Pastor Doug Klein
I’m in this for keeps! Or am I! It’s often hard to keep on track with the commitments we make. That’s why we are prone to so many diversions and detours in life. We wander in our own wilderness often missing God’s very best for us in life.
I remember being a member of a health club for years. I would dread every new year member celebration when a host of new folks who had made New Year resolutions to start working out. The gym would be packed for about a month until those resolutions began to weaken and my normal spot on the apparatus would reappear. Thank goodness for broken resolutions.
Yet, when it comes to our resolve to follow Jesus, the stakes are much higher. Jesus had set His face toward Jerusalem and was preparing for His death. He had been followed by huge crowds in northern Galilee. As He prepared to leave for Jerusalem, He issued a powerful teaching about the implications of following Him into the Kingdom of God. So, let’s look together at this important teaching about life in the Kingdom.
The first principle is 1.) The challenge of the Kingdom. Luke 9: 51-58.
When it comes to attracting new followers, leaders today do the exact opposite of what Jesus did. They strongly encourage following and commitment by appealing to the many benefits for the follower incurred by signing up. Jesus appears to be doing everything in His power to discourage new followers. He certainly wants us to understand that being His disciple is another thing we add on to our busy lives. It involves every bit of our lives.
We need to be reminded that Jesus is not a pain pill or sedative to take away our pain, making everything better instantly. That’s the way He is often portrayed in contemporary Christian music. Instead, He uses the pain in our lives to bring about substantial change and transformation.
Jesus calls us to be disciples in an actual Kingdom that one day will have physical boundaries. Right now, it is a spiritual kingdom that represents the actual reign and power of God. It’s not just changing our opinion about who Jesus really is. We are transferred from one kingdom to another.
13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us
to the kingdom of his beloved Son
When we enter the Kingdom of God, the resurrection life of eternity has already begun in our hearts. The renovation of our life is underway and will continue until we reach perfection in glory.
Jesus is addressing three individuals who have been part of his wider group of interested followers. The first man exudes with idealism and opportunity. He’s willing to follow Jesus anywhere. He has big dreams of setting the world right and making a difference. He’s committed to commitment, possessing a heroic sense of service. Jesus sets the record straight right away. He reminds him that if he really wants to know what Kingdom commitment is about, that he must look at Jesus. He’s the embodiment of the Kingdom. “Foxes have holes, bird have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Jesus intimates that He can promise him nothing in this world other than His presence and His peace. But that actually happens to be more than anyone could possibly ever want or need.
When I began to travel around the world six years ago, I initially thought it would be one of the coolest experiences of my life. And, in some ways, it was. But, it was also incredibly difficult and challenging. It was also, on occasion, grueling and painful. Jesus is being very clear here about the process of discipleship. He says to us, “Give me your life in its entirety.” I will give it back to you in a way that looks very different.
The second principle is 2.) The greatness of the Kingdom. Luke 9:59-60.
Very few people perceive the greatness of the Kingdom. Millennials are especially bored and disinterested in the traditional church model. Yet, when they begin to hear of the incredible impact of God’s Kingdom around the lifting up the poor and disenfranchised with good news, they begin to see something very different. We are drawn to Christ because He is a great King who is bringing in a great Kingdom. It is awe inspiring. Who wouldn’t want to enter the Kingdom of God after they receive a glimpse of its magnitude?
The second person in the story is certainly not an idealist. As a matter of fact, he places some specific restrictions on his following of Jesus. It appears at first glance that Jesus is being unusually abrupt and insensitive to what appears to be a normal hesitation. One thing to keep in mind here: If the man’s father had actually died, he would have been required by Jewish Law to be present at his side for proper burial procedure. So the man was anticipating things that COULD happen instead of facing an actual situation. He was properly also worrying about his family inheritance and what would happen to it if he followed Jesus. He was keeping all of his options open.
Jesus’ answer is one of the unusual statements of Scripture. “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Jesus can’t be known apart from total commitment. Not meaning obedience because we are all sinful and fallen. But, discipleship implies a commitment that overshadows every other commitment in our lives. We are called to abdicate the throne of our lives to Jesus every day. We actually enter His kingdom and are led by our King. If we stand outside at the border looking in, we are not yet disciples.
The dead within us represents those idols in our life that are our practical saviors. Anything in my life that is more important than Jesus is death to our souls, producing death in our lives. I would follow you Jesus but I have to have this (whatever this may be). Anything more important than Jesus will kill you. Whatever brings me real joy and meaning in my life is ultimately my God.
The only thing that shakes me out of idolatry is the glory and greatness of Christ and His Kingdom. When Jesus taught that He was the “way, the truth and the life,” He was highlighting the fact that He is life for us in every way. As we enter this glorious Kingdom, we are no longer victims, prisoners, or slaves. We now begin to walk in freedom and joy.
The third principle is 3.) The forward-looking focus of the Kingdom. Luke 9:61-62.
The third person in Jesus’ story has entered the Kingdom but is now looking back at all the things he is missing. He is obsessed with his past, both the good and bad parts of it. Jesus uses the picture of a farmer tilling the field with a focus on making sure that he plows in a straight line. It’s impossible to do that if you are looking back. Our faith is a forward looking faith and our Jesus is constantly leading us into the future. Repentance actually means turning around 180 degrees and facing God in the beauty and light of His Presence. We have ceased our endless running and hiding and are now moving forward by faith. Whenever we continue to say, “I have Jesus but what I really want to return to is something else,” we are stuck in the past.
So we are always moving spiritually even when it appears to us that we are spinning our wheels in the ditch. Our life in Christ, however, is never static. Christ is moving us forward even when we are stuck in our own ruts. The Kingdom of God is always out ahead of us. Even when we repeatedly look back and dwell on our sins and failures, we are failing to follow Jesus into the Kingdom. Every time we refuse to let things go, we are still strapped to the past.
Take the next step forward today with the knowledge that your Savior knows where He is taking you and that your best days are yet to be. Refuse to be sidetracked any longer. You have entered a Kingdom that cannot be shaken. Let’s keep following Jesus no matter what!
Faith Presbyterian Church
November 13, 2016