Welcome to the In Touch Podcast with Charles Stanley for Friday, October 14th. It's easy to follow Jesus as long as it's safe. But if there's a risk, some believers are reluctant to continue.
Today's podcast reminds you to follow God as your trustworthy leader, no matter where he takes you. Do you realize that when you place your life in the Lord Jesus Christ, your faith and trust in him, that you became his purchased possession? That is, you no longer belong to yourself.
That's what he said. You're not your own, you're bought with the price. At that very moment, God placed a call upon your life. That is, he has something in mind, a very specific plan for your life, a plan that most people are going to go through their life and never recognize, and tragically, that most believers are not going to ever stop to realize that once they trusted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, he had a very specific personal plan for your life, no matter who you are.
And it's this plan I want us to consider. And so I want you to turn, if you will, to Luke chapter nine, beginning in verse fifty-seven, and read through the rest of that chapter. This passage has to do with discipleship as far as the theme is concerned.
There's a couple of things I want us to notice here. Verse fifty-seven. And as they were going along the road, someone said to him, I will follow you wherever you go. Jesus said to him, the foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. And he said to another, follow me. But he said, Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father. But he said to him, allow the dead to bury their own dead, but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God. Another also said, I will follow you, Lord, but first permit me to say goodbye to those at home.
But Jesus said to him, no one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. Now I want to ask you a very serious question to be honest about you. Listening, say amen. If somebody says to you tomorrow, tell me about your relationship to Jesus Christ, could you honestly with conviction say I am a follower of Jesus Christ? If somebody asked me, well, tell me about your relationship to God. I wouldn't even say I'm a Christian because people, you know, their idea of a Christian could be a lot of things. Or if you say I'm a believer, well, you can believe a lot of things. But when you say I'm a follower of Jesus Christ, that narrows it straight down a single path, you couldn't mean but one thing. I'm a follower of Jesus Christ. So ask yourself the question, which of these two words dominates my thinking?
I'm a believer or I'm a follower of Jesus Christ. Back to our passage of Scripture now. Look at this. He's going along now and he meets three people here.
So I want us to look at all three of them. Now what he says to them is what he said sounds very harsh. He's not being harsh.
He's just giving a simple warning. Secondly, all of them say something different. What I want you to see is this. Their cause for not following Jesus is the same for every one of them.
Now look at this. He's going along and someone says, I will follow you wherever you go. So more than likely he'd been in his presence and he'd been listening to him and believing what he said and believing that he is the Messiah and so forth. And so he says, I will follow you wherever you go. Jesus said to him, foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. That was his answer. What does that mean? He was simply saying, look, the foxes have their dens where they can sleep at night.
Birds of the air have their nests where they can nest at night. But if you follow me, you don't have that assurance. When he did not follow Jesus, self-interest overshadowed God's will for his life. Self-interest overshadowed God's will for his life because what he wanted, listen, I want some security. I don't know where I'm going to sleep at night, what I'm going to eat.
I want to know the big plan. When self-interest overshadows God's will, his call, his command to you, then what happens is you are not following. You will not follow Jesus. First man.
Second man, listen to this. And he said to another, now Jesus is calling him, follow me. But he said, Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father. But he said to him, allow the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God. Now that was a little harsh, wasn't it? No, wasn't harsh at all.
First thing I want you to notice is this. He said, Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father. That could mean one of two things. It could mean that his father had died and he wanted to go take care of things, which would have been a normal response. But it could also mean this. My father and the sons and fathers were very close.
My father is of a certain age, whatever it might be. When he's dead and he's gone, then I can leave home, now I go follow you. Which is more than likely what really he meant. And Jesus said to him, let the dead bury the dead. Now that is more important than you taking care of those who passed on is you preaching the gospel, is what he told him, proclaiming everywhere the kingdom of God to those who are living.
Now you can't be dogmatic exactly about what Jesus meant here. But one thing he was saying is this, you know what? The priority is preaching the gospel.
That's the priority. You know what his problem was? Self-interest overshadowed God's will and purpose and plan for his life.
Self-interest overshadowed that. From our perspective, you think, well, surely Jesus wouldn't say that. But more than likely, what he was saying is this. When my father's dead and gone, then I'll follow you. No. You should be willing to say yes and follow me now to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because let me ask you, how many of us would say to Jesus, well, Lord, a little later. You say, I'd never say that.
Oh, yes, you would because all of us have. We've all at some point said to Him, well, yes, Lord, but not now or a little later or whatever it might be. Now watch this third fellow. The first man, his problem was what? Self-interest overshadowed God's will for his life. So he said no. Second man, self-interest, overshadowed God's will for his life. So he said no.
Look at this third fellow. Then another said to him, verse sixty-one, I will follow you, Lord, but first permit me to say goodbye to those at home. Jesus said to him, no one after putting his hand in the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God. Now, he said, I want to follow you, but I need to go home and tell everybody.
Let them know. Jesus said, uh-uh. Now why did he say that? Because he knew all men. And he knew that if he went home, his parents were going to say and his friends or relatives or whatever might say, oh, you can't leave us.
And they'd put pressure on him. And he knew that more than likely he'd cave in. And so Jesus said, no. He said, no one putting his hand in the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.
Now what's the problem? Self-interest was overshadowing God's will and God's plan for his life. Now, Jesus makes a statement here that oftentimes is very misunderstood. When he says, he who puts his hand in the plow, listen carefully, he who puts his hand in the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom. You'll find people who will use that verse of Scripture to say that you can fall from grace.
That is, that you can be lost. That once you trust Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and then you go back into sin or whatever this is where they translate that, then you're lost and you won't be saved. It has absolutely nothing to do with salvation. This whole passage I said in the beginning has to do with discipleship. We're talking about believers. And Jesus wouldn't say to him, or he wouldn't say to Jesus if he had not been convinced of who he was, I will follow you.
All I need to do is go back and explain everything back to my family and then I'm coming back. But Jesus said, if you don't hate your father, mother, sister, brother, your own life also, you cannot be my disciple. You can't be a follower. So each time Jesus made it very clear, drew a very fine line, if you're going to follow me, this is my plan.
This is my plan for your life. You mark this down every single time you and I disobey God and choose not to follow him in a certain area. What we're saying is my self-interest is more important to me than your will and your plan. Now that is as simple and as concise as I know how to put it. My self-interest is more important to me than your will or your plan for my life. Now we're not talking about losing salvation.
It has nothing to do with it. We're talking about discipleship. So what does he mean by this plow business?
Well, simply this. You choose to follow, in other words, when you trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, what you've done, you've put your hand to the plow. And what you're saying is, I'm going to follow you. I'm going to walk in your way and be obedient to you. He said you can't plow a straight row looking back.
So what happens? You plow a crooked row. In fact, the whole field is disorganized because you're all over the place because you're looking and distracted. You have distractions that are causing you to slow down, for example, and not only slow you down, but make it very, very uncomfortable in every way. And what happens is you get discouraged.
And so what you want to you want to just want to quit. You can't plow a straight line looking back. Neither can you follow Jesus looking back. Now I'm going to explain what the looking back means in a minute. For example, you say, well, in the Christian life, is there no time we're to ever look back?
Oh, yes, there is. But we're to look back with certain things in mind. So let's think about them for a moment when it comes to looking back. And we all need to do this in our Christian life. There are times when we stop and we look back. Listen, for this reason, you may want to jot these words down. First of all, for evaluation. That is, where am I?
What's my position at this point in my Christian life? Secondly, for correction. Made some mistakes.
And I want to correct these mistakes in my walk with God. The third word is thanksgiving. Thanksgiving to God for His enabling power to walk in His ways and to follow Him.
Because apart from His power and strength, I couldn't do it. The fourth word is rejoicing, rejoicing in the achievements and the accomplishments that God has given you as a result of following Him. And the fifth word is motivation.
What happens? When you look back, you're highly motivated to do what? To keep moving on and to keep following Him.
Why? Because you see what God has done in your life. And all that is positive. So when He said if you ever look back, you're not paid for the kingdom, that does not mean that there's not a right time, a proper time, and a proper goal for looking back. But it's looking back for evaluation, looking back for correction, looking back for motive.
In other words, all these are part of it. Then what was He referring to and how does it apply to our day when we as believers, we look back? Why is it does He say that when you and I begin the Christian life, put our hand to the plow, and then we look back? Well, let's think about what He's talking about for a moment.
I think several things you and I can say. First of all, why do people look back? Let's think about your Christian life for a moment. Why do people look back? Some people look back because, you know why? Because they never let go of their past. They trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior. They know they're saved. But when it comes to the challenge of living a godly life, you know what's happening? They still feel the tug of old habits, old sins, old relationships, old affinities, old thought patterns back there. You know what happens? For looking back at all of that, they can't walk a straight line.
You cannot follow Jesus Christ in your Christian walk unless you keep your eyes focused on Him and not looking back to your past. Well, you know, I used to have so and so. Well, I used to have this relationship. Well, I used to have that. Well, you know what happens?
You're just going all over the place. And one of the primary reasons many people go to church or come to church or they've been saved, their Christian life is fruitless, there's no strength in their testimony, no witness. You know why?
They have never chosen to make a commitment to follow Jesus. They've got their eyes back yonder. So what's happening? They're being distracted. They see this over here and that over there. It has nothing to do with following Jesus. They've allowed themselves to be distracted by the things of the world.
Well, you know, this probably wouldn't be too bad. Well, you know, you cannot follow Jesus looking back. And this is what He's saying. He says, looking, He says, you put your hand to the plow and then you look back.
What happens? One of the reasons people look back is that you know what? They have never gotten over the regrets of their past failures. They failed back then.
You're not following Jesus. But, but God, you know, back yonder I did so and so. And Lord, so past failures. And oftentimes it's past guilt or present guilt over past sins. And somehow they can't let go of that. And, you know, I want to follow Jesus but, but somehow because they've never let go of that part of their past. Regrets, guilt, sins, habits, ideas. They're still trying to hold on to that and plow ahead and you cannot do it.
And I have seen people, I've talked to people who've come to me and we've talked about what's going on in their life. Very evident that something back there they can't let go of. You know why? They're afraid to let go of it. Afraid, well if I give that up, then what?
What's following Jesus? Trust Him. Will He take anything out of your life that's not good for you?
Never. Will He always replace it with something that's the best always? Past regrets, past sins, past failures, feelings of guilt, regrets, distractions. And then oftentimes, listen, reliving past pain and hurt that somebody did to you.
Something somebody, you can't get over it. You know what happens is, you know, you're all over the place in your Christian life and you wonder why your prayers aren't answered, why you don't have peace, why you don't have joy. Listen, do you think God is going to make you a happy, delightful, fruitful believer when you have chosen not to follow Him?
I will or I won't. Now here's the one word I want you to notice in this passage. This is what I call the alarm word.
Look at this. Verse sixty-one. Back to Luke nine, verse sixty-one. Another also said, I will follow you, Lord.
What's the next word? But. Now remember this. Anytime you tell God what you're going to do and you add to that statement but, what you just did is declare that your self-interest is still a priority in your life. I will tithe but. I will talk to him or her but. I will go but.
I will say but. Can you give me an example, any good reason to ever tell God anything and add a but to it? We say, Lord, I'm going to do this but now. And we give Him some criteria. You know what we're saying? My self-interest is overshadowing Your will and Your purpose and Your plan for my life.
So what am I saying in this whole message simply this? Deep down inside, do you view yourself primarily as a believer or a follower? And secondly, are you comfortable saying to someone who asks you about your relationship to Him? Are you comfortable? And you feel perfectly at ease by saying, I'm a follower of Jesus Christ. And thirdly, on the basis of what we've talked about and all I've done is give you the Scripture, on the basis of what we talked about, deep down inside, can you honestly say, I'm a follower of Jesus Christ?
If not, why not? I can tell you why. Because there's something in your life that won't let you put your full focus on the will and purpose and plan of God for your life.
Last question. Are you willing to forsake the awesome blessings and rewards that God has in store for you in this life as well as the life to come? But whatever that is back there that has distracted you, got your attention, pulled at you, tempted you to the point that you're not willing to set your face like a flint and say, yes, Jesus. Yes, yes, yes, I will. Father, we love You and praise You. We thank You for Your patience, but we know that Your patience is no excuse for disobedience. And I pray the Holy Spirit will sink this message into every single one of our hearts. Let it echo day after day after day, follower, not just believer, follower. And Lord, I pray that You'll test every one of us, test me, test every one of us with somebody who questions our relationship to You and give us the awesome privilege of finding out for ourselves, do we have the courage to say, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. And we pray this in His wonderful name, amen. Thank you for listening to Understanding Your Call. If you'd like to know more about Charles Stanley or InTouch Ministries, stop by intouch.org. This podcast is a presentation of InTouch Ministries, Atlanta, Georgia.
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