Proper 19 (B), Sept. 14, 2003
Make Your Choice
Mark 8:27-38

I understand heart bypass
surgery is classified as elective surgery. Elective? The cardiologist
says you need bypass surgery. If you elect not to have surgery you
will suffer a heart attack, possibly death. Surgery could bring you
many more years of life. That’s a life or death decision that is easy
for most people to make. Have the surgery and live, not have the
surgery and die.

There is another life or death
decision we make. The choice of how and for whom we will live is also
a life or death decision. Jesus explained to his disciples what it
meant for him to be the Messiah; to die and rise again. Jesus then
called the crowd together. He told those who planned to follow him if
they can choose to save their lives and lose them or choose to give
up their lives and save them. “Then he called the crowd to him along
with his disciples and said: ‘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.'”

Jesus let the
crowd know that following him required denying themselves. The word
He used means to deny and renounce utterly, to be without regard for
one’s own convenience or advantage, to act in a totally selfless
manner. Get the idea? Jesus told those who wished to follow him they
must lay aside any claims they hoped to retain in their lives. Jesus
didn’t issue this call of self-denial to an elite few. Jesus issued
this call to anyone who sought to follow him.

The
person who thinks about and lives only to satisfy their physical life
loses more than his physical life. That pursuit affects one’s
everlasting life. What one chooses to live for in this life has
everlasting results. What you live for has everlasting affects upon
your life.

I’m certain this statement had a
thinning affect upon the crowds. Jesus separated the merely curious
from those who really wanted to follow him. Jesus presented these
people with a life or death choice. They could forget about him and
enjoy this life entirely, and in turn lose it entirely. They could
choose to lay any claim they had on this life aside and save their
lives. They could chose death. They could choose life. What does it
mean for us?

If you would follow Jesus you also
must deny yourself and follow him. Like bypass surgery it is an easy
choice to make. It is a more difficult choice to live. How do you make
this choice to follow Jesus entirely?

You make
it by handing over title to your life to Jesus Christ. When I sell my
car I sign over the title to the new owner. Legally, that car now
belongs to him and I have no claim upon it. We must sign over title
to our lives to Jesus Christ At that point you have denied yourself
and picked our cross and followed. When you are tempted to take back
title to your life remind yourself of your choice to follow through
prayer, and worship and the Word. Jesus picked up his cross so that
you would have forgiveness. You must deny yourself and take up your
cross to follow him.

The choice of how and
for whom you will live is an everlasting choice. Live a self-absorbed
life and you die. Live Jesus’ life and you live. Which do you
consider the wiser choice?

_______________

The sermon brief provided by Tim McQuade, pastor of
Highland Presbyterian Church, New Castle, PA

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