O Preacher A sellfie is “an image of oneself taken by oneself using oneself’s digital camera especially for posting on oneself’s social network.”  Okay, I inserted the last two oneself’s, not Merriam-Webster, to show (as if needed) the self nature of selfies.

old people taking selfies (8)

How counter to culture Jesus spoke!
“If anyone would come after me,
let him DENY HIMSELF . . . ” (Mark 8:34b). 

* * * * *

 It was a rough conversation for the disciples.  First, after Peter acknowledged Jesus as Messiah,  Jesus told them Messiah must suffer, be rejected and killed, then rise again.  Shocked, Peter rebuked Jesus.  Which leads to the second bump in the road—Jesus rebuked Peter, called him Satan, and chastised him for thinking like a mere man and not God.  Now comes the third bump in the conversation . . .

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples he said to them,
“If anyone would come after me,
let him deny himself
and take up his cross
and follow me” (8:34).

That’s death language.  “Cross” isn’t shining jewelry; it’s a rough, bloody frame for crucifying criminals.  Jesus will deny himself and take up his cross.  Therefore, anyone who would come after him must follow him by being willing to do the same.

Did Jesus mean anyone who would come after him?  It’s a critical question.  Was this requirement meant only for those first disciples and that crowd?  Look at the broad sweep of Jesus’ words . . .

“if ANYONE  would come after me . . .
For WHOEVER would save his life
will lose it,
but WHOEVER loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it . . .
For WHOEVER is ashamed of me and my word
in this adulterous and sinful generation . . . “

“Anyone” and “whoever” mean “anyone” and “whoever”.  The apostles’ martyr-deaths help confirm it.  So do the martyr-deaths of persecuted Jesus-followers in the world today.  Here’s an example of a woman named Asmita on the 8thirty8 Facebook website (https://www.facebook.com/8thirty8) . . .

A Hindu mob forced her husband, Pastor Digal, to convert to Hinduism or die. When he refused, they buried him in a muddy pit up to his neck for two full days, leaving only his head exposed. At one point Digal asked for water, and one of his captors urinated into his mouth. On the third day, they took him out and asked ‘Are you willing to convert?’ and every time he said no. In response, they cut off each of his limbs, one by one.

“My husband gave his life for the Lord. It’s caused me great problems for my earthly life, but in spite of everything, I won’t deny Jesus Christ, and my children will grow up knowing him!”

Asmita is one of five Christian widows whose husbands were murdered for Christ in Bhubaneswar, India.

And Jesus meant ANYONE.

What does that imply about how we invite people to “accept Jesus”?  You’ve heard it.  “Bow your heads.  Close your eyes.  No one looking around.  If you want to accept Jesus, just slip your hand up.  No one’s looking.  I see those hands.  Now, if you raised your hand, repeat this prayer after me.  In fact, let’s have everyone repeat it (so no one gets embarrassed). ‘Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name.  Amen.'”

Not even a hint of “let him deny himself and take up his cross” in that prayer.  Will someone who became a believer so comfortably be ready to die for Jesus?  Some will argue that Jesus didn’t “spring” this dying thing on his disciples until they’d followed him about two years.  (I guess, timing is everything.)  Most of us have followed Jesus for years.  So how about these questions now?

Am I willing to suffer for Jesus?  Am I willing to die for Jesus?  Tom Doyle climaxes his inspirational, soul-stirring book, Killing Christians–Living the Faith Where It’s Not Safe to Believe Product Details(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/512aJsLGS1L._AA160_.jpg), with these words:

 “Did I think just because I live in America that I would never be faced with the possibility of dying for my faith?  Because we have the strongest military in the world, that that option was off the table?  No, friend, that option has always been on the table—whether we knew it or not.  So . . . it’s probably time to settle this in your soul, once and for all.  Take some time to let God search your heart.  Then answer:

  • Am I willing to suffer for Jesus?
  • Am I willing to die for Jesus?

Why are those such hard questions to answer honestly?  (1) Because we are blessed to live in a country where violent persecution doesn’t exist.  But Islamic terrorists are here!  Whether they’re merely ISIS-influenced or ISIS-trained makes no difference when bullets fly.  If they’re killing Christians in the Middle East, how long before they do it here?  And how well-prepared do you think our federal government will be to defend us?

(2) Because we’ve been taught a Christianity of cheap grace (to borrow Bonhoeffer’s phrase).  Salvation is God’s free gift.  If they’ve repeated the sinner’s prayer (above), we’ve told people they’re  on their way to heaven.  In his classic,  The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer challenges us . . .

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession . . . Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

(3) Because we don’t want to suffer or die.  I don’t.  I want a comfortable Christianity, with every pain healed, every table full, every prayer answered, and a parking space suddenly open just for me.  How different the attitude of five young men on the Gaza Strip!  Ali, a long-time Christian, was discipling Abdul, Isam, Jamal and Mahmoud.  One day Jamal spoke up.  “I want you to baptize me, Ali.  I want to be baptized in the Mediterranean—tonight!  If we get killed, we get killed” (Killing Christians).  That night all four followers showed up and were baptized.

In our “selfie” society, Jesus calls to us as he did his first disciples . . . “If anyone would come after me,
let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (8:34).

Here, again are the sobering questions that confront us in “selfie-land” . . .

  • Am I willing to suffer for Jesus?
  • Am I willing to die for Jesus?

Jesus carrying the cross

*Note:  Some weeks after the baptism, Mahmoud went to be with Jesus.  His friends aren’t certain about the source of the explosion that killed him.  An Israeli strike?  A Hamas rocket exploding before launch?  Whichever it was, Mahmoud was walking into one of the refugee camps on his last day to share Jesus among Muslims.

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