Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" And they answered him, "John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah." And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
The Bible texts of the Gospel lesson is taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission.
I heard this story of a man who considered himself to be very important. One day he went to the doctor’s office and found himself behind several others waiting for the doctor. He then approached the receptionist and told her, “I had been waiting here for a long time. Don’t you know who I am?”. The lady with a smile picked up the intercom microphone and announced, “I have a man here who does not know who he is. Can someone help please?”.
I wonder if that was the response Jesus got when he said, do you know who I am? I am sure it is not.
Who are the truly happy people?
Truly happy people are people who don’t save too much of what they have now for a later time. They spend their time and energy while alive with those around them. They don’t wait for the best moment of life to find happiness. They find it at the spur of the moment.
Dr. W. Beran Wolfe, once wrote, “If you observe a really happy [person] you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his [children], growing double dahlias in his garden, or looking for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert . . . To find happiness we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves.”
That is what self denial is all about. Self denial is our willingness to go outside of ourselves to find happiness. It is finding a focus in life that is more than yourself. Yes, happiness is a byproduct of self-denial.
Discipleship is not easy. It is a process through which we make the other more important than ourselves. That costs. It is the philosophy of John the Baptist, who said, I shall be small so that He can be big.
In our daily life we can find it in good parenting. It is about giving yourself for your child and your family. There are more disciples here than anywhere else. For a child it is living to the full potential to make a difference in the world they live in. Living here among the different types of children with kindness and compassion, giving up selfish interests for the sake of others is what discipleship is.
I see parents take their children for all kinds of stuff in their schools, basketball and baseball coaching, dances, music, cheerleading practice. Aren’t you trying to show to the world what a beautiful child you have and what a gifted person your son or daughter is. I hope you are empowering your children to be great people in this world.
A work of art becomes only a work of art when someone who knows about art can enjoy it. For example when Bach or Beethoven composed all those beautiful symphonies and kept it to themselves they would not have become a work of art. When it left them and others began enjoying them, it became a work of art. When Michael Angelo or Picasso shared their painting it became a work of art. Centuries after they have been created people still admire their works because they shared them with a world that did not know about it but came to enjoy it.
We are the works of art by God. Christ was a Work of Art for God. So are we. When we are shared we become meaningful. Or else we will be like bonds and stocks, closed up in a safe room afraid of being stolen. It is not worth it if we are locked up in safe deposit boxes to gain value. Value for human life comes from being spent now and not later unlike money.
We are the work of art created by God with one purpose. The purpose is simply to share it with people who can see the beauty in us. It also calls us at the same time to see the beauty in others as much as it in us. True happiness comes from sharing the art that we are.
The concept of self denial is not good news, no wonder Peter didn’t like the idea. Especially it is true when you are an oppressed minority, when you are an abused individual or society, self denial will not sound spiritually appealing. For a woman who is kept under subjection it is no good news. Was self denial right for the young girl who was under subjection for 18 years in the sub-human living conditions in the backyard?
Truly happy people are those who live their lives with one purpose that is to make life easier for someone else. It is not living a life with the hope of the rewards that awaits at the end of the day or ages to come.
True self denial is when one empowers the other to shine in the world about them and not be intimidated by it. True self denial is saying to the world that you are secure in yourself and there is something beautiful about you that the world needs to see. Self denial only becomes meaningful and beautiful when one’s worth is recognized and celebrated by oneself first.
This is the premise where Christ said to Peter, Peter, it is not the flesh and blood that revealed this to you, but the Holy Spirit. Christ was secure in himself and was happy that someone else saw His greatness.
My dear brothers and sisters, today I invite you to empower the grace and beauty of your child and yourself to emerge from places that are hidden and start living.
Do not hoard up the treasurers you have within yourself. Human beings lose their worth when it is hoarded up. We lose our worth by the minute we hoard our worth under a bushel.
Teach yourself and your child to claim Christ now and live Christ today. They won’t have a chance to learn it tomorrow.
Peter spoke up given a chance to express what he knew by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Your child and yourself need to speak up what the Holy Spirit tells you here and now and claim Christ for your family.
Self-denial is all about what John The Baptist said earlier, “He must increase and I must decrease”.
Bring into your life the affection of Christ and the effect of it will be longer than your life.
Bring into your child the power of God and effect of it will be a lifetime.
What you do to your child today is what they will hold onto tomorrow. I can guarantee you one thing, if your child knows something about God in his or her life in the future, it is not from me but from you.
Dear Pastor, I liked your sermon on Sunday. Especially when it was finished, is what kids are going to tell me.
Today I call upon all of you, Children, Youth, Parents, Teachers, Ministers, Members of this community, give God to your child and help us do the same.
Decrease in yourself so that God will increase around you. That is what Self-denial is all about. Peter did so.