The Blessing of Losing Sight of Self (Mark 10:28-31)

The Blessings of Losing Sight of Self (Mark 10:28-31)

I.) Self Must Die

We will begin this morning by considering what the gospel demands of each of us. We will start here, because Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question reveals the blessings of losing sight of self. In other words, the reward for denying self for the sake of Christ and His gospel.

It was the missionary Jim Elliot who said:

“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to keep what he cannot lose.”

Lingering in the background of this statement are the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ:

“He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake shall find it.”[1]

It profits a man nothing to gain the whole world yet lose his soul in the process.[2] He; therefore, must give up everything to keep it.[3] He must lose sight of his earthly possession. He must forget his own interests. He must abandon all hope in his works, as well as abandon all love for his sin. Self-extermination must occur to such an extent it is if one were dead.

It was 19th century Christian evangelist and Ashley Down orphanage director, George Muller who said:

“There was a day when I died, utterly died, died to George Muller, his opinions, preferences, tastes and will, died to the world, its approval or censure, died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends, and since then I have studied to show myself approved unto God.”

The Scottish minster, George Macdonald, said:

“If we do not die to ourselves, we cannot live to God, and he that does not live to God, is dead.”

The Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, said:

“I have now concentrated all my prayers into one, and that one prayer is this, that I may die to self, and live wholly to Him.”

Before us, Jesus lays out the reward that those who die to self in order to live in Christ receive.

II.) Count The Cost

Every believer in Christ is one who has denied themselves, picked up their cross, and followed Him. Self-denial is not optional for a Christian. It is not merely for people who want to attain the upper echelon of Christianity; it is the prerequisite for entering the faith altogether. It does not come after ones conversion; it is the condition by which ones conversion occurs.

The Reformer Martin Luther said:

“God creates out of nothing. Therefore, until a man is nothing, God can make nothing out of him.”

Christ’s call to follow Him demands the metaphorical death of the listener. It is not a call to be considered lightly, but a cost which is to be painstakingly counted:

Luke records Jesus saying,

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, he cannot be my disciple.

27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?

29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him,

30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?

32 Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks terms of peace.

33 So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”[4]

Matthew tells us:

37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

39 He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”[5]

The demand of the gospel carries along with it a profoundly serious weight upon the hearer. It draws a person to lose sight of everything and everyone, including self, and fix their affections on our God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He calls people to forsake personal autonomy and embrace His sovereignty.

This is what we see in Luke’s gospel when Jesus lays out the demands of discipleship to three men:

1.) The first one says:

57 I will follow You wherever You go.”

58 And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”[6]

“Will you follow me knowing it is antithetical to gaining wealth, possessions, and comfort?” The guy did not stick around.

2.) Jesus calls the second one to follow Him:

59 But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.”

60 But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”[7]

At first this seems harsh of Christ, but realize this man’s father was not dead. He was holding off on following Jesus until his father actually died. If he followed Jesus he would potentially miss out on his share of the inheritance, and he in no way wanted to lose that. He is much like the Rich Young Ruler. Jesus’ response is a challenge of priorities

“Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”[8]

The spiritually dead concern themselves with, and prioritize, matters which pertain to the temporal. The spiritually alive are to concern themselves with, and prioritize, matters which pertain to the eternal. A disciple of Christ pursues eternity even if it means they suffer serious worldly loss. It is safe to assume that, like the rich man, he did not stick around.

3.) The third one said:

61 I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.”

62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

This man’s love for his family is far greater than his love for God. He has two masters, and we know that you can only serve one master. Both the refusal to accept the cost, and inability to undergo sheer denial of self, renders one unfit for the kingdom of God.

True discipleship calls men and women to radically forget themselves, and submit to Christ. The way to eternal life is difficult and narrow, and few there be that find it.[9]

III.) The Cost Was Counted and Paid

Within the context of our portion this morning, a man has just refused Christ and opted to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul in so doing. He will not sell all that he possesses, give to the poor, and follow the Son of the Living God. He will not abandon himself, and submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, so he abandoned the heavenly treasure. He counted the cost, saw the rate was himself and his idol, and walked away grieved. He was temporally rich, but eternally poor.

Now Peter is going to chime in here:

“Behold, we have left everything and followed you.”[10]

“He left! We did not!” We know this to be true, because in the beginning of Mark’s gospel, he gives us a glimpse of the self-denial of four of the disciples:

17 Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’

18 And they immediately left the nets and followed Him.” [11]

It is important we understand that Jesus was not some stranger to them prior to His calling them. Andrew, Peter, James, and John were well aware that Jesus was the One whose sandals John the Baptist was worthy of untying.[12] Andrew, and John were disciples of John the Baptist and were taught that Jesus:[13]

1.) Is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.[14]

2.) Is a higher rank than him, because He existed before him.[15]

3.) Is anointed by the Spirit of God.[16]

4.) Is the Son of God.[17]

Consider now Luke’s account of their calling:

1 Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret;

and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets.

And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat.

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”

Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.”

When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break;

so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink.

But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!”

For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken;

10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.”

11 When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.”[18]

They left everything to follow the One who demonstrated that which was declared of Him; that He is the Son of God. They followed Him even when the religious leaders hated Him, and even when supposed followers fell away because of His teachings.[19]

Jesus said to the twelve, after many of His followers withdrew:

“’You do not want to go away also, do you?’ Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.’”[20]

Those who have left everything to follow the One who has the words of eternal life have just watched a man refuse Christ and lose out on treasure in heaven. So Peter says:

“Behold, we have left everything and followed you…”[21]

I believe we should understand that Peter has the heavenly treasure on his mind. Matthew records:

“We have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?”[22]

It is as if he is saying:

“This man chose earthly riches, and is eternally poor. We have chosen earthly poverty, what are our eternal riches?”

“He left, we did not! He forsook nothing! We forsook everything!”

VI.) The Earthly Reward

Direct your attention to Jesus’ response:

29 Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake,

30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.

31 But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”[23]

Q.) Do we see what He is saying here?

Peter says they have left everything and followed Him, and Jesus says that is impossible:

“No one has…”

It is impossible, because a Christian is never truly without a family. As soon as they accepted the cost of following Jesus Christ, and paid it, they gained a whole new heavenly family:

“He shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms.”[24]

Jesus taught on the members of His household earlier in Mark’s gospel:

35 For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.”[25]

The will of God is that you believe in Him whom He has sent, His Son Jesus the Christ.[26] All who entrust their eternal soul to His Son are born into His family.

Unlike the division Christ brings among earthly families, His family is not divided over the gospel.[27] They are saved by it, secure in it, sanctified through it, motivated with it, united upon it.

His family seeks to love one another as Christ has loved them and given up Himself for them, by giving up of themselves for the benefit of each other. The book of Acts beautifully demonstrates the reality that Christians truly do receive a hundred times as much in this lifetime when it records:

44 All those who had believed were together and had all things in common;

45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,

47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”[28]

What is described here is three thousand people abandoning self, following Christ, and receiving more than what they had left. A family was gained, and the family gained was the incarnation of selflessness:

32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.

33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.

34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales

35 and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.”[29]

A hundred times as much was received in the present age by those who died to self to live in Christ.

VI.) Trouble Till the Heavenly Reward

Dying to self and living in Christ not only guarantees a new family, it promises suffering too:

“He will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions…”

Jesus said:

18 If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.

19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.

20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you…”[30]

It is an unavoidable truth that:

“Those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”[31]

There are at least four things the Scripture tells us to do with this unavoidable truth of persecution:

1.) Take joy in it:

“Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”[32]

2.) Exult in it:

“Knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”[33]

3.) Rejoice in it:

“When you have been considered worthy to suffer for His name.”[34]

The blessing of persecution further refines believers into the image of Jesus Christ.

4.) Understand:

“That the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed.”

Yes, the Christian is promised persecution, but they are also guaranteed eternal life. Peter asks Jesus:

“What will there be for us since we left everything?”

An overabundance of family, housing, and severe persecution on earth, but:

“In the age to come, eternal life.”

The ability to live for eternity reconciled to God is what there will be. Jesus’ final statement alludes to God’s grace being the only thing that gets people into everlasting life:

“Many who are first will be last; and the last, first.”

In other words, everyone is equal and there is nothing to boast of among those who inherit eternal life, but Christ and Him crucified. Only His blood atones for sin, and only His righteousness permits one to live eternally with a holy God. He will freely forgive and save whoever dies to self, bears their cross, and follows Him as Lord. Die to yourself, die to your works, die to you sins, and live by grace through faith in Christ.

VII.) Has Self Been Denied?

I believe the most basic question that could be asked at this point is:

Q.) Have you undergone radical self-abandonment for the purpose of following Jesus Christ?

Q.) Have you denied yourself, picked up your cross, and followed Him?

Q.) Have you suffered loss for the sake of Christ?

If so, look and see what you have gained:

1.) A family beyond measure.

2.) Trials which mold you into Christ’s image.

3.) The hope of eternal life in Him.

Remember this call of Christ is not a onetime battle, but a lifetime.

If not, know that you are not destined to eternal life, but eternal death under the wrath of God. Repent and believe the gospel. Trust in the work Jesus Christ has done in your place to save you from the penalty of your sins against God. He is the way, the truth, and the life; no one can come to the Father but through Him.[35]

Q.) What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?

A.) Nothing!

Q.) What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

A.) Everything!

B.) Listen:

“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to keep what he cannot lose.”

Let’s end by reading the Hymn, If I gained the World:

“If I gained the world, but lost the Savior,
Were my life worth living for a day?
Could my yearning heart find rest and comfort
In the things that soon must pass away?
If I gained the world, but lost the Savior,
Would my gain be worth the lifelong strife?
Are all earthly pleasures worth comparing
For a moment with a Christ-filled life?

Had I wealth and love in fullest measure,
And a name revered both far and near,
Yet no hope beyond, no harbor waiting,
Where my storm-tossed vessel I could steer;
If I gained the world, but lost the Savior,
Who endured the cross and died for me,
Could then all the world afford a refuge,
Whither, in my anguish, I might flee?

O what emptiness!—without the Savior
‘Mid the sins and sorrows here below!
And eternity, how dark without Him!
Only night and tears and endless woe!
What, though I might live without the Savior,
When I come to die, how would it be?
O to face the valley’s gloom without Him!
And without Him all eternity!

O the joy of having all in Jesus!
What a balm the broken heart to heal!
Ne’er a sin so great, but He’ll forgive it,
Nor a sorrow that He does not feel!
If I have but Jesus, only Jesus,
Nothing else in all the world beside—
O then everything is mine in Jesus;
For my needs and more He will provide.”

[1] Matthew 10:39

[2] Mark 8:36

[3] Mark 8:37

[4] Luke 14:26-33

[5] Matthew 10:37-39

[6] Luke 9:57-58

[7] Luke 9:59-60

[8] Luke 9:59-60

[9] Matthew 7:13-14; Luke 13:24

[10] Mark 10:28

[11] Mark 1:16-20

[12] John 1:27

[13] John 1:37,40

[14] John 1:29,36

[15] John 1:30

[16] John 1:32-33

[17] John 1:34

[18] Luke 5:1-11

[19] John 6:26-66

[20] John 6:67-69

[21] Matthew 19:27a

[22] Matthew 19:27

[23] Mark 10:29-31

[24] Mark 10:30a

[25] Mark 3:32-35

[26] John 6:29

[27] Matthew 10:34-38; Luke 12:49-53

[28] Acts 2:44-47

[29] Acts 4:32-35

[30] John 15:18-20

[31] 2 Timothy 3:12

[32] James 1:3-4

[33] Romans 5:3-5

[34] Acts 5:41

[35] John 14:6

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