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Mark 8:3438; 9:3337; 10:3234comment (0)

September 24, 2009

By Michael Wilson

Related Scripture: Mark 8:3438; 9:3337; 10:3234

Bible Studies for Life
Director, Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence, Samford University

The Results of Knowing Jesus
Mark 8:34–38; 9:33–37; 10:32–34

Baseball legend and folksy philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know when you get there.” Our society places inordinate value on goal setting and measurable results. We find it easier to plan when we have clear knowledge of where we want to go or what we want to achieve. Such an approach to planning and evaluation is effective in the worlds of education, manufacturing and commerce. With these, success is measured by tangible results. People are evaluated based on what they have produced, whether it is widgets made, sales obtained or degrees awarded.

Committed Christ followers produce results for the kingdom of God. Though often intangible and difficult to measure using the world’s standards of assessment, such results can be observed by both Christians and non-Christians. This lesson presents the kind of results we should anticipate if we declare ourselves to be followers of Christ.

Willing to Deny Self (8:34–38)
Our nation is in the midst of an economic downturn unlike any seen in decades. Many have lost their jobs. Businesses have closed. People have been forced to go without because of disappearing discretionary income. Thankfully evidence that things are improving is becoming apparent. Yet one of the ironies of this slump is its main cause: We as a society engaged in excessive spending. The nation’s economic system whirls around smoothly when production and consumption are in balance. Overconsumption knocked things out of balance, and things spun out of control. The economy thrived because we were quick to satisfy whatever material “want” we had. Many people went deep into debt obtaining cars, houses, boats, flat panel TVs and any number of other items they wanted. We like to have what we want when we want it. We work hard for our money. Why sacrifice anything in our quest for the good things in life?

Jesus called for an entirely different value system. Mark records the stunning announcement to His disciples: Only those willing to take up the cross — to suffer and die — could be His followers. No doubt Jesus had in mind Roman persecution and the killing of His followers. He also meant His followers would have to be willing to forget about themselves and their priorities and take on His priorities.

What good are things money can buy to enhance our physical lives if we lose our spiritual lives as a result? Followers of Christ reveal they have “taken up their cross” in the choices they make.

Ready to Serve (9:33–37)
The concept of the first being the last is found several times in the Gospels. In the culture of Jesus’ day, one’s greatness was measured by the company one kept. Someone associating with children of peasants or outcasts of society rather than the rich or people well situated in circles of influence would have little, if any, standing in the community. Jesus turned His culture upside down. He taught that by welcoming and giving attention to the powerless, His disciples would actually be welcoming the Powerful One who sent Him. It is far better to be welcomed and given standing in the Kingdom by the Father than to receive recognition in this life.

Prepared to Accept Suffering (10:32–34)
Jesus’ teachings and actions were so counter­cultural the Gospel writers used the words “astounded” and “astonished” to describe how people responded to Him. Jesus faced rejection from and suffered at the hands of those who felt threatened by His teachings. He carried the burden of knowing many would hear Him but choose not to take His message to heart. Though most of us will never face death for our commitment to Christ, we will experience discomfort as we make choices different from those of our non-Christian neighbors, co-workers and friends. There is also suffering that reflects grief and pain over the world’s brokenness and lack of response to the gospel. This is suffering that should motivate us to act in countercultural ways as we model the way of Christ in our lives.

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