“But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.’ When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.’”
Today we have read the Word from the Gospel of Mark chapter 8 verses 33 to 35. As we know well when Jesus spoke about suffering death on the Cross after being cast away and suffering hardship at the hands of the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes of Israelites and being resurrected from the dead in three days; Peter, a disciple of Jesus, then tried to stop Jesus from proceeding and told Him that He must not do this. But Jesus rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Mark 8:33). Jesus rebuked Peter and called him Satan. And He gathered His disciples and the crowd around Him and said, “Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
The Lord Said, “Whoever Desires to Come after Me, Let Him Deny Himself, and Take Up His Cross, and Follow Me”
Jesus told us to carry our own crosses, but that does not mean that we should literally carry a wooden cross on our back. The cross Jesus Christ, the Son of God, told us to carry was that we must carry the difficulties that come our way and follow the Lord. The Lord is telling us here to deny ourselves and follow Him, this means that we must throw away our own thoughts and follow Him because we cannot follow the Lord if we have our own thoughts. The Lord thus said, “Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
Actually, we must by now be used to denying ourselves. If we have anything we think is great, then we must deny this, and if we have anything that is shameful then we must deny that also and follow the Lord. We must also deny the things that seem okay to us. There are so many things we must deny. The Lord said that we could follow the Lord only when we deny ourselves like this.
When I just think on fleshly terms, I wish that I did not have any difficulties. The foremost thing I would like is to be healthy so that I can do the Lord’s work well. It is difficult because my body is not healthy although my thoughts are running well. It would be wonderful if I at least could think always uprightly, but the difficulties always abound since it is not like this. It is more difficult because I must deny myself even in the midst of my feeble health.
However, in following the Lord, I think there is no other way but to just deny ourselves and follow the righteousness of the Lord, since it is difficult to follow the Lord when we think we are too talented and it is also difficult to follow the Lord when we are totally opposite to this and we become miserable. Sometimes, it seems difficult for us to follow the Lord because we think it will cause damage to us. And on other occasions we find it difficult to follow the Lord because we think we are too lacking to follow Him.
However, our Lord says that we must deny both of these two self-images. We must first deny ourselves in order to follow the Lord. In other words, whenever you and I think that we are great, we must then also deny that greatness, and when we think that we are lacking so much, we must then deny that also in order to be able to follow the Lord. Our Lord said this to His disciples and the multitude of people. Thus, I know that the Lord has spoken this Word to you and me also. How can we follow the Lord without denying ourselves? As I have already said, we could not follow the Lord even if we were so great and we also could not follow the Lord even if we were too miserable. Therefore, a person who is great must bring himself down and a person who is lowly must bring himself up by faith in God’s righteousness. It means that we cannot but deny ourselves always by faith of believing in the righteousness of God. This is how we follow the Lord.
It is impossible to follow the Lord by our fleshly thoughts. It would be easy to follow the Lord if we harbor just spiritual thoughts, but it is difficult to follow the Lord without denying ourselves because we often have fleshly thoughts. Therefore, it is difficult to follow the Lord if we cannot cut off these fleshly thoughts when they rise up in our hearts. But I know that it is all possible by faith. We can follow the Lord by the faith of believing in the righteousness of God and we can follow the Lord even in the midst of difficulties by the faith of believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. We can follow the Lord sufficiently if we are resolved to follow the Lord even in the midst of difficulties because the Lord holds onto us and leads us.
We have experienced the Word of the Lord in our life. Our spiritual life can actually become better when we face difficulties. It is because our faith does not grow when everything is comfortable and we don’t experience any hardship. We are holding onto the righteousness of the Lord during these difficult times, while instead forgetting the Lord when everything is comfortable. That is why the Lord said in the Gospel of Mark chapter 8 verse 35, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospels will save it.” This Word means, “You will lose your life if you try to save it. However, you will save your life if you lose your life for the gospel of the water and the Spirit. You will receive if you lose your things for the gospel of the water and the Spirit, while on the other hand, you will lose all your things if you try to keep it.”
An ex-CEO from Japan wrote a book titled “Throw Away Many Things to Win.” That is the fundamental ideology of the Japanese. Japanese people are good at learning. They learn anything with a humble heart. After learning something, they change it according to their own style and recreate it. The author is saying that one must throw away himself in order to win. It means that one must first lower himself to the other person in order to receive something. And then he consequently learns. Japan was able to become successful economically because of such an ideology. Did their leader not lower his heart and attached himself to the President of the United States in order to win over the entire world? But the President of our country, Korea disputes against the President of the United States concerning many issues, but the Prime Minister of Japan implements a friendly policy with the United States with humanistic wisdom. Anyway, just as the Japanese people were able to become successful because they had that ideology “We must throw away many things in order to win,” our Lord also said that we must first lose our things in order to truly save our souls and many other people from sins. The Lord said, “Whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospels will save it,” and this Word is the truth.
We really come to receive many things on behalf of our Lord if we lose many things for the gospel of the water and the Spirit. However, the Lord does not give anything to us if we try not to lose the things we have. We instead become people who are cast away by the Lord. We know all too well what this Word means in our spiritual life, but we often forget this in our actual life. We might think that we would be able to do God’s work more if we were stronger, healthier, and more prosperous in our life, but our Lord makes us receive even more things when we do His work in the midst of difficulties. The Lord helps us receive life and also makes us save even more souls from sins.
Everyone wants to live a spiritual life in a healthy condition. However, we come to receive many blessings when we follow the Lord while losing many things in the midst of difficulties and also live for the Lord and for the gospel although it is not easy. We do this work, that is, preaching the gospel of the water and the Spirit throughout the entire world, which is not so easy, like this because we have experienced and also believed that the Lord gives even more things when we follow the Lord in the midst of such difficult situations. Actually the truth be told, we have not followed the Lord until now by our own fleshly strength. We were only able to follow the Lord by the passion our Lord gave to us.
We had followed with passion when we were young and healthy, but how is it now? To follow Jesus is not easy no matter how passionate we are because our body is tired and sick. Now, we live with the resolve, “I just have to go to the Lord after doing all the work the Lord has entrusted to us like this.” What more is there to us? The Apostle Paul showed his strong faith by saying, “Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
But how about someone like me? Even my inner person becomes frustrated and becomes upset when my flesh becomes weak. You might not be like this, but I cannot do anything when I am sick because all my attention is focused on that painful point. However, as time passes and I think about myself before the presence of the Lord, I think it is proper for me to follow the Lord even under such circumstances. Therefore I have set up my mind to do my best in just doing the works the Lord has entrusted to me to do before I go to Him. I can lose all the things that I have if others can just receive salvation by my losing all this. It would be fine to go to the Lord before His return, and it would also be fine to go to Him after serving the gospel of the water and the Spirit until He returns. What a great work the preaching of the gospel is!
How could it not be wonderful to preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit by faith although our life in this world is difficult? When we try to preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit to people these days, most people say, “You try doing better. You believe in it! That is none of my business.” because people these days are prone to address their own clear thinking unhesitatingly. Therefore, we are preaching the gospel of the water and the Spirit throughout the entire world by the literature ministry now. We also hope and pray that the Lord would bless us with material things because we cannot even send out our Christian literature if we do not have material things.
The people of this world eagerly join some movement as the supporters when something seems to go well, but they all go away instantly when it does not seem to go that well. Countless number of people followed Jesus when He was performing wondrous deeds like the miracle of the five loaves and two fish and cured the demon-possessed and the sick, but they all ran away from Him when He said, “Eat my flesh and drink my blood.” It is the same in doing God’s work. Many people follow the Church when the work of serving this gospel goes well and seems like they would receive glory, but they all become disappointed and leave the Church when this work does not go well and things do not seem so great. Not everyone is the same, but unfortunately most people are like this. Anyway, I believe that God blesses us in all our laboring for the preaching of the gospel.
The Lord said, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospels will save it,” and we actually only have one life. We will put forth all our resources and methods like this to spread the gospel of the water and the Spirit throughout the entire world. We do not have any other goal besides this. It is because there is no other work in this world besides the preaching the gospel of the water and the Spirit that is worthwhile to live for. The process of a human life is clear. Everyone eventually becomes sick and dies after eating and drinking throughout his entire lifetime. The people of this world really become miserable when they become old. They might live proudly and boastfully while they were young, but they eventually die hopelessly when they get old.
However, those who believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit and live for the evangelization of this gospel are not miserable at all. Because we have received the Great Commission of preaching the gospel of the water and the Spirit, we live each day with the hope for the Kingdom of Heaven doing this honorable and worthwhile work. Thus, I want you and me to also become people who enjoy the blessings that come from the Lord even though we will lose many of our things for the Lord and the preaching of the gospel of the water and the Spirit. And I want you to have faith that the Lord will absolutely fill up all your necessities.
There is nothing we can gain on this earth if we just calculate it in a fleshly way. However, we can offer ourselves up to the Lord by faith gladly because we will not live in this world for eternity. Moreover, time in this world passes quickly by because our Lord who is to come will come sooner or later. Hasn’t my hair become gray already although I first met the Lord at the similar age as these younger brothers and sisters here? Thus, I ask this from you. I admonish you to lose many of your things for the preaching of the Lord’s gospel and live for Him. Then, you absolutely will not regret it.
I want you and me to meet the Lord after living by the faith of believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit.