The Sold-Out Life (Matthew 16:24-27)

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Jesus is in it for the long haul, and He insists His followers have the same mindset. At the appointed hour, He will return in glory, and when He does, He will give His disciples what they deserve for having a Kingdom mindset instead of an earthly one.  

Matthew writes, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.””

Following Jesus is incompatible with being the boss of your own life. Those who determine to do as they want will find they’ve not only failed to get what they chased after for all those years, but also lost the opportunity to gain what really matters. Jesus is no fan of get rich quick schemes. He is no fan of the self-made man. He is no fan of those who boldly proclaim, “I did it my way.” Doing it our way can only result in loss. 

Each transaction we make – our time for things, our talent for things or even our bodies for things – only results in more things and less of what we were given beyond ourselves. The world’s way is to trade our lives for stuff, and stuff may help you enjoy your life, but it is not the stuff of life. The stuff of life is using our time and talent and ourselves for the glory of God through the betterment of others. That transcends us to make a lasting difference.

Moreover, all things in and of this world are temporary. Not only do moth and rust destroy, but even those things we think are permanent are not. Even gold and silver are perishable, as the Word declares, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

So, it is not up to us to live as we choose, but up to Christ to determine what our assignment is, and up to Christ to determine how we ought to live. For He is the rewarder of our life’s work. Not ourselves, not the world, not our employer and not our government. We have one life, and it has been bought with a very great price. To live in daily reminder of this is to live wisely. The end will come, and when it does, we will be very glad that we abided by Jesus’ exhortation. 

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Amen

Christian allegiance to the personal lordship of Christ is not something that happens on an individual or abstract basis. Rather, we are incorporated into a body of believers, into a group of other persons likewise called by Christ to mutually support and upbuild one another, that our common service to Christ and the world might be stronger and more secure.

Robert Sherman


We demonstrate the Lordship of Christ when we worship, so true discipleship is to worship in all we do, in all we say and in all we even think, taking even every thought captive for Jesus Christ. 

The Examined Life (Matthew 16:26-27)

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To the crowd, Jesus said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of  greed; a  man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’  Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” 

To those inside His circle, Jesus issued the same challenge in a much more direct way, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” Jesus wants both those who have said and would say yes to following Him to deeply consider the question of Lordship. 

He is saying that the Christ-follower must be mindful of who (or what) they are following. 

Communicating a “yes” to Jesus is critically necessary. But your true intention is betrayed by the revelation of who your lord really is, which is seen via your actions over time. After all, there are many who say yes but don’t really mean it. They claim Jesus for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps they wanted Jesus only out of peer pressure or momentary fascination. Perhaps they only want the benefit of Jesus without any of the responsibility. But what people really intend is lived out, not just verbalized. And living for the world is highly visible. 

Jesus alluded to the same thing in the illustration of the plant choked by weeds in the parable of the sower (Matt 13) and said as much when He declared, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” It is not what we say at one moment that determines our destiny, but the trajectory of our lives. 

That might seem a bit disconcerting to those who have already become Christian, because it raises the question of whether they are saved or not, even after they make their commitment to Christ. Yet one has only to ask if they are “in Christ” or not. If there is no evidence of that that God could see – no use of your time, talent and treasure to convict you of living for and in the Name of God – then are you really in Christ, or are you merely saying you would want to be? 

If there is evidence that God could see (even in a private prayer life), then you are in Christ and therefore you know you are saved. Paul understood this nuance when instructed Timothy, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 

It is perseverance in the Name that leads to salvation, because it is by being in the Name that we overcome all things, even death. Amen. 

Christian spirituality means living in the mature wholeness of the gospel. It means taking all the elements of your life—children, spouse, job, weather, possessions, relationships—and experiencing them as an act of faith. God wants all the material of our lives.

Eugene Peterson

APPLICATION: Intentionality

As Paul said, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

The Cruciform Life (Matthew 16:25)

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Jesus said that those who want to come after Him need to deny themselves,  take up  their cross and follow Him. Effectively, to pursue Christ-likeness, we need to live out forgiveness, humility, moderation, self-sacrifice and long-suffering perseverance as we go about His mission. That’s a lot to think about, so Jesus puts it in blunter context that we might have a memory hook to hang it on, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” 

We need to learn that, because our culture does not merely encourage us to live for ourselves – it teaches and incentivizes self-actualization. Self-actualization is a great step beyond self-preservation. Self-preservation has some common sense built into it. It is common sense to avoid danger and to flee from harmful situations. But Jesus isn’t suggesting we eject common sense. In fact, Jesus’ paradoxical mnemonic is more than encouragement to abandon the selfish way of life the world constantly encourages. 

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with exotic vacations, grand houses and super cars and careful planning of retirement for financial stability in later years. But even the most ungodly of people can realize that if your life is tied up with mere things, it is as empty as the day is long. Jesus wants to teach us a deeper truth than how to behave with our wallets. He is giving us an instruction set to avoid living pointlessness and empty lives.

There are more displaced people today then there were alive on the planet in Jesus’ time. Over 70 million people live apart from their homes as refugees from violence, oppression, natural disaster and war. Yet most all of the nations of the world pledge to do all they can to stop those very people from crossing their borders. Perhaps that is because their typical household is a microcosm of the nation’s fear of the foreigner and distrust of the stranger. Yet the poor, widows and orphans in their distress, the sick and the foreigner are the focus of God’s compassion and mercy all through the Scripture – old and new. 

Jesus is saying that we ought to know that saving ourselves from the inconvenience of pouring out resources and effort for the vulnerable quartet (the poor, the fatherless, the sick and the foreigner) will not save us on the day of judgment. 

In our day we’ve progressed past 1960-era young adult hippies ‘finding themselves’ with drugs to children being encouraged to become completely different sexes based entirely on how they feel at the moment. But all self-actualization – whether by recreational drug use or gender re-assignment – will not save your life from being wasted, no matter what age you are when you try. Rather, it will guarantee a lifetime of hardship and an eternity of regret. God did not make mistakes in creating you to live according to His Word for His glory, and He cannot be mocked without consequence. 

To discover the life God would have for us we need to give up the unhealthy focus on self that the world pushes so hard. At the minimum, we need to be willing to lose everything we hold tightly to for His sake. To live the “Christ-life”, we need to live for Jesus, doing as Jesus did, thinking as Jesus did and speaking as Jesus did. 


If we lay claim to special rights as Christians, we have forgotten that we’re supposed to be like Jesus.

Rebecca Van Noord

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Look to the cross. The Christ-life is a cruciform life, not a life of self-actualization. 

Act Like Jesus (Matthew 16:24)

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Every disciple – that is, every Christ-follower – is seeking to be like Jesus. We  are seeking  to go after Jesus in modelling His character and behaviour. To that end, Jesus said there are three things we need to do if we want to be Christlike, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.””

Jesus said we need to deny ourselves. That means that first of all, we forgive others. For we can’t hold something over others when Jesus holds nothing against us and claim to be taking after Him. Secondly, it means we need to limit our wants. We can’t be about attaining our own goals and our own wants. That is a hard thing to do, because we constantly mistake want for need. We say things like, “I NEED to buy that” or “I NEED the food I like”. But a sober second thought most often reveals we don’t really need those things. Or that particular relationship, or that kind of job or even to live where we do. 

That such things are wants and not needs is evidenced by the fact that over seven billion people live their lives without those things. Following Jesus means going where He wants us to go, eating what is set before us and living mindfully so that as many resources as possible can go toward Jesus’ cause. As Paul said, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” It is not always a comfortable life, but it is a rich life in Christ. 

Jesus said we need to take up our cross. That means we need to willingly take on the burden of others, as Paul wrote, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” It means we care for those who don’t know how to care for themselves. It means we love to the utmost, even giving up matters of life to bless those we influence. 

It means we don’t just shrug when we come across a person in need. Far more than denying ourselves, taking up our cross is sacrificing ourselves so that the Kingdom of God can be experienced by others. As the book of Romans encourages us, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Jesus said we need to follow Him. That means recognizing that Jesus left the highest heaven to live in poverty for our sake. To follow Him – to take after Him – means fully obeying Him, even when He says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” 

It means crossing whatever boundary we come across for the Gospel’s sake. It means overcoming our fear of other people and other cultures so that they too can have what we have in Christ. After all, Jesus ministered to Romans, Syrians, Greeks and Jews. He ministered to the poor, the leperous, diseased and possessed. 

We must do likewise. We cannot help but do likewise, for we are His disciples if His Spirit lives within us we will do likewise.  Amen.

Many people want God to rain down blessing on them, but they don’t want to surrender their will to him in obedience. They aren’t willing to think and act like Jesus.

Nelson Searcy

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Are you willing to act like Jesus?

Overflow (Matthew 16:21-23)

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In the course of the day’s conversation, Jesus has singled out Peter as   someone to whom He would give the keys to the kingdom of heaven. He called Peter blessed. He noted that Peter received a revelation from God the Father. He told Peter that he will have an enormous amount of spiritual authority, and then He shared with Peter and the other disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer, be killed and be raised to life on the third day. That means that Peter also got an unusual prophetic insight into the Father’s plans for Jesus’ own ministry. To say it was a significant day is an understatement. 

In response, Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke Him, ““Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”” 

It is hard to imagine how someone so blessed can fall so far and so fast. One moment Peter receives a revelation of God and in almost the next breath he is called “Satan” and “a stumbling block”! 

No doubt Peter’s spouting of most unwise counsel is the result of a demonic impulse – otherwise Jesus would not have called him “Satan”. He heard Jesus share His plan to overcome death and a visceral urge prompted him to speak against it. Surely in hindsight even he would even say his response was out of place given the day so far. But this episode in Peter’s life merely demonstrates the spiritual immaturity common to us all. For while we are capable of such intimate fellowship with God that we receive revelations and prophetic knowledge, we are equally capable of acting out of our emotions in the moment – and acting out of emotional impulse in the moment is almost always exceedingly foolish. 

God gave us emotions because He has emotions. Emotions are good – they help us discern our wants and they help us respond with wholeheartedness instead of mere mechanical impulse. Yet the emotional response of a fallen creature living in fallen flesh in a fallen world is easily manipulated. We may make wise choices given the right spiritual voice (as Peter did when Jesus asked him, “Who do you say I am?”), but we will surely make unwise choices given unclean spiritual voices (as Peter just did in rebuking Christ at Satan’s prompt).  

The key to a more consistently godly response then, is thoughtfulness about our emotions prior to action arising from them. 

One must learn to discern whose voice is prompting us. Is it God’s? In that case it will be in line with all that God has revealed about Himself and His Kingdom. Is it the enemy’s? In that case it will be opposed to all that God has revealed about Himself and His Kingdom. Is it our own voice only? In that case it is impotent – it neither advances God’s Kingdom within and around us, nor does it detract from God’s Kingdom within and around us. 

Inserting a bit of thought between realizing the emotion and acting on it – or a bit of prayer about it if we are unsure why we feel the way we do – is always spiritually profitable. And it always moves us towards greater spiritual maturity. Amen. 

Remember, nothing we do goes unnoticed. Everything we do impacts our reputation and that of both our earthly and divine family.

Gary W. Derickson

APPLICATION: Intentionality

It is a good habit to think before we act. It is a better habit to pray before even that. 

The Difficulty (Matthew 16:21-22)

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Before any of us can take the second step in our journey, we need to take the first step.   The first step in any relationship with God is confession of Jesus as Messiah – for without the forgiveness of sins, the offense of our treason under the first covenant remains, blocking us from relationship with God. The second step in our journey is accepting that God’s plan – no matter how distasteful it seems to us at the present – is better than our own plans. 

Christians of old called that idea, “lordship”. Knowing Christ as Savior is good and necessary. But knowing Christ as Lord is just as necessary. Not merely because a first step without a second step is the very definition of stumbling, but because without living with Christ as Lord of you, you will not consider Him in every decision you make. The result will be a life lived with Jesus as an ‘extra’. Even obedience to Him in some things will seem like an option, and although followed in some things, He will not be truly Lord of your life (even if you call Him that). Christ has already told us what the result of that is: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Lordship is putting Jesus first in all things, not just in how you deal with the demonic. It means allowing God’s plan to be pre-eminent in all things. 

Of course, lordship often is a bitter pill to swallow, because lordship mandates submission. Even submission to difficult things. But we are called to Christ-likeness, and our Lord Jesus modelled lordship. He understands it. He understands that although He is God, the Father must be pre-eminent. Even the Godhead has order, and the Father holds the higher office. 

“Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!””

We who live on this side of the cross understand all that was gained through Christ’s suffering and death. Yet though we get that and appreciate it, lordship of our own lives still seems the most difficult and challenging aspect of the new life that Jesus died to save us to. It seems to us every bit as difficult as the Messiah’s determination to suffer and die seemed to the disciples. But lordship means following God over oneself. It means embracing all God Most High has planned for you, even when God’s plan includes the nastiness of suffering. 

Indeed, even when it includes the nastiness of injustices done against us. 

Even when those injustices don’t seem like they are going to be corrected.

Yet God wastes nothing – suffering and death have a purpose. They did in Christ’s life, and they do in the life of the one who understands lordship. Amen. 

It is doubtful whether we can be Christian in anything unless we are Christian in everything.

A.W. Tozer

APPLICATION: Intentionality

As James 5 says, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”

The Cost (Matthew 16:21)

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Peter’s confession of Jesus as “Christ, Son of the Living God” is a turning point  in  Matthew’s Gospel. Not only is it the centre of the Gospel text, but from that moment onward Jesus’ dialogue with His disciples notably changes. 

Prior to this, Jesus had said nothing about His Father’s plan of death and resurrection. He only taught the benefits of the Kingdom of God. But from this moment forward, the mechanics of His Father’s fuller plan for the restoration of all things comes to be front and centre; “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

This is the first of three instances in Matthew’s Gospel where the revealed will of God includes the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ. As it is repeated three times, it is impossible to argue that Jesus did not know what awaited Him in Jerusalem, or that the disciples did not know what awaited Him in Jerusalem. Jesus knew He came to do this, and He repeatedly told His disciples He was going to do this. 

His disciples needed to know it too. Up to this point they had seen a man who was clearly more than a man. They had seen Jesus heal, and they had seen Jesus deliver. They had seen Jesus teach and preach. They had seen Jesus weep and rejoice. They had seen Jesus react to all manner of circumstance and all manner of conversation. But they had not yet seen Jesus suffer. They had not yet seen Jesus persecuted. They had not yet seen Jesus – this great God/Man who could raise others from the dead – they had not even considered that He could die. But they needed to know that this too was part of God’s plan. That suffering and death was part of – even the most critical component to – bringing God’s Kingdom come. 

They needed to know that for the same reason every Christ-follower needs to know that. Suffering and dying is part of the Christ-life. It is not something to be shirked, but to acknowledge and embrace. Even though the day will come when God does away with suffering and death forever, for now it is part of what it means to imitate Christ. The suffering, crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus is God’s way. 

Of course, this side of the cross in history, we know that Christ’s suffering, crucifixion, death and resurrection accomplished much. We are saved from the penalty of our own sin because of it. Which means that we can clearly see; though God’s purposes and ways are well beyond our understanding, God truly is good. Moreover, because God is revealed through Christ as good, we can also know that our suffering – and even our death – are not without plan either. Therefore, they are not without purpose, either. 

This is something we can only grasp when we are on the ‘other side’ of it all. Till then, we just need to have faith in God and His goodness. This is the core of our faith in God. That He will make it all – even our cruelest suffering – worthwhile. For now we do not see how or why, and it all seems so incredibly frustrating. But one day – all at once – we will know it was all to His great glory, and at the same time to our very great benefit. 

But not till we are on the other side. Amen.

When we do not understand why God allows something, we can always know this; undergirding it all is His intense love for us, and in that love, His intense desire for our Christlikeness.

Marcus Verbrugge

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

Be thankful that God will yet redeem the suffering of His saints, in the same way He redeemed the suffering of the Head of His body, our Lord and Christ.