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October 10, 2017

Following Christ means not looking back

by Dave Malnes

Following Jesus is not comfortable, nor easy. He regularly challenges believers by defining what it means to live a redeemed life. He does that by stretching our comfort zones and shedding light on misplaced priorities.As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62) 

Following Christ brings true contentment. Resting our salvation squarely on his completed work on the cross brings confidence and assurance that we are right with God.

Exercising our trust in God’s promises helps strengthen our faith.

One of the greatest promises God gives us is that his Word works. His Word and sacrament is the spiritual food that nourishes and sustains our faith. It is only through the work of his Word that brings lost souls to faith. Doing the will of God exercises our faith.

How believers respond to Jesus’ words, “follow me” can reveal our level of spiritual fitness.

This has nothing to do with a person’s salvation – for by faith alone we are redeemed children of God and fully righteous in his sight. This has everything to do with sanctification – living out our redeemed life in Christ. When believers become spiritually flabby from living a comfortable, redeemed life, exercising our faith can be uncomfortable for some, even painful for others. Excuses reveal a reluctance to be inconvenienced to follow Christ in a sacrificial manner.

When Jesus says, “follow me,” a gospel-inspired response from believers to obey Christ ought to be based on thankfulness for what Christ has already done for us. A redeemed life ought to joyfully and eagerly respond to Christ’s call to follow him no matter where that might lead them. Isn’t that faith? Doesn’t that mean stepping out of our comfort zones to do something scary? Exercising faith requires trusting God’s promises. Spiritual flabbiness prompts excuses. This is especially true when Jesus calls on his disciples to “proclaim the kingdom of God.”

God’s law does not inspire or motivate a believer to obedience, but it can jar comfortable or complacent believers to re-evaluate priorities and perhaps lead to repentance.

When Jesus says, “follow me,” he expects believers to come without excuse.

When Jesus says, “Go and make disciples,” he assumes it will be done without excuse.

The work of evangelism is not easy and often requires commitment and a re calibration of priorities. For this reason, Jesus often provides shocking statements in the Bible to help us make those adjustments. Repentance helps believers do that. His words can be used to ask ourselves these important questions;

“Is God truly first in my life? How is that being reflected?”

“Because of what Jesus has already done for me, am I inspired and motivated to be his messenger. Why not?”

In Luke 9:57-62, Jesus provides a clue on how disciples can respond to his command, “follow me.”

Don’t look back!

To follow Christ means moving forward. When farmers plow their fields, they don’t look back, but always look forward. Farmers know that it is impossible to keep a straight furrow if they keep looking back. By looking forward, slight corrections are made and they can sow far more seeds when the furrows are straight and corresponding with each other.

When Jesus spoke these verses, he had his eyes on the finish line – Jerusalem. He knew what awaited. His eyes were looking forward to do the will of his Father.

Jesus’ disciples have a kingdom view and always look ahead. Looking at life with an eternal focus keeps their lines straight – they are not distracted by a sin-stained world that can influence believers not rooted in Christ.

Redeemed lives in Christ do not look back. When they do, they see images of themselves that prompts guilt, pride, or selfishness. Redeemed lives in Christ always look forward and follow the cross. When they do, they are reminded of their status. They are encouraged to store up treasures in heaven. They are willing and make themselves available to bring as many people as possible to heaven. 

This is our Father’s will. This is a believer’s purpose. A repentant, redeemed life moves forward and does not look back.

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