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Author:Pastor Ted Van Raalte
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 Canadian Reformed Church - CanRC
 
Preached At:Redeemer Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
 www.redeemer-canrc.ca
 
Title:The Urgency of Following Jesus and Proclaiming Him in Your Life
Text:Luke 9:57-62 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Calling
 
Preached:2004-03-07
Added:2004-03-11
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Liturgy 10:00 a. m.
Psalm 93.
Psalm 3:1,2.
Read: Luke 9:18-27; 46-62
Psalm 3:3,4.
Text: Luke 9:57-62
Hymn 39
Hymn 59:1
Hymn 59:2,3.
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Ted Van Raalte, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Most of us know the song, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God." I will simply quote the words instead of singing them, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness. And all these things shall be added unto you. Hallelujah. Hallelujah." That song is a beautiful song for the very young to learn, to help them start off in the right track. We sing it at school, around the kitchen table, and around the campfire. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God."

We've learned in a general way that the Lord Jesus has taught us to put everything about God first in our lives. We also know that God commanded us not to have any other gods before him. When people ask us about our religion, we explain that we are Christians. When they ask us what that means, then we should be able to explain that God has a claim on our life from a to z. Serving God is something we must do every day, all the time. Commitment to him comes first. I'm willing to guess that every single person here knows that, unless you are entirely new to the faith. Whether from pulpits or via the radio or in books, we often come across the claim that God demands from us a total life commitment. The demands of his kingdom are total.

The question we must face is whether we can get beyond general statements to the nitty- gritty. It's easy to say things, but are we able to see how this translates into daily life? What happens when the rubber hits the road? Can we really work out the total demands of the Lord in our everyday choices? Are his words important all the time and everywhere?

Our Lord Jesus Christ has a way of teaching us these things that surpasses every other teacher. His sayings cut through the knots and dilemmas which we set up for ourselves. His sayings no longer allow us to take refuge in general statements. He shows us how his total demands go against our own desires. He teaches us how radical and how total are his requirements for those who would be his disciples or students. His own life shows that radical and total obedience to God his Father, particularly in his death on the cross. We must now take up our cross every day and follow him. I preach God's Word as follows:

When you serve as Christ's disciple, the urgency of his cross requires you to:
1. Give up all your other comforts;
2. Yield to one task only;
3. Never look back.

1. When you serve as Christ's disciple, the urgency of his cross requires you to give up all your other comforts:

We need to understand how our Lord's demands go beyond general statements to speak to our daily choices. In order to understand all this rightly, we need to realize how our Lord Jesus spoke his words in the push and pull of real life. A couple of weeks ago our text was from the same chapter of Luke, regarding Christ's glory on the mountain where he was transfigured. We noted that the Father gave his Son this glory to strengthen Jesus for the coming suffering of the cross. Jesus our Saviour had totally committed himself to go to Jerusalem and endure this suffering.

Therefore, the opening words of our text place Christ's words in the midst of daily life. He spoke, "As they were walking along the road." The Christ himself is on the move, and Luke the gospel writer wants us to understand that the Christ is moving forward, on his way somewhere. Only six verses before Luke had written, "As the time approached for him to be taken up, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem." (9:51). He set his face in that direction and nothing would alter him from his course. This is his third and final year of ministry. He was beginning his last journey to Jerusalem. He had begun to explain to the disciples the need for his own suffering and death. He had talked on the mountain with Moses and Elijah about his departure from this life, that is, his death (9:31). Coming down the mountain he had asked, "O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?" (9:41). After he healed the boy at the foot of the mount of transfiguration, he again picked a moment when everyone was marvelling, to say, "Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men." (9:44). It was just like that moment when Peter confessed Jesus to the Christ, for then too just as they marvelled he used that moment to teach them that he was going to suffer many things and be killed (9:22). Throughout the following chapters of Luke's gospel we find more indicators that our Lord is on his way to his death. This is the real-life context of the words in our text.

Jesus was not travelling along just any road, but along the roads that were taking him to Jerusalem to his suffering and death. If anyone knew what total obedience to God means, here is the one! Every step he takes, he takes with serious urgency, as he is on his way to give up his life for sinners. Therefore, when a man comes along and says, "I will follow you wherever you go," our Lord wants to make sure that this man understands what he is saying. The man was not just suggesting that he would like to listen to Jesus for a while. Rather, the man promised a real-life commitment. He would go with Jesus everywhere. What would this mean for him? The Lord answers, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."

This was a very true statement at the moment. As part of this journey to Jerusalem Jesus and his disciples are starting to travel southward. Starting in Galilee, they need to go down to Jerusalem. Usually this was accomplished by travelling in the corridor of the Jordan River. This required one to take a jog eastward, follow the river to the south, and then turn westward again towards Jerusalem. It was faster and easier to simply go straight south through the territory of the Samaritans, but most Jews would not do this. The Samaritans especially opposed the Jews when they came through on their way to the Passover. The dispute was about the importance of Jerusalem. Samaritans did not recognize the temple in Jerusalem. Jews did. Jesus and his disciples were travelling through Samaritan territory in order to go to Jerusalem for the Passover. We read this in v. 53. "The people there did not welcome him, because his face was heading for Jerusalem." Jesus was not welcomed. He had no place to lay his head. No place to rest. No creature comforts. Whereas foxes each have their own home, dug here or there, which they enjoy without being disturbed, Jesus had no place. Whereas the birds each fly home to their own nest at the end of the day, our Lord did not know where he might sleep from night to night. He had a destination, but no resting places set up along the way.

Jesus' disciples wanted him to send fire from heaven to consume these unwelcoming Samaritans (9:54). Our Lord rebuked them. And then Luke tells us of this man who wants to follow Jesus everywhere. Jesus needs to teach the man the true nature of this commitment. It will demand a lot from him. He will have to go without the comforts he is used to. Yes, he will have the teachings of the kingdom of God. But he will not have a place to sleep. He may lack food and drink. His feet may go unwashed due to the busy travel and work. Did he already know that? Would he still be willing to follow Jesus everywhere?

Does the man realize that following Jesus will not be just another commitment to add to his long list of things to do, but that it will be the commitment of his life? Is the man ready to re- organize his life from the bottom up? It's also in Luke 9 that we read, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" (Luke 9:23-24).

Brothers and sisters, when our Lord calls us into his kingdom, he does not promise health and wealth in this life. In fact, from the very start he wants to warn you: You will have a cross to bear! I came to endure a cross and in this world you too will have a cross to bear. Some people are very eager to follow the Lord because of his love. Others like his courage. Others look to his wisdom. But being eager is no better in itself than hesitating. With the kingdom of God a deep commitment is the requirement, one made with a full understanding of what is involved. You can be eager, as this man was, but first you need to be brought face to face with the harsh realities. Where are you going to sleep tonight?

I am not here to invite you all with a smile into the kingdom of God. Nor am I here to simply help you sing nice songs to your Lord. What the Lord Jesus wants preached is also this radical commitment. If you truly follow him, then you have to make choices that you don't really want to make. He had no place to sleep. Follow him truly and you might also lose your pillow and soft bed. The day may come when you find yourself jailed. Are you afraid? Very possibly! But will you still commit to follow him? There will be certain jobs you can't take because of the sinful atmosphere - you should not be a bartender or dealer at the casino. Other jobs require Sunday work when it is not necessary. These too you must leave aside. You need to follow Christ when it comes to how your children are taught and who teaches them. Such choices will surely cost you money. There will be less to spend on luxuries. You might has well know this right up front. Our children need to know this too. Once you know it, will you still follow him wherever he goes?

The fact is that here in Canada we live a pretty cushy life as Christians. The demands may not seem that high. But those demands are very high for Christians in other countries who are persecuted. In southern Sudan much suffering still continues. In North Korea, Christians must remain absolutely secretive, lest they be killed. In other countries of Asia and Africa they cannot have the good jobs and their church buildings may be destroyed, if they are allowed to have any. Their children will have difficulty getting good education. And so on. They know what this text means! Sometimes on the run, they do not know where they will lay their head down next. They have no place to call home anymore. How many of us would still follow Christ if we were under the same conditions these people find themselves in?

In 1997 William Deng, a young boy, lived in the village of Rumbek, South Sudan. At 7 in the morning radical Muslim militiamen came into the village, shooting. His family ran, but they were not fast enough. Stop running, or we will shoot, they were told. They stopped. But it was a lie. Even though they stopped, William's father and sister were shot dead within minutes. William was thrown into the river and unable to swim. His mother rescued him. One of the Muslims grabbed William and threw him back in. His mother fought off the attackers and rescued her son once again. The men then decided to keep him, and he was forced into slavery. Some years later he escaped, after several more brutal assaults. He maintains, "I had been baptized before I was captured and I knew Jesus was the only God. I am a full Christian and I love Jesus with all my heart."

This is discipleship in the nitty-gritty of life. It can mean that you lose all your other comforts. You lose everything and you are left with only one comfort - that you belong with body and soul both in life and death to your faithful Saviour Jesus Christ! The only people who will still remain faithful to the Lord are the ones in whom he has put such a faith! Only when we follow the one who went to the cross, can we ourselves bear our cross.

2. When you serve as Christ's disciple, the urgency of his cross requires you to yield to one task only;

Picture our Lord Jesus continuing his journey to his cross. He said to another man, "Follow me!" The man replied, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." It was an honest request. Some interpreters downplay the man's request simply to mean that his father was old and perhaps ill and might soon pass away. But let the radical demand of Christ hold its force here! The man said that he needed to bury his father. Let us assume then that his father had indeed died. The obligation was pressing upon this man.

The Lord Jesus replied, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

We need to understand how important a religious duty it was for a son to see to the proper burial of his father. The Pharisees had made it into a strict religious duty that preceded all other religious commitments. Even the burial of dead strangers was regarded as a good work of great merit to the Jews of that time. How much more one's own father! "Honour your father and your mother!"

But our Lord says that following him is even more important than burying one's relatives. The very force of his words comes with the unbelievable demand he makes. Who even today would forego the Christian duty of burying a dead parent's body? It would not be right! Nevertheless, it is more important to believe in Jesus Christ and do his will, than to bury those who have died. Particularly because our Lord was on his way to the cross, he could impress this need on his disciples all the more. On this journey the literal act of walking with Jesus was the most important way that one could show their faith in him, for this was the walk to his death.

Jesus says, "Let the dead bury their own dead." He does not mean let physically dead people bury dead people, because they would not be able. "The dead" who would do the burying must therefore be a reference to those who are dead in their sins because they are not following Jesus. Leave it to them, he says. You have something more important to do. Follow me to Jerusalem.

There is only one reason why he can teach this: because in him the kingdom of God is among men. God's kingdom turns the regular priorities of life upside down. Instead of burying the dead, one ought to be raising the dead by announcing the kingdom of heaven. "As for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." That is raising the dead! There is one task that takes up a disciple's life and that is proclaiming the kingdom of God.

The urgency of the cross lays this one task upon you. Even as Jesus' disciples needed to preach the kingdom for one last time as they travelled to Jerusalem, so we need to preach the kingdom, lest it be our last opportunity to proclaim it, or someone else's last opportunity to hear it. When you serve as Christ's disciple, the urgency of his cross requires you to yield to one task only: proclaiming your Lord. Everything that the cross means, all that it represents - that drives us onward with great urgency, to live a certain way and speak a certain way.

Truly that is your calling today, brothers and sisters. Our Lord did not say this to me only, as though only I have the duty because of my office. You have the duty no less than I do, though it be in different ways. Every deed you do, every word you say, every bit of entertainment that you welcome into your eyes and ears, every word you write in a letter, every song you sing - everything - must proclaim the kingdom of God. You are here on earth as people who belong in the kingdom of God. You have another citizenship, not shared with everyone in the world. You have another calling, not shared with everyone in the world. You have another Lord, whom you must serve even though millions of others refuse.

Actions speak louder than words. You have to follow him to Jerusalem, to the cross. Your everyday choices must clearly show that Jesus is Lord in your life. As his disciple, he expects you to put him first all the time. No one is allowed to postpone the demands of discipleship. If you feel the force of his call on you to be his disciple, then you must follow through with that right NOW. Not tomorrow. There is no time to wait. If burying your very own father would mean that you are postponing your obedience to the Lord, then you're going to have let someone else do it. If burying your very own dear mother would mean that you have to leave off from following the Lord for a time, then let others do it. As for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.

We must not misunderstand this and skip out of the funerals of our loved ones. What we need to do is take this concrete situation of the man who had to bury his father and compare it to our lives to find out what concrete situations we've been using to postpone our total obedience to the Lord. Have any young fathers told themselves that they are not yet old enough to get serious about their responsibilities to know God's Word and lead their families in his ways? You are denying the urgency that the cross of Christ lays upon you. Have any older brothers thought that they can enter a time of retirement from the service of the Lord? That is simply impossible, for being his disciple covers everything you do and say, all the time. Certainly your energy will have diminished, but every day you still belong to the same Lord. You too need to yield to one task only: Proclaim the kingdom of God! Live that way, always! Surely there must be the hope of eternal life within you! Then speak of it and live accordingly! Every believer's life at every moment, must be the life of a disciple of the Lord. You cannot deny the calling of loving someone who is hard to love. You cannot claim that the mean attitude of others takes away your duty to proclaim his kingdom by the love you are called to show. Your whole life, at every moment, does proclaim something. Let that something be the kingdom of God!

3. When you serve as Christ's disciple, the urgency of his cross requires you to never look back:

This last conversation begins when another man seems to have heard the previous conversations. He says, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family." Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

I think of this like cutting your grass. The idea is to cut row upon row in the straightest possible lines. It looks better that way. The other problem of course is that when you don't watch where you're going you might miss a strip of grass. No one who is cutting their lawn can look back. They have to follow the line and move forward to their goal.

Our Lord on his way to the cross was of the same mind. He had the goal in mind. A spiritual goal, and there was in his mind one straight line to follow to get there. No looking back. This is what he came for. But he did not know where he would sleep each night. He was travelling without plans, except for his destination. But the destination is what kept him going straight there. His disciples must follow him to the cross in the same way. They cannot have all kinds of detailed plans to get them there. They must simply trust and obey their Lord to lead them to the destination. "Follow me!" Look ahead. Move on.

Following him in a straight line is even more important than the highest obligation you can think of. Following him means trusting him and obeying him. Following him means being his student, his disciple. Following him is a moment by moment reality that you and I need to practice. It does not merely affect the choices we make. No, it directs every single choice. Everything we do must be directed toward the task of proclaiming the kingdom of God because that is how we live to the glory of God. His kingdom is proclaimed not simply by singing nice songs, but by the undying daily commitment to his will. Actions speak louder than words. Words merely explain one's actions. Let your words and actions be in one line, proclaiming him. No matter what it is, if it is an excuse to make our Lord Jesus wait, then you are not acting as his disciple. It is sin! Overcome it! Act now, for the urgency of his cross must move you as it moved him. All that it stands for moves us onward to advance God's work and overcome Satan. You must put sin to death even as Christ did. You must be prepared literally to die with Christ your Lord, if that is what is required.

Don't look back! We must endure to the end as faithful disciples, rightly discerning from his Word what is the way we must travel. The urgency of his cross still impels us forward until he comes. Give up all your other comforts! Yield to one task only - proclaiming him! And then never look back. Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Ted Van Raalte, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2004, Pastor Ted Van Raalte

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