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Discipleship: the Conditions

Discipleship: the Conditions

From Series: The Gospel According to Mark, Volume 4

Mark 8:34-9:1 (ID: 2745)

Becoming a follower of Jesus is not like adding an optional bonus to an already complete life. It requires us to give up all of our rights, understanding that we are completely under Christ’s control. Alistair Begg helps us learn Jesus’ terms and conditions of service, and explains that the complete transformation that follows belief in Christ can only come about by a power greater than ourselves.


Sermon Transcript:

Mark 8:34. We return to our studies in the Gospel of Mark. Chapter 8, verse 34, and it reads as follows:

“Then he”—that is, Jesus—“called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘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 and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, [then] the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.’

“And he said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.’”

Amen. A brief prayer before we look at this:

Gracious God, take my words, please, and speak through them; take our minds and help us to think sensibly and properly; and take our lives and transform them by the power that is yours alone. For we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

Well, yesterday, as I was attempting to download an app, the following message appeared on my screen—as follows: “iTunes terms and conditions have changed. You must read and agree to the new terms and conditions in order to proceed.” There were then thirty-five pages of conditions. Now, I don’t know about you; I don’t know if you read all of those pages. I think we probably should. But I must confess, I just decided that they couldn’t be that different from the first group, which I hadn’t read in any case, and so I dutifully ticked the box, thereby saving myself the responsibility of adding to my day in a way that I didn’t really fancy. I had no sooner ticked the box than I received a little follow-up message; it said, quickly, “Thank you for accepting the new terms of service.” And so, I was off and ready to go.

Well, I begin in that way because here at the end of Mark chapter 8, we find Jesus laying down the terms and conditions of service. It’s as though an app has appeared on the screen of your life. Some of you have recently decided you’re going to be a follower of Jesus, and now Jesus has sent you this message. It’s quite different, though, because the terms and conditions of being a follower of Jesus have not changed, they have never been modified, and they will never be rescinded. They cannot be adapted to our particular preferences, they cannot be absorbed according to our own unique designs and desires. They are what they are. And the question really is whether there will appear, as it were, in our inbox—by the end of the sermon, by the end of the day, hopefully by the end of our lives—a little message that will read from Jesus, “I’m so glad that you agreed to my terms and my conditions.” For if we don’t, we will live in eternity without God. And the Bible calls that hell.

Now, any ideas that we might have about following Jesus—and some of us will have a variety of ideas—all of those ideas must be brought under the jurisdiction of this passage. And actually, all of those ideas need to be brought under the jurisdiction of what we’ve been singing in that new song this morning—namely, “The strength to follow your commands could never come from me.”[1] “The strength to follow your commands could never come from me.” It’s important that we point that out right at the very beginning, because otherwise, some of us will immediately go wrong. We will have this notion of what it means to be a Christian is that you have to do something; as a result of that, something happens; and then, as a result of that, you better just try your very hardest in order to hang in there. No, then we’ve got it completely upside down. We trust in Jesus as a response of his initiative and grace in our lives. The same grace which brings us to faith in him sustains us and makes it possible for us to follow him. And therefore, the distinguishing feature of a life that believes is in a life that follows—the strength both to believe and to follow found in the grace of God alone.

Now, Jesus, in our previous study, has been explaining, at least initially to his disciples, what it’s going to mean for him to be Messiah. Peter, you remember, has blurted out, “You are the Christ, you are the Messiah.”[2] Eventually, the penny has dropped, at least sufficiently for them to get that part right. But they could only really, to this point, see men as “trees walking.”[3] It was going to have to be clarified for them, and Jesus had begun immediately to point out that for him to be Messiah involved suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection.

The distinguishing feature of a life that believes is in a life that follows.

And having explained what it means for him to be Messiah, he now goes on to explain what it means for anyone to be his follower. And essentially, what he is pointing is this: that “the pathway that I walk is the pathway that you must walk.” It is the pathway of the crucified Christ; it is the pathway of the conquering Christ. It is a pathway that goes down the road of rejection and of suffering and of death; it is a pathway that eventually ends in glory and in a crown. But the pathway to his vindication in the resurrection is the pathway of humiliation. And as we follow this study this morning, we will see that what Jesus says in these statements, which are clear and pungent and striking, they challenge any notion of discipleship which we may think involves simply a few minor adjustments to our lifestyle.

In other words, they challenge many contemporary views of what it means to follow Jesus. I’m increasingly convinced that many people have turned their backs on the story of Christianity, not because they have examined it and found it untrue, but because they have met Christians and they’ve found it unbelievably trivial—trivial. Because the way in which the story of Jesus has been articulated just seems so absolutely useless. All you do is continue in the way you’re going, you add Jesus to the sum total of your life. It’s like having a Diet Pepsi, you know; it’s the “right” thing, or “Aha!” You don’t really need it, but it’s kinda nice if you have it. And people say, “Well, in that case, why would I ever take the time to consider the claims of Jesus of Nazareth? It doesn’t seem to have changed your marriage. It doesn’t seem to have changed your business practices. It really doesn’t seem to have changed anything at all. I’m surprised that you’re a follower of Jesus. Isn’t there something about taking up your cross and denying yourself? Why are you so full of yourself?” And sometimes our non-Christian friends actually know more about discipleship than we know. And that’s why we need constantly to go back to the terms and the conditions.

This is how Phillips paraphrases verse 35: “If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps, he must give up all right to himself, take up his cross and follow me.” “Give up all right to himself”? Do Americans give up rights? Especially on a weekend like this? “Give up all right to myself? Can this possibly be in the Bible?” Yes! It’s radical, isn’t it?

What it means is that our minds, our morals, our manners, and our means are all brought under the control of the one whom we’ve just declared to be His Majesty. Here, then, are the essential requirements of being a follower of Jesus. And you will notice that this is not requirements for a select few; this is a requirement for all and any. Verse 34: “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples, and he said….” So, he wasn’t going to allow anybody to say, “Well, I didn’t sign up for the death and dying bit. I just signed up for the other parts.” “Oh, you didn’t see that? You should have read all the thirty-five pages. Because you shouldn’t have ticked it so quickly, because you’ve actually agreed to something that you didn’t understand. That’s not smart.”

The Conditions

Well, what then are the conditions? They’re two, essentially, in verse 34. First of all, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself.” In other words, my life is no longer all about me, it’s no longer all about my identity, it’s no longer all about my agenda. Now, you see, that’s only the kind of radical transformation that is going to be brought about as a result of the infusion of a power which is outside of ourselves. Because all of us, every day and all day, are about ourselves and our agendas. So, the kind of transformation that’s involved is surely not a transformation which says, “Here are a few principles that I’m going to try and stick to myself,” or “Here are some concepts that I’m going to add to the Christmas tree of my life, the way I hang on Christmas ornaments.” No, here are evidences of life which emerge in a life that has, by grace, through faith, been united with the Lord Jesus Christ. And in that union with Christ, fruit begins to emerge, leaves begin to appear, flowers and graces begin to reveal themselves—so much so that our friends and neighbors may be challenged by them, even annoyed by them. They may be enamored by them. But they ought to see them.

You see, it would be one thing for the people in the crowd—as in, this crowd—to be intrigued by the words of Jesus, to follow in the path of Jesus, to marvel at the works and the miracles of Jesus, as they most certainly did. And they could do all of that—like his words, marvel at his miracles, hang with him—but yet never decisively bow beneath his lordship.

We were talking a little bit about this last week, weren’t we? And some of us have been wrestling with it and are perhaps still wrestling with it. Because this is no soft option. What is being described here by Jesus is the radical denunciation of all self-idolatry—the radical denunciation of all self-idolatry. [Temple], the theologian of an earlier era, says, “The problem is that for all of us, in a thousand ways every day, we make ourselves the center of the universe.”[4] That’s natural: “It’s all about me”—until, by grace, we begin to discover that it’s actually all about him.

You see, that’s the whole concept of losing our lives to gain life—to lose ourselves in the selfhood of Christ. That doesn’t mean that our DNA is irrelevant. That doesn’t mean that our personality is obscured. No! It is in Christ that the true DNA comes to fulfillment. It is in Christ that our true personality begins to shine. But nevertheless, it is in a life that is given over into the custody of Christ. It is a life which is denied to me and found in him.

In other words, this is in direct contrast to the song that I couldn’t remember for a significant amount of time earlier in the week. I could only remember… That’s all I had. I had that… Okay? Now, you know what it is, of course, because you folks are very good at this stuff. “I can name that tune in three notes.” It’s “My Life” by Billy Joel. Right?

I don’t need you to worry for me, ’cause I’m alright.
I don’t want you to tell me it’s time to come home.
I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life.
Go ahead with your own life, [and] leave me alone.[5]

Now, why was that such a big hit? ’Cause it spoke to the generation that allowed people to divorce, that allowed kids to abuse their parents, that allowed spouses to run away, that allowed everybody to do whatever they really wanted. “You’re not gonna tell me what time to come home. This is my life! Go ahead with your own life. Leave me alone!”

That is man as man. That is the way we are. You don’t have to learn that. Nobody teaches you that. You never have to go out and buy a book for that. You don’t have to say, “How would I live my life for myself? Selfishly and in disobedience to my parents. Is there a book anywhere that I can find that will help me with this? Is there a book? I’m looking for something on how to be unbelievably selfish in relationship to my spouse. Do you have anything along these lines?” No, they don’t sell them, do they? Well, actually, they do. It’s called “self-fulfillment.” That’s what it’s called. They do sell them. They don’t sell them under that heading, but they sell them. And that is why, you see, the call to Christian discipleship is so radical in our generation.

Just in case the folks who are listening to Jesus don’t get the self-denial bit, he heats it up with the next condition: “deny himself and take up his cross”—“and take up his cross.”

It is in Christ that our true personality begins to shine.

Now, in order to wrestle with this, we have to first of all disassociate ourselves from the thinking that often surrounds this terminology. It’s so puerile that it is embarrassing to even mention, the way people say at the strangest of times, “Well, we all have our cross to bear,” or, during Lent, “Yes, I’m not having chocolate. You know, we all have our crosses to bear.” It’s beyond comprehension, isn’t it? This can’t be what Jesus is saying. That is absolutely, absolutely silly. It’s just silly.

Because this is a radical metaphor. This is a metaphor from the Roman world, not from the Jewish world. This must have reverberated in the ears of Jewish people, because they thought—and rightly so—that the Romans had conceived of the most brutal, horrible form of death ever known to humanity. And they would not be unfamiliar with the scene whereby some poor soul, having been sentenced to death, would be surrounded by a troop of soldiers and would be seen walking towards the place of his execution, carrying part of the means of his execution across his own shoulders—the crossbeam that would represent his execution borne as a burden on his own back. Now, that picture would reverberate in the minds of the listeners. And Jesus uses it in order to establish the conditions of discipleship. When neighbors and friends and members of the community saw that scene, they realized that that man was walking in one way and was not coming back.

There is something, isn’t there, about a one-way ticket? There is something about a one-way journey with no possibility of return. As I pondered that this week, my mind went to part of a biography that I’d read of the late John Murray—brought up in the Highlands of Scotland before he came to Princeton, and then from there to Westminster Seminary, and he had a number of brothers; all of them served in the forces in the War. And it was one particular scene that I remembered that had to do with this picture of not coming back that I thought I might read to you:

The effects of the First World War on the Scottish Highlands were almost as devastating as if it had been fought on that soil. When the conflict began in 1914, the long-famous Highland regiments at once claimed the cream of the manhood of the North but very few who were recruited at the beginning of the conflict ever returned to their homes. Of John’s brothers, William went to the Navy, Donald went to France with the Seaforth Highlanders, and Thomas to the Dardanelles with the Camerons.[6]

And then this is the part that I’d remembered, because it struck me so forcibly when I read it: “An eye-witness on the day when Thomas left Badbea”—that’s a tiny, tiny place in the Highlands of Scotland—when Thomas left his home, an eyewitness

spoke of it as one of the most affectionate partings he ever witnessed between a loving father and a dutiful son. The thick-set and soft-spoken father put his arms around Tommy’s neck—the boy who had never said no to him—and Tommy embraced his father. “Goodbye Tommy, I’ll never see you again” were his final words before he watched his son ride off [to military service.] And so it was to prove. Thomas was killed in action.[7]

“Goodbye, son. I will never see you again.” That’s what Jesus is talking about here. What he’s saying is that we turn around and we say, “Goodbye, old life. I will never see you again—not if I’m going to take seriously the conditions of discipleship.”

Now, don’t get sidetracked by the fact that most of us have not been called to pay the ultimate price. Don’t let’s rest in that too much, for our lives are not yet over. Don’t let’s try and sidestep the implications, because it seems much more apropos—northern India, or Saudi Arabia, or Nepal, or Kuala Lumpur. These are the conditions of discipleship. And unlike the iTunes ones, they’re not new, they’re not revised, they’re the same, they cannot be modified, and they will never be rescinded.

The pathway to discipleship, says Jesus, is not, then, a walk—a stroll on a nice Sunday afternoon like this—but is a march into danger and death. By the time Paul is writing the Epistles, he’s reinforcing it, isn’t he? “Therefore, I beseech you, brethren,” he says—Romans 12—“by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, which is wholly acceptable to God. It’s your only sensible spiritual service of worship.”[8] And when he writes to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 6:19, he says, “And you are not your own, you were brought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.”[9] “You are not your own.” That is one of the defining features of what it means to be a Christian. That’s why Billy Joel’s “My Life” will always stick in the throat of a Christian. You say, “Well, I can’t sing that song. That’s not my song.” No, it isn’t your song.

So, the conditions are clear: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” I don’t think “and follow me” is a third condition. I think it ought to read sort of like, “And he must deny himself and take up his cross, and in this way follow me.” “This is how you follow me,” he says. “If you don’t deny yourself and take up your cross, you can call it following me, but you’re not actually following me.”

The Implications

And the implications are equally straightforward—verse 35 and following. What are the implications of taking the condition seriously? Well, we might summarize it in this way: First of all, a change in the way in which the believer views life—a change in the way in which we view life. So, instead of doing everything we can to preserve it, the disciple of Jesus is ready to lose it in light of eternity. That’s what he’s saying there: “Whoever wants to save his life”—hold onto it, protect it, live for himself, live for herself—“will actually lose it in the end. But whoever is prepared to lose his life”—notice—“for me and for the gospel will actually save it.” It’s a paradox—absolute allegiance to the person of Jesus and absolute adherence to the gospel of Jesus. And we saw that last time as we were thinking about the message or the word of the cross from 1 Corinthians 1.

Now, I think verse 38 can be taken along with verse 35. It’s virtually parallel to it, or you might say that it builds upon it. Because notice the similar statement: in verse 35, “for me and for the gospel,” and in verse 38, “of me and my words.” “For me and the gospel,” “of me and my words.” What he does is, he turns it round the other way, and he says, “Now, look: If anyone is ashamed of me now, I will be ashamed of him then. If anyone if prepared to be unashamed of me now, then there will be no shame at that point.” So, in other words, the contrast is now between shame and honor. Do I want honor now and shame then? Or am I prepared to accept shame now and honor then?

Well, you see, the problem is that we live such existential lives—everything is in now and everything is in the immediate—and we’re tempted not to believe in eternity at all. So much that happens in our world suggests to us, “You don’t have to worry about anything out there. There really is nothing out there. You were born without reason, you prolong yourself by chance, and you die and you go into oblivion. Don’t worry about any of that ‘ashamed’ stuff and the ‘Son of the Man coming in power and in glory.’ You don’t need to believe that stuff.”

Well, yes, you do need to believe that stuff. Written into the psyche of every man and woman is the awareness that things will one day be fixed. Everybody in and of themselves knows, Hitler’s not just getting away with this forever. Everybody knows that every bad decision that was made in a court of law where somebody was sentenced to something they did not deserve or set free from something that they should have deserved, eventually that will be resolved. When? When the Son of Man comes in power and in glory. And on that occasion, those of us who have said, “I’m ashamed of Jesus, I’m not going to be a follower of Jesus,” he will be ashamed of us then.

These are the conditions of discipleship. And unlike the iTunes ones, they’re not new, they’re not revised, they’re the same, they cannot be modified, and they will never be rescinded.

It’s a very straightforward statement, isn’t it? I think the picture is standing before a court. If they deny association with him when they’re in the dock, they will be set free to live. That’s what would have happened to Ridley and Latimer. If you’ve been to Oxford, you’ve seen the monument there to Ridley and Latimer. Latimer says to Ridley, “Play the man, Master Ridley, and this day we will light a candle that will never be extinguished.”[10] That’s a loose paraphrase. And they’re burned at the stake. You can go to the monument in Oxford, and you can stand there and say, “Can it possibly be that people allowed themselves to be burned into… just extinguished for the sake of the gospel?” Yes.

If you’ve played golf at St Andrews, and you’ve lined up for the eighteenth hole, you may have lined up with the monument that is on the right-hand side of the Royal and Ancient Clubhouse. And if you ever bothered to get off the course and go up to the monument, you would have stood there and said the same thing: “Can it possibly be that the names of the people on here are the names of those who, when brought before the jurisdiction of Scotland and were asked, ‘Deny Jesus Christ and the gospel,’ they said no, and they killed them?”

Loved ones, this is Memorial Day weekend. We memorialize those who took seriously the terms and conditions of discipleship, and subsequent generations will have no reason to memorialize us unless we, in our day, take the same stand for the same terms and the same conditions: “Anyone who is ashamed of me and my gospel, of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him or her when he comes in the power and in the glory.” It’s categorical.

This paradox captured memorably in the words of a student from Wheaton College who lost his life with his friends when his blood mingled with the Curaray River in Equador as a young man in his twenties, dying at the hands of the cannibal population there. And when they uncovered his journals, they found that Elliot had written, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”[11] What was he expressing? The paradox that is contained in an absolutely radically new view of life.

Implication two, and last: a change in our view of what’s worth chasing—a change in our view of what’s worth chasing. You see, again I say to you that we’ve gotta be very, very careful that we don’t trivialize this message of the gospel—that it goes like this: “Well, you know, yeah, I’m a Christian.” “Well, what does that mean?” “Well, I have Jesus in my heart.” People say, “Well, fine, you know. I’m glad it works for you.” Isn’t that what they say? “I’m glad it works for you. I’m into Krishna consciousness. He’s in my heart.” Or “I’ve embraced Buddhism, and his doctrine has filled my mind and changed me.” What do we do? This is not the message of Christianity.

No, the message of Christianity is that Jesus Christ is the only Lord and Savior, and the terms and conditions of discipleship involve a radical transformation: the denial of self, the taking up of the cross, which changes my view of life and which actually changes my view of what is worth chasing in life. That’s the point that he’s making. Jesus is really appealing here to the businessmen in the crowd. Some of these fellows would be fishermen. Some of them would be farmers. They knew a profit and loss account. Some of them would have been accountants in their day. They knew what’s in the profit side, what’s in the loss account.

And Jesus had been perfect at this. Remember, on one occasion he tells a little story of a man who’s digging in a field and he finds treasure. And he immediately covers it up, and he goes away and sells everything he has in order that he might buy the field.[12] Another guy is a merchant searching for pearls. He finds a pearl of inestimable price, he goes away, liquidates his entire holdings in order to buy that pearl.[13] What is he speaking about? He’s speaking about the kingdom of God. He says, “The kingdom of God, the lordship of Jesus, he as a Savior and a Friend, is worth giving up everything for.” That’s what he’s saying. The kingdom of God is a good buy at any price.

And classically, he tells the story of the fellow who says, “You know, this has been a particularly good month”—not like the month of May 2010, the worst month in the market since 1940, apparently, according to the Wall Street yesterday. “It’s been a particularly good month. Everything is going very, very well, and my receipts are good, and frankly, my barns are looking a little on the shabby side. I think I’ll tear them down and double the size, and I’ll store all my grain and all my goods—all my, my, my, my, my, my, my, my, my stuff. And I’ll say to my-self, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy. Eat, drink, and be merry.’”[14]

Now, don’t misunderstand me when I say this, but listen carefully—this is the prototype of the American Dream: work hard, be successful, double it up, let the good times roll. Now, let me tell you something: I love the American Dream. I really like it. I like this place for more reasons than six, but one of them is, if you want to work, and you want to do your thing, you can enjoy the benefits of hard work. I like a place where you can do that. I want to live in a place where you can do that. I don’t want to live in the other kind of place that’s looming on the horizon. So don’t misunderstand me.

The problem here for this man is not the problem of success. It’s not the problem of that which he’s able to accrue. No, Jesus makes it perfectly clear: “God said to him, ‘You fool!’” What? “This very night your life will be demanded [of] you.”[15] See, death changes everything. Death changes everything.

The message of Christianity is that Jesus Christ is the only Lord and Savior, and the terms and conditions of discipleship involve a radical transformation.

I saw that Linkletter just died—Art Linkletter—bemoaning the death tax. They’re the worst of all taxes. The government comes at the end of your life and takes fifty percent of everything you have. So you have to be a genius or have a genius accountant to try and figure that stuff out. Everybody understands that. That’s ridiculous! You die. And when you die, all the stuff is now viewed in an entirely different way, because there are no pockets in a shroud. And so, Jesus says, “Who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”[16]

You see, that’s the problem for the man—not the problem that he is successful, but he is successful in a way that leaves God out of the equation. He’s successful in time in a way that leaves eternity out of the equation. He’s successful in a way that enjoys all the benefits now and pays no attention to the prospects then. And Jesus, just so that no one will misunderstand his parable, says, “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward[s] God.”[17] Communism answers it like this: “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things,” full stop. That’s not what Jesus is saying. He says, “This was how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself, to the exclusion of the riches which God provides”—which have got nothing to do with the bottom line of your bank balance this morning. Because all of those riches are found in Christ.

The contrast between the prizes of business and social life versus eternal riches are absolutely clear. It’s funny that… something happened to me this week; I’ll just tell you about it, but I must stop. But I was reading Currents magazine, which is a magazine put out by the Chagrin Valley Times, or the Solon Times, or whatever—big glossy thing. You can’t read it, it’s so glossy. You can’t read the jolly thing. But I looked through it to see how many people I know in the “society pages.” All right? I’m looking through, and I’m saying to Sue, “I don’t know anybody.” I thought I’d lived here twenty-seven years; I thought I knew people. I’m going through, I don’t know anybody at all. And then I was reflecting on it. You know, to get in one of those pictures, you know, that’s… that’s quite a thing. You know, look at you in there.

Well then, Thursday night I went to speak, and a photographer came up to me, and she said, “I want to take your photograph.” And I said, “For what?” She said, “For Currents magazine.” “Ah!” I said, “waah, mmm, ahh!” So, I’m in! But I couldn’t care less. And I might be in tomorrow’s Plain Dealer as well, for the same reason, ’cause they came sneaking up as well. But I was thinking to myself, “Imagine living as if this is what it’s about,” you know?

Spending counterfeit incentive,
Wasting precious time and health,
Placing value on the worthless,
Disregarding priceless wealth.[18]

And imagine if you got your picture in because you were ashamed of Jesus, and so they put you in, but if you remained true to Jesus, maybe they’ll pull your picture out. So, I’m actually intrigued to see what happens. Because they asked me at the table, said someone, “And what will you be speaking on this evening?” I said, “Well, I will be speaking on salvation this evening.” What else is there to speak about? What else is there to speak about?

You got Billy Joel: “Go ahead with your own life and leave me alone.” You got Bev Shea. Dear old Bev Shea. He’s about 140 now, and if you prop him up, he’ll still sing his song which [Rhea F. Miller] wrote:

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold,
I’d rather have him than have riches untold,
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame,
I’d rather be true to his holy name
Than to be a king of vast domain.[19]

What was Bev Shea writing about? The paradox that is contained in these verses.

Let’s come back to my iTouch. Let’s imagine that the message that appears on our screen is from Jesus. And it reads as follows—it’s on your screen, and it’s mine: “My terms and conditions have not changed. You must read and agree to the conditions in order to proceed. You must read and agree to the conditions in order to proceed.” Now, the question is, are we going to tick the box?

You say, “Well, tick the box? That’s easy.” No, it’s not easy. Because by nature I don’t want to tick no box that agrees to anybody’s conditions except my own conditions. So, if in your heart there is a willingness to say, “Yes, I have read these, and I agree to these,” that is because of God’s goodness to you. And the same goodness that will open your heart to be prepared to tick the box is the same grace and goodness that will give you the grace and ability in order to follow through on these commands, whether it means for us life or death.

Let us pray:

Gracious God, help us to remember all that is of yourself, to forget anything that is extraneous or irrelevant. Help us to take our place, planting our feet in the footsteps of Christ. For we pray in his name. Amen.


[1] Jordan Kauflin, “All I Have Is Christ” (2008).

[2] Mark 8:29 (paraphrased).

[3] Mark 8:24 (NIV 1984).

[4] William Temple, Christianity and Social Order (London: SPCK, 1976), 60. Paraphrased.

[5] Billy Joel, “My Life” (1978).

[6] Iain H. Murray, The Life of John Murray (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1982), 11–12.

[7] Murray, John Murray, 12.

[8] Romans 12:1 (paraphrased).

[9] 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 (paraphrased).

[10] John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (Philadelphia: Charles Foster, 1897), 484. Paraphrased.

[11] Quoted in Elisabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot (1958; repr., New York: HarperCollins, 2009), 15.

[12] See Matthew 13:44.

[13] See Matthew 13:45–46.

[14] Luke 12:18–19 (paraphrased).

[15] Luke 12:20 (NIV 1984).

[16] Luke 12:20 (NIV 1984).

[17] Luke 12:21 (NIV 1984).

[18] Ray Stevens, “Mr. Businessman” (1968).

[19] Rhea F. Miller, “I’d Rather Have Jesus” (1922). Paraphrased.

Thankfulness: A Mark of Grace
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