Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26, NKJV).
People follow Jesus for many reasons. Jesus addressed people in today’s passage who followed Him for the wrong reason. The day before, Jesus had miraculously fed thousands (John 6:1-13). Some saw this sign and said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:14). However, they wanted to take Him by force and make Him king. Jesus withdrew from them because that was not His will (John 6:15). They had a distorted view of the kingdom. Their reason for following Jesus was incorrect. The next day others followed Jesus because of the food they had eaten. God does not accept selfish reasons for following His Son. Jesus said we must “deny ourselves” to follow Him (Luke 9:23). Why are you following Jesus? Are you trying to follow Christ half-heartedly or to please someone else instead of God? Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Jesus is the bread of God who gives eternal life to the world (John 6:33, 35). But we must yield ourselves to Christ’s will and, in faith, follow His word to have that life (John 6:44-45, 51, 63, 68).
23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels (Luke 9:23–26, NKJV).
Commitment. Jesus had it and was committed to doing the Father’s will to the point of death (“lifted up” John 8:28-29). Early Christians had it, losing their lives rather than denying the Lord (Acts 7:59-60; 26:10). Christians who faced impending suffering were exhorted by Christ to “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). This directive helps us understand what it means to “deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Even life itself must not be more precious to us than Jesus and doing His will. There is no benefit in gaining the whole world and forfeiting souls. Commitment to Christ eliminates being ashamed of Him and His words. We express faith that overcomes the world by our commitment to Christ (1 John 5:4). Commitment to Christ takes precedence over everyone and everything in the life of a disciple. May it be so with us today and each day that follows.
6 But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. 7 And these things command, that they may be blameless. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:6–8, NKJV)
The apostle of Christ applies several principles of faithful, righteous living here and applies them to the honor and care of widows (1 Tim. 5:3-16). As we note them here, we can examine ourselves and strengthen our faithfulness to the Lord. 1) We can be spiritually dead while we are physically alive (v. 6). Some doctrines deny this simple truth. “Once saved, always saved” gives false comfort and removes a strong incentive to practice the truth (Jno. 8:31-32). If we do not abide in the word of Christ, we are spiritually dead even as we live (1 Jno. 1:6). 2) The purpose for commanding and obeying God’s word is blamelessness (v. 7). God’s word commands us to follow Him. Obedience is not optional. When we obey the Lord, we are blameless (innocent) before Him (1 Tim. 4:6, 16). 3) Denying the faith happens (v. 8). Christians renounce the faith (the gospel) by failing to fulfill our obligations toward those under our charge. We cannot shirk our responsibilities without reaping the consequences of unbelief (Gal. 6:7-10; Jas. 4:17). Those who obey Christ keep the faith and are spiritually alive in Him.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8–10, NKJV)
It is notable that the apostle John addresses Christians in this passage – those who “walk in the light” are warned not to deny their sins (1 John 1:5-7). Yes, Christians can sin, and Christians can yield to the temptation of denying their sin. But, to do so is a futile exercise of self-righteous deception. Denying one’s sin is a failure to take personal responsibility for sin. The truth is not in the person who denies his own sin. On the other hand, God is faithful to forgive and cleanse our unrighteousness when we freely and fully acknowledge our sins to Him. When you are tempted to deny your sin, remember that to do so makes you a liar. Furthermore, you also make God a liar, because God’s word says we all have sinned and fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23). Christians refuse to be controlled and ruled by sin (Romans 6:6-14). When you sin, do not become a liar by denying it. Confess your sins to God. Repent and pray, and God will forgive you (Acts 8:22). What joyous release! What wonderful mercy we have in Christ.
57 And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. 58 But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end. (Matthew 26:57–58, NKJV)
Peter followed Jesus at a distance, to see how things would end. Earlier that night, Peter had pledged unflinching allegiance, “even if I have to die with You,” I will not deny You!” (Matthew 26:35). But now, warming himself at the fire of the enemy, his reactions were quite different. Three times he denied knowing Jesus, even cursing and swearing his refutation (Matthew 26:69-75). You cannot successfully follow Jesus at a distance. That is the place of the spectator, who easily criticizes, but rarely participates. The light grows dim as we move away from the source, Jesus Christ (John 8:12). Attending an occasional worship service, offering an infrequent prayer, and giving lip service to following Jesus will tempt you to deny the Lord, just like Peter. Instead of distancing yourself from the Lord, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed at a distance. (Luke 22:54, NKJV)
Earlier that evening, Peter had publicly stated he was ready to go to prison, and die, for Jesus (Lk. 22:33). He had even unsheathed his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant when Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane (Jno. 18:10). Now, Jesus is led bound to a series of trials, leading to crucifixion, Peter followed to see the end (Matt. 26:58). When tested, three times he denied knowing Jesus. Like Peter, we are not immune to thinking more highly of our faith and conviction than we should. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12; cf. Galatians 6:3). Instead of following Jesus “at a distance,” let us follow Him closely, determining to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
36 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” 37 Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” 38 Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.” (John 13:36–38, NKJV)
Jesus was headed for Golgotha (the place of a skull), there to die a disgraceful death for the sins of the world, and afterward to enter His glory (John 17:4-5). Peter would follow Jesus in life, and in his death he would glorify God (John 21:18-19). But for now, as Jesus was on His way to Golgotha, Peter’s overconfidence would be betrayed by fear and doubt, leading him to deny even knowing Jesus (John 18:15-18, 25-27). And so, we learn to be careful not to become self-righteous and arrogant in our faith. We learn of God’s amazing forgiveness, for Peter went on to be a great apostle of Christ. And, we learn that even when we grievously sin, the Lord will receive us back and use us for His purposes. So, let us follow Jesus in faithful obedience, nothing doubting. He will lead us to heaven, the place He has already gone.
22 … “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” 23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” (Luke 9:22–24, NKJV)
Being a Christian is not a pain-free zone. Jesus Christ, whose name we wear, suffered enormously to secure our redemption. He suffered injustice, ridicule, humiliation, mental anguish and physical torture unto death, despised as a criminal and rejected by men. Yet still, some Christians find it a burden to deny themselves the simplest comfort in order to serve Christ. Let us be clear: We cannot follow Jesus without taking up our cross daily. That means sacrifice. Self-denial. Total faith and complete obedience. To try to follow Jesus without complete self-denial will cause you to lose your life. Only when you lose yourself for His sake, will your life be saved.
33 Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 35 Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And so said all the disciples. (Matthew 26:33–35, NKJV)
We are tempted at times to overestimate our fidelity to the Lord. Peter thought himself immune to the temptation to flee when Jesus told His disciples He would be struck down (Matt. 26:31). In spite of Jesus telling Peter he would indeed deny Him three times, Peter still clung to his self-confidence. He would die before he would deny Jesus! All the disciples took courage from Peter’s declaration and joined in with the same pledge. No one is beyond temptation and sin. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” warns us against self-righteous pronouncements of self-assured resistance of temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). He will give you a way of escape that you may be able to endure and prevail in Him. Take the Lord’s way of escape when tempted, and prevail through Him.