The Inner Circle
In a rare private moment, Jesus leads a conversation with his inner circle of friends through a three-step process:
- Who Jesus really is
- What this means for him
- Where his followers fit in
It’s that last phase in the conversation that really bites and from it we will draw out four serious challenges.
Who Jesus really is
Jesus starts with a question.
Who do the crowds say I am? (Luke 9:18)
It’s just a theory, but I reckon Jesus already knew what people were saying about him. Jesus was a teacher and all good teachers begin their lesson with a stimulus, a starter, an introduction. Jesus was building up to the big question:
‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
Peter answered, ‘God’s Messiah.’ (Luke 9:20)
What this meant for him
Jesus explains that, “Because I am God’s Messiah, there are certain things you need to know about what has to happen to me.”
‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.’ (Luke 9:21)
Jesus had to suffer, be rejected, killed and resurrected.
That’s a lot of information for the disciples to take in at once. Things were just getting going in Jesus’ ministry. How could this make sense?
But there was more.
Where you fit in
Jesus then tells his disciples,
“If you’re going to follow me, this is how it has to look: Self-Denial.”
Here’s what he said, in the form of four questions. They act as a pretty serious spiritual fitness test:
1: Would you give up everything you own and all your relationships for Jesus?
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
Notice that following Jesus comes after taking up your cross. You can’t fully follow Jesus unless you are willing to daily nail all self-interest to the cross.
Paul seemed to have a grip on this reality:
You have died with Christ… (Colossians 2:20)
…You have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. (Colossians 3:9-10)
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
2: Are you trying to hang on to anything?
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. (Luke 9:24)
You might try to save your life on earth, save face, save your job or rescue your reputation. But if this is at the cost of wholeheartedly following Jesus, ultimately you lose.
Again, notice how Paul got a hold of this:
For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. (Philippians 1:21)
I hope it’s not just me that’s challenged by this.
3: How happy would you be if you gained everything you dream of but lost sight of Jesus?
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? (Luke 9:25)
To forfeit your very self is a big deal. It’s to miss out on becoming the person God made you to be – your true self as defined by your creator. Remember you were designed in his image (Genesis 1:27), he saw you in the womb (Psalm 139) and he has great plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11).
Don’t sacrifice all of that for some temporary worldly gain. In the grand scheme of things you will regret it!
4: Are you ever ashamed to admit you are a Christian?
Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26)
Christ will return. What will he find? I have been recently more challenged to be open about my faith when reading the following:
For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all. (Luke 8:17)
The people I hide my faith from will one day know the truth even if it’s when Jesus returns. What will they think of me at that point when they realise I had kept the gospel from them? It’s worth risking a little ridicule now.
If you’ve answered the above four questions honestly, well done!
Sometimes I’m embarrassed to admit to my faith when I anticipate the person I’m talking to will think I’m stupid. The Bible calls that the ‘fear of man’. And I want to fear God more!
For me, my next step is to pray that I would see the Kingdom of God in my own life, my now-world. Jesus closes the conversation with his disciples with the following.
Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:27)