30 Jun 2019
Many church-goers think that Christianity is a formula for success and fulfilment in this life. But Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. " He says that following Him is not about self-fulfilment, but self-denial. It is not getting your best life now, but about losing your best life now! Following Jesus is not self-centred, but it is cross-centred. So, if you want to follow Jesus, you must be willing to die to yourself on a daily basis. But there is great value in doing so, for Jesus also said, "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. " It is promises like this that inspired Jim Elliot and countless others to give their lives for the cause of Christ, believing "He is no fool to give what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose. " Jesus promised He "is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. " You only live once (YOLO)! Make it count. Lay down your life for Jesus, and find eternal life indeed! Find out more about authentic discipleship to Jesus in this sermon!
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So as a church, we have been taking our people through the Bible and we arrive at Matthew, chapter 16 verses 24 to 28. Some of you have your Bibles with you, some of you may not have that, that's fine. The verses are going to be flashed on the screen. So, I hope you can follow the teaching of God's Word in an easy way.
Now, last week we went for our Annual Church Camp. We were in JB, it's very near the causeway and we … I drove up to the hotel there. But I'm hopeless in navigating in Malaysia. I'm not familiar with the roads. I can't read Malay very well and I'm a cheapo, I wouldn't pay for Wi-Fi. And so I needed to go as a convoy and our convoy leader was very kind, he went to JB ahead of us, a few days ahead of us.
He took great pains to take the photos of the road signs and gave us a series of road signs and say, “Follow these signs and if you follow them correctly, you will arrive at the Shell petrol station. And that is where we meet and that is where we convoy together to the hotel.”
So, I thought, “That's easy! I should be able to do that.” So, I crossed the causeway, I saw the signs and I went exactly the wrong way. I got ‘hor lan’, I was lost! I was like, “Oh no! I can't, I can't get to where … “It's on the expressway right away. And I knew I blew it, I knew I will be lost and I thought to myself, “It's so hard to follow instructions. It's much easier to follow a person.”
Aren't you glad that Christianity is not just about a set of rules and regulations. The very heart of Christianity is that we have an example to follow - we follow Jesus Christ. Christianity is about following Jesus.
I hope that at the end of my life, when I die, it will not be said of me that I was a good father, a good husband, a good pastor, a good preacher, but more than anything else, I hope it could be said that - I followed Jesus Christ. I was a good follower of Christ.
And I think that must be your heart’s desire if you know Jesus as your Saviour. If anything that is worthy to be said of you, I hope it would be this - John, James, Mary, whoever you are, you followed Jesus well.
So, the question is - How can you and I follow Jesus better? What does it look like? What does it take for us to be a follower of Jesus? This morning, we're looking at this passage in Matthew 16, verses 24 to 28 - about discipleship.
A disciple is a learner; a follower and we are talking about specifically discipleship to Jesus. Now, verses 24 to 28 in the Bible are familiar verses. In my time here I referred to these words, many, many times. But maybe like myself, we have often referred to them, skimmed the surface, but never really sank roots and dug deep into what these words really mean.
So, I think it's a privilege for us this morning, just to think about these five verses and how that should impact our following of Jesus. Three things I want to share with you this morning about following Jesus Christ.
1]. The Prerequisite of Discipleship
Number one, I like us to notice the prerequisite of discipleship. Last evening, I preached this, my sons were here and my son, Shawn immediately said, “Daddy, why you always use such ‘cheem’ words, difficult words. What prerequisite?” I say, “Actually not very difficult, it's very simple. Prerequisite means something you must have or something you must do before you can do something else.”
So if I want to follow Jesus, there must be something I have or something I do before I can follow Him.
Now in Singapore, I think many people think that Christianity or coming to church becoming a Christian is a good way to getting a good life here. Many people think that following Jesus is a formula to success, to health, to prosperity, to wealth, to have a good family. After all, many Christians seem to do well in this life, in this Singapore.
They have respectable jobs. A lot of them are university graduates. I'm quoting from a survey- General Household Survey in 2015. Many people think that becoming a Christian is a good way to find a good life here. And that is not helped when even preachers tell you, “If you become a Christian, you get healthy, you get wealthy, you get successful.”
“Who are these preachers?” You say. Well, for example, some of you might have heard about Pastor Kong Hee. He … I'm told will be released from jail in about two months’ time, but he preached a sermon some years ago entitled, “Was Jesus Poor?”
His main point is to prove that Jesus wasn't poor. In fact, Jesus was quite rich! And therefore if you follow Jesus, you will be rich like Jesus. You get the logic? So many people, I think without him preaching this, somehow believe that, “If I come to church, if I'm a Christian, life will be good. I'll be rich. I'll be successful. I'll be fulfilled.”
When anyway, let's listen to what he said. I … I listen to the sermon, it's still available on YouTube, you better listen before it's taken down. So, anyway, I heard it on YouTube, I took down some notes and quotes and this is what he said, “The idea of a Jesus who is so poor that he was a destitute, have been repeated so often that many people, including Christians, have accepted it as gospel truth.”
He goes on to say, “But if you study the Bible very carefully, you'll realize Jesus was never poor in his 33 1/2 years of earthly ministry.” “You'll always have what you believe,” he says. “If you believe Jesus isn't poor, you are able to break through out of poverty and come into God's abundance and prosperity. When we study the Bible and read of the heroes of faith, most of them were very wealthy - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David …”
“David donated $50 billion worth of gold for the building of the temple, Solomon, Job, Joseph of Arimathea.” “A poverty mindset will block the prosperity of God to you. Poverty is a curse, prosperity is a blessing…” So, come to church, worship Jesus. Get what? Get rich. Get prosperity.
Now, that's what people think! That's what people think following Jesus is about! To get a good life. And let me say this, “He might be something, he might be saying something really extreme, but the reality is, many of us today somehow believe.” That following Jesus is to have a fulfilled life here and now. So, don't criticize until we look at ourselves.
Is that why you come to church? Is that why you say, “You want to be a Christian?” Is that why you read the Bible? You hope that by reading, coming, obeying, somehow God will add to you - His wealth, His prosperity, His healing.
So, the problem in Singaporean Christianity is that we believe following Jesus is the path to self-fulfilment. But what does Jesus Himself say? He said in Matthew 16 verse 24, “If anyone would come after Me …” If you want to be My disciple, if you want to follow Me, “… let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.”
According to Jesus, following Him is not the path to self-fulfilment, following Him is the path of self-denial. In other words, following Jesus is not having the good life now, but it's losing your life now. You say, “Are you sure that's what Jesus meant?” Let me show you some other verses, some other statements He made.
In Luke 14, in verse 26, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life …” Now, I hope if you are new with us, don't be offended like say, “Wah! Christians are to be unfilial, Christians are to hate their own.” No, no, no! That's not what it means.
It’s saying, “That our value, our esteem, our love for Jesus is so great, that we're willing even to deny ourselves.” And He says, “If you're not willing to do this, you cannot be My disciple.” Notice, it's not that it is hard to balance both things, but He says, “You cannot.” It's impossible to follow Jesus, if you love yourself and your old life more than Him!
He does not say this only once. He says this, says this again in verse 27, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me, cannot be My disciple.” Get that clear! Cannot! Two times. And if it is not enough, the third time in verse 33 in Luke 14, “So therefore anyone of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple.”
So if you want to follow Jesus, there is a prerequisite. What is a prerequisite to following Jesus? You must be willing to deny yourself. You must be willing to say, “No,” to your personal ambitions in this world. You must be willing to say, “No,” to fame and fortune. You must be willing to say, “No,” to the applause of men. You must be willing to say, “No,” to the comforts and conveniences of this life. You must be willing to take up the cross.
Discipleship to Jesus is not self-centred, it's cross-centred. You follow Jesus not to get stuff. You follow Jesus to get Jesus. And that means you value Jesus above stuff of life. And you're willing to deny the stuff of life, because after all that's what the early disciples did, isn't it?
When Jesus walked by the sea of Galilee, He called Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow Him. And what did they do? They said, “Oh Jesus, will give me money?” They didn't say that! “They immediately…” the Bible said, “… left their boats, left their nets, left their father to follow Jesus.”
When there was a scribe, a religious Jewish leader, said to Jesus, “Master, I'll follow you wherever you go.” He must have thought that following Jesus is the way to prosperity, 荣华富贵 [róng huá fù guì] Wah! Jesus did so many amazing things, follow Him my life is done, is made. But Jesus checked him, gave him a check in his soul what He said to him, “Foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
Are you sure you want to follow me? Get that clear! Following Me is not about self-fulfilment in this life, it's about self-denial in this life. It's about taking the cross, dying to yourself because that's where Jesus went. Jesus went to the cross, He went to the cross to give up His life. He denied His own comforts. He denied His own will, in order to do the Father's will.
His way is the way of the cross. And if we say, “We follow Jesus,” then doesn't it make sense that it is also the way of the cross? Is the way of self-denial, of suffering, of sacrifice?” Let me ask you, “Why did you come to church today?” Maybe you came for all kinds of reasons.
I like you to maybe have a conversation with one another, alright? I did this in church camp, I will do it again. Can you, can you turn to the person beside you, I know it's awkward, “Maybe this guy looks weird!” But never mind, you just do it for these few seconds, alright.
Look at the person beside you and ask him or her , “Why did you come to church? “Or because my mommy force me to come” “Because my girlfriend make me come.” Alright, can you answer each other a little bit - Why did you come to church? Okay, after you have given your answer, I like you to repeat this in another way, alright?
So, you should ask one another - why did you come to church? And then followed by - I came to church to die. Can, can, can you say that? I know you may not mean it but it's okay, just say it, registers. Why did you come to church? OK, now you know you look at each other and say that, alright.
Why did you come to church service? I came to church to die. You know why? Because coming to a worship service is about coming to follow Jesus. And if you want to follow Jesus, you must be willing to die. You see many people think coming to church is a kind of entertainment. “Oh, I like the music.” “I like the singing.” “The pastor quite funny sometimes. I can listen to him, better than staying at home.” “I don't mind coming, got free food some more.”
So, we think that coming to church is about entertainment, satisfying our lust for stuff, for entertainment. “And why not! God will give me blessings. God will give me health. God will give me wealth.” But do you realize that's not what worship is all about? What is worship? Worship, if I understand it correctly like in Romans 12, it is to be a living sacrifice.
Worship is about dying. It's giving up what is valuable to me because I feel, I believe that the God I worship is far more valuable than whatever I give up. So, when I gather in a worship service, I'm gathering to die, to die to my self-will, in order to live God's will. And so Jesus is saying, “If you want to follow me, I'm living for the will of God, I've got to die to self. And if you want to follow me, you got to deny yourself and take up the cross.”
Do you know what is a discipleship group? We have discipleship groups in our church and people think discipleship groups are groups where you meet up to study the Bible, get some knowledge, get some information, pray a little, support one another, hug a bit, cry a bit and say, “Hey, what a great experience we’ve had!”
Can I tell you what the discipleship group is in a simple way? A discipleship group is a group where you go to die. It's a death group. It's a death group! So some of you, you may have husbands that you hate and you say, “Wah this, I want him to die, send him to the discipleship group. Send him there so that he may die to himself, so that there will be life change if he follows Jesus.”
That's what discipleship is. So, if you're in discipleship and all you are aiming for is information, knowledge, and you're not willing to die, get out of that group. That's not for you because we want to follow Jesus and following Jesus requires a prerequisite. You need to die, you need to deny yourself, you need to take up the cross.
And folks, can I say, “Following Jesus, denying yourself is not once in a lifetime decision.” Is not the decision you made when you went for a missions camp, you went for a church camp, you went for a revival camp. Heard some messages and you feel so moved and you say, “Oh, I'm going to give you my life, God.” And you said, “Oh, I give my life to Jesus 30 years ago.”
Following Jesus is not predicated on just a distant decision, but it's a daily reality. Why? Because Jesus says in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily.” Every day, I'm to die to myself. You say, “What does it look like? How, how to stab myself every day? How you do that?
Let them tell you how you do that. When you drive, We all get the idea, right? When you drive and some irritating guy just cut in front of you and you are tempted to ‘paah’. You say, “I need to die. I need to die to self, so that I will not retaliate. I need to die.” “I want to hit out, but I need to die.” That's what it means to die daily.
Maybe you are on your computer and you're surfing stuff and you are seeing images you shouldn't see, and you're tempted to click on and indulge your flesh and that's why that's where you say, “I need to die.” Maybe you did something wrong to someone and you need to apologize but you find it so hard, your ego is so big. It's so difficult to be bruised. It's so difficult to look so low but that's where you need to die.
It so easy for us to cold shoulder someone, to be the incredible sulk at home but that's where you also need to die. “It's tiring, I'm tired after a day's work. My wife is tired after a day's work. It's so easy for me to demand things of her, but that's where I also die. So that, I may serve her, so that you may serve him.”
Oh, it's so hard to part with my hard earned money but there are needs around us. There are brothers, there are people around me, that's where I need to die. We die to our sinful tendencies. We die to our selfish lusts. We die to our worldly ambitions daily. Following Jesus is about doing it daily, there's a dailyness to it. And those who do so, who are denying themselves daily, consistently, you know, something - I see Jesus in them. I see the growth of Christ in them.
So, Jesus was absolutely clear - If you want to follow me, deny yourself, take up your cross. Otherwise you cannot be My disciple and you need to do this daily. So here is the prerequisite of discipleship.
2]. The Paradox of Discipleship
But secondly, in this text, Jesus tells us about the paradox of discipleship. Again, Shawn yesterday said, “Daddy, why you always use such ‘cheem’ words. What is paradox?” I say, “You don't know what's paradox?” “Yah, I don't know what's paradox.” “A paradox is …” Very hard to explain ah! “… A paradox is having something as an outcome which is the opposite of what you expect.”
Now, actually the Bible has a lot of such paradoxes. For example - The poor shall have the kingdom of God. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. The Bible says, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” The Bible says, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” So there are certain theologies that are like paradoxes and certainly we come to a paradox of discipleship here.
So I hope you know what the meaning of the word is. But let me just say that in the US, there's a TV show, TV reality, reality TV show, sorry, that is about weight loss and it's called, “The Biggest Loser”. I've never watched it, I have only read about it.
So, this is an interesting show because real life overweight, obese people get on this show. And they try their very best to lose weight. And those who lose the most weight, you're called - The Biggest Loser, and you will earn for yourself a 1/4 of $1 million. That's not bad ah! $250,000, what motivation to lose weight!
So in this case, the biggest loser is the winner. And actually in a sense, that's what Jesus is saying, “The biggest loser in this world is the winner.” For He said, “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” [Matthew 16:25]
Notice, He says, “Whoever would save his life will lose it.” This speaks of someone who is so desperate to keep life together, to look respectable, decent, successful, to get applause of men. So he earns a lot, he works very hard, he wants to have the nicest cars, nicest house. He wants to have more zeros in his bank account, he's desperately saving his life. But the Bible says, God says, “He's going to lose it! He's going to lose everything one day.”
A story is told of a man who visited his best friend in the hospital. His best friend was dying. So he went with his wife and when he got there, his best friend said, “John, would you do me a favour? I'm going to die soon, but when I die, can you put $1 million in my coffin? I want to bring it with me. The friend said, “Sure, I'll do that.”
So after he passed away, after the funeral was over, his wife then came and ask, “So John, did you put a million dollars in his coffin?” John says, “Of course! I'm a good friend. And, and I'm a man of my words. Of course I did! I wrote a cheque of $1 million.” You know, that man would never be able to cash out that $1 million. He's dead! You can't bring it with you.
And that's what Jesus I think is saying, “Whoever seeks to save his life, you're going to lose it.” Doesn't matter how many Bentleys or Maseratis you have. How many GCBs you have, you are going to lose all that! I guarantee you. I'm sure your coffin cannot be that big. At least, Singapore doesn't allow you to have such a big coffin. You can't bring it at all.
On the other hand, Jesus says, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” [Mathew 16:25] This is the paradox of the kingdom. Oh, I thought the winners are the winners! No! The winners are the losers. The losers are the winners. But be careful it's losing your life for my sake. Don't be a loser for loser sake but you give your life up for the cause of Christ, for the sake of the kingdom, for the sake of the Gospel, you will find it.
I think, it's words like this, it’s assurance like this, it’s promises like this that fuels the risk, the faith of many who have served God in time past. I think the man that sticks out for me is Jim Elliot who gave this very famous quote, many of you would have read of it - He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot loose.
Jim Elliot was a 20 plus years old man but he has an old head on young shoulders. You realize that? He has wisdom far beyond his age because he had good accounting sense. He realized that all he has in this world, he cannot keep. But if he gives it, loses it, denies it for the sake of the Gospel, he will gain that which he will never lose. That's a good deal!
I think many of us who have been Christians for long time, don't even understand what he's saying in our lives. Because we hold on to our life so tightly. We hold on to our time, our treasures, we hold onto ourselves, our need for affirmation, our need for people's applause so greatly that we would not be a servant to others.
Well, Jesus then said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul, or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” [Matthew 16:26] Do you know that today, you're not just a physical being? You're not just evolved from apes. You are man or woman, made in the image of God. You have a soul, an eternal soul. And one day you'll stand before God and the Holy God will see you and judge you.
And the point here is this - So what if you have the whole world and you do not know God and you are not forgiven of your sin? So what if you have everything in this life! So imagine with me, I've given this illustration before, I will say it again. Imagine with me, you are a hard-working, you're capable, you're real smart, you're real resourceful. And you want to climb the ladder in your office and you managed to do that. You do so well that from whatever position you are, you now rise to be the CEO of your company.
Wow! You are the top dog there! But that's not enough because you so capable, you can earn some more, win some more and you get to buy other companies. You start to buy Singtel, M1. You buy not only Singtel, M1, you but Grab. Then you buy Uber. Then you buy Alibaba, you buy Jack Ma. Then you buy Warren Buffett. You … you buy IBM. You buy Apple. You buy everything!
You are so good in your business. You are so successful in your life. Now, you are not happy, you want more. You buy islands, then you buy countries. You buy Singapore. You buy Malaysia. You have so much money you buy Singapore, imagine that! And you buy US. You buy Donald Trump.
Now, you control the world. You have everything. No trade wars. No wars. You are the king. Whoa! But one day you die and you stand before God, your Creator and you say, “God, I was so good in this world. I was so capable. I have everything. The whole earth is mine. What will I need to give You in return for my soul?” “Nothing. You can't! You have gained the whole world but it's too late, you have lost your soul.” What's the point!
So Jesus says, “If you want to follow me, you got to deny yourself, die to yourself.” Because there is this spiritual paradox that those who lose their life for the sake of Christ will find it. And those who try to save your life here will lose it.
And finally in this text, Jesus gives a promise of discipleship. “Are you sure these things are for real? ‘Zhun bo’? Are you sure?” Well, that's in these last two verses in Matthew 16. My son, Matthias recently has, has developed an interest at liking for Kinderjoy. He's a bit late, I must say. I think a lot kids knew about Kinderjoy … ah, you all nod ah, all the father, mother, grandma, grandfather you know that, wah … Kinderjoy…
I … I … I don't have any shares in … don't know what company this is, alright. But a lot of people, a lot of kids love Kinderjoy. I tell Matthias, “Please don't buy Kinderjoy. Kinderjoy very expensive. One egg, 1.95 you know. If you really like Kinderjoy, you like the chocolate, I buy for you Kinder Bueno. Can or not? Kinder bueno cheaper, bigger, more chocolate, more stuff. It's cheaper for daddy. Would you, would you, would you be okay if I buy Kinder Bueno?
“No, I want Kinderjoy.” “Ay, come on, do the math. This is cheaper.” Shawn says, “Come on, yah this is cheaper. “No, I want Kinderjoy!” Why does he want Kinderjoy? Because Kinderjoy, there is the word there - With surprise. He doesn't really want the chocolate, he wants the surprise, he wants the toy. That's what gives him real joy!
If you multiply Kinderjoy, joy by a gazillion times, you have mega joy. And that's what we look forward to when we want to follow Jesus because he said, “For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father and then He will repay each person according to what he has done.” [Matthew 16:27]
So preachers like Kong Hee, Singaporean Christianity tells you that, “Get a good life now. Come to church. Get the good life!” No! I tell you what the Bible actually says, “Lose your life now because that's faith. Faith to believe that when I lose the good life now, that's where the Kinderjoy times a gazillion times will be. That's the mega joy because I believe God will never forget the labour of love. God is faithful, He's the best accountant, He will repay.”
When you do good things for me, I, I may forget, really. But everything done in the name of Christ will never be forgotten and He will be faithful to reward. You say, “Zhun bo? You sure? Jesus then said in verse 28, “Truly I say to you, there are some standing here will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom.” [Matthew 16:28]
You know, you buy durian. You know the durian, last time, but I do not know how they do it. But last time when I follow my dad to buy durian, you know what they do? They kok, kok, kok, kok, then slice, slice right. Then, they peeled open, they let you see a bit. “Ho bo? Ho bo?” [Is it good in Hokkien dialect] “Ler mo. Ler mo.” [you can touch it in Hokkien dialect] Touch, touch, Okay. “Ta bao ah, ta bao ah?” [take away in Hokkien dialect”. “Okay, ta boa.”
He doesn't open everything, He just let you see a little. A little glimpse for you to see. “Wah! This one smells good, feels good, looks good. Can buy lah!” So you, you believe that the whole durian can, because you saw a glimpse of the glory of the durian. And in a sense, Jesus is saying, “I will repay, because I will let you see a - ho bo, ho bo, bao jiak [guaranteed delicious in Hokkien dialect] ah!” “Can, da bao for you.” He lets you see a little glimpse of His glory.
And what that means? If you want to find out come next Sunday because that's what exactly is going happen, alright. But basically, Jesus is showing His glory to His disciples so that they may be encouraged, and assured in their self-denials for the sake of the Gospel.
You might be familiar with this acronym – YOLO. Not Yole, the yogurt, but YOLO. You know what's YOLO? I'm sure the young people all know. YOLO stands for - You Only Live Once. How many of you know what is OOYL” Anyone knows? Ah, not many Star Wars fans. Only Once You Live. Yoda's version.
Okay, but the point is this - you only live once, alright. And I searched out a bit on Google Urban Dictionary about what YOLO is and what it is used for. And this is interesting, they say, “YOLO is an acronym for the phrase, “You Only Live Once’, which is often used as a hashtag on Twitter to bring attention to exciting events or excuse irresponsible behaviour.”
In other words, when people get drunk, they say, “YOLO.” If people slap another friend – YOLO. When they do wrong things, they say, “YOLO.” But I hope you understand, you do only live once. But don't live irresponsibly, irresponsibly for yourself but make your life count. You only live once. How you are going to live this life matters infinitely because it impacts your eternity.
I go to the Botanic Gardens very often with my kids. And recently, some months back we, we saw an amazing sight at Botanics. We, we caught a glimpse of a beautiful bird. I let you see this bird, very nice, take a look. [Video]
The bird was really close to us and we could see clearly that there was something in it's…?, Do you see it? Something in its? Beak. Now in Botanics, they do not want you to feed bread to the fish, so they provide those dispensing machines where they give you capsules within which are food pellets for fish.
So this bird managed to catch hold one of one of the food pellets, placed it in his mouth. I was thinking, “What a stupid bird! Why are you not eating?” But anyway it picked up that pellet, it flew to the rocks there and then it did something rather unusual. Take a look. [Video]
And he does it a few times. So, what's wrong with this bird? So picky! Just eat it lah! Why you throw there? For what? Too hot, too hard, too hot, what solid … you need to moisten it or what?
I didn't know what it was doing, thought it was stupid. And then this is what we caught on video. [Video]
How cool is that! How cool is that! By the way, this one not National Geographic ah, my iPhone. You can hear my son say, “Oh, look at that! Look at that!” This bird, my sons tell me is called, ‘The Little Heron’.
And it was brilliant! It was so smart! He had that one pellet, but he didn't eat it, he cast it into the water to lure the fish in the waters. And when the fish is nearby, it went and swoop down with it and gobble up the fish. He gave up that one pellet of his life to find eternal life. He's so smart! He's so brilliant!
I thought to myself Christians are not as wise as This Little Heron. We are so obsessed about our little pellet of life. Oh, this is life! This is what it's all about! Oh, no! Give it, give it for the sake of Christ and one day you will find that eternal life - that big fish, that truly satisfies.
When people die, they like to play some songs. Some people determine ahead of time what songs they would like to be played in the funerals. Do you know what's the popular favourite song that people play for their funerals? Okay, if you die, what songs you want ah? Not, not, not death to die? 酒干倘卖无? jiǔ gàn tǎng mài wú - a Chinese song that’s popular in the 80s]. O, no, no, no! What song would you want? When we all get to heaven. Wah! Very spiritual, very good.
What else? You know, the world what they like? I'm told this song is super popular. It's the song - My Way. “And now, the end is near …” And you know that, “…I did it my way. “ This is the most frequently played song at funeral services in the UK. People love to say, “I live my life my way. For who? For me.”
I told my kids some months or a year ago, “Daddy may die, I do not know when. I certainly will die but I do not know when. But I hope that when I die, this will be the song, I hope we can play. I don't think I'm worthy of it, but if there's any song, this will be the song I hope would be played. And it is - Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken. It's not ‘My Way’ but the Christ way.
It's a great song, long song, many words but I think it's worth our reflection on the words of this song. Helps crystallize all that we've heard from Jesus in Matthew 16. It goes like this,
Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee.
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my all shall be.
Perish every fond ambition,
All I’ve sought or hoped or known.
Yet how rich is my condition!
God and heaven are still my own.
Let the world despise and leave me,
They have left my Saviour, too.
Human hearts and looks deceive me;
Thou art not, like them, untrue.
O while Thou dost smile upon me,
God of wisdom, love, and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me,
Show Thy face and all is bright.
Man may trouble and distress me,
‘Twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me;
Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, ‘tis not in grief to harm me
While Thy love is left to me;
Oh, ‘twere not in joy to charm me,
Were that joy unmixed with Thee.
Go, then, earthly fame and treasure,
Come disaster, scorn and pain
In Thy service, pain is pleasure,
With Thy favour, loss is gain
I have called Thee Abba Father,
I have stayed my heart on Thee
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather;
All must work for good to me.
Soul, then know thy full salvation
Rise o’er sin and fear and care
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.
Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
Think what Fathers smiles are thine,
Think that Jesus died to win thee,
Child of heaven, canst thou repine
Haste thee on from grace to glory,
Armed by faith, and winged by prayer.
Heavens eternal days before thee,
Gods own hand shall guide us there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission,
Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days,
Hope shall change to glad fruition,
Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.
Jesus, I My Cross Have Given, Have Taken. Would you say that too?
Let's bow for a word of prayer together. Christianity is all about following Jesus. And let me tell you where Jesus went. The Bible tells us, “Jesus, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despise the shame.” Jesus went to the cross, an emblem of suffering, of pain, of shame.
You see friends, following Jesus is not about having the good life here and now. It's laying down your life here and now because like Jesus we look forward to the joy that is set before us. After the cross, believing that as God has set Jesus at His right hand, God will set those who follow Jesus in the realms of glory. Present sufferings, future glory. That's what faith looks like.
My friends, that's why we are glad to leave this world behind because there is a hope, there's a joy, there is a promise, there is an assurance. And Jesus did it all for you. You realize that! Why would I follow Christ? Because that's the way of joy. And let me tell you that is the way of love. He loved me so much that He gave His life on the cross to pay for our sins.
Friends, if you're here today, you do not know Jesus, let me tell you the crux, the central teaching of the good news of the Bible, is that Jesus came to be the Lamb of God to take away all your sin. Every religion tells you, “Do good, do good, do good, do good, do good, so that maybe you are good enough for God.”
Christianity says, “No! You will never be good enough for God but Jesus paid it all.” He died on the cross because that's what the good God wants. The good God wants to save undeserving sinners and in order for the good God to forgive us our sins, to justify us a price must be paid and that price is paid only by Jesus Christ. This is what we call grace - the undeserved favour God so generously bestows upon us.
If you are new with us, if you're not a Christian, let me tell you, “Jesus paid it all.” He's the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. Will you today, turn from your sin, repent and believe Jesus? Because He is the way the truth and the life.
Oh my friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ, I speak to you today. Do you come to church, do you believe in Jesus because you think that, that is a formula to success in this life? Then, you've signed up for the wrong Jesus. Because the Jesus of the Bible says, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself. Let him take up his cross daily because that's where I went. I went to the cross and those who follow Me must go to the cross. But as I am set at the right hand of the throne of God, those who follow Me will taste of that endless joy. That Kinderjoy, multiplied a gazillion times that will be, that eternal home.”
Friends, I pray I'm worthy more and more in my life to be able to say, “Jesus, I my cross have taken.” Would you? Would you? Would you be willing? Would you at least ask God this morning, “Make me willing.” Oh, this is not just for the pastor, not the for the missionary, not for the full-time worker, it's for every follower. Would you do that? Jesus, I my cross have taken. All to leave to follow Him.
Father, please bless Your people here. Some need to be saved, some need to be challenged, some need to be awakened. May Your Spirit as we have sung, lead us to Your truth. May we follow Jesus Your Son. Thank You, we pray all this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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