Let’s Follow Christ Together in 2024 (Mt. 16:21-28)

As we look back over 2023 and look forward to 2024, there are a lot of things to be thankful for as a church and a lot of things to be hopeful for.  Of course, the greatest cause for both thanksgiving and hope is Jesus Christ, the Lord of the church, who is risen and enthroned at the Father’s right hand and who is working through his people in every part of the world.  He has been and is working in and through this church.  I am thankful for every one of you, and for the faith and love that you have exhibited in your lives.  Some of you have gone through tremendous difficulties in the past year, and yet you met them with courage and faith, and glorified the Lord in your life.  I am so thankful for that.  I am thankful for the grace of the Spirit of God in your lives.

I am thankful for the unity of this church and for the love that you have for each other.  Let’s grow in that this year, shall we? I am thankful for your love of the preaching of God’s word.  I am thankful for the successful singing school and October meeting of the past year.  I am thankful for the generosity of the church in its efforts to help our community through Valley Interfaith, Life Forward, and the City Gospel Mission, where we are able to not only help feed the homeless but present the gospel to them every month.  I am thankful for our efforts for the spread of the gospel in all the world, especially in India and Ghana.  

And I am hopeful as I look forward to this year, as we begin our growth group efforts, as we look forward to the possibility of sending folks overseas – which we haven’t done since Covid, as we look forward to hosting our October meeting later this year, among other things.  I am looking forward to God’s work in each one of you, and for the regular work of grace through the ordinary means of grace.  God’s work is not usually flashy but steady, and that’s what I hope and pray for each one of you – for steady growth in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This year, let’s follow Christ together.  Can we make that the theme for this year?  In 2024, I want personally but also corporately to follow Jesus more fully and faithfully and Biblically and fruitfully and joyfully in every aspect of life and the life of this church.  When we get to the end of this year, I hope to look around and see each of you still following the Lord –  and hopefully for us to be joined by others!  Don’t follow the crowd.  Don’t follow the dollar.  Don’t follow fame.  Follow Jesus.  If you aren’t following him, my prayer is that you will hear him call, “Come, follow me!”  But certainly this is how I want to start off the year.  I want to follow Jesus, and I want you to follow him with me.

But what does that mean?  This morning, I want us to look at Matthew 16, especially verses 21-28, and to be instructed and encouraged and exhorted to follow the Lord.  In verses 13-20, we read of Peters confession, this Great Confession, and then we read of our Lord's response in the Great Benediction: “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”  It almost seems like this brings us to a climax in the gospel story.  It means that the disciples finally got it; they finally understood who Jesus was.  But the disciples still do not understand all the implications of the mission of our Lord, and in particular we note that they don't understand the need for the Messiah to die. This is why Jesus, after he pronounces the Great Benediction over Peter and promises that he will be a foundational apostle for the church he is building, we have this very strange verse in verse 20 that says he charged his disciples they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. You might think that having got it, he would tell them, “OK, now go tell people that I am the Christ.” But he didn't; he did the opposite and said essentially,  “Don't tell anyone.”  

He did this because they still didn't really understand all the implications of who he truly was. They knew that he was the Christ, but they didn't fully comprehend his mission and they understood it in primarily in terms of an earthly rule.  But now that the disciples are truly and fully convinced that Jesus is the Christ, our Lord begins – you see that word began in verse 21 – he begins to unpack the meaning of his coming to earth and he tells them very plainly in verse 21 that he'd come to die: “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” 

Now it's not that Jesus had not hinted before of his death; rather, this was the first time that he begins to speak to his disciples openly and plainly about it without using metaphors, in bold language.  The gospel of Mark says that he “spake that saying openly,” indicating that before he hadn’t.  Yet in our Lord’s wisdom, he says that you're not going to go out and share this and tell others about me.  His wisdom in that was vindicated almost immediately and we see in verse 22 that Peter is offended that our Lord should have to go through this. Jesus said, “It is necessary for me to suffer, it's necessary for me to die.”  And Peter is offended, and he's he doesn't think that the Lord should have to suffer such indignities and death at the hands of his enemies. It was not Peter's idea of the Messiah, and so he rebukes the Lord.

The irony is that Peter has just confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, and now he sees fit to rebuke him!  “Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee.” And our Lord, who had just pronounced a blessing upon Peter, now reproves him as a tool of Satan: “You get behind me Satan; you are an offense to me. You savor not the things that be of God, but those would be of men.”  By the way, this shows that great spirituality does not prevent a person from great stupidity, and the blessed-art-thou-Peter becomes in a matter of moments the tool-of-Satan-Peter.  It ought to give all of us pause because no matter how spiritual we think we are, that doesn't mean that we are not prone to sin, and often stupid sin just like Peter here. 

Now what our Lord does now is to corrects a misperception of what it means to follow him.  This was of course based upon a misperception of who he was, and this is what caused Peter to rebuke Jesus.  He still did not understand fully what it meant for Jesus to be the Messiah really. So partly to correct their misapprehension of what he was, he corrects their misapprehension of what it meant for them to be a disciple of him.  You see, if Jesus had simply come to overthrow the enemies of Israel, if he had just come to overthrow and conquer Rome, then it didn't make sense for Jesus that have to die.  But it also didn't make sense for his disciples to have to suffer. I mean, after all, to the victor belongs the spoils, and the disciples were very clearly looking forward very soon to participating in the sweet fruit of Christ victory over all the enemies of God, of the people of God. So he clears up the confusion about the cost of discipleship, and at the same time he clears up their misunderstanding about who they were following.  

He tells them (and us) that following Christ means to bear your cross.  If that is so, then the mission of the Messiah cannot be understood primarily in terms of an earthly reign and earthly blessings. He’s telling his disciples and he's telling us, “I have come to bear a cross; that means if you want to follow me you also are going to have to bear cross. The disciple is not above his Master; I have to die and  it's necessary.  You're going to have to die; it's necessary.  There's no way to get around it.”

But notice that's not all he says. Cross bearing is not an end in itself. I mean, yes, the Messiah must suffer many things and be killed, but that's not the end of the story. Jesus goes on to say that he will be raised again the third day. Even so, cross bearing is not an end in itself for the disciples either.  It's not an end in itself for you and I losing our life for the sake of Christ is the way to find it.  Our Lord says in verse 25 that the disciple dies to himself or herself in this life in hopes of the resurrection from the dead. So in other words, Jesus didn't come to earth simply to make things better for us in the here and now; he came to purchase by his death something far more precious and lasting – eternal resurrection in the life to come. He did not come so that we would find our reward in this age but in the age to come. 

For that reward our Lord had to die and if we will obtain that reward we too have to die.  Our Lord is  saying, “I have to die to obtain what I came to accomplish, and if you want to follow me and you want to share with me in that glory reward you are going to have to die also.” I think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words, “When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.” Now that doesn't mean that doesn't mean that our death and our Lord's death are the same.  

It doesn't mean that our cross bearing is the same as Jesus's cross bearing. This is because our Lord’s cross is more than just an example. He is an example, and he is setting himself before us as an example in this text, but he is also more than an example. His cross was not just exemplary, it was expiatory.  He did not come merely to stand for righteousness but to vindicate the righteousness of God in justifying sinners. He did not come merely to be a witness against false religion but to do something that would make true religion possible.  He did not come to bear his own sins but to bear the sins of others. As he put it later in this gospel in chapter 20 verse 28, “The Son of man has not come to be ministered to, I did not come to be served, but to serve and to give my life a ransom for many.” We can't do that; we cannot even give a ransom; we cannot purge the guilt of our sins.  We cannot undo the just standards of condemnation upon our souls. But Jesus as the son of God was able to do that. He could do what we cannot do. By his death he undoes all the sin that we have done.  If he had not died for our sins upon the cross we would not be able to participate with in the glory of his Father.  

The cross bearing of Jesus our Savior and Lord makes our cross bearing meaningful and possible. So they're not the same, but neither must we think that the cross bearing of Jesus cancels out our cross bearing. It doesn't mean that, and if there's anything that this text says, it is that every disciple of Jesus must follow the master in self-denial and cross bearing. He says in verse 24, “If any man will come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  There's no other path to discipleship than the path of cross bearing.

And how do you deal with Jesus words in verse 24, “If any man will come after me let him take up his cross let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me,” – with these words our Lord is calling his people to Christ-like suffering. You know, it’s a mistake for anyone to thinks that our life in this world will be hunky Dory as long as we're faithful.  Unfortunately, I think even the most orthodox tend to interpret God's blessings in terms of material and physical benefit, and conversely we equate financial and material prosperity with the blessing of God. And so therefore when we are robbed of earthly comforts we think that either God has forsaken us or he's angry with us or that we have sinned and are reaping the consequences of some sin. 

The fact of the matter is that this mindset is not just the trademark of the prosperity gospel preachers. Most Christians, including you and me if we're honest, have a little bit of the prosperity gospel mindset. Though we would never verbalize the view that faith in Christ leads to earthly blessing, though we would never say that if I’m just faithful enough I'll be healthy, wealthy, and prosperous, and wise.  Nevertheless, I think we have this expectation that the Lord will crown our lives with the fat of this world if we don't stray too far away.  But that's not the case. I've heard of a story of a Christian family in Asia whose home was invaded by people who were hostile to faith in Christ.  Before they left, they cut off one of the hands of the mother of that family. Now my friends, that didn't happen because she done something wrong or wasn’t it tapping into the blessing of God's protection. It happened precisely because she was being faithful to Christ, and she lost her hand for it. So how do you cope with that?  Jesus does not say that if we follow him we will be happy all the way to heaven.  Rather he says that if you want to follow him you must deny yourself and take up your cross you must die to yourself.

Now you do not deny yourself things that you don't want, right?  It's not self-denial when you get rid of something out of your life that makes you miserable; rather, it's self-denial when for Jesus’s sake you have to say no to something that you really, really want to have and keep.  And our Lord says that this decision to deny yourself is par for the course when it comes to discipleship.  Listen to the way the author of Hebrews describes believers in ages past: “Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:35–38,ESV). Note the way that the author of Hebrews described these people; he says that that that the world was not worthy of them.  These people did not go through this because they sinned; they did not go through this because God was angry at them, they were precious saints in a hostile world, and it's this group of people that the author of Hebrews is referring to when he talks about the great cloud of witnesses that is there cheering all the disciples of all time on to persevere to the end. In other words, the lives of these saints are not displayed in the Bible as museum pieces; their lives are meant to be a model for us today. The Christian is called to a life of self-denial and cross bearing.  This is what it means to follow Christ: it means to bear a cross.

What does it mean to bear the cross?

Now I think it's important to make a few clarifications here.  First of all, we need to point out that a life of self-denial, cross bearing, does not just come as a result of persecution.  It may happen that way, but not necessarily.  A Christian may be able to avoid persecution, but a Christian will not be able to avoid self-denying.  We have to deny our flesh and the sinful tendencies of our hearts and to constantly say no to coveting hearts even when we are not being actively persecuted.   This is what the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:27: he said I keep under my body I bring it into subjection lest that by any means when I preach to others I myself should be a castaway. Paul is saying, I'm very careful to deny myself because I don't want to be disqualified, I don't want to be castaway.  I think this is what the apostle Paul's talking about in Philippians 2 when he talks about working out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  If you're not denying your sinful self, you are simply not following Christ.

Now I can hear an objection here which goes like this.  Wait a minute, someone might say, how can you follow Christ in denying sinful desires when Christ was not sinful?  And we must affirm right away that Christ never sinned. He was sinless, but though we must never cease to affirm the sinlessness of Christ, neither should we fail to understand the implications of the fact that Christ in his humanity wrestled with temptation without ever giving in.  Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus Christ was in all points all points tempted like as we are yet without sin.  Now do you think that “yet without sin” means that it was easy for him? Think again: this does not mean that he does not understand anything about self-denial. On the contrary, I would argue that it means he understands self-denial in ways that no one in this room does. I think C. S. Lewis is helpful here; he said this: “Bad people in one sense know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.  You we never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it. Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded to temptation,  is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means, the only complete realist.” Someone likened it to this: there's a rope around your waist trying to pull you into a pit and most of us resist for a while and we get tired and give in and over into the pit we go.  But Jesus Christ never gave in, no matter how much force was tugging on that rope.  He never gave in.  He understood more about self-denial than anyone in this room does.  So yes, we must follow Christ by exercising self-denial whenever we're tempted, however the temptation comes. So that's one clarification I want to make.

The second clarification is that cross-bearing is not inconsistent with material prosperity.  It is just as wrong to equate earthly wealth with a lack of spirituality as it is to equate material blessing with the blessing of God. This was the mistake of the monastics in the early church. They thought that voluntary poverty was the door to spirituality, but it's not.  Now this is not mean that Christ does not call sometimes call people to sell all they have, like he did the rich young ruler. I think of George Mueller and his wife. Although they didn't sell everything, they got rid of everything they didn't absolutely need as a way to make it very clear that God was providing for all their needs, and God blessed them that way.  And certainly every believer ought to hold any earthly riches with an open hand. But we must not think that if we have prospered in this world that makes us a bad person. It only makes you a bad person if riches occupy the place in your heart that only God should have. So following Christ includes more than just enduring poverty and persecution.

So what does it mean then to deny yourself?  Well, in this context we can go to verses 24-25: “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 will find it.”  To follow Christ is to live for the sake of Christ.  It means to identify with Christ publicly.  It means to “go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach” (Heb. 13:13).  It means to believe in him as Lord and Savior.  It means to trust in him as the only one who can cleanse and free us from our sins bring us to God.  It means to submit one’s life to his teaching and example.  It means to love him above all things.  And that means that self-denial is saying no to anything and everything that causes us or that comes between us and treasuring Christ and magnifying his worth. It's denying ourselves of anything and everything that causes us to savor the things of man rather than the things of God. As Jesus put it in verse 23, it is losing our life in this world so that we may gain it in the next.

The proof that someone is following Christ is not a mere profession of faith – though it is not less than that.  The proof is whether or not they are bearing a cross for the sake of Christ.  Are you doing that?  Have you died to self for the sake of the Lord?  

The fact of the matter is that cross bearing will not be easy; otherwise, it would be foolish to liken it to bearing a cross.  No one saw a man bearing his cross and said, “Wow, that's something I'd like to do!”  So the question is, how do we embrace a life of self-denial and cross bearing?  And the answer is in our text.  We do so by rearranging our priorities, the priorities of our heart, mind, and desires, our purposes in light of the world to come. 

Now I think it's very important for us when we read this to emphasize that our Lord is not just asking us to give up something. God is not a cosmic killjoy; true religion is not a place where gloom and doom are sanctified. Rather, our Lord is asking us to give up something for something else.  And what we get in the place of what we give up is so much better.  The cross-bearing is worth it; that's his argument: “The cross bearing I'm asking you to take is worth it.” So note the argument our Lord makes. He gives three reasons why you should bear your cross and follow him.  

Three reasons you should follow Christ and bear your cross

Note the logic here. Our Lord uses the word for three times in verse 25,26, and 27, to support his call in verse 24 – if you want to follow me you must take your cross. Why do this?  There are three reasons: (1) for whoever will save his life will lose it, (2) for what is a man profited, (3) for the son of man shall come. 

The for of losing and gaining your life (verse 25)

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”  So first of all, you should bear your cross because as our Lord puts it in verse 25, if you don't, you are settling for a temporary reward that will end in utter loss, whereas if you are cross bearer you may suffer temporary loss, but you will gain eternal life.  Now clearly “to save his life” in verse 25 means “to save your life in this world, in this age.”  It's referring to people who save their lives in the here and now by avoiding bearing the cross. 

That's a tragic choice because although it seems like the right choice at first it isn't. The losing of one's life that Jesus is referring to here his not losing one's life in the here and now, because the whole point is that it was saved in the here and now by avoiding self-denial. Rather, this is losing one's life in the age to come. Of course, he makes this more clear in the following verses, but the deal is that if you do not bear your cross, you're making a tragic choice.  You're being satisfied with temporary treasures when you could have so much more. 

Now my friends, everyone who is confronted with the gospel makes one of these two choices. There's no third option. Either you refuse to bear the cross and follow Christ, or you take up the cross. If you refuse the cross, you might save your life now, but you've lost it forever.  On the other hand, if you take up your cross you're going to lose your life now, but you won't gain it forever.  And so again you see our Lord is not asking his disciples to do something that will end in misery and grief; rather, he's asking them and he's asking us to make temporary sacrifices even though they may be at times very painful and very hard. He asked us to do this in order that we might gain life and find life and joy forever.  Again Paul makes the analogy to sports in 1 Corinthians 9: just as they deny themselves things to gain a temporal crown, even so, Paul says, as Christians we deny ourselves to gain something so much better. So in verse 25 our Lord frames the argument in terms of losing your life and finding your life.

The for of profit and loss (verse 26)

“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?” Now in verse 26, our Lord frames the argument in terms of loss and profit. He's trying to convince us this is not a bad choice that I'm asking you to make.  This actually is a logical choice.  This is the right choice.  It's tragic when people make the opposite choice. So many people in the world do. But the argument is clear: there is no comparison between what you can gain in this world and the world to come. It is simply not worth it to gain the world if in the process you lose your own soul. And the corollary is that losing any part of this world is worth it if that's what it takes to follow Christ and gain your soul in the end.  I can't read these words without thinking of Jim Elliott’s words, who said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” You know, this world is temporary, it's fleeting and so are all of its pleasures. This is what this is what gave Moses the incentive to persevere. He forsook the treasures of Egypt, the riches of Egypt, choosing to suffer affliction with the people of God because he had respect unto the recompense of reward. The world cannot keep you from death; it cannot give you everlasting gain. Only Jesus Christ can do that. And taking the cross means only losing what you cannot keep to gain what you will never lose. 

The apostle John put it this way in 1 John 2:17: “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”  Listen, my friends, if you stake your hopes on the pleasures and comforts and securities of this world, then you are banking your hopes on things that will pass away. And it’s not like they might pass away, they will pass away. On the other hand, those who do God's will abide forever. There's just no comparison. 

The for of future judgment and future glory

Finally, in verse 27 our Lord argues from the inevitability of a second coming in the final judgment: “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.” Notice the language of our Lord here: he shall reward every man. There is a true and lasting reward for those who follow Christ.  But the Lord does not come now; that's the whole point here, right? It comes when our Lord returns in the glory of his Father with his angels. That's the second coming and that means in the interim, those who follow him are going to have to deny themselves and bear their cross if they want to participate in the glory to come. 

This verse demonstrates once again the importance of holding the second coming and the final judgment as real and true events in history. These will be events that put an end to human history as we know it.  But these are going to be historical events nonetheless because if they're not there's no reason to bear the cross. If they're not, there's no reason to deny yourself.  The reward for the Christian is not in the cross bearing but in the reward that comes at the end of the age, for those who bore the cross faithfully. 

It really bothers me when people argue that if there is no God I would still live a satisfied life as a Christian. But the Bible does not know that mentality, right? Paul said if Jesus Christ is not risen from the dead we are of all men the most to be pitied, we are of all men most miserable. Our hope is not in reaping the benefits of the present but in holding out for the glory to come which is worth it.  

So what does it mean to take up the cross?  It means that for the sake of Christ we lose our life in this world; it means that for Jesus's sake we give up on gaining the world; it means that we wait for our reward at the end of the age when we find life forever in the presence of God. And we do this by preferring the things of God over the things of men, by savoring the things of God over the things of men, by putting our hopes on the age to come rather than on the present age. 

Future glory invades the present to give us present grace to follow Christ

Now following Christ and bearing the cross doesn't mean that there’s no reward in the present nor does it mean that we are obeying to bear the cross on our own.  The Lord is with us to the end of the age, and all along the way the believer sees and experiences the presence of God in his life and receives strength and encouragement to keep on keeping on. We could not make one step in the present without Christ and his grace being with us. I think this is one reason why our Lord said what he did in verse 28: “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”  Having just spoken of the Son of man coming in his glory, he now promises that some of those who were standing there would still be around to see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. There's a lot of disagreement over what our words are referring to in verse 28. Clearly, he cannot be referring to the second coming because we're still waiting for it.  Nevertheless, there’s a lot of disagreement over what our Lord was referring to here. Some believe that by the coming in verse 28, he is referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  If that were the case, the coming would be a coming in judgment, a coming in temporal judgment.  To be honest, this is hard for me to see. Other authorities argue that our Lord is referring to the spread of the gospel post-Pentecost and the coming of Christ in that sense of the spread of the gospel the through the Holy Spirit into the world.  But I also have a hard time seeing that this is what our Lord is referring to here as well.  Because whether you're referring to the destruction of Jerusalem, or the post-Pentecost spread of the gospel, in neither case was there an outward manifestation of the glory of the coming of the kingdom, which is what our Lord seems to be promising here.

What I believe our Lord is referring to is the Transfiguration, which happens in the next few verses in chapter 17. That’s one reason why I believe that this is what he’s referring to here, because in every one of the Synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which records Jesus’s words in verse 28, in every single instance immediately following they record the Transfiguration for us.  So it’s clear to me that the apostles make a connection between what our Lord says in verse 28 and the Transfiguration.

But there’s another reason I take this view, and it’s Peter’s words in his Second Epistle, in 2 Peter 1:16-17. Now I want you to hear the words that the apostle Peter uses here.  Jesus says in verse 28 that “there will be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom,” and in verse 27 he talked about the Son of man coming in his glory.  So there are those words coming and glory.  Here’s 2 Pet. 1:16-17: “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Now Peter is very clearly referring to the events that transpired on the Mount of Transfiguration right there. And Peter is saying, “We saw the glory of the coming Son of man on that mount,” so even though it was only a foretaste they saw it. Now this experience obviously had a tremendous impact upon Peter as he lived out a very difficult life of cross-bearing (and according to tradition he died on a cross). Peter as he went through his life, he was reminded of this, of this the glory that he had seen on the Mount of Transfiguration, he was reminded that this is a foretaste of what I will one day see. Yes, Christ was crucified; yes, Christians are persecuted; but he remembered the glory and it steeled him through the hard times and helped him to persevere to the end.  He remembered that this was not just a dream; it was real.

And even though you and I have not seen glory with our eyes like Peter did and James and John, the fact of the matter is that Jesus Christ is present with us in power and glory even now, and just as Christ gave the apostles glimpses into the future glory, is it not true that he does the same to us in different ways? I mean, just the fact that we've been converted and born again means that we have experienced the power of Christ in our lives. We see the power of Christ in his word, and like Peter we have no need to doubt that is what is real and it's gloriously real because we’ve had a foretaste of it. The apostle Paul put it this way in his letter to the Ephesians 1:13-14, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” God gives all believers an earnest of the coming. It is true that we do not have the full inheritance now right, but we have an earnest of it through the promised Holy Spirit. So just as the Transfiguration was for the apostles, an earnest of the experience of the glory of Christ, the Holy Spirit is an earnest of our experience of the glory to come.

And so I close by saying we have every reason to bear the cross.  It does not that mean I understand every reason behind every suffering that I have to endure, nor does it mean that it will always be easy.  No, but it does mean that I can trust my Lord who has gone before me in bearing the cross. He is not asking me to do anything that he’s not only done but done in far greater measure that I could ever do.  It means that I can trust my Lord who is with me to strengthen me and gives me a foretaste of the coming kingdom that is so much better than anything the earth can afford.  I just want to emphasize again our Lord is not asking us to do something that is not worth it; it is worth it – that’s the whole point.  The self denial is not final; the cross bearing is not ultimate; self-denial leads to joy and cross bearing leads to glory. So may the spirit of Christ enable each one of us both individually and corporately to bear the cross, deny ourselves, savor the things of God over the things of men.  May the grace of God enable us to do so.


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