Sunday’s Sermon: We value Spiritual Surrender.

As you read Luke’s gospel, you find yourself noticing that the problem with building a Jesus movement is … Jesus. I find myself wondering, did this ever frustrate the disciples?

You see Jesus could gather the crowds. In Luke chapter 8 we read that “ a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him…”

Anyone with a mind for the growth of the Jesus cause would thaink that now would be a good moment to give this crowd something pithy and useful that will encourage them.

Jesus, however, tells them the parable of the sower. Rather than entertaining the hearers, it only perplexed them and they had to ask Jesus what it meant. (v9) And when they did, Jesus said that he spoke in parables so that people wouldn’t understand.

Through the rest of chapter 8 Jesus does amazing things and still the crowds gather. Then in chapter 9 he feeds five thousand people with a miracle of multiplication, and the disciples are beginning to grasp something. “Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” (Luke 9:20)

Things are going so well, and then Jesus has to go and make it so difficult!

(Luk 9:23) And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

(Luk 9:24) For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

(Luk 9:25) For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

That’s one of the passages I want to come back to a little later.

And then later on in Chapter 14 still the crowds are gathering. “Now great crowds accompanied him…”(Luk 14:25) and it seems like Jesus has a real opportunity. He begins to speak, and this is what he says:

(Luk 14:26) “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

(Luk 14:27) Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

(Luk 14:28) For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?

(Luk 14:29) Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,

(Luk 14:30) saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

(Luk 14:31) Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?

(Luk 14:32) And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

(Luk 14:33) So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

And Jesus refuses to be the popular unchallenging, figure of cut price spirituality. He refuses the easy gains of faithless pragmatism and in his love lays down a challenging call to “follow me.”

One of the questions often levelled at faith queries whether it is not a crutch for the weak and feeble. With Jesus, however, the question changes somewhat and becomes something more like “are you up to the challenge?”

When I think about what I mean by spiritual surrender then I suppose the two texts that come to mind are the ones we have read this morning. And especially the repeated call to “take up your cross and follow me.”

I want to look at these two passages this morning and understand a little of what Jesus meant, before I go on to ask the question: Why would I want to heed the call of Jesus to take up my cross?

What Jesus meant 1: Luke 9:23-25

The first question I want us to ask of this passage this morning is; to whom was Jesus speaking? It seems to be fairly clear that on this occasion he is with a fairly select group of disciples. Look at v18 with me.

(Luk 9:18) Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”

Here it is very clear that Jesus is in private with his disciples. If you read through with me, it seems clear that “The he said to them all” is referring to the disciples. In other words Jesus says these words to those who are already following him.

These men had already paid something of a price for following Jesus, but Jesus knows what will happen to him. Notice what he tells these disciples in v 22. Jerusalem, and what will happen there is already in mind.

So it’s to his disciples that he says Luke 9:23.

What did he mean by “take up your cross.” You sometimes hear people talk about “having a cross to bear.” And so often such talk minimises the scale of the meaning.

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem where in accordance with God’s foreordained plan he would carry his cross through the streets of Jerusalem before being crucified on it. Jesus would put God’s plan before his own life. Jesus would show us quite literally what it means to die to self and live for God.

This is the idea that Paul expresses in Gal 2:20 “ I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

This is the idea behind the words of hymns we have sung and songs we now sing:

Take my will and make it thine; it shall be no longer mine

Take my heart it is thine own; it shall be thy royal throne.

It’s what we mean when we sing “I’m giving you my heart” “I surrender all” “I will offer up my life”

It’s what Jim Elliot meant when he wrote in his journal “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot loose” just a couple years before he lost his life seeking to share the gospel with the Auca Indians in obedience to God’s call on his life.

I notice that Christians can spend a great deal of emotional energy asking the question “What does God have for me?” Sometimes we need to hear more clearly what Jesus has already called us to. Here Jesus says if you want to come after me this is what you must do. Take up your cross and follow me.

Just before we move on, I notice here in this verse the little word “daily” This spiritual surrender to God and his will is something that belongs to the routine of life. Daily we should pray “Lord let my will be surrender to yours today.”

What Jesus meant 2: Luke 14:26-33

If Luke 9:23 was spoken to those who were already following Jesus, the disciples, then to whom was Jesus speaking when he said very similar words in Luke 14:26-33?

Well here it’s very clear that Jesus is speaking to the large crowd that have gathered (v26). Whereas Jesus before said “if anyone would come after me” now he says “If anyone comes to me.”

Really he says three things.

(Luk 14:26) “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

Now we need to insist here that Jesus is not denying the fifth commandment. Rather he is saying “no other relationship can be first for anyone who is my disciple.”

(Luk 14:27) Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

You have to be a cross carrier. Do you notice what Jesus says. You cannot be my disciple if you are not prepared to walk as I walked. If you will not own a Jesus who carries his cross you cannot be his disciple.

(Luk 14:28) For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?

(Luk 14:29) Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,

(Luk 14:30) saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

Jesus says to those who would be his disciples, count the cost first. Are you prepared to pay it? Don’t start if you can’t keep going. Can you sense Judas getting nervous? I mean he’s the treasurer. Imagine it “Shouldn’t we send the pledge forms round first Lord?”

Now you might think: “What kind of religious leader would say something like that?” You have to be pretty confident that what you offer is worth everything if you are going to make those kind of statements.

(Luk 14:31) Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?

(Luk 14:32) And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

Here the image changes a little. I find myself wondering if it might mean a little more than count the cost, and be saying when you look at it rationally, surrender is a good idea. I mean it’s not like you are going to win.

(Luk 14:33) So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Here is the heart of spiritual surrender. To say Jesus is Lord is to let go of everything else.

Why would I want to heed the call of Jesus to take up my cross?

I will try to put this as simply as I know how. “You have nothing to loose and everything to gain.”

Look back at Luke 9:23-25 and see with me what Jesus says

(Luk 9:23) And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

(Luk 9:24) For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

(Luk 9:25) For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

You see Jesus himself answers this question for the disciples. Those who think that what they have now is worth holding on to will loose it anyway, so they might as well spend it now.

If I say to my children. “We are going into town this morning and you can have £5 pocket money, but you have to spend it this morning, and if you bring it home I will take it away from you.” Will they spend it?

What you have without Jesus is worth nothing in eternity and what you have with Jesus is worth everything now and in eternity.

If you had everything that the world had to offer, the price would still be worth paying.

It’s not a bad deal. Don’t come away from this sermon with the idea that the cost is so high but it’s not worth having. The cost is high but does even begin to reflect the value of what is on offer.

I have been re-reading C.S.Lewis’ Narnia series recently. In the book “Prince Caspian” Lucy, one of the four children who find themselves in the land of Narnia, meets with Aslan, the Lion who is the Christ figure. Aslan asks Lucy to “tell the others to follow. If they will not, then you at least must follow me alone.”

Lucy says to her sister and brothers: “I do hope you will all come with me… because I’ll have to go with him whether anyone else does or not.”

It’s Lucy who has the surrendered heart, and who knows that following Aslan is simply the best thing to do and the right thing to do, even if others disapprove, declare you to be foolish or resist.

I want this morning to give the last words again to Jesus. I want us to stop and listen and hear again his call to spiritual surrender:

Luke 9:23-25

Luke 14:26-33

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