Introduction: I love to learn new things. Bet you do too. The great
thing about the Bible is that it is a bottomless source of new
insights. You can look at the same simple story dozens of times and
still discover something new. Our lesson this week suggests the joy
of Bible learning is not enough. We are supposed to actually put
this learning into practical use. It needs to change the way we live.
We might even have to refuse to do something we really want to do!
Does this idea apply to all of us? Would it be okay if I just kept
learning new Bible things and shared them with you? Can I leave this
“experience” stuff to someone else? Let’s jump into our study of the
Bible and find out!

  1. Self Denial

    1. Read Matthew 16:15-19. What size is Peter’s head at this
      moment? (Very large! Peter correctly identifies Jesus as
      the Messiah and Jesus tells Peter that God gave him that
      revelation and “the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
      I’m sure Peter looked around triumphantly at the other
      disciples and started to strut a bit. Peter is a messenger
      from God!)

    2. Read Mark 8:31-33 to continue this story from another
      gospel. Can you hear the air rushing out of Peter’s large
      head? He goes from being a messenger of God the Father to
      a messenger of Satan. What, specifically, is the problem?
      ( Mark 8:33 tells us that Peter has in mind “the things of
      men” rather than the “things of God.”)

      1. How is Peter speaking of “man things” when he said
        Jesus would not be killed? (We all want to succeed.
        We want things to go well. Peter was looking forward
        to Jesus setting up a glorious kingdom on earth which
        (as he just heard) could resist even the gates of
        hell. Jesus now seems to say that hell is going to
        do some considerable damage. It will kill Jesus.)

    3. Read Mark 8:34-35. What is it they have to deny
      themselves? Money, earthly power, glory? (It turns out
      that when you compare what the disciples had in mind (see
      Acts 1:6 & Matthew 20:20-21), with what they got, they
      lost out on all of these things during their life on

      1. What about us? Do we have to reject money, pleasure
        and glory to follow Jesus? (I do not recall any story
        in which the disciples said, “Don’t give me money,
        don’t give me glory, give me pain.” But, following
        the mission set out for them by Jesus ended up with
        that result. The contrast between what they expected
        and what they got was huge.)

      2. When Jesus calls us to “take up His cross” and follow
        Him, what is He asking you and me to do? (Read John
        3:14-15 and Numbers 21:8-9. Jesus links His
        crucifixion to this odd story in Numbers 21. If you
        put those two texts together, looking at the snake
        means to face your sins. Jesus faced our sins and
        paid the penalty for them by dying on our behalf.
        When Jesus tells us to take up our cross, I think He
        is telling us to face our sins. Admit them. Die to

      3. Do you feel the pain of self-denial in your life when
        it comes to sin? (Friend, there is no sin in my life
        that is hard to commit! (Compare Romans 7:14-25.) The
        sin may end up being a train-wreck. No doubt I will
        ultimately wish I never even heard of this sin, but
        even the Bible acknowledges the “pleasures of sin for
        a short time.” Hebrews 11:25. I think this is where
        the great battle for self-denial takes place. This is
        where self-denial is difficult.)

      4. How does Jesus’ command that we take up our cross and
        deny self fit with the idea of righteousness by
        faith? (This is where so many Christians miss the
        mark. I recall one Christian, when he was describing
        the joy of righteousness by faith, said “a great load
        lifted from my shoulder. I’m free now.” I understood
        him to mean he was free from rules. It certainly is
        true that he was freed from the load of earning his
        own salvation. But following Christ means denying
        self. Thankfully, Paul teaches us in Romans 8 that
        the Holy Spirit aids us in this struggle. But it is
        not always easy. “Indeed we share in His sufferings
        in order that we may also share in His glory.” Romans

    4. Read Mark 8:35-37. What argument is Jesus making in favor
      of self-denial? (Look at the big picture. You may enjoy
      sin for a fleeting period of time, but you will lose
      eternity. That trade is not worthwhile. To deny self is to
      gain eternity.)

      1. When Jesus says in Mark 8:35 that self-denial will
        save our life, do you think He could also be
        referring to our life on earth? (That is my
        observation. Punch beneath the surface pleasure of
        sin and you see all sorts of heartache.)

  2. Critical Judgment

    1. Read Matthew 24:1-2. We have been talking about self-denial. Are these verses about self-denial? (The disciples
      are told that their world, as they know it, will
      completely change.)

    2. Read Matthew 24:3. Why would the disciples come to Jesus
      privately? (Jesus has just given them the most incredible,
      astonishing news. Between the explosive nature of the
      news and the “this is hard to believe” aspect, this is
      something to be worked out privately.)

    3. Read Matthew 24:4-5. Why would anyone even be tempted to
      follow some other Christ? (There must be something about
      them that makes you want to follow. )

    4. Read Matthew 24:6-8. Instead of getting something good,
      Jesus says that something bad is coming. Why does Jesus
      tell us not to be alarmed? (This is a parallel to Mark
      8:35. Self-denial here gets you eternal life. Before
      Jesus comes and gives us eternal life, we are going to go
      through wars, famines, earthquakes and those who attract
      us with false claims. Jesus says be faithful and you will
      get your reward.)

    5. Read Matthew 24:9-11. How bad will it get? (Death,
      persecution, hate and betrayal. This is not self-denial in
      the usual sense. However, our decision to follow Jesus
      results in harm to self.)

    6. Let’s skip down a few verses. Read Matthew 24:37-39. Is
      there anything wrong with eating, drinking and marrying?
      (No. The problem is that they “knew nothing.” Noah was
      preaching to them. See 2 Peter 2:5. The problem was they
      were focused on the things of life rather than the things
      of God.)

    7. Read Matthew 24:40-41. What point about self-denial is
      being made in these verses? What point about critical
      thinking is made in these verses? Aren’t these people
      doing exactly the same thing, yet one is saved and the
      other lost? (You can have the same kind of job as an
      unbeliever. The question is what is the course of your
      life? Are you denying self? Are you facing your sin? Are
      you trusting in Jesus? Are you paying attention to the
      gospel, rather than to television, so that you are not

  3. The Attitude

    1. Read Matthew 24:42-43. We are told to watch. What are we
      to be watching? If someone sent me to be a look out on a
      boat, my first question would be “What am I watching for?
      Dolphins? Icebergs? Submarines? Fish jumping?

      1. If you say, “Watching for Jesus,” why does Jesus
        compare His coming to a thief trying to steal our

      2. Jesus is coming to give us eternal life! Why throw in
        the idea of us losing something? (This is a powerful
        argument against the “once saved always saved” view.
        It is unlikely Jesus would compare Himself to a
        thief. Instead, the thief is Satan who wants to break
        into “your house” and steal your salvation. If you
        doubt this, read Matthew 24:50-51.)

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Paul compares the Christian
      life to a training for a race. I have a friend who, as
      far as I can tell, has no relationship with any group of
      believers. He attended a Christian college. His attitude
      is that all he needed to learn about God he learned when
      he was in college. Is my friend in constant training?
      Are you in constant training?

      1. Notice 1 Corinthians 9:27. What is the downside to
        not training? (Being disqualified for the prize of
        eternal life!)

    3. Friend, I confess I do not know where God draws the line
      when it comes to assurance of salvation. My belief is that
      salvation is not something you slide in or out of on a
      minute by minute, day by day or even week by week basis.
      On the other hand, I think the Bible is clear that it is
      not a “once for all times” thing either. Instead, the
      life of the disciple is a constant effort to understand
      and do the will of God. We are called to put our
      understanding of God into practical use. This means facing
      our sins. Denying self. Turning away from the pleasures of
      sin. As Paul says ( 1 Corinthians 9:27), we are to beat our
      body to make it our slave, and not the other way around.
      Will you commit to getting into spiritual training –
      starting today?

  4. Next week: Following the Master: Discipleship in Action.