Sermon: Jesus’ Terms for Discipleship (Luke 9:23-27)

Jesus’ Terms for Discipleship

What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ?  What does it mean to follow Christ?

One of the problems today, is that many think that when they become a Christian that they simply add Jesus to their life.  In other words, they keep, for the most part, living their lives with Jesus now added into the mix.  Oh, they’ve changed a few things perhaps but it’s still their lives and their will and their ways.  They listen to Christian radio and speak the language and hang out with Christian friends but is this what Jesus has in mind for His followers?

This is not what our Lord calls Christianity.  Today, we’re going to look at a text of Scripture that is one of the most challenging passages in the entire Bible.  It’s a call for the followers of Christ to love Him and His people more than we love ourselves.  It’s a call to examine ourselves and our treasures to see just how we line up.  This is a passage that leaves little ground for self-deception.  Jesus is pretty clear with His terms to be a disciple.

Through the ministry of our Lord He had a slogan as He went from city to city.  This slogan was repeated over and over for us because we need reminded again and again the importance of being a disciple: Whoever keeps his life will loose it but whoever looses his life for Me will save it.

Matt. 10:38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. [1]

Matt. 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.[2]

Lk. 17:33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.[3]

Jn. 12:25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. [4]

I pray we all understand the seriousness of this issue.  Jesus is not interested in casual Christians; in reality there are no such things.  To be a Christian is to march under the banner slogan of Jesus and to deny yourself and live eternally.  My prayer for you and me is that God would enable us to live in self-denial as Jesus commands again and again.  I also pray that God would continue to be merciful in this area until we see Christ face to face.  So today, we must not deceive ourselves into thinking that our eternal life is secure if we live for ourselves, our agenda, and our will, and not deny ourselves and submit to Christ.

Is your life all about Christ or all about you? 

Please, hear God’s Word…

Luke 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. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

Father, enable us by grace to die to self and submit to Christ’s Lordship…

Jesus gives us three pieces of the puzzle of discipleship in verse 23.  1- Deny Yourself, 2- Die to Self, 3- Follow Me

1. Following Christ Means Loving Him More than Yourself (9:23,24)

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

To begin with, I’d like to explain as clearly as I can what self-denial is.  What does Jesus mean when He makes the statement, deny yourself.

He has in mind that as His people, His followers, we are to forsake anything that would stand in the way of embracing Christ with our full allegiance.  We are to forsake, possessions, power, favor of men, and human glory.  We must deny our natural bent toward earthly treasures and strive to make Christ our treasure.  Also, in this, we must deny our self-reliance.  We must forsake relying on our abilities and logic.  We must forsake relying on our human sense of righteousness and totally cling to Christ for righteousness, we must live lives that continually accept grace and glorify Christ.

I think if I could leave my children with two phrases they would be:

Follow hard after Christ and lean not on your own understanding.

John Calvin states that self-denial is the sum of the Christian life.

The first condition given by Jesus to any would-be-follower is to deny yourself.

Secondly, He commands that if one is to be a follower, this person must not only deny-self but then die to self.

take up his cross daily

To be ready to bear afflictions in this life, knowing that God has designed them for our Christian growth and maturity.  Respond to afflictions in a godly manner.  These are afflictions that fall in the realm of God’s eternal purposes.  Bear up the afflictions for the glory of God.

The cross was a means of carrying out the death sentence.  For a criminal, he would carry the actual cross he would be hung upon.  Jesus tells us to be ones who welcome death to self as a disciple.  A disciple does this daily.  Whatever suffering God has purposed for you to endure we daily accept it, knowing that it is for our good and God’s glory.

Finally, then we are ready to follow Christ.  These words clearly understood means to keep on following Christ.  Just as one daily commits to submitting our will to Christ’s, we also continually follow where He leads us.  We walk as He walked.  We love as He loved.  Speak as He spoke.

As followers, we trust, walk with, obey, and remain grateful for salvation to Christ.

I like what Jesus says here in these verses.  He really answers the question many of us might ask.  Why would we want to give up ourselves?  Jesus explains to us that in doing so what we will receive will be far greater than what we ever give up…

whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

2. Following Christ Means Loving Him More than Material Goods (9:25)

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

Jesus is very clear here.  Those who live for themselves never get what they desire and in fact end up with nothing.  Those who deny themselves and live for Christ rather than live for themselves do find what they desire.

Not my will but thy will be done.

Jesus wants us to be good investors.  Loosing self for Christ’s sake will result in an infinitely better return than if we were to hoard our present commodities.  Loose, give now and there will be a great return.

Steve Jobs announced this week that he would resign as CEO of Apple Computers.  His influence and creativity has launched Apple to the top of the industry with company value exceeding Moble Oil, all this from a garage 14 years ago with a high school classmate.  Steve with leanings toward Buddhism and New Age teachings has seemingly gained the whole world.   Unless something changes, he will have also forfeited his soul in the process.  Steve is a very good businessman, promoter and inventor.  However, when it comes to eternal issues, he is a poor investor.

Jesus makes it very clear that if we don’t give ourselves away for the Gospel and for Him we will loose eternal life.

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

So, Jesus is pressing home the fact that He alone must be our treasure.  If we love ourselves, if our treasure is us, then we will not deny ourselves and die to self.  We will always cling to our treasure.  He also challenges our other potential treasure when He speaks about worldly profit and worldly riches.

What real profit is it if you are so concerned with material goods that you forget that the most important commodity is your soul?

What good is it if the founder of Apple Computers dies a multi-billionaire and forfeits his souls.  In other words, he leaves all his wealth behind and in a sense, his soul as well.

Jesus’ logic goes like this:  If all we do while on earth is build up things for our life now, we eventually will loose everything.  But if we build eternal things we will save our lives forever.

3. Because Christ is Our Treasure, We are Not Ashamed (9:26)

26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

The human heart is never ashamed of what it treasures.  Jesus tells us that He is the real treasure.

We must choose and choose wisely.  I remember the Indiana Jones movie where they were searching for the holy grail.  Towards the end of the movie, Jones was in a room full of golden cups and he had to choose.  Like him, we too must make choices.  As Christ’s disciples we must choose to take up our cross, deny ourselves, and not be ashamed of bearing the name Christian.

The best way to consistently follow Christ under His conditions is to strive to make Him our treasure.

If He is our treasure we won’t struggle when we’re called to deny ourselves and serve others.  Because we serve in the power of Christ and our treasure is glorified.

We won’t struggle when we endure hardship either in some trial or even in persecution because our comfort is not the issue.  Jesus is honored.

We will never be ashamed to stand up for Christ, if He is our treasure because, we are never ashamed of what we treasure.

4. It’s Not All Future (9:27) 

27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

One thing Jesus wanted His disciples to understand is that not all eternal things are future things.  In other words, there would be blessings for them now as they served Jesus according to His terms of discipleship.

What was Jesus saying here?  He was saying that there were some of His disciples who would not die until they first saw the Kingdom of God.

How did they see it?  Some of the disciples were present when at the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended and landed on them.  They began to experience the Kingdom of God as God’s rule and reign became part of who they were.  Others before this event saw the transfiguration with Jesus being glorified right before their eyes.  Three of His disciples saw this amazing event.  This was an amazing glimpse of the Kingdom of God on earth.

Jesus’ point is that as His disciple we are in the realm of His influence and power now.  We don’t have to wait until heaven to enjoy the Kingdom of God.

What are Jesus’ terms for discipleship?  What are His terms to be a follower?

Give yourself away for Christ and His people.  Don’t concern yourself with earthly goods.  Seek His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you…even eternal life.

So, you want to be a disciple?

Jesus gives us His terms.  If we are to be one, it has to be done according to His rules not ours.  Are you a disciple?

Deny yourself

Take up your cross daily

Follow Christ

Don’t ever be ashamed of Jesus

Enjoy blessings now


[1] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mt 10:38–39). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mt 16:24–25). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Lk 17:33). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Jn 12:25). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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