Of Whom the Son of Man Will Be Ashamed

“Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

– Mark 8:38

Deeply rooted in our consciences is the desire for our parents not to be ashamed of us. So much do we long to avoid their being ashamed that we find the words “We’re proud of you” from our parents to be among the most encouraging and treasured words we could ever imagine. Whether we are four or forty-four, we long to know that our mothers and fathers are not ashamed of us.
If we want fallen people not to be ashamed of us, how much more should we long for the very Creator of the universe not to be ashamed of us? The desire for God not to find us shameful underlies today’s passage, wherein Jesus issues a final warning related to the cost of discipleship. Christ has promised that suffering is the lot of all who follow Him, so He knows that many people will not consider the price of obeying Him worth paying. Having stated that the only way to find life and preserve one’s most valuable possession—the human soul—Jesus gives us one more reason to take up the cross and follow Him (see Mark 8:31–37). He says that He will be ashamed of us on the day He consummates His kingdom if we are too ashamed of Him to claim His name and follow Him when it brings us pain (v. 38).

Christ in today’s passage refers to Himself as the “Son of Man,” which is the title He uses for Himself more than any other title in the Gospels. We will look at this title more in the chapters of Mark that still lie ahead of us; today, we note that “Son of Man” is a title of highest glory, referring ultimately to Jesus’ prerogative of being the King and Judge over all (Dan. 7:13–14). It is a title that finally refers to His character as the God-man. Basically, Jesus is saying that to be ashamed of Him and His call is to be ashamed of God; therefore, Christ, who is God incarnate, will repay the favor on the last day. He will be ashamed to call us His people. And if the Lord is ashamed to call us His people, we cannot truly be His people and will not inherit eternal life. Those who are impenitently ashamed of Him in this world are those whom He has never known (Matt. 7:21–23).

That Christ will be ashamed of us if we are ashamed of Him does not mean one instance of being ashamed of Him disqualifies us as His people. Peter, after all, was so ashamed of Jesus that he denied the Lord before others. But Jesus forgave Peter when he repented (Luke 22:31–32). Let us therefore repent of where we have been ashamed of Christ so that we may be forgiven and persevere in faith until the very end.

Coram Deo

  • Matthew Henry comments, “They shall not share with [Christ] in his glory then, that were not willing to share with him in his disgrace now.” We dare not be ashamed of Christ even when we face ridicule and worse. Although He will forgive us when we repent for being ashamed of Him, persistently refusing to be identified with Jesus indicates that we are not truly His disciples. Therefore, let us consider it a great honor to be known as followers of Jesus.

Passages for Further Study

  • Psalm 25
  • Isaiah 54:4–8
  • Luke 9:23–26
  • Hebrews 11:13–16

Devotionals (http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals), Copyright 2016, Ligonier Ministries.

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The Value of the Human Soul

“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?”

– Mark 8:36–37

Commenting on the teaching of Jesus in Mark 8:34–35, John Calvin writes, “None can be reckoned to be the disciples of Christ unless they are true imitators of him, and are willing to pursue the same course.” To be a Christian means engaging in the lifelong pursuit of conformity to the teaching and example of Christ. We are united to our Lord by faith in Him alone (Phil. 3:9), and then we prove that faith over the course of our lives by obeying our Savior and following Him as our example.

This inevitably leads to suffering for the believer, for Jesus’ own path of discipleship in relation to His Father included the cross (Mark 8:31–33). How much suffering the believer faces is a matter of the Lord’s sovereign decision, and some endure harsher consequences for following Christ than others do. But all must consider their lives as secondary when the call to obey the Lord comes. This includes literally dying for Christ if it comes to that. Whatever the case, it means dying to self, dying to our old lives of sin and dying to the notion that we must always place ourselves first (Phil. 2:5– 11; Col. 3:5). In short, we must place Christ and obedience to Him first, which will entail serving others before we serve ourselves. The world hates those who are being conformed to Christ in such a way (John 15:18). Sometimes the hatred is so great that it bears the final fruit of murder.

Paying the price of death is worth it not only because of the promise of eternal life for those who die to themselves (Mark 8:35) but also because of the value of our souls. Being made in God’s image, human beings have been granted a value that far surpasses anything else in creation. Jesus, in fact, tells us in today’s passage that gaining the whole world is not a prize equal in value to the worth of our souls (vv. 36–37). Here the word “soul” refers primarily to the inner part of a person, that which gives true identity to a man or woman. It encompasses everything that we are, including our bodies, but the point is that it is foolish to seek to preserve our physical existence by denying Christ when such an act will come at the far greater cost of our souls. Our bodies the world may kill, but that is only a temporary loss, for all who trust in Christ alone for salvation will receive resurrected bodies in the new heaven and earth. But those who deny Christ end up killing their souls, and that is a permanent loss, leading to suffering in the eternal fires of hell (Rev. 20).

Coram Deo

  • Dr. R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary Mark, “We can see the true value of souls by noting how much Jesus was willing to pay for the souls of His people.” That the Son of God was willing to endure the wrath of God as the incarnate Lord tells us all we need to know about how much we should value our souls. Seeking to preserve our lives if it means disobeying Christ, therefore, is the most foolish, loss-inducing decision we could ever make.

Passages for Further Study

  • Psalm 16
  • Proverbs 19:8
  • Matthew 10:28
  • Hebrews 10:19–39

Devotionals (http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals), Copyright 2016, Ligonier Ministries.

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Cruciform Discipleship

“Calling the crowd to him with his disciples, [Jesus] said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.’ ”

– Mark 8:34–35

Halfhearted discipleship is anathema to our Savior. Indeed, Jesus will have all of us, or He will not have us at all. There is not one aspect of our lives that we may refuse to hand over to Jesus.

Some of the clearest teaching on the subject comes from the lips of Jesus Himself. Today’s passage gives a particularly clear description of the cost of discipleship. Peter, speaking for the disciples, rebuked Jesus for teaching that He would have to suffer and die, reflecting the common Jewish belief that the Messiah would be a conquering king to overthrow the Romans (Mark 8:31–32). Undoubtedly, Peter’s rebuke also reflected his own fears. If the work of the Messiah meant rejection, suffering, and death, surely the followers of such a Messiah would suffer as well. After all, Jesus said in another context that “a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master,” that His followers should expect the same treatment from the authorities that He would receive (Matt. 10:24). Thus, it is understandable that the notion of a suffering messianic King would be unnerving to Peter, particularly when suffering via crucifixion was the most shameful way for a person to die in the first century.

But truth is determined by Jesus Himself, not what unnerves His followers. Lest Peter and the disciples be mistaken about what the Messiah’s suffering would mean for their lives, our Lord called the disciples to Himself to explain that suffering for the sake of Christ is inseparable from Christian discipleship. Note that in doing so, Jesus called a larger crowd to Himself and taught them the same thing (Mark 8:34). The point is that Jesus’ teaching on this subject was not for the Twelve alone. Bearing the cross—the shame and persecution this world heaps upon believers—is the mark of a true disciple.

True, not every believer is called to the same kind of suffering. The disciples bear this out. Some, like Peter, were martyred for their faith. Others, like John, lived to a ripe old age even though they suffered imprisonment and other trials at times. Yet both men suffered, so no Christian should expect a life free of trouble related to his profession of faith and attempts to live out the commands of Jesus. This will bring hatred from the fallen world, and at times even from others who profess faith in the Savior. Those who remain true to Jesus and are willing even to die for Him if necessary will, paradoxically, find that death for His sake leads to eternal life (v. 35).

Coram Deo

  • Dr. R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary Mark that “the Christian life is a throwaway life.” We must be willing to lose all we have now in order to gain everything in the world to come. This does not mean we merit eternal life by giving up everything or that the degree of suffering is the same for all Christians. It does mean that true faith in Jesus—the kind of faith that saves us—will renounce everything, even this life, for the sake of Jesus and His glory.

Passages for Further Study

  • Genesis 39
  • Acts 5:17–42
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Hebrews 11:24–26

Devotionals (http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals), Copyright 2016, Ligonier Ministries.

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Peter Corrects Jesus

“Peter took [Jesus] aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.’ ”

– Mark 8:32b–33

Returning to Mark’s gospel, we pick up our study immediately after Peter’s confession in Caesarea Philippi of Jesus as the Christ—the promised Messiah (Mark 8:27–29). As we have seen, Jesus did not correct Peter’s confession, though He ordered the Twelve not to tell anyone about it. Instead, He began teaching them that His messianic vocation would entail His suffering, death, and resurrection (vv. 30–32a).

However, though Jesus did not correct Peter’s confession in itself, He soon had to correct Peter regarding the disciple’s understanding of what his confession meant. When Peter objected to Christ’s definition of what the Messiah would have to do, Jesus rebuked him and accused him of speaking the things of Satan and not the things of God (vv. 32b–33). The implication is clear—to resist Jesus’ teaching is to act as a disciple of Satan, and this is true regardless of whether the person making the objection understands what he is saying.

Many errors derive from sheer malice, whereas other errors have the best of intentions behind them. Our Lord’s rebuke of Peter shows us that good intentions do not excuse falsehood. God does not give sin a pass even when it is well-intentioned. John Calvin comments that in this episode, “we learn what estimation in the sight of God belongs to what are called good intentions. . . . Certainly, if the feeling and judgment of the flesh be admitted, Peter’s intention was pious, or at least it looked well. And yet Christ could not have conveyed his censure in harsher or more disdainful language. . . . Christ reproves it so sharply, and bruises it, as it were, with an iron hammer, to teach us that it is only from the word of God that we ought to be wise.” Peter did not mean to miss the point of Jesus’ coming. He resisted our Lord’s teachings with the best of motives, desiring to help Jesus understand who the Messiah was supposed to be. But his motive was irrelevant to the issue at hand. Peter had made a huge blunder, and he needed quick instruction to break out of his error.

As one commentator notes, the sharpness of Jesus’ rebuke to Peter also shows us that half-truths can be worse than outright errors. Peter was correct that Jesus was the Messiah; he was wrong about what that would mean. Even for those grounded in sound doctrine, half-truths such as Peter’s are much harder to spot than outright denials of Jesus’ identity, making it imperative that we use precise language in our theological discussions.

Coram Deo

  • The greatest theological battles the church has faced have been caused by imprecise language. It makes a difference, for example, whether we are justified by faith or we are justified by faith alone. The deity of Christ hinges on whether He is of the same nature or a similar nature to the Father. Let us be careful to be precise in our understanding of doctrine that we might better capture all the nuances of biblical teaching.

Passages for Further Study

  • Genesis 3
  • Jeremiah 29:8
  • Matthew 16:21–23
  • 1 Timothy 4:6–10

Devotionals (http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals), Copyright 2016, Ligonier Ministries.

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Having a Faith That Works

“What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? . . . You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone” (James 2:14, 24).

True faith produces good works.

Many false teachers claim that you can earn your own salvation by doing good works. Most Christians understand the heresy of that teaching, but some become confused when they read that “a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone” (James 2:24). That seems to conflict with Paul’s teaching on salvation by grace through faith.

But when properly understood, James’ teaching on salvation is perfectly consistent with Paul’s. Paul clearly taught salvation by grace. In Ephesians 2:8-9 he says, “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, that no one should boast.” But Paul also taught that true salvation results in good works, for in the next verse he says, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

In Titus 3:5 he says that God “saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy”; but Titus 2:11-12 clarifies that God’s grace leads us “to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.” That’s the proper balance between faith and works.

James also taught salvation by grace. He said that God redeems sinners by the Word of truth and implants His Word within them to enable them to progress in holiness (James 1:18, 21). That’s a divine work, not a human effort. James 2:14-24 follows that up by telling us how we can know that work has taken place: there will be more than just a proclamation of faith but a faith that does good works.

Don’t be confused by how faith relates to good works. Put the two together by being a living testimony to God’s saving grace.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the righteousness He is producing in your life. Look for specific ways to demonstrate your faith to those around you today.

For Further Study

  • Read John 8:31-32.
  • What is the mark of a true disciple?
  • What effect does God’s Word have on those who heed what it says?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Showing Mercy

“So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:12-13).

Showing mercy is characteristic of a regenerate person.

Divine judgment has never been a popular topic of conversation. Godly people throughout history have been ridiculed, persecuted, and even killed for proclaiming it. In their efforts to win the approval of men, false teachers question or deny it. But James 2:12-13 reminds us that judgment will come, so we’d better live accordingly.

The basis for divine judgment is God’s Word, which James called “the law of liberty” (v. 12). It is a liberating law because it frees you from sin’s bondage and the curse of death and hell. It is the agency of the Spirit’s transforming work, cutting deep into your soul to judge your thoughts and motives (Heb. 4:12). It gives you the wisdom that leads to salvation, and equips you for godly living (2 Tim. 3:15-17). It imparts truth and discernment, freeing you from error and spiritual deception. It is in every sense a law of freedom and liberation for those who embrace it.

The law liberates believers but condemns unbelievers. The phrase “judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy” (v. 13) speaks of unrelieved judgment in which every sin receives its fullest punishment. That can only mean eternal hell! If the Word is at work in you, its effects will be evident in the way you speak and act. If you are impartial and merciful to people in need, that shows you are a true Christian and have received God’s forgiveness and mercy yourself. If you show partiality and disregard for the needy, the law becomes your judge, exposing the fact that you aren’t truly redeemed.

Are you a merciful person? Do you seek to provide for others without favoritism? When you fail to do so, do you confess your sin and seek forgiveness and restoration? Those are marks of true faith.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise the Lord for His great mercy toward you, and be sure to show mercy to those around you.

For Further Study

  • Read Luke 1:46-55 and 68-79. Follow Mary’s and Zacharias’s example by rejoicing over God’s mercy toward His people.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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God Builds David’s House

“Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house” (v. 11b).

– 2 Samuel 7:1–17

Few Jews in the first century expected the Messiah to suffer, die, and rise again from the dead, as we see in Peter’s response to Jesus’ definition of His messianic vocation as including suffering (Mark 8:31–33). But for our Savior, this aspect of the Messiah’s work was absolute. He had to suffer, for it was part of God’s plan of salvation. This plan, we have seen, goes all the way back to eternity past when the three persons of the Trinity covenanted together to redeem a people for the glory of God. Such a redemption had to take place if we were to be restored to fellowship with the Lord, for in Adam we broke the Lord’s covenant. We could not do this ourselves, so the Lord pledged to Noah to preserve the earth as a place where he could fulfill the promise to Abraham that God would take on the curse for our disobedience. This promise, in turn, was furthered by the covenant made with Israel through Moses, for its legal system pointed to the necessity of atonement for reconciliation with God.

But there was one final aspect of God’s plan that was revealed before Christ came and that took place when the Lord entered into a covenant with David. One of the places where Scripture records that covenant is found in today’s passage, which opens with David’s desire to build a house—a temple—for God. The story is quite incredible, as it reveals how the glory of the Lord was a greater concern to David than his own glory as the king of Israel. David saw that it was not right for God to dwell in a tent—the tabernacle—while he enjoyed a more lavish residence—a palace of cedar. So, he purposed to give the Lord the home He deserved (2 Sam. 7:1–3).

But God did not choose David to build a house for Him. Instead, David’s son would construct a house for the Lord. Moreover, God would build a house for David. This promise, as 2 Samuel 7 reveals, referred not to the building of a physical house for David but rather a ruling house, a royal line that would inherit reign over God’s kingdom forever (vv. 4–17).

David’s son Solomon built a physical house for the Lord (1 Kings 5–6), but the covenant with David refers finally to a son of David even greater than Solomon. This descendant would be disciplined by God with the rod of men for the sins of David’s line and, ultimately, for the sins of all God’s people (2 Sam. 7:1–17). This anointed king—this Messiah—is Jesus, who suffered, died, and rose again to save His people.

Coram Deo

  • God always keeps His promises, which means Jesus had to rise again. The Lord promised David a righteous son who would rule forever, and the only way that the Messiah could atone for sin and rule forever was if He were to be restored to life after dying for our sin. The resurrection of Christ confirms God’s promise to David, and shows us that the Lord can be trusted to keep all His promises. We should therefore never hesitate to believe Him.

Passages for Further Study

  • 1 Chronicles 17
  • Acts 13:13–41

Devotionals (http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals), Copyright 2016, Ligonier Ministries.

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