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Tests Of Discipleship

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TESTS OF DISCIPLESHIP

Luke 9:57-62

 

Luke 9: 57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go."

58 Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

59 He said to another man, "Follow me."  But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."

60 Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

61 Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family."

62 Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

As the Lord was making His way to Jerusalem, He began to give His disciples a challenging insight into what was involved in following Him.  He gave examples of three men, each of whom had acknowledged His Lordship and Authority.  Each said they wanted to serve Him, but found themselves faced with a stringent test of the reality of his discipleship.

In the first instance he likened the path of discipleship to that of a man plowing a field—with a straight furrow from which there was to be no deviation. 

There are many influences to deflect us from following a straight course.

Three of these influences emerge from this passage.

1.   THE IMPULSIVE VOLUNTEER (Luke 9:57)

 

Luke 9: 57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go."

a.    A voluntary and unconditional offer of service.

                                          i.    Made in a burst of enthusiasm.

                                        ii.     His sincerity was not questioned.

                                       iii.    He was prepared to go anywhere with Jesus.

                                       iv.    Surely this was what the Lord was looking for—don’t you think?

b.    But Jesus knew what was in man.

 

John 2:25

25 He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.

                                          i.    His discernment told him that this man was genuine, but was not yet ready for service.

                                        ii.    He would have been a good catch.

1.    Matthew tells us he was a scribe.

Mat 8:19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.

                                       iii.    But Jesus saw him as being too impulsive. 

1.    He saw that his enthusiasm would likely dissipate in times of testing.

                                       iv.    A lot of teachers would have welcomed such a find of talent.

1.    He, no doubt, expected to be welcomed with open arms by this new Teacher and would have been shocked at the Lord’s response.

                                        v.    Jesus had discerned a similarity between this man’s response and Peter’s protestation:

“Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (Matthew 26:33).

 

c.    Now we shouldn’t stifle a charitable response.

                                          i.     But Jesus saw in that volunteer one who had spoken without counting the cost involved.

1.    He did not reject his offer of service but made a cryptic statement that would open his eyes to reality.

(Luke 9:58 NIV)  Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

 

2.    In effect Jesus asked him, “Do you realize where your enthusiasm may lead you,”  “Take your time. Count the costs. Are you willing to face the sacrifices?” Are you prepared to accept a lower standard of living for my sake?”

                                        ii.    This was the test of povertyIn today’s vernacular—“Get Real”

1.    In temporal military campaigns there are sometimes casualties—so we should expect that there could be casualties in spiritual warfare.

2.    It is not fair to send soldiers into battle without first briefing them on what is to be expected, and that is what Jesus was doing.

                                       iii.    In our materialistic society of America in the 21st century, we (including me) demand security against the pitfalls of economic downturns, etc.

1.     We want to know all about our retirement benefits and holidays before we are willing to commit to the mission.

                                       iv.    Our generation does not know the pain of a Great Depression. 

1.    I am thankful that we have not had to suffer the deprivation of the 30’s and 40’s.

                                        v.    If we should have another collapse of the economy on the scale of the 1929 stock market crash it would be very painful and a hard lesson for the current generation to accept

1.    We would discover that there is no security in material things. 

a.    They can be swept away overnight.

2.    We would understand why Jesus said, “Lay not up treasures on earth where moth and rust corrodes and thieves break through and steal—but lay up for yourselves, treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot corrode or thieves cannot break through and steal.”

3.    Was he telling us not to plan for the future—NO! —He simply told us not to trust in these things because then can and will fail us.

                                       vi.    The Lord offers no security, except in Himself.  But isn’t that sufficient?

1.    We need the faith of Abraham who left the security of Ur of the Chaldees.

(Heb 11:8 NIV)  By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

He was willing to do this because it tells us in verse 10 he had another agenda.

 

(Heb 11:10 NIV)  For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

 

                                      vii.    There is a cost in loyal discipleship, but there is also an assurance of abundant compensation.

1.     It is impossible to out-give God. 

                                    viii.    What we may lose in material things, we will gain in terms of joy and fulfillment here—and eternal happiness later.

2.   THE RELUCTANT CONSCRIPT

 

(Luke 9:59) He said to another man, "Follow me."  But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."

 

a.    The second candidate for service did not volunteer. He responded but his response held a reservation. “Let me attend to my home affairs first.”

                                          i.    If the first man was too fast, this man was too slow. To him, discipleship was a matter of only secondary importance.

Matt 8:21-22

21 Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."

22 But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."

 

                                        ii.    This tells us that this second man was already a follower of Jesus when he was called, so it is apparent that he was dragging his feet and putting other things first before his commitment to Christ.

                                       iii.    True he said, “I will follow you,” but he added a caveat’ “When it suits my convenience.”

1.    He was not ready to burn his bridges or sink his boat,

b.    At first glance, Jesus’ reply seems harsh and unfeeling.

                                          i.    Wasn’t it natural and right for the man to attend his father’s funeral?

1.    His responsibility as a son was to carry out the funeral arrangements of his parents. 

2.    He would have been condemned if he had failed to carry out his responsibility.

                                        ii.    Why do you think Jesus replied this way?

1.    The truth is, his father wasn’t dead yet.  He was very much alive.

                                       iii.    It was a common saying in use and really meant, “Let me attend to my family interests.” 

1.    Luke 9:60—read.

60 Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

                                       iv.    Jesus implied that if he would put God’s interests first, his family interests would not suffer.  If there is a clash, Christ must be first.

1.    It doesn’t mean that God is indifferent to family relationships and responsibilities. 

2.    He doesn’t speak with two voices—urging great care and compassion for our families and then making harsh, contrary demands on the other. 

3.    But even home ties must come second to His requirements.

                                        v.    Jesus further clarified the issue when he said, hate your father, Mother.etc.

1.    What if the call comes for missions a you have to leave home and preach the Gospel overseas? 

2.    What of aged parents and other relatives left behind?

3.    Where there is an absolute need and there are no acceptable alternatives, the right course would be for the disciple to stay at home until the situation changes. 

                                       vi.    Unsympathetic or unspiritual relatives and friends may be critical, but our primary loyalty is to our Lord and Master.

1.    “I must give my whole time for my family” I won’t go to any church meetings, etc., so that I can give time to my family…”

                                     vii.    If the first test was that of poverty, the second is the test of urgency.

3.   THE HALF-HEARTED VOLUNTEER (Luke 9:61)

61 Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family."

a.    A limited commitment.   “But…first, let me say goodbye.”

                                          i.    If the first was too fast, and the second too slow, the third was too pliable.

1.     His response sounded like the response of his predecessor.

                                        ii.    It was to this man the Lord said (v.62). You can’t look back!

1.    The Lord’s reply uncovered the nature of the man’s problem.

2.    His heart was back at home, not with his Master.  Jesus saw that soon he would be looking back and then turning back.

                                       iii.    There is so much to deflect us from the path. Many are willing, like this man, for a limited commitment, yet they always have a “but” in there.

1.    It is like the gifted young couple that completed their first term on the mission field and showed great promise.  There was great hope for them.  As they left for furlough, one of the leaders said to the other, “I don’t think we will see them back again.”  The other strongly disagreed, but asked why he felt that way.  He replied, “She never unpacked” 

2.    He had detected signs that her heart had never been weaned from home—they never returned. 

                                       iv.    The adversary is very skilled in playing upon our natural affections.

1.    And which of us hasn’t felt that backward pull?

2.     Take a look at 1 Kings 19:19-21

 

19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him.

20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. "Let me kiss my father and mother good-by," he said, "and then I will come with you."

 

"Go back," Elijah replied. "What have I done to you?"

 

21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.

 

The story of Elisha wanting to follow Elijah.  He burned his bridges—or in this case, his plows. 

In our third illustration of Luke 19, this fellow was proposing a postponement of service. “Let me wait until daddy dies…” “Let me say goodbye”.

Conclusion

In our leadership meetings, we have been dealing with ways to use terminology that non-Christians or un-churched people would understand.

One of those words is, “discipleship”.  I believe I am speaking to those who understand the meaning of discipleship.  The call to each of us—“Follow Me”

One of the mottos of one of our former pastors—Pastor Jim Filbeck—was ”Follow God in Everything”

Are there things we are allowing to hinder our service to the Master?  Can we compare the Lord’s call to us with these in the scriptures?

The solution is unreserved commitment to the Lord Jesus—then and only then will we discover His purpose and vision for our life.

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