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 Being a Christ Follower

Mark 8:34-38

Message #30

In our last message, Peter got the revelation from God that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior. And it was an incredible moment for all the Disciples, and they thought, now they’ve got it. Now they understand.

But as soon as Peter spoke this revelation truth that Jesus is truly the Savior (Messiah) – as soon as those words came out of Peter’s mouth – Jesus began explaining to the Disciples that he would actually have to suffer terribly and that he was going to be killed, but after three days he would rise from the dead. To which Peter responded by reprimanding Jesus. To which Jesus responded by reprimanding Peter. In Mark 8:33, Jesus says to Peter,

Mark 8:33 (NLT)
33 . . . “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”


(In our last message) Jesus lumped Peter together with Satan because Peter was seeing things from a human point of view, not God’s point of view, which should shock us when we understand that is what got Peter called Satan.

Then, (for today), in the very next sentence we read,  

Mark 8:34 (NLT)
34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, [Jesus] said, “If any of you wants to be my follower
(be a Christ-follower), you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 

As I’ve said, this is the turning point in the Gospel of Mark, and so, last week, Jesus made it perfectly clear who he is. Today, Jesus wants to make it perfectly clear what it means to be a Christ-follower. And so, Jesus is going to give the Disciples, the crowd, and us a three-point outline of what it looks like when we become a true follower of Jesus Christ.

And this is a critically important text today because this is also what it looks like to be a Christ-follower in the cancel culture we live in today. This is also what it looks like to be a Christ-follower in a totalitarian, even a communist culture. Even if we go underground as Christ-followers, this is still what we look like. This is what it looks like to be a Christ-follower under all government structures and all cultures. This is what it looks like to be a Christ-follower. The original Disciples were the first Christ-followers who lived and died in a cancel culture that was even more set against Christ than ours is today, at least so far.

So, at the end of verse 34, this is what Jesus says we must do in order to be his follower. Again, Mark 8:34.

Mark 8:34 (NLT)
34 . . . “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way . . .

#1) You MUST give up your own way (deny self)

Your translation may say, “let him” instead of “must.” But here is the “Translator’s Comment” from the New English Translation (NET) Bible.

The translation [MUST] better expresses the force of the Greek third person imperative than the traditional “let him” which could be understood as merely permissive.

In order to follow Jesus, we must give up our own way. And again, if your version says “DENY himself” that Greek word (for deny) means: give up our own way. Another definition is “Reject any connection with self.”  This takes the power of God and an incredible commitment from us to give up our own way – to reject all connection with self.

This is not just “deny self” as in giving up some sin. This is “Giving up our own way of life.” It’s giving up our “right” to ourselves. It’s giving up our “right” to run our own lives. It’s giving up our right to decide what we are going to do, or where we are going to go, or how our life is going to look. You give it up – you are not in control anymore; Jesus is in control. This is serious. This is about us surrendering our own way, our own desires, and instead, taking up the way and desires of the Lord Jesus.

1 Corinthians 6:19–20 (NLT)
19 . . . You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price . . .


When you surrender your life to Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, you no longer own yourself. You’ve given up your right to run your own life, and instead, you’ve committed to submit to the Leadership and Lordship of Jesus Christ.

This is the first thing Jesus says you must do in order to become a Christ-follower – you must give up your own way.

#2) You MUST take up your cross

Again, Mark 8:34,

Mark 8:34 (NLT)
34 . . . [Jesus said], “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must . . . take up your cross . . .


What does this mean? Well, it is not, “This difficulty is my cross to bear.” To the first Disciples, the cross meant only one thing. It was the most humiliating and horrific form of death the Romans could come up with, and Jesus had just explained to the Disciples that he was going to take up his cross – and they hated the idea so much that Peter reprimanded Jesus for it. But now it gets even harder for the Disciples and for us. Now Jesus says AND… if you want to be my follower, then YOU must take up your cross.

Those who died on the cross always carried their own cross. To be “carrying your own cross” meant you were a dead man walking. The Disciples would’ve known exactly what this meant. They did not confuse the cross with a piece of jewelry. They knew full well what it meant for someone to take up their own cross. It meant humiliation, suffering, and death.

Now, unless our country goes all the way to communism or something worse (which it could), us “taking up our cross” will probably not mean physical death on a physical cross. So, Jesus, knowing this, how does this apply (because a cross hasn’t been physically used in a long time). Is there a chance that it goes with the first step? It absolutely does. They go together. You must reject all connection to self, and you must crucify self. Something has to die on the cross; it’s the only purpose for the cross.

But what we must experience when we commit to become a Christ-follower is the humiliation, suffering and death of our self-centered life, and our pride. The connection, the theological principle, has to be death to self, our self-nature. Ninety-nine percent of all people who fail to follow Christ or who walk away from Christ, or fall away – whatever term you want to use – it’s their flesh that does it.

“Nah, I don’t wanna do that. It’s not the plan I had. I don’t know what Jesus is about; he must not be listening to my prayers,” and we just turn away.

I am convinced (personally) it would be easier to die physically. The humiliation, suffering, and death of our self-centered life and our pride is often far uglier than our physical death would be. It’s because I have to do it daily. Some of your translations say, “take up your cross daily.” The reason it says daily is because, in the Greek, these are present tense verbs, which means they are continual. So, you take up your cross, and then you take up your cross, and then after you take up your cross, you take up your cross. And so, some of the translations put the word “daily” in to convey this continual verb form.

And so, if we have to crucify our flesh daily, it's way harder. This takes the power of God every day. And so, if we reject self, then we can move to “Okay self, you must die. Again. Today.” Do you get the idea that self is in the way of being a Christ-follower? This is what Jesus is saying.

Here’s the deal. The power of God in you (the same power that rose Jesus from the dead), can accomplish anything. But only if you bring it. Only if you choose it. Only if you receive it. Only if you willingly crucify self, willingly reject self.

So, #1) We MUST give up our own way (deny self),
and #2) We MUST be willing to embrace the ugly death of our self-centered life and our pride. (Every day).

And then, number three comes easy.

#3) You MUST actually follow Jesus

Again, Mark 8:34.

Mark 8:34 (NLT)
34 . . . “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must . . . (actually) follow me.


So, this does not mean just repeat a prayer after me. Repeating a prayer to receive Christ into your life is great, and you all should do it. But the Bible makes it perfectly clear that initial commitment to receive Christ is an initial commitment. It’s not the end goal of following Jesus. It’s just the initial commitment.

And so, after you pray the prayer, Jesus says you must actually begin to follow him. The initial commitment is the first step, and then you take the second step, and then the third step, and then somewhere down the road, you take the one-millionth step. And you just keep following Jesus. (Here I am Lord, I’m still following you).

I can simply put what it means to actually follow Jesus, but you’re going to hate it. Many people who call themselves Christians absolutely refuse to do this. And you may decide right here, that it’s just too much. And you may turn away and go back to the wide road that leads to destruction. But I have to tell you - are you ready? To actually follow Jesus means – you obey him. It means you genuinely make decisions in your life according to God’s Word, above and in place of your own opinion!

There it is, Jesus didn’t sugar coat it, and he didn’t pull any punches. This is what we must do in order to truly follow Jesus.

#1) - We must give up our own way, (reject self)
#2) – We must take up our cross (self must die)
#3) – We must actually follow Jesus (obey His Word)


But listen, after Jesus tells us what it means to follow him. He tells us why we should to it. Starting in verse 35, Jesus provides some incredible motivation for why we should choose to be a Christ-follower.

Mark 8:35 (NLT)
35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.


There are only two attitudes you can take toward this temporal, earthly life.

#1) You can try to hang on to THIS life

Grab all you can. Go for the gusto. Acquire – attain – and become, and then you will LOSE your life.
Jesus is talking to this very person in a parable in Luke Chapter 12, and while this man was getting all he could from this life.

Luke 12:20–21 (NLT)
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’
21 “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”
That is hanging on to your life, only to lose it.


Or, you can have the second attitude. You can give up your life for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of the Good News, and you will save it.

Giving up your life means truly surrendering your life to Jesus as your Lord, and IF you will surrender your life for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of the Gospel, you will save it. Jesus says give up your self-life for his sake and for the Kingdom of God, and you will gain abundant life now and eternal life when this life ends.

Which is the point that verses 36-37 drive home.

Mark 8:36-37 (NLT)
36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?
37 Is anything worth more than your soul?


This is the real motivation to be a Christ-follower because whatever you view as “gaining the whole world” in this life. It could all end in a flash before the sun comes up tomorrow, and then – Is anything in this life worth more than your soul?

And finally, if Jesus hasn’t been straight enough yet, he finishes with a clear warning.

Mark 8:38 (NLT)
38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”


To be ashamed of Jesus means: you don’t want people to know that you are associated with him. Maybe someone convinced you to pray the prayer of faith in repentance for your salvation. But you were hoping to slip out and go right back to your life without anyone knowing you actually made a commitment to Jesus.

I’ve seen a lot of people do this. “I don’t like the idea of going to hell, so I’ll say the prayer with the preacher. But I don’t really want my friends to think I’ve gotten all religious. You know what I mean…”

Yeah, I know what you mean – you’re ashamed of being associated with Jesus Christ.

And so, again, verse 37 says, Is anything worth more than your soul? Because you might actually be saying there is something worth more than your soul.

“Well, it’s the guys at work. Their opinion of me is really important, you know.” “Well, it’s the woo-girls I go out with on Friday night. Their opinion of me is sooo important.” “But it’s okay, I prayed the prayer, so I’m good, right?”

All I know is THIS is what Jesus says (and it’s not the only warning like this in Scripture). Again, Mark 8:38.

Mark 8:38 (NLT)
38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message (not wanting to be associated with) in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person (not wanting to be associated with) when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”


Seems pretty clear, right?

Jesus has new life, abundant life, eternal life to give freely to his followers, and this new life does come by faith alone. Being a Christ-follower is not a work that earns you salvation. Being a Christ-follower is a response to knowing that you are saved.

And so, at the critical turning point in the ministry of Jesus, he makes this clear. If you would commit to be a Christ-follower, here is what you must do.

#1) - You must give up your own way, (reject self)
#2) - You must take up your cross (crucify self)
#3) – You must actually follow Jesus (obey His Word)


And if you will, the reward will be abundant life now and eternal life in heaven, living in the glory of the Lord. Embrace the offer of Jesus to lose this vapor of a life for his sake in order to gain abundant life now and eternal life in heaven.