Let us pray: Dear Savior, how often we act like children and run away from our problems. How often we mimic the ostrich and put our head in the sand, pretending that our sins and the hard choices of repentance needed to counteract them don’t exist. However, unlike us, You faced temptation, sin, and death head on. You never shrank from the cross. And as a result we are healed by Your deliverance. Lord, may we live in active appreciation of Your great deliverance. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE SAVIOR OF ALL!
TEXT: Mark 8: 31-38
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Debt-free! It sounds wonderful. It feels even better! Ah, to be able to laugh at the credit card companies! To own the house outright, without having to make mortgage payments ever again! To actually make money off the system by loaning it to the banks instead of vice-versa! Think of how much better you’d sleep? Think of the spring in your step and the smile on your face. So, I ask you:
DO YOU WANT TO BE DEBT-FREE?
Any American saddled with credit card debt, house debt, car debt, school loan debt—and any other kind of debt inwardly longs to be debt-free. But, it’s easier said than done, isn’t it? Debt free means you have to learn to live on a budget. It means you must save instead of spend. It means you must travel the hard road on denying yourself some vacations, driving an older car, living in a smaller house, and generally being frugal. It means no more “instant gratification” at the mall. It means you have to become a hard-choice adult instead of a “take the easy road” kid.
So, what does all of this have to do with our text? Everything! In order to prepare the disciples of His upcoming death on the cross and all the suffering it would entail, Jesus “began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”
Peter didn’t like the hard choices that Christ spoke about. Peter didn’t like to even contemplate his Savior, his friend, suffering and dying. And so, like all humans, Peter focuses on the easy road. He tries to talk Jesus out of it. “But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’”
Every human being no matter the age, race, socio-economic status, level of education, or anything else—all humans owe God an insurmountable debt. Every time we lie. Every time we steal, hate, or become jealous. Every time we fail to practice unselfish love toward our neighbor. With every one of our sins our debt-load increases. Since God is perfect and cannot abide any debt outstanding, and since we can never pay off our debt with attempts at being good, because those attempts can never erase our past errors, the debt remains. God says: “The soul that sins, it shall die.” Our debt can only be paid for with blood, with our lives. And even then, it isn’t enough because dying is only an earthly solution and not an eternal solution. Indeed, in eternity the debt remains even after you die.
The human solution to this is to follow the yellow brick road. It is to live a fantasy. It is to convince yourself that either your good intentions are enough to wipe the slate clean, or that it’s all so far off—why worry now? When people try to use those solutions with the bank—bankruptcy results. When we try to use them with God, damnation results. Those are the hard facts. And Peter was ignoring them here.
Do you want to be debt-free? Well, Christ has the adult solution, the Godly solution, to our problem. It wasn’t to follow the easy road of the ostrich, or to live in fantasy land. It was the way of the cross. It was to suffer and die for you and me. John writes: “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.” That’s right! Only God’s blood, only God’s death, was weighty enough to cancel our debt to Him. God is the ultimate banker. He has all the money in eternity. And in pure love He chose to pay Himself, to have Christ suffer and die in our place. Those truths are the “things of God” that Christ speaks of here.
But lest anyone misunderstand Him, Christ goes on to say: “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? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
We humans are a prideful lot. Sometimes, we even reject the easy road that others take in order to go it alone so that we can say: “I did it!” We love to hold ourselves and our achievements up for all to see and to boast of them. Denying yourself means admitting you have nothing to hold up, or to boast about. Denying yourself means admitting your total poverty when it comes to standing before God. Christ reminds us of this when He says: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit. For apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
You and I must approach God with totally empty hands. With nothing of our own. But since Jesus has already paid our debt of sin on the cross and gives us that guilt-free blessing through faith, those same empty hands then have room to grasp hold of the deed to heaven that He holds out. Hands that hang onto pride and self-love are too full to latch unto His debt-free deed. Only hands that are empty by means of repentance can grasp His blessing.
You and I may never escape the banks in this life. But, we can escape eternal death and the uncertainty that comes with it. Christ has made us debt-free by paying His life for ours on the cross. Peter was ashamed to receive this gift, but by God’s grace he got over it. So, put your pride in our pocket, deny yourself, and then accept the gift of glory which Jesus offers you this very day! Amen