Love's Greatest Calling

Matthew 16:21-26

21 ¶ From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.

22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!"

23 But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."

24 ¶ Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

25 "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

26 "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

Trust and honor are high sounding words. They are words that set high expectations.

As this is Memorial Day Sunday it is appropriate that we should have a message on this topic.

Memorial Day is a day filled with such thoughts. Words like honor, sacrifice and duty all take on deep meanings, for many times these were sanctified by the blood of fine young men and women as they took a stand for freedom.

But today I would turn our minds to another conflict. Not one planned in the war rooms of the Pentagon. A conflict that has extended through the ages. Down through time the battles have raged on and on. And many have sealed their honor with their own lives. But before I do I want to ask a question. What is it that would bring men to the point of death for honor and duty.

Pat Tillman was a successful pro-football player with multiple millions in contacts, no doubt, over the coming years. Yet he put that all on hold and enlisted in the army. He worked hard to make it into the elite Army Rangers.

He did all that without fanfare. No TV interviews, although many were offered. He could have capitalized on that but he didn't. Sio why did he do it?

We all know how that ended, in Afghanistan, in a fire fight. But why? Why would a young man with such a future do what Pat Tillman did.

I think it was for love? Love of country. Pat Tillman realized the blessings he had been afforded in the USA and he felt compelled to do his part.

Love will instill in us a sense of honor and duty and even sacrifice. And no group of people have fulfilled this more than Christians.

One of the early testimonies is that of Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John. "He was, however, carried before the proconsul, condemned, and burnt in the market place. The proconsul then urged him, saying, "Swear, and I will release thee;--reproach Christ." Polycarp answered, "Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who hath saved me?"" Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Also http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/martyrdompolycarp.html

Another story of a modern day martyr comes from Tajikistan where a Baptist Pastor was Killed.

On January 12th, 2004, at 9:00 p.m., unidentified persons carrying automatic weapons rushed into the yard of the House of Prayer in Isfara City (Northern Tajikistan), and shot and killed Besarab Sergey. A missionary and the leader of this church, Sergey was shot at point-blank range through the window while he was on his knees praying and singing. When his wife. Tamara. ran in from another room. he was already dead. "He was full of love (for) the perishing sinners and paid for it with his life," said one church leader. VOM May 2004

Besarab had come to Christ only a few short years before his murder. Before then, his life was filled with criminal pursuits and the punishments that resulted. He was in and out of gangs, selling drugs, committing robbery and other crimes. He served his first sentence as a young man in a youth jail and moved from jail to jail as he grew older. His final sentence was served in a prison near Dushanbe. It was there that he first learned of Jesus.

Besarab was introduced to Christ through a prison ministry held by a local church in Dushanbe. His faith grew, and in 2001, Besarab was baptized. That same year he married Tamara, an active volunteer in the prison ministry. In 2002, Besarab and his family established a ministry in Isphara, his hometown.

In Isphara, Besarab and his family set to work spreading the Gospel. They bought a small house and fixed it up. One hall was used for services and another room was designated for prayer. The family lived in the remaining two rooms. Besarab and Tamara started ministering to a small group of people. They also preached in neighboring villages and cities in their region.

As their ministry grew, so did resistance. On two separate occasions, the local newspaper ran articles slandering and discrediting the ministry. Besarab and Tamara often received threats, and these increased as more and more people came to Christ. But they continued to preach the Good News.

Besarab was only 43 years old at the time of his death and left behind his wife, Tamara, and two young children. http://www.lhmint.org/news/2004stories/pastormurdered.htm

Who then is Jesus speaking to in this passage?

  1. To those who would follow Him
    1. For the right reason
      1. Not out of intelligence, the best decision.
      2. Not out of cunning, seeking the best deal
      3. Not those who are looking for a political solution.
    2. Jesus said to Peter, "follow me."
      1. But not until he had asked him three times, "do you love me."
    3. It is love that draws us to the Savior.
      1. Not mom or day
      2. Not church doctrine
      3. Not a social attachment.
      4. Only love will bring us to where Jesus calls us.
    4. I had a friend some years ago who had never had a great job until the opportunity of a lifetime came along. He was offered his dad's union card as a steam fitter. He was going to have to move form the area but he would for the first time be able to afford to take care of his family. The problem was that his wife did not want to move. She became ill as the result of moving away and eventually he lost his job and the position for the sake of his wife. Normally I would have admired the man but he had made several bad decisions. The greatest was he had chosen a wife that would not follow him. Even though he gave up the job and moved back to the area she finally left him for her third husband. You see he had chosen to marry a woman who would never follow him for she could never give him her heart but only her body.
      1. There are many followers of Jesus who can never give their hearts to him for they love themselves more that they do Him.
  2. Jesus calls those who will deny themselves.
    1. This is a calculated decision.
    2. It is weighted out before hand
    3. Only love can give us proper cause for such a sacrifice.
    4. Only love for another that is greater than for ourselves will lead to self-denial.
  3. Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow Him
    1. The meaning is not only to suffer.
      1. Each condemned man was first to carry his own cross to the place of execution.
      2. Self-denial in things necessary: -- A great many persons deny themselves with the most superfluous self-denial. They seek for things of which they can deny themselves. But you need not do that. Let your opportunities for self-denial come to you; but when they do come, do not flinch. God will send you occasions enough for denying yourself. There is wood enough in every man's forest to build all the crosses he will need to carry. (H. W. Beecher.) (from The Biblical Illustrator Copyright (c) 2002 AGES and Biblesoft, Inc.)
    2. It also mens to die.
      1. That includes everything up to and including death.
      2. It means a death to the world
      3. A death to self.
      4. A death to our own goals, desires and pleasures.
  4. Jesus calls us to a paradox.
    1. How can we gain life by losing it or loose life by hanging on to it?
    2. Losing the soul to save it: -- One of the moral paradoxes of Scripture -- the most decided, the most contradictory, the most reckless (if we may so say) of them all. A complete inversion of language. And it is no isolated expression. It is forced on our attention again and again. We cannot wander far in any direction without encountering this startling signpost, announcing the path of destruction as the only high-road to salvation. The context, moreover, enhances the paradox. We are told that a man's life (or soul, for it is the same word in the original) is absolutely priceless to him; that no exchange can be an equivalent; that no compensation will requite him for the loss: yet in the same breath we are bidden to despise it, to abandon it, to fling it away like a broken potsherd or a rank weed. The contradiction is direct and positive; and in this contradiction the lesson is to be sought. (from The Biblical Illustrator Copyright (c) 2002 AGES and Biblesoft, Inc.)
    3. Temporal gain eternal loss: -- It hath cost many a man his life, when his house has been on fire, to attempt through covetousness to save some of his stuff; venturing among the flames to preserve this, he has perished himself. Many more have lost their souls, by attempting to carry some of their own stuff -- their own self-righteousness -- with them to heaven. O sirs! come out, come out; leave what is your own in the fire; flee to Christ naked! (Gurnall.) (from The Biblical Illustrator Copyright (c) 2002 AGES and Biblesoft, Inc.)
    4. Rev 12:11-12 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. 12 Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! NKJV

The King & His Four Wives

Once upon a time there was a rich King who had four wives. He loved the 4th wife the most and adorned her with rich robes and treated her to the finest of delicacies. He gave her nothing but the best.

He also loved the 3rd wife very much and was always showing her off to neighboring kingdoms. However, he feared that one day she would leave him for another.

He also loved his 2nd wife. She was his confidante and was always kind, considerate and patient with him. Whenever the King faced a problem, he could confide in her, and she would help him get through the difficult times.

The King's 1st wife was a very loyal partner and had made great contributions in maintaining his wealth and kingdom. However, he did not love the first wife. Although she loved him deeply, he hardly took notice of her!

One day, the King fell ill and he knew his time was short. He thought of his luxurious life and wondered, "I now have four wives with me, but when I die, I'll be all alone."Thus, he asked the 4th wife, "I have loved you the most, endowed you with the finest clothing and showered great care over you. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?"

"No way!", replied the 4th wife, and she walked away without another word. Her answer cut like a sharp knife right into his heart.

The sad King then asked the 3rd wife, "I have loved you all my life. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?"

"No!", replied the 3rd wife. "Life is too good! When you die, I'm going to remarry!" His heart sank and turned cold.

He then asked the 2nd wife, "I have always turned to you for help and you've always been there for me. When I die, will you follow me and keep me company?"

"I'm sorry, I can't help you out this time!", replied the 2nd wife. "At the very most, I can only send you to your grave." Her answer came like a bolt of lightning, and the King was devastated.

Then a voice called out: "I'll leave with you and follow you no matter where you go." The King looked up, and there was his first wife. She was so skinny as she suffered from malnutrition and neglect Greatly grieved, the King said, "I should have taken much better care of you when I had the chance!"

In truth, we all have 4 wives in our lives:

Our 4th wife is our body. No matter how much time and effort we lavish in making it look good, it will leave us when we die.

Our 3rd wife is our possessions, status and wealth. When we die, it will all go to others.

Our 2nd wife is our family and friends. No matter how much they have been there for us, the furthest they can stay by us is up to the grave.

And our 1st wife is our Soul. Often neglected in pursuit of wealth, power and pleasures of the world. However, our Soul is the only thing that will follow us wherever we go.

Cultivate, strengthen and cherish it now, for it is the only part of us that will follow us to the throne of God and continue with us throughout Eternity. 

 This message was preached at FBC Toulon,

by Albert Harmon. See it at http://toulonbaptist.com