yourself, you hate this message. When you don’t preach what Jesus preached, or believe what He says, you are not obeying God the Son because you love yourself and hate Him.
The wicked riffraff of Israel were far more likely to see their wicked sin than the self-righteous religious folks. Many examples of this throughout scripture. Zaccheus was interested in Christ and Christ searched him out (Lk 19). The “publicans and sinners . . . drew near unto [Christ] to hear him” while the “Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” (Lk 15:1-2).
All of this isn’t difficult but its hard to the sinner who doesn’t want to give his life up. He doesn’t want to submit himself to the righteousness of God. They don’t see themselves as God sees them: depraved, fallen, worthless, wicked, and sinful. They don’t value their lives less than the pearl of great price. They have deceived themselves and so has Satan:
“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (2 Cor 4:3-4)
7. The Gospel Message of Mk 8:34-38 Harmonizes With The Rest of Scripture
Mk 8:34-38 is not an obscure text. People present it like it is different than the rest of Jesus’ preaching, that it alters the gospel, so its different than the gospel. It is not something that is sort of different than the normal teaching of Jesus, even though many people make it appear like that. These are principles that Jesus preaches repeatedly, over and over, in the Gospels.
(a) Mark 10:17-31. The case of the rich and religious young ruler in Mk 10:17-31 (parallel Matt 19 and Lk 18) illustrates or exemplifies this teaching of Jesus in Mk 8:34-38. Christ told the rich ruler who wanted to “inherit eternal life” (v. 17) to forsake all “and come, take up the cross, and follow me” (v. 21). There were five commands given: “Sell, distribute, come, take up the cross and follow me.” What Jesus preached here in Mk 10:21 is the very same thing He preached in Matt 16:24-26, Mk 8:34-38; and Lk 9:23-26, what many would call “discipleship passages." Jesus is preaching to a lost Jew, not a saved person — why would He talk about discipleship with a lost person?! (hmmm, suspect indeed). Jesus was preaching the gospel to this unsaved Jew, how to have eternal life. This is the response that should be called for in order for someone to be saved. This is what is required to get into the kingdom, to have eternal life, according to God the Son. Jesus confronts his sin, and he won’t give up his self-righteousness or his love of riches. He wants eternal life, but Jesus throws in his face that he will have to give up his self-righteousness, that is, he would have to recognize himself as an unworthy, wretched sinner and he would have to be willing to give up all his earthly possessions, if Christ asked, and He did. Jesus is in charge, He is the Lord. Jesus said give up everything, but he wasn’t willing to do that. “And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” (v. 22). The price was his need to give up everything, to forsake all (Lk 14:33, “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple”), but he wouldn’t. He was essentially saying that he would rather have his riches, money, possessions, his part of the world he gained in exchange for his soul (Mk 8:36-37), than Jesus. Then you are not willing to be His disciple, even in his half hearted attempt. If you are not willing to be separated from family, from the world, from material things, from money, then Jesus is not that valuable to you. Its an all or nothing proposition.
To turn this account into ‘discipleship” (post-salvation) or “dedication” is to rip it from its context, to confuse what is required for salvation. It is a dastardly perversion of the gospel, diminishing saving faith to the intellect. Salvation does indeed come from believing in Jesus Christ. He must however be the Jesus of the Bible, Who is God and Lord. That is a clear implication of the young ruler passage. Non-lordship or anti-lordship people will shrink or depreciate the identity of Jesus. They make Him more palatable to a worldly audience. But in so doing, they make their hearers two-fold more the children of hell they once were. The rich young man refused to obey God the Son, for he was unwilling to forsake his riches, he was unwilling to repent of his covetousness, so he did not inherit the kingdom of God (vv. 22-24). He wouldn’t deny self, that was the crux of the problem. Those who do leave and forsake all to follow Christ (vv. 28-29 — the apostles testimonies, which occurred in Mk 1:15-20; Lk 5:1-11, 27-28) become God’s “children” (v. 24) and will “receive . . . in the world to come eternal life” (v. 30), having submitted to Christ as Lord and Saviour with a contrite and broken, poor spirit and the humble faith of a little child (Mk 10:13-16).
(b) Matthew 10:32-39,
“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”
Confessing Jesus before men, is confessing Him as Lord, Saviour, God, Messiah, King. This is not being ashamed of Christ or His words or His gospel. Those that deny Him, are ashamed of Him. They deny Him, and are ashamed of Him because they are unsaved. And when they come to Christ, it may make your family worse, not better. It may do the very opposite, sending a rift through your family in the likes that you have never heretofore experienced. But thats the way it is because if you gave your life to Jesus Christ, there will be an impassable gulf between you and your family that don’t. If you are converted to Christ, and they don’t, there’s going to be problems with your family. The love of God must exceed your entire family, to the point where you are willing to pay the price for a permanent riff in your family lest they come to Christ, pay the price for greater trauma and conflict in your family, or greater suffering in your family, then you are not worthy of Christ. That means you cannot be saved, you cannot be His disciple. These hates and loves that must be in their proper place, tie in with self-denial, taking up the cross and following Christ. The all correlate to death to self, doing whatsoever the gospel says, in surrender and submission to the Lord, for the love of God exceeds everything in that sinners heart. This is what it means to “receive . . . the love of the truth, that they might be saved,” what 2 Th 2:10 says. The cross we must carry if we seek to be saved, is not some toy, or symbolic prop, but an instrument of execution. Its also my cross (Mk 8:34), “he that taketh not his cross” (Matt 10:38), “if any man . . . take up his cross” (Lk 9:23), not Christ’s cross, as some twist this passage to their liking. Again, there is conflict here, the underlying tone; if you are not willing to have conflict with others to the degree where it could cost you your life, you once again aren’t worthy of Christ. “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” is very obvious a salvation passage. If it is a discipleship passage, then salvation and discipleship are not any different. They aren’t. There is no such thing as a saved non-discipleship. There’s no such thing in Scripture.
(c) Luke 9:57-62,
“And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Jesus said, if you follow me, you will lose everything, and it will cost you everything. Thats the price. Thats what Jesus said. Not, ‘if you follow me, you will be happy, wealthy, prosperous, it’ll be great. You’ll be successful, just know this, I don’t have any place to lay my head. It’ll cost you everything. That meant Christ had nothing. One valued his inheritance at higher cost than denying self and following Christ. He declared this after he heard Jesus say that He didn’t even have someplace to go rest His head. Jesus had nothing to give him, so he wanted to hang around home and then after burying his father, pack a fortune in his bag and then follow Jesus. His inheritance was of greater value, and trust, so he also disappeared. Jesus set the standard for total self-denial.
These people are similar reflections of modern day evangelicals and most fundamentals. They take Jesus like a good luck charm, with the pretence of Christianity as they have their hand on the Bible and in church, and the like, while their eyes are looking back at the world. They take Jesus like a genie in the bottle, hopefully He’ll take care of the more nasty things in life, give them a ticket to heaven, while all along you are basically living for yourself. They have never given up themselves, but of course that would mean they would really, actually trust in Jesus.
(d) Luke 14:15-35,
“And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it , all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” (vv. 25-33).
Similarly we see here in these passages what has already been covered. The same gospel. In vv. 17-20 the people have excuses to not follow Christ, and then to the “great multitudes” (of which practically all were unsaved ), Christ preached “If any man come to me,” which should sound familiar, the same call to salvation as in Mk 8:34, Lk 9:22-23, Matt 16:24, etc, that “whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath” (vv. 33, 26) to “bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (vv. 27, 33); those who refuse to put Christ before self (v. 26), before property (vv. 18-19) and before family and other people (vv. 20, 26) will not “eat bread in the kingdom of God” (v. 15), but be “cast out” (v. 35) of the eschatological feast of the saints (v. 24) into hell, while God rejoices over the repentance and salvation of those who become disciples in the way people rejoice over the recovery of a lost sheep, coin, or son (Lk 15 — the entire sermon of Christ goes from Lk 14:15–15:32). The verb “cast out” in Lk 14:35 by the way, out of 125 instances in the NT, is never employed for a judgment where born again believers are cast out by God, but the lost are, over and over again, said to be cast into the fires of hell (e.g. Matt 3:10; 5:13, 25, 29-30; 7:19; 13:42, 48; 18:8-9; Mk 9:42 [cf. vv. 41-48], 45, 47; Lk 3:9; 12:58; 14:35; Rev 2:22; 12:4, 9, 13; 14:19; 18:21; 19:20; 20:3, 10, 14-15). Note as well the texts Matt 5:13; 13:48; Lk 14:35; Jn 15:6), where the lost are those who are cast out each time (the only remaining text, 1 Jn 4:18, does not speak of anything eschatological, whether judgment or deliverance). The entire context is salvation, and continues to be so into Lk 15, the same sermon of Christ.
Counting the costs includes rejecting all false teachings, false gods, idols (including family), sin, love for unbiblical things, and hating your own selves also (Lk 14:25-26), etc — it is forsaking all for Christ (Lk 14:33). You have to deny all false gods and religion, not add Jesus to the other gods. Jesus is exclusive. He must be exclusively received, completely alone, NO other gods or idols or sins in unison. That includes family — arents, siblings, spouse, children, extended family — which often is the biggest deal and obstacle as to why people will not repent and follow Christ. What will my family think? What if they hate me? What if they will attempt to kill me (like in Islam and amongst Jews)? Precisely. That is the cost and it’s completely required if you’ll be saved. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (v. 26). You come to salvation with an empty hand, hating all things in comparison to the love you have for Christ. Hating here refers to detesting. You turn from your family, an idol, to God. Completely. Not partially. You must detest them, in order to turn from them. You must be willing to have a rift in your family, a rift in your marriage, a rift with the whole world, which could cost you your life. A rift with your own personal ambitions. Submitting your whole life to following Him and doing what He asks. This by the way is repentance again. Its turning from your way to His way. Its giving up your life, for His life. Its “turn[ing] to God from idols to serve the living and true God;” (1 Th 1:9). Its a great trade, its giving everything for the pearl of great price, for the hidden treasure in the field. And really what are you giving up? Nothing. Its all vanity and vexation of spirit. And everything belongs to God since we can’t take anything with us to hell anyway. Or to heaven for that matter. “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” (1 Tim 6:7). I am helpless and cannot add anything to salvation. This is not adding something wonderful to something wonderful. You aren’t such a good guy.
In other words, Jesus says don’t come to Me unless you have accessed the price and are willing to pay it. Self-denial, self-crucifixion, self-submission. “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” (v. 33). Disciple by the way, again, is a saved person. You can’t be saved unless you are willing to give everything up. The price is a willingness to give everything up, even though the dumping of all your earthly goods on its own doesn’t save you. But you have to be willing because that is how devoted you are in receiving Christ, you deny all your worldly longings and belongs, you even deny your own right to live and submit your will to everything He says and the cause of Christ.
So its not about you, or your self-esteem, but about your sin, your desperation, and you’ve seen Christ as so priceless and so valuable as your Saviour from sin and death and hell, that you would be willing to give up everything. Thats the message of the gospel as preached here by Jesus, and consistently so throughout the Gospels. If you don’t carry your own cross, that is be willing to die and give your life and come after me, you cannot be My disciple. Not being His disciple is not being saved. It just can’t be any clearer than that. When Jesus stated in Lk 14:26-35 that lest you meet His requirements and criteria to be His disciple, He was declaring to his mostly unsaved audience that you cannot be my disciple. In other words, Jesus was saying that you cannot be saved. Jesus is not teaching lost people how to be better Christians and disciples. We know that among “the great multitudes” (v. 25), the vast majority were unsaved and would remain unsaved, noted in the very context (15:1-2), and further in Jn 6:2, 60-66 where the same people are referenced, “many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” Jesus never had more than just “a little flock” (Lk 12:32). After His death and ascension back to Heaven, there was 120 meeting in an upper room in Jerusalem in Acts 1, tarrying for the promise from God the Father to be "endued with power from on high.” (Lk 24:49).
(e) Luke 17:33,
“Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.”
So its the same principle. You attempt to hold on to your own agenda, plan, success, dreams, self-esteem — you lose. And what is the direct contextual example? Lot’s wife (v. 32). Jesus tells us to remember her. Why? She sought to save her life, her heart was where she had (allegedly) come out of, so she lost it. A pillar of salt to remind the false professor of his end. Further contextual example includes those that lived “in the days of Noe,” whose hearts were in the things of this life and world, on self, eating, drinking and marrying, and of the billions of people on earth, only 8 were saved, and as it “shall . . . be also in the days of the Son of man,” (vv. 26-27) which is in our day, the last days.
(f) John 12:24-25,
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.”
John didn’t leave out this core teaching of Jesus. Hating your life is necessary, to save it. This is also what Jesus said in Lk 14:26, “If any man come to me, and hate not . . . his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” To be fruitful for Christ, starts with salvation, and that starts with dying to self, which is the only seed that can be gain fruit, and all saved people are fruitful from the moment of their conversion (Col 1:4-6; Matt 13:23), thus death to self is a necessary prerequisite to true Biblical salvation. Jesus said salvation is going to cost you your life, you are going to have to die. The path that Christ was going was a path of persecution and death. So you want to come after Jesus do you; you want to follow Jesus do you? See it’ll cost you everything. The Lord may not take your life or all your money, or your family or your spouse, or your job, but you need to be willing if that is what He wants. You need to be desperate enough to embrace Christ no matter what the price. You can’t hang on to anything plus Jesus. Its only Jesus.
(g) Matthew 16:24-26,
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”
These verses are parallel to our text in Mk 8:34-38. The verses prior to this text, Jesus was reiterating that He was going to die. Not only that He was going to die, but also “if any man will come after me,” he is going to have to die as well, he will have to “deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” This is self-death, death to self. Following Christ is the end of you. It is slaying you. Like Paul, who counted all things loss and dung that he might gain Christ (Phil 3). That was salvation he was referring to, and it is the attitude that is only to expected by God if you would be saved.
All these passages are reflective of the true gospel of self-denial, like Mk 8:34-38. The true gospel that is about losing your life, death to self, self-denial. This is the gospel that saves; the only gospel that saves. The true gospel is not a man-centred theology, but a Christ-centred theology. Who gives you life? He does. It centres around Him. I give everything to Christ no matter what it costs me. Thats the gospel. Thats trusting in Him.
Slaying self, willing to die, slavishly submit in obedience to Jesus Christ might not sell, might not be smart marketing, but it just happens to be the truth, the true gospel of self-denial. It is the straight (constricted), narrow gate, “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt 7:14). The narrow gate is hard to find. This is certainly true. Today you can go to church after church after church, and “Christian” after “Christian” after “Christian,” and never find it. And people don’t want the narrow path with so few people on it. They don’t like that, how that feels with so few people entering the strait, restricted gate and narrow way. Many professing Christian’s think like this. A church must be doing something wrong when chunks of people aren’t being “saved,” when pews aren’t being filled, or so few people are coming while other churches have so many people coming, so they must be succeeding and doing something right. They claim it is the power of God, which is why they say it’s not happening in small, “non-succeeding” churches, where they allegedly don’t see great things happening. It’s not happening because you don’t have Gods power. This is a direct side effect from the seeker sensitive heresy that has permeated practically all modern day “evangelical” or such type of churches, purveyed by ungodly wolves in sheep’s clothing like Rick Warren, Robert Schuller and his number one pupil Bill Hybels, amongst many others. Our only argument is scripture, which shows why we are true and they are not. And this is the casualty in such environments. Truth is no longer absolute in evangelical churches (and the like) but relative, and that is the most characteristic of evangelicalism today. Feelings and experience are elevated above the truth, they go to their experience as a basis for their plan, which trumps the absolute truth of scripture. This is a great deception and they are bearing false witness to the truth. You cannot reinvent the powerful gospel to suit you or your needs. Its not those who say “Lord, Lord” that are saved, but those that do the will of the Father (Matt 7:21).
This is exactly what Jesus is saying in Matt 7:13-14 which keeps going on to vv. 15-27, the cause and feeding of false teachers who are wolves in sheeps clothing (v. 15) that carry corrupt fruit on corrupt trees (vv. 16-20), not abiding in Gods will (v. 21) but doing their own thing even though they profess “Lord, Lord” and proclaim the things they have sacrificed for Jesus (v. 22), but they built their lives on sand, and not on a solid Rocky foundation (vv. 24-27), to whom Jesus would profess, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (v. 23). These are people that occupy the wide road, belonging to churches that feed their lusts, feelings, imaginations, and desires, the very people that Jesus is referring to here.
This connects to what Jesus says in Lk 13:23-24,
“Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.”
This explains why people in evangelicalism and Christiandom are for the most part unsaved. They are of the “many” who “will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” Does this salvation, entering in through the strait, or narrow, or constricted gate, sound easy? It is hard to find and harder to get through. Why? Because it is hard to slay yourself and deny yourself. And that is the reigning reality in man’s fallenness, that man is the master of his own soul, the captain of his own fate, the monarch of his own world, king, and then to say he has to slay himself, he has to deny himself, thats to much. If you have a gospel that doesn’t include that, you will have a people that enters the wide gate unto the broad path that doesn’t lead to heaven, but to hell.
The true gospel calls for total and absolute self denial, the recognition that you have nothing of which you are worthy, nothing for which you can be commended, nothing in you that needs to be salvaged, but rather you are willing to slay everything that your are. Your hopes, dreams, ambitions, needs, etc, you give that all up for the sake of the pearl of great price (Matt 13). For the sake of Christ. This is what means to receive and surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ, in repentance and faith.
The Bible teaches by way of paradox that the way down is the way up, to be humbled is to be exalted, the broken and contrite spirit is the healed and rejoicing spirit, the repenting soul is the victorious soul, to have nothing is to possess everything, to give is to receive, to lose your life is to save your life, to give up everything is to gain everything, to wear the cross is to wear the crown, to surrender is to have freedom, finding Gods light in my darkness, receiving Gods joy in my sorrow, Gods grace in my sin, Gods riches in my poverty, and Gods life in my death. This is the true Biblical gospel, the gospel of self-abandonment and self-denial, but it’s been hijacked by a counterfeit version, the “gospel” of self-fulfillment.
The counterfeit false gospel of self-fulfillment is an artificial “conversion,” which is the popular way, giving people the illusion that they are saved, when they’re not. Then one day they will face Christ and say “Lord, Lord” but what will the Lord say?
“And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matt 7:21-23)
Like the false gospel of works, the false gospel of self-fulfillment is the wide gate (non-constricted) and broad path, the road well travelled with lots of space for baggage and sin,
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:” (Matt 7:13)
This is what most churches and so-called Christians are proclaiming.
But its a false gospel, another gospel, one that is perverted, one that is warned of in Scripture,
"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." (Gal 1:6-9)
The gospel has to be the true gospel as found in Scripture. It is hard to find that truth, but its even harder to submit to it, because man worships himself. Those who go out and preach the truth, know all to well that very few will seek and strive to enter the narrow gate.
The gospel has never changed. Its always been the same. This is the gospel presented and preached by the prophets and saints in the OT, preached by the apostle, preached by the Lord Jesus Christ and others in the Bible, has always been exactly like this. We know that because of the statements made by NT writers like Paul in Rom 10.
If you give anything less than this, in terms of the true gospel, people could be deceived. It happens everyday today, thousands of times over.
Well what if they don’t respond? That isn’t the issue. That is in the power of God to determine. What born again believers are responsible for is the purity of the gospel. People that know what God’s Word says, will want to give it to people just like it says. Thats what’s important to truly saved people. What I like about it, is that its the truth. Its powerful. Its exactly what God says, in His Word. Results is not what motivates me, because its not a qualifier for motivation in Scripture. Would I like to see a lot of people getting saved. Yes, but it doesn’t guide my preaching or my motivation. I want people to hear the entire unadulterated truth of the gospel. I don’t want to leave anything out. I want people to be saved, and that requires the whole story, the entire gospel. Motivation for preaching the gospel, for preaching the truth, is obedience to God’s Word, to exalt Christ, and to please Him, just like Paul declares in Gal 1:10,
“For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”
How is it with you friend? Are you shamed of Christ? Are you His enemy? Have you embraced a false gospel that you manipulated to fulfill your selfish desires and lusts, instead of submitting yourself to God and the true gospel, which requires self-denial? Flee for refuge from the wrath to come, to the cross of Christ, where your shame can be cleansed and removed forever.
“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Is 55:1-3, 6-7).
And when you do find Jesus Christ and truly and repentantly believe on Him, you will live for Him and bring glory to Him through godly and righteous unselfish living and will unashamedly confess Him and His gospel before the unsaved, which includes false professing believers,
“For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” (Rom 10:11).
We encourage our readers to examine themselves whether they be in the faith (2 Cor 13:5), because many are not.