One of the men I admire most in my life is T. Marshall Kelly. I admired his rich baritone voice as he sang meaningful gospel songs. What a privilege it was for me to one day entertain him and his wife at my house for a Sabbath dinner.
One of the songs T. Marshall Kelly is known for is titled “It Takes Everything to Serve the Lord” (YouTube link here). The chorus to that song is as follows:
It takes your hands and your head,And your heart, yes, your all,It takes everything to serve the Lord.It takes your time, and your means,And your prayers lest you fall,It takes everything to serve the Lord.
That simple song is but a paraphrase of the words of Jesus found in this week’s lesson on Peter and the Rock. Matthew 16 is packed with fascinating exchanges between Jesus and His disciples and Peter in particular.
It is in this chapter where Peter articulates his belief that Jesus was not just a prophet but the Christ, the Son of the living God. There was no ambiguity with Peter. Although he would have to learn a lot about himself and unlearn a lot about the traditions he was steeped in, he believed that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.
Peter’s, as well as the entire nation’s concept of the Messiah’s role was incorrect. He did not grasp what it was Jesus spoke of when it came to His death. Peter wouldn’t hear of such a thing and Jesus rebuked him in a striking manner. To hear the words, “Get thee behind me Satan,” must have been shocking and humbling.
Christ’s rebuke to Peter is a reminder that even our best impulses are not necessarily the right impulses. There is a way that seems right to men that is often contrary to the will of God. As believers we must be willing to give up our pre-conceived ideas, even when they are held by the majority. When it comes to following Jesus, everything must be on the table. And that’s precisely what Jesus said.
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Matthew 16:24-25
I can think of no other verses in the Bible that are as clear as these when outlining the costs of discipleship. To be a disciple means a complete surrender of everything – all that we are and all that we have.
“Christ’s call to sacrifice and unreserved surrender means the crucifixion of self. In order to obey this call, we must have unquestioning faith in Him as the perfect example, and we must have a clear realization that we are to represent Him to the world. Those who work for Christ are to work in His lines. They are to live His life. His call to unreserved surrender is to be to them supreme. They are to allow no earthly tie or interest to prevent them from giving Him the homage of their hearts and the service of their lives.” Ellen White, The Upward Look, page 235
Often when we read these words we think about all that we have to give up. Like the rich young ruler we feel that we would lose too much to follow Jesus completely. The costs seems too high and the rewards too distant. Jesus spoke of this sentiment in His story about the great supper.
“A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” Luke 14:16-20
It is so easy for us to have a short-sighted view of eternal realities. Our natural reflex is to focus on what we might lose rather than to focus on all that we gain, not just in the earth made new, but today. By giving our all we gain His all. In place of unfulfilled lives always searching for meaning, in Christ we find the true purpose of living. All of our gifts, talents and abilities now align for one grand and noble purpose – the upbuilding of Christ’s Kingdom.
In place of worrying about the issues of life and the challenges of tomorrow, those who surrender have the confidence of knowing that God is the director of their lives. Although trouble may and will come, there is a calming reassurance in knowing that as we labor for the Master, all things will eventually work for our good.
Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:
- What does “surrendering to Christ” mean to you?
- What does it mean to live a life of self-sacrifice?
- Is it true that all Christians are called to live lives of self-sacrifice? Explain your answer.
- What did Jesus mean when He said whoever would save his life would lose it?
- What did Jesus mean when He said whoever would lose his life for His sake would find it?
- Is it true that I can make the focus of my life attaining wealth and living a good life as long as I am faithful in supporting the cause of God with my tithes and liberal offerings? Why yes or no?
- Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: I need to learn how to love myself before I can know how to love others. Explain your answer.
We close this week with our memory text. It really is the question that we all must answer.
“But who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15
Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!
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