October 16 - Message Update

What Do You Believe? – Mark 8:27-38 – Pastor Scott

What does a Christian believe?

 

A Christian believes that Jesus is the Savior of the world who died and rose again to give us a new life. We are continuing in our Sunday Sermon series in the book of Mark. The series is called, “Come and Follow Me,” and this morning we will answer the question – “What does a Christian believe?

 

The world has a funny view of what a Christian is and often makes assumptions of what a Christian would believe. Going to church is great but it is not what makes you a Christian. Some may think a Christian is someone who has Christian parents but faith isn’t based on your parents. A relationship with Christ is personal and is up to each individual person. Based on the media, some may think a Christian is someone who is unloving, hypocritical and judgmental. And that may be what people see in some who say they are Christian but that’s not how Christians are called to live.

 

The word “Christian” comes from the first century when people used that word to describe people who followed Christ. The word first appears in Acts 11:26 where it says “The disciples were called Christian first at Antioch.” They were called Christians because their speech and behavior were like Christ. They were “Christ-like.”

 

But these days we see all kinds of people who call themselves Christian but they are far from being Christ-like. And it’s sad because sometimes people are hurt by the actions of people who say they are Christian and that turns people away from Christ and the church. When people represent Christ but don’t act like Christ, that’s a recipe for disaster.

 

What a person believes will be reflected in the way they act.  So, what does a Christian believe? The Take Home Truth This morning is: A Christian believes that Jesus is the Savior of the world who died and rose again to give us a new life.

           

1)  A Christian believes Jesus is the Savior. A Christian believes Jesus is the Savior of the World. (vv.27-30)  We know Jesus as a historical figure. Christian and non-Christian historians will agree that Jesus was someone who lived on this earth 2,000 years ago. But while some will say He was just a good man, a good teacher, a righteous man, a leader and even a saint, some will leave it at that.

 

People had heard of Jesus. Maybe they even saw the amazing things He had done. He had just fed large crowds of 4,000 and 5,000 men with just a few loaves of bread and some fish. He had healed the sick and gave sight to the blind. And the people were amazed. So much so that they thought Jesus was John the Baptist or Elijah or one of the prophets. And that would have been really cool. But not the truth and not accurate.

 

Jesus was clear on who He was. He wasn’t just a good man, He was the God-man. 100% God, 100% man. He was the Messiah. The Savior who was prophesied about in the Old Testament. He was the One everyone was waiting for. Jesus came because God and man were separated by sin and the only way to bridge the gap was to make sacrifices at the temple. But Jesus came to be the ultimate sacrifice. The perfect sacrifice so that we would not need to make sacrifices at a temple anymore.

 

We only need to ask Jesus to be our Savior and have a relationship with Him. That's why He came and that’s what He wants. He is the perfect sacrifice because being 100% man, He took a hold of sinful man and being 100% God, He took a hold of a perfect God and He became that bridge that we need to go from sin to perfection…from darkness into light, from death to life, from a destiny in Hell to an eternity in Heaven.

 

Before He was crucified, Jesus was asked by the high priest if He was the Christ and Jesus said, “I am.” Jesus says in John 10:30, “The Father and I are One.”

These days, people may hear the name of Jesus and have all kinds of different thoughts. Negative thoughts. Perhaps because they have so many negative ideas about Jesus. But those thoughts aren’t because of Jesus.   It’s because of the people who claim they know Jesus. And because people call themselves Christian without being Christ-like and claim to be Christ followers, yet don’t really follow Him, the world gets a distorted view of who Jesus really is.

 

People get a negative view of Jesus. But this can be avoided if people who claim they are Christians actually know Jesus personally. Being a Christian is not something we do casually. It is a commitment. It is not about admiring Him from a distance. It’s about adoring Him closely. So, in verse 29 when Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do you think I am?” Peter answers for the twelve and says, “You are the Christ.” Peter is acknowledging that Jesus was the Savior. He was the One the Old Testament had prophesied about. He was the One they had been waiting for!

 

It didn't matter if others thought Jesus was John the Baptist or Elijah. It doesn't matter what everyone else thinks. It only matters what you think. Who do you think Jesus is? Do you know Him as a good teacher from 2,000 years ago? Or do you know Him personally as your Lord and Savior? The way you answer that will make all the difference in your life.

 

This is a question you need to answer at some point in your life. Who is Jesus to you?  Was Jesus a good man or is He the God-man? Do you know about Jesus or do you know Him personally? Do you see Him as just a historical figure or a distant person? Or do you know Him as your Savior and Lord?

 

I first accepted Christ into my life when I was 17 years old. But for a whole year, I didn't see much of a change in my life. Some of my habits changed. But I was basically the same person. It wasn’t until I went to UC Riverside that I realized I had been living my life as a carnal Christian. I believed in God but I didn’t live my life like Jesus was at the center. But once I realized the difference between being a Christian by name or by faith, things changed for me. I found out that being a Christian is not about being religious, it’s about being in a relationship with God. And when I finally acknowledged Jesus as the Christ and as my Lord and Savior, things changed in my life. And they will change in yours as well.

 

Jesus is more than a character in a book. He’s more than a historical figure. He is God and He is the One and Only Way to Heaven. And we should be telling everyone about Him. But verse 30 seems a bit odd. It says, “And He strictly charged them to tell no one about Him.” Why?  The simple answer is, “it wasn’t the right time yet.” Several times in the New Testament, Jesus made it clear He didn’t want to reveal who He was yet.

 

He knows the disciples still have to learn some things. He wanted them to fully understand why He was there on earth. He was not there to save the Israelites from Roman oppression. He was there for a bigger cause.

 

2) A Christian believes Jesus died and rose again. A Christian believes Jesus died on the cross and rose on the third day. (vv.31-33)

 

Imagine being the disciples and hearing this without knowing what was going to happen. To hear that your leader would have to “suffer many things” and “be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and scribes and be killed.” It all sounds so horrible!

 

Who could blame Peter for taking Jesus’ aside and rebuking Him? Peter didn’t want any harm to come to Jesus and that’s a nice thing – right? So why does Jesus respond so harshly? (v.33) But turning and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

 

Notice Jesus saw all the disciples – most likely He was speaking to all of them – not just Peter. But why mention Satan? Well, Peter saying no to Jesus being killed is saying no to the reason why Jesus came. Jesus needed to die on the cross. That was His mission. And Peter not wanting that put his words and thoughts in the same camp as Satan. Remember – Satan also didn't want Jesus to die on the cross. He even offered a way for Jesus to avoid the cross when he tempted Jesus in the desert in Matthew 4. Now, Satan’s motives were pure evil. But Peter and the disciples’ motives were out of love and care for Jesus. But they were still wrong.

 

Also, notice that it says Peter “took Jesus aside.” That phrase in the Greek can be translated “lead.” As in Peter led Jesus. But followers of Jesus don’t lead Jesus. They don’t guide Jesus. They don’t tell Jesus what to do. We are led by Jesus. We follow Jesus. We obey Jesus.

 

And Christians believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We believe it as historical truth and something that happened 2,000 years ago. Jesus was so impactful that it changed our calendars. We live in the year 2022 not because it has been 2022 years that the Earth has been around but because we believe it has been 2,022 years since Jesus was born. 2,022 years since Jesus came to Earth.

 

And we believe that Jesus died on the cross. But if that were all, Christianity would be dead. There would be no hope because Jesus dying would be no better than any other religious leader. They all died and stayed dead. But we believe that not only was Jesus alive on this earth and that He died, we believe that He rose from the dead on the third day! That’s why we celebrate Easter. Easter isn’t about eggs or chocolate or jelly beans. We celebrate because we know 2,000 years ago Jesus knowingly and willingly went to the cross to die for us. And on the third day, He rose from the dead. He conquered death. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 says, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

When I first heard about the resurrection, I had to think hard if it could really be true. Did Jesus really come back from the dead? Christian and non-Christian historians will agree that Jesus was killed, wrapped in cloths and buried behind a two-ton stone. They agree that on the third day, the stone was moved away and the body was gone. What they do not agree on is what happened to the body. We believe what the Bible says – that He rose from the dead like He said He would and He appeared to more than 500 witnesses before He ascended into Heaven. But here are some theories to what might have happened. See if any of these make sense to you.

 

Swoon, wrong tomb, disciples stole, Romans moved.  None of these theories make any sense and that leaves us to the one idea that makes the most sense – Jesus was God in human form, He died and rose again and because He conquered death, we can too.

           

Can you grasp the enormity of the situation? Can you feel the pain and the anguish and the closeness we were all to eternal death? We had no hope. We were lost and now we’re found. We are free when we once were bound. We shook on shaky soil but now dance on solid ground. Amazing grace how sweet the sound.

 

It’s the like prisoner on death row who was about to be executed. Only a call from the governor could save him and then at the last hour, he is pardoned. He is allowed to live.

 

You can imagine the joy the prisoner feels. But as the Governor explains that he is pardoning him, the prisoner has a few things to say of his own. He tells the governor, “Thank you for the pardon but if I am going to live, I want you to give me a nice house to live in and a new car. I want a cushy job with a large salary and I want money in my bank account. If you can provide those things, then I will accept your pardon.”

 

That would be ridiculous, right? Well, that's how many people live their lives. They say they believe in Jesus and that He can give us eternal life but they want more. As if life in Christ isn’t good enough.  They say they believe Jesus died for them but don’t live like it. And that leads us to our 3rd and final point.

 

3) A Christian believes Jesus is worth living for. A Christian believes Jesus is worth giving up their life for. Not only do we need to believe these things, we need to put those beliefs into action. We need to live out our faith. Not just in our head and not just in words but living it with our life. It’s saying – “I owe my life to you, Lord. You gave my life on earth and you offer me life in heaven and so I will do whatever you want me to do with the years I have on this earth.” (vv.34-38)

 

Jesus says it plainly here. If anyone is to come after Him, he is to: Deny himself; Take up his cross; Follow Jesus.

 

Deny means to disown your own self, to refuse your own self, to remove yourself. To take yourself out of the picture. Get the idea? If you remember points 1 and 2, if you believe Jesus is the Savior and you know He died and rose again for you, then it makes it easier to deny yourself because you have already elevated Jesus. Jesus has done all the hard work. He did the heavy lifting when He carried the cross for you. And so now He makes it easy for us to live the life He created us to live.

 

Jesus says we need to take up our cross. This does NOT mean we need to take on a burden to carry. That's how some interpret this. What it means is we need to die to ourselves. 2,000 years ago, if you saw someone carrying a cross, you knew exactly what was happening. He was going to die on that cross. “Take up your cross and follow Me,” means being willing to die in order to follow Jesus. This is called “dying to self.” It’s a call to absolute surrender and allowing God full control of your life as you follow Him.

 

Jesus says thirteen times in the New Testament to follow Him. He doesn't say “Believe in God,” He says “Follow.” We may think of “follow the leader” where we copy what the person does. But Jesus calls us to do more than that. That word follow means to actually go with or to accompany. When Jesus called people to follow Him, it involved spiritual lessons and fellowship. It meant there would be much time spent together. It meant cleaving to Him, trusting Him, acting according to His example, following His lead. It also means to share in His suffering but also in the rewards of living forever in Heaven.

 

Denying yourself and following Jesus means making decisions that are Christ centered. Saying and doing things that would benefit His Kingdom. It means being honest with your finances. It means treating others with kindness. Loving your neighbor who is not so kind. Turning the other cheek when you want to strike back. It may mean not getting your way but it will also mean recognizing God’s way is better than your way.

 

If you want to be a Christian, it means more than church attendance, Bible study or saying grace before you eat a meal. It involves a change, a call, and a commitment to Christ. It starts with believing Jesus is your personal Savior. It starts with you believing that He died and rose for you. It starts with you giving up your life for Him because He gave up His life for you.

 

And because you know Jesus is the Savior and because you know He died and rose again for you, you are willing to deny yourself. What does that look like? You know things on earth don't last so instead of spending money on worldly things, you support missionaries and other groups that share the Gospel and impact the world! Maybe you feel the call to give up your vacation and serve at Special Camp or go on a short-term mission trip. Or perhaps you recognize that some things or relationships in your life are not spiritually beneficial so you leave those behind.

 

And maybe you have once and for all decided that you want to live the life God created you to live. You are ready to take that step and put Jesus first in your life. You can do that. Right now. No matter how you have lived in the past, you can make a conscious effort to follow Jesus now.

 

The world puts an emphasis on what we can see and makes us think that that is more important than spiritual matters. But you can make a decision right here and right now that will allow you to see that there is more to this life than this life. And because of Jesus’ sacrifice, you will have a place reserved for you in Paradise forever.

 

Or maybe now you understand that being a Christian means more than just believing. It involves following. And now you want to take that step to being a committed follower of Jesus.

 

 

Praise Songs:

‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, What a Beautiful Name, Jesus is Better, Doxology