Grace Baptist Church Decatur, IL

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The Candidate, Commitment, & Criteria

Matthew 16:21-26



(Mat 16:24)  "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."


Jesus' teaching on true discipleship separates the serious from the satisfied. Not many will step forward and stand about you?


The passage of scripture just prior to this is a highlight in the life of Peter. He has proclaimed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answers him with (Mat 16:17)  "And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven."


Just two or three verses later Peter makes one of the greatest mistakes of his life. He rebukes the Lord. He places himself in the way of the Lord fulfilling His mission on earth. Jesus then has to rebuke Peter and get him straightened out. Peter goes from one of the highest pinnacles of his life to the lowest position. Why? How could this happen? If it happened to Peter, then surely you and I can expect to see the same thing take place in our lives. Is there something in this passage of inspired scripture that will direct our paths around such a mistake?


When this happens to you, what will you do? How will you get out of this valley of the shadow of death?


Let’s examine it and see.


(Mat 16:24)  "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."




Who is the Lord talking to here?  “Any man.”  That’s true, but He is looking straight at Peter. They are eye ball to eye ball. He is saying, “Peter, if any man will come after me....”


He is using Peter as an example for our sakes.


He is telling Peter how to be raised from the low spiritual place he has gotten himself into. He wants Peter to know that he has just committed a terrible sin, and now the way to avoid future reoccurrence is to do what He is about to tell Peter.


This means that you can be in the same place Peter was. You may be in a very low state of Christian happiness. You may have denied Christ as severely this week as did Peter. Your victory may have gone out the window. You may be so low spiritually that you have to stretch to taste dirt.


It’s not often that you see Christians in a real place of victory. They normally are walking around in the spiritual dumps, blaming everyone, and everything. The solution lies within the formula that the Lord gave Peter.


Jesus puts you and I in this same category.  He knows that we will all fail. He knows that we are all human.

Psalms 78:37-39
37 For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant. 38 But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath. 39 For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.

He told Peter that flesh and blood did not reveal to him the strong spiritual things that were discussed in Vs. 17.


Notice that Jesus uses the singular “man”, not “men”. This would indicate that not many will proceed in this matter. There are not many people alive today who can say, “I am doing what Jesus told Peter to do.” There are not many who will pay the price.  I also believe it is singular so we will apply it to ourselves.  If plural, then we apply it to others, assuming someone else will, but none will if not you!


I believe that God is pleading for you today. You are that “any man”. Will you be an active candidate? Will you be the candidate of action?


You meet the requirements. “Any man”.  That means “any person”, any man, any woman, any young person, any boy, any girl, and any person.” You are a candidate to be the person Jesus is talking about.


So please don’t exclude yourself from these instructions.





        A. Must come from man’s will.  (“...will follow me.”)

                Has to be a surrendered will.

Rom 12:1-2


I think of the time somewhere in eternity past when God looked for the Sacrifice for Man and Jesus said, “I will.”


A will yielded to the spirit. You will not accomplish this in the flesh. Your flesh must be totally surrendered to the will of the Spirit, and then allowing the Spirit to work within and through you.


        B. Must consist of blind faith. Isa 42:16  "And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them."


No pre-existing conditions [just like medical insurance!].

“Lord, if you will heal my sick child, then I’ll commit.” That won’t work.


“Lord, if you will put my marriage back together, I’ll commit.”  That’s not what He is calling for.


“Lord, if you will show Yourself in this certain way, I’ll commit.”  No, No, No.


“Lord, I’ll commit to you whether my child lives or dies.”


“Lord, I’ll commit to you whether my marriage works or not.”


“Lord, I’ll commit to You whether you do what I ask You to do or not.”


Will you make the commitment? Will you follow the Lord?


“If any man will follow me.....”





We may have some who would answer the first two points. Some may be so desirous in living for God that they would dedicate themselves as a candidate and even make the commitment, but when they hear the criteria, many will turn back and walk no more with the Lord.


Here is the Criteria:


        A. “Deny Himself” This is the hardest thing you will ever do. To deny self is to put self to death. Self no longer lives. Self is an enemy to your mission. Self is a stumbling block that must be eliminated.

1. Deny self doesn’t just mean to be disciplined. It means to be deceased.

2. To deny self doesn’t mean that you will make self exist on less. It means that you make self non-existent. 

3.  It’s not thinking less of yourself, but not thinking of self at all.

Gal 5:24  "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts."


It says, “have crucified the flesh”. That’s past tense. It has already taken place. Has it happened with you? Have you crucified the flesh?


Had Peter denied himself here he would not have denied Christ later.


You will either deny self, OR YOU WILL DENY CHRIST. You can’t please both. One or the other must be denied. Either Christ or the flesh! Which will you deny?


Not many born again people will go this far. Not many will walk this line.


John 6:63-66
63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. 65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. 66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

Which crowd would you have been in that day?  Would you have stayed or left?


If we could transport ourselves back into time and be present in this scene - where would you be? Would you be standing with the Lord, or would you be walking away from Him? Not many will continue.


Deny self.


The second thing in the criteria is:


        B. “Take Us His Cross”  This is not the Lord’s Cross. It is the individual’s cross. The “any man.”

                1. The cross is always a place of execution. A cross always brought death to it occupants.

                        a. There is no other purpose for a cross. It is not an instrument of beauty or decoration. It is never used as a training tool. It had but one purpose. It always brought death.


Bearing a cross is not having a mean, hard boss.

It is not having to drive an old, worn out car.

It is not having to live with a certain ache or pain.

It is not having friends turn against you.

Taking up your cross is to exchange your life for the cause of Christ.


A cross did not make people stronger. A cross did not make a person more conscience of a certain cause. It always meant death. No human ever returned from a cross. There are no plans beyond execution. Self dies. Once a person was executed on a cross, they never promoted self again.  I’m not big on the idea of “re-dedication”.  Either you are dedicated or not.  And if not, then you weren’t truly dedicated in the first place.  You can no more be rededicated than you can be re-dead!  Problem is, we have this flesh with us, and this sin nature that revives over and again, resurrecting wickedness…and so:


                        b. The execution must be done daily.

1 Cor 15:31  "I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily."


German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the Nazis because of his testimony, made this statement: "When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die." To follow Jesus no matter what the cost -- that's the way of the cross.


You may have died today, but you will resurrect self before sun up.


                2. A place of identification. To identify with Christ, you must have a cross.




I counted dollars while God counted crosses

I counted gains while He counted losses.


I counted my worth by things gained in store

But He sized me up by the scars that I bore.


I coveted honors and sought for degrees

He wept as He counted the hours on my knees.


I never knew until one day by the grave

How vain are the things we spend life to save.


I did not understand until my loved one went above

That richest is he who is rich in God’s love.


                3. A place of vindication.


I wonder if there are those here now who will never experience victory because you refuse to be nailed to the cross.

                        a. Victory over sin.

                        b. Victory over self.


If I asked for a show of hands tonight of those who want absolute victory in your Christian life, many would raise your hand in the most sincerity of heart, but the criteria for victory will stop most from truly gaining it.


Without taking up your cross you cannot have complete victory in your Christian life. Without taking up your cross you cannot be one of His disciples.


Luke 14:26-33
26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

Who makes the decision whether you will be a disciple or not? Jesus does. He says, “I will not have you as a disciple unless you meet a certain criteria.”  A “few good men.”


We preach about how weak and undedicated Peter was in that he denied Christ. What about you? Where do you stack up in this matter of discipleship?


        C. “And Follow Me


We look at this as placing Christ in a giant mixing bowl with all of our other interests of life. Then through struggles of life we can elevate Him to a higher place of importance in our life. After years of struggles of works, and efforts, we hopefully have placed Jesus near the top of our priorities. That’s not the way it works.


Jesus is to replace everything in our life; our desires, our hobbies, our wishes, our fantasies, everything - we are to totally empty self and when nothing is left - then Christ can take over. There can be nothing else in the bowl.  There can be no competition. Jesus will not compete with your selfish motives. When we make the commitment to accept the criteria Jesus begins to throw out all of those things that will hinder.  Then we are spiritually in a right state of mind, and can add some things back in place as God allows, and He does give us many liberties, but He doesn’t want us clinging to our rights, but denying them, allowing Him to give them back to us where He is willing.


If You Are A Weight Lifter, You Pay A Price For Getting Stronger.

If You Are A Runner, You Pay A Price For Getting Faster.

If You Want To Be A High Jumper, You Must Pay A Price For Jumping Higher.

You Pay A Price To Lose Weight.

You Pay A Price To Gain A Promotion At Work.

You even Pay A Price For Staying Just The Same As You Are Now.


So how about it?  Will you pay the price?  It may be financial…meeting God’s criteria of the tithe, or putting an end to wasteful spending of the other 90%.  It may mean breaking a bad habit…will you pay the price?  It may mean re-prioritizing your schedule so you can obey God better and be more faithful.  It may mean giving something up, or taking something on.  It may mean allowing yourself to be wronged, and taking the high road.


Jesus' teaching on true discipleship separates the serious from the satisfied. Not many will step forward and stand about you?


Who will offer themselves as a candidate for discipleship tonight?


Be the Candidate.

Make the Commitment.

Accept the Criteria.


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All Sermons and PowerPoint Slideshow Presentations ©Copyright Jerry Shirley and Grace Notes Ministries® unless otherwise credited.  These resources are yours to use freely, but only in public worship services or private study groups and devotions.  They may not be sold, republished or retransmitted in any form without written permission.