March 11, 2010
Oklahoma Baptist University student Sam Simmons challenged his fellow students to reevaluate their motives and live for Christ in his message during a weekly chapel service Wednesday, March 10. Each year, a student from OBU's School of Christian Service is selected to present a sermon in chapel. Simmons is a senior biblical languages major from Blackwell, Okla.
Simmons based his message on Mark 8:34-38 in which Jesus summons the crowds surrounding him and tells them, "Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?"
When Jesus spoke about man's desire, Simmons said he was speaking to what he knew about the people: some expected the Messiah to be a man of military might who would overthrow Rome. Others followed Jesus merely for the spectacle. Still others sought free salvation without cost or sacrifice.
"You and I - what desires do we have to follow Christ?" Simmons asked his peers. "I think there are many of us here who have said, ‘Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior,' but why are you desiring Christ? Is it because you want personal gain, that blessing of salvation? My fear is that some of us here want the salvation, and focus on ‘Jesus coming to save me, and to take me to heaven when I die,' and have completely misunderstood the cost."
When Jesus told the crowds that each person must deny himself, he was making a statement poignant to their culture, Simmons said. Jesus was asking them to give up their own honor, and in that society, esteem came from honor. The highest cultural value of the first century was personal honor. Simmons said that while honor is not valued in society today, many people seek other values such as wealth, power and pleasure.
"What Jesus is saying to you and I is to stop considering your own personal gain and follow him," Simmons said. "What is your focus? What is your goal in life? Money? House, car? We all have agendas, we all have goals. We're here at college for a reason, aren't we?
"Another fear I have is that many in this room who claim to know Jesus Christ have set their goals and their plans without considering him. We have agendas and our schedules, and we meet them for our own needs and our own personal desires and we forget Christ."
Simmons also pointed to Jesus' command to take up a cross and follow him. He said that today the symbol of the cross has become a sign of victory to Christians, signifying Christ's defeat of sin and death. However, in the first century, the cross represented a public, shameful death. Jews believed anyone who hung on a tree was cursed. When Jesus made the command for people to pick up a cross and follow him, it was a powerful statement in his society.
"Jesus is asking us to forget about our self-seeking desires and to give up our very lives to follow him," Simmons said. "What are you holding onto that you are unwilling to give up for Christ? Jesus is not asking for No. 2. He is not asking for second place. He is asking to be No. 1."
Simmons urged his classmates to consider the call of Christ, to live truly devoted as disciples rather than risk forfeiting their souls for success in this world.