For the past three days I have been slowly reading through the gospel of Mark and each day I have asked the Lord to show me something that I haven’t known before. Today as I read I came to a passage in Mark chapter 8 and realized something. Here is that passage: “And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.’” (Mark 8:34-38)
When I read that today my first thought was “That’s the narrow gate and the narrow way from Matthew 7.” I live in what many call the Bible belt. “The Bible belt is defined as the area if the country in which Christian church attendance across the denominations is generally higher than the nation's average.” (Wikipedia) The Bible belt western border begins in Texas and Oklahoma and spreads eastward to the Atlantic Ocean consisting of the South Eastern states of America.
I live in the Tyler, TX area (North Eastern Texas) and you could say that there is a church on every corner. Most church attendees in this area would affirm that there is a Narrow Gate and Jesus Christ is that Gate, but when pressed about the Narrow Way they would be reluctant to agree to say the least. The day that The Lord gave me repentance and faith in Jesus Christ I knew that I had to go out and tell people the gospel. I wasn’t sure how to go about it and no one at my church was doing it and I didn’t know of anyone sharing the gospel at all, no one at that point had ever tried to share the gospel with me. I was saved through the word of God, six years prior I decided to read the Bible and have not put it down since, I can’t. In combination with reading God’s word and the law and the gospel being spoken through the movie Fireproof, God by His grace gave me repentance and faith in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Shortly after the Lord had saved me I came upon a wonderful ministry called; Living Waters/The Way of the Master. The ministries purpose is to teach and equip Christians to fulfill the great commission. To “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Fast forward a few years, I now go out into East Texas preaching the law and the gospel in open-air, in my community of Tyler, TX at least once a week.
One of the things that I have learned and the thing that is most difficult in preaching the gospel in an area that is so religiously rich but at the same time is spiritually dead is apathy. Most people could care less about the gospel, which is a sign that they have not been converted. You try and talk to someone about Christ and they will say, I go to church every Sunday. Well my friend church attendance cannot save you. Or you will here I got saved when I was 6 years old and in the mean time they are living in sexual immorality with their live in boy friend or girl friend.
When you read this Bible the Lord has given us, it is not passive and it doesn’t read like the things Jesus said are suggestions, it is pretty serious. In verse 34 Jesus said; “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Here he is telling us to repent and die to ourselves. Whatever sins give you pleasure, He is telling us to leave them behind and follow Him; the cross, at the time Jesus said this was an instrument of death.
Then in verse 35 he says; “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” This one speaks directly to the people of the Bible belt. They want to have Jesus but keep their life just the way it is. I have heard many of these things said: “It’s ok to live with your girl friend if you have Jesus”, its common place to have unmarried young men and women living together and attend a church every Sunday. “It’s ok to go out and get drunk on weekends as long as I’m in church on Sunday.” “It’s ok if I divorce my husband or wife if they are not fulfilling my needs, besides Jesus would want me to be happy wouldn’t He?” “It’s ok if I’m dishonest in my business practices everyone does it.” That’s not what scripture says at all, it says; “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9). What Jesus is calling for here in verse 35 is a total sell out. Dropping everything and following Him alone, for Him to have complete and total lordship over your life. If He says don’t, you don’t and if He says do, you do, to become His slave; a slave does what His Lord tells him to do. Why would anyone be willing to do that? Because He purchased our lives with His own blood, that’s why.
“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37) Think about that rationally; the fleeting pleasures of sin for a season verse eternal pleasure in the presence of God, my greatest desire is to look upon the face of Jesus Christ. Are you going to chose sin verses seeing the face of Jesus Christ on the throne? “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.” (Hebrews 11:24-26)
And here is the heart of the matter; are you willing to deny yourself, to die to self so that you can preach the gospel of Jesus Christ? “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38) Like I said earlier, it has been difficult to find anyone out in East Texas preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. I did happen upon one man about a year ago who handed me a gospel tract outside of a restaurant; now he and I go together and preach at events and festivals in the East Texas area. For something that is so Biblically mandated, for something that Christ repeatedly says to do, for something that every one of the apostles was willing and did give their lives for; wouldn’t you think there would be more people doing it?
If you are saying to yourself that’s works he’s talking about. Guess what? Your right, that is exactly correct; but we are not saved by works are we? We are saved by the grace of God alone; by faith alone; in the person and works of Jesus Christ alone. Read this, one of my absolute favorite passages in scripture. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard, the only way anyone of us can be made right with God is by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins through faith in Him alone. No amount of good works can accomplish our salvation but God did save us so that we would walk in the good works that He has prepared beforehand for us to do. If God the Father by His grace has granted you repentance and faith in His Son Jesus Christ, you will be willing to deny yourself, take up His cross and follow Him!
Mike Peek a slave of Jesus Christ