Mark 8:34-35 NLT
Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.

PERSONAL COMMENTARY
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I enjoy comparing translations. The KJV uses the word gospel in verse 35. And both are a reference to the Greek euaggelion (Strong’ G2098).

This Greek word has meanings of:

1) a reward for good tidings

2) good tidings

Expanded deeper as:

A) the glad tidings of the Kingdom of God soon to be set up, and subsequently also of Jesus the Messiah, the founder of this kingdom. After the death of Christ, the term comprises also the preaching of (concerning) Jesus Christ as having suffered death on the cross to procure eternal salvation for the men in the kingdom of God, but as restored to life and exalted to the right hand of God in heaven, thence to return in majesty to consummate the kingdom of God

B) the glad tidings of salvation through Christ

C) the proclamation of the grace of God manifest and pledged in Christ

D) the gospel

E) as the messianic rank of Jesus was proved by his words, his deeds, and his death, the narrative of the sayings, deeds, and death of Jesus Christ came to be called the gospel or glad tidings

And when you consider that these are Jesus’ words, doesn’t it make sense that He would be speaking of this “good news” and “glad tidings” that He brings the world?

He didn’t just bring the world a religion of law and condemnation, but He brought the good news of mercy, forgiveness, love, and salvation. This Good News offers something that was not apparent to man in the written law. Men read the law and tried to obtain salvation through their own works, through their own striving to meet the requirements of the law – and failed.

But Christ is the Good News, He is the salvation. His grace is sufficient.

And all who accept this gift of grace by faith will receive salvation.

By faith, not by striving. Not by works. Not by the law, but through Christ.

Salvation is the reward we receive, both a free gift from God, and payment in full that far surpasses the value of any worthless works we claim as our own.

For if we are saved, and renewed, it is not our works, but His work manifest through us as a willing vessel. This is so we have no right to boast or compare ourselves to others. Because we all deserve the same fate, and that is death.
Anything we receive other than death is a gift, not earned, but accepted in faith.

So let’s give up these childish fantasies of earning our way into heaven, or doing enough to keep ourselves out of hell.

Let’s give up the tactics of scaring people into claiming a name under the duress of fear of punishment just so we can add another notch onto our “souls converted” belt.

If we say that Christ is our teacher, let’s grow to speak and act as He spoke and acted. But, yes. Unfortunately, there are some that love the law more than they love Christ. I too appreciate the law in the light of Christ, but I am under grace.

I was under the law up to that point that Christ came to live in my heart. I was under that law while I was in rebellion against God. And while I was under that law, I fought against it and I hated it, and I resisted it.

But now I am under grace, and I see the beauty of the law as it is meant to be. But the law in its faded glory has no comparison to the glory of Jesus Christ, my risen Savior.

So Jesus Christ is my teacher, and the law played a supporting roll in His glory. But Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life – and His grace is sufficient. Not so that I might be free to continue in sin, no. If that is what is heard, you do not hear my voice, but a twisting of my words.

Grace is freedom from sin. And when we know freedom, who wants to return to slavery?

And isn’t it my attitude, my heart that God examines, and doesn’t it guide my decisions and actions?

So who has faith –

Someone who wants to sin in their heart and to rebel against God but hides it so others won’t see?

Someone who wants to be free from sin and seeks God’s will but stumbles in ways visible to others?

Matthew 21:28-32 ESV
“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?”
They said, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

We give up our lives to Christ through a broken, contrite, humble spirit – accepting that this salvation is not earned by what we do, but received through faith – through belief that only Good can offer forgiveness for the sinful life we have lived in rebellion and opposition to His will and His guidance for our lives. We do this by asking for forgiveness, through belief in the promise of grace and mercy and forgiveness extended to us through Jesus Christ.

And then we find that it isn’t a religion of rules – that is there for condemning the unveiled – while this Holy Spirit of Christ in us is now present to convict us and teach us and guide us –

in a renewed life of purpose, of repentance, of fruitfulness, of faithful preparation, and of humble service in His Kingdom.

There are those that will read this and use the argument about who is greatest or least in the Kingdom of God. Isn’t it clear that if everyone receives the same equal payment that those who thought themselves first would now consider themselves last and those that considered themselves last would see that they are first?

If you expect that you have “earned” a place at the front of the line, be careful not to be upset when that homeless sinner is standing equal before God.

And if you consider yourself the last worthy, how much more radiant will your joy be when you find yourself in glory beside your fellow saints?

Because is it better that I be considered the least in the Kingdom and share this Good News and grace abundantly – caring more about the fate of my brother’s and sisters?

Or is it better that I make it difficult for my brother’s and sisters so that I might earn a spot of greater preference in the kingdom?

Matthew 5:19 ESV
Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

So let us all be satisfied by our own works and our own measure of faith.

And the unfaithful would say, but if we aren’t going to earn anything more for our works, then why would we work?

If you work, it is either in vain as your own works, or it is your due if you consider yourself under the law. But who can meet the requirements of the law?

So I encourage you to find grace.

I work under grace because I am grateful, I am renewed, and I am repentant. I am a willing vessel equipping myself for His use – just in case He sees fit to use me.

Matthew 20:1-16 ESV
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about
the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”

So you ask me if I have counted the cost?

And you say, but why would you pay a cost, why would you go through persecution? Why would you face being martyred if it came to that?

And I answer with the only reason there has ever been that is strong enough to inspire a man of flesh and blood to such courage –

Love.

A hired hand will abandon the sheep in times of trouble, and he will run for fear of his own life.

But the good shepherd looks after the sheep and is willing to lay down his own life. This is the way of Christ, this the life example of Christ, this is the truth of His love.

John 10:7-18 ESV
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Don’t misunderstand. I do not call myself the Christ, but He is my teacher.

Luke 6:40 ESV
A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.

I simply use this as a proof to explain why teachers should be in this for love and not to “earn favor” – because one is a disciple and the other is a hired hand.

This was a pretty cool lesson for me, because it put so many things in a different light for me. I don’t know that it offers any help to anyone else, because it is mainly me chasing a rabbit – but it really helped me put some of the pieces together for the first time.