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How Not to Follow Jesus, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll
The Truth Network Radio
April 23, 2021 7:05 am

How Not to Follow Jesus, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll

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April 23, 2021 7:05 am

The King’s Kingdom: A Study of Matthew 8–13

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Many Christians describe themselves as followers of Jesus. But according to Scripture, it's not enough to merely follow Jesus.

We have to do it right. And today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll will help us understand the difference. In a snapshot of Jesus' ministry found in Matthew chapter 8, we're surprised by the ambivalence of the disciples.

They seemed somewhat preoccupied with their personal duties. But Jesus clearly called upon his followers to drop everything and fall in line. With this as a backdrop, Chuck has signed an unusual title to his message today, How Not to Follow Jesus. He said for years that the word of God can go where no surgeon's scalpel can reach, can go to the very soul, the deep spirit within each of us.

And once that happens, there is a discernment that accompanies it. We see not only what God's Word says, but we see ourselves without any mask, without any cover, because it is a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart. We'll see it again as we continue our work through Matthew's Gospel. If you have a Bible, please locate chapter 8. I'll be reading from the New Living Translation.

You may have another version. Please follow along as we look together at verses 18 through 27. Amazing, only 10 verses pulled from the core of this Gospel account, written in the first century but with relevance that rings true even in the 21st.

We'll see ourselves written within the lines and between the lines of these verses. Matthew 8 verse 18. When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he instructed his disciples to cross to the other side of the lake. Then one of the teachers of religious law said to him, teacher, I will follow you wherever you go. But Jesus replied, foxes have dens to live in and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head. Another of the disciples said, Lord, first let me return home and bury my father. But Jesus told him, follow me now.

Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead. Then Jesus got into the boat and started to cross the lake with his disciples. Suddenly a fierce storm struck the lake with waves breaking into the boat, but Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, Lord, save us. We're going to drown. Jesus responded, why are you afraid?

You have so little faith. Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves and suddenly there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. Who is this man?

They asked. Even the winds and waves obey him. You're listening to Insight for Living.

To study the book of Matthew with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scripture studies by going to slash studies. And now the message from Chuck titled How Not to Follow Jesus. Knowledge, what a wonderful thing. We get it when we go to school.

We get it from our parents. We learn about life as we experience life and we gather facts and we put them together as best we can and the result is a body of knowledge, kind of a reservoir of knowledge that helps us make decisions and move on into adulthood and on into the later years of life. Knowledge is a great thing. Not to be confused with discernment, but I'll get there later. First let's think about knowledge. Sometimes we can be exposed in the reality that we thought something was true, but it wasn't.

Jay Leno, when he was with that crazy late night show, used to do what he called jaywalking. Quit looking like you didn't watch it. You watched it and I watched it. We all had fun laughing at people that he interviewed as he asked them questions that are so basic. You answer as you talk to the television.

You know you're getting older when you talk to the television. Anyway, you answer for someone else, but they don't get the answer right. Like one time Jay asked an individual, who was the first man on the moon? Guy had no clue. Steered back at Jay. So Jay says, okay, I'll give you a hint. Last name was Armstrong. Armstrong. Long pause, Louie?

No, not, not, not Louie. The lady you interviewed was looking at a flagpole with Jay and he said, how many stars in our flag? She says, I don't know. I can't tell. It's waving too fast for me to count them.

Really? Which countries border the United States? One guy spoke with conviction. Australia. No, no, no.

Maybe Hawaii. Jay pushed the limits when he asked who wrote the autobiography of Malcolm X. Long pause. I won't even tell you what the answers were, but you wouldn't believe. Always like it when he got into religious questions. Like he loved to ask, who was swallowed by the whale? A group was together and they shrugged and looked at each other and kind of mumbled and one guy was brave enough to say Pinocchio.

It's almost as bad as that high school test that was given by a teacher up in New England when he was checking out the seniors in the advanced class in literature and he wanted to know how well they knew their Bible. So one of the questions was what was Golgotha? What was Golgotha? True story. One very sincere student.

Golgotha was the name of the giant who slew the Apostle David. There's about four mistakes in that one answer. What makes all this so amazing is that knowledge may seem like it's the truth until you realize how wrong you had it. But I'll tell you another far more valuable trait, or certainly equally valuable, and that's discernment. You see discernment is not based on the building blocks of facts. Discernment is what we possess within.

I think a good definition would be the ability to detect, to recognize, to perceive beyond what is said and in spite of what is spoken. When you have discernment, you spot a phony. You're not fooled.

You're not gullible. You're able to, what we call, read between the lines. Discernment really is insight. It's the capacity to realize that what you're hearing isn't necessarily what that person believes or what you're seeing does not necessarily represent the truth.

Why is it important? Well, it does keep you from believing a phony. It makes you aware of danger. We were in another country at another time several years ago when one of our group chose to walk into an area that was obviously demonic and Cynthia and I both had a shudder in our up and down our spines. We discerned the presence of evil.

Nothing from within shouted back, evil, stay away, obviously not. It's how you know the salesman is telling you the truth or not. I made a quick list of some examples. It's how parents know when their kids are lying. How do they know that? It's how bosses know when a report sounds fishy or when you're trying to pad your own record. It's how teachers know phony baloney excuses.

Here's a good one. It's how counselors know they're not hearing the whole thing. Even when the counselor says, I'm telling you everything, the discerning counselor knows better. I'm going to name this as one of the things I've admired most about Jesus, which is one that most people don't even think of. I admire his discernment.

He was never taken in. Doesn't matter how elaborate the gown was or how many tassels hung from the hymn or how much experience an individual may have had or what words were used, as we will see, he cut through them like a hot knife through butter. He went right to the heart and revealed in his words what was really there. Now, with all of this as sort of a backdrop, I want us to turn to these four vignettes in Matthew 8, 18 through 27, and I want us to see discernment at work.

It isn't obvious. Discernment really is, unless you are at the moment in the presence of it and you see an example. But in this case, I'm sure the disciples must have had their mouths opened at times as Jesus responded the way he did. Take, for example, and by the way, in each case, we'll learn how not to follow Jesus' examples in these four. First, verse 18, when Jesus saw the crowd around him.

Now, just stop right there. Ever seen a preacher that didn't want to be around a crowd? Rarely. Preachers usually love crowds. Crowds seem to say, you're on target, or we believe in you, or we approve this. Jesus saw through crowds. He knew there was a shallowness in the crowds, and those who followed from a distance or mingled in the crowd often did with wrong motives, maybe to see another miracle, maybe to get another free lunch. Whatever the reason, look at his response. He instructed his disciples to cross to the other side of the lake. Interesting, the message renders this, thanks to Eugene Peterson's writing. When Jesus saw that a curious crowd was growing by the minute, he told his disciples to get him out of there.

Why? Discernment. You see, in this, Jesus isn't looking for following. He's looking for followers. He's making disciples, committed, dedicated disciples, men and women who genuinely mean it more than any other priority in their life. They're not fans. They are dedicated disciples.

So here's the first one. Do not follow Jesus because of the size of a crowd. There's a word we have, it's called groupies. Easy to become a Christian groupie around certain bands or certain speakers. Large gatherings, you kind of become a fan. You're drawn out of curiosity, but that's about it. Jesus, with all of his discernment, says, rather than, wow, look how big the crowd's getting, he says, let's get out of here.

It's not what I'm looking for. Remember that when you find yourself tempted to go in the direction of the crowd. I love the words of Arnold Toynbee, it's doubtful the majority has ever been right.

So we'll go to the second scene. Verse 19, then one of the teachers of religious law. Your Bible maybe reads scribe, scribe. Scribe was a Bible scholar in the first century, a teacher of the scriptures, usually was respected though he was always legalistic, a person of skill and intellect.

The general public looked upon him usually with high esteem, even though they didn't always appreciate them. It's amazing that the scribe would want to follow Jesus, but look closely. Let's get a little discernment.

One of his teachers of law said to him, teacher, I'll follow you wherever you go. Whoa. Sound a little overstated, especially since it's a initial encounter. No matter what, count me in.

If I were to get real cynical, I would use the word, lucky you, you found me. I can put a head on the shoulders of these guys around you. I'm a real student of the Bible. Look at Jesus' response.

It must have made the disciples go, what? Doesn't even sound like what the man had said. Jesus replied, foxes have dens to live in, birds have nests, son of man has no place even to lay his head. What is that about? Why does he say that?

Because the man didn't have a clue as he overstated his loyalty. Here's an idea of what I think Jesus' response implies. Listen, man, you and I could not be more different. You don't really know who I am and you certainly don't know where I'm going or what it will require of you. I'm going to a cross. I'm going directly to a cross to die. On my way will be mistreatment and insults and brutality and I might add homelessness. We're going to face discomfort and displacement. You won't even have a roof over your head. By the way, I don't have reservations at the Ritz-Carlton for tomorrow night.

I'm sleeping out under the stars. My true disciples must learn to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me. You see, what grabbed the attention of this eager scribe, he was anxious to be numbered among Jesus' special assistants. There was self-love but there wasn't self-denial. There was pious talk but there wasn't gentle humility. Interestingly, this conversation follows. By the way, you read nothing more of the scribe.

He's gone. Let me use these words. Do not follow Jesus full of yourself. Lots of words but short on deeds. There's a saying among seasoned ranchers out in West Texas, when they spot a novice in their midst, they refer to him as all hat and no horse. That's a good statement.

The scribe was all hat, no horse. When you follow Jesus, be ready to deny yourself. You're not going your way, you're going his way. You're not going to highlight your intelligence but his authority over you. That's hard for many people.

That's hard for most people. Now, look at this third man. Talk about a surprising response. Another of the disciples said, Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.

Now, first blush, you'd think, wow, what a neat guy. He cares about his family and wants to be there to help in this time of grief. Jesus says to him, follow me now.

Let the dead bury the dead. What? Why would he say that? I'm telling you, it's a matter of discernment.

At first blush, it sounds like the man is very caring. But what you may not know is that there was an idiom in that day called staying around to bury one's father. And it meant this. You remained around the home for the remainder of your lifetime until dear old dad dies. Then you receive your inheritance, which is passed along to you from the death of your father. Well, this was a request of indefinite postponement. Let me be at the house and take care of things. I don't want to miss my inheritance.

And I'll have that to lean on when I need to. That explains why Jesus responds as he does. He kind of wants to take a rain check. We'll do it later, not now. By the way, with every calling there is a divine urgency. Rarely does Jesus say to us when he's calling us to do something, just wait.

He does sometimes, but rarely. When he wants us to move in an area and to do what's right, it is often with the word now. Deal with this now. Face this now. Follow me now.

See the word? Follow now. Follow me now and let the dead bury the dead.

There's always those who can take care of that. So here's my request as you add this to the list on how not to follow Jesus. Do not follow Jesus with reservations. Don't have your own agenda. Make sure when you say yes to him and you want to be numbered among those dedicated followers, dedicated disciples, that you've laid aside your own agenda.

That's hard to do. There's no question as to what Jesus said in the man's mind. He knew that he saw through him.

I like the words of Mark Twain. He wrote, it's not those parts of the Bible I can't understand that bother me. It's those parts that I do understand. You understand now.

You understand. Do not follow Jesus full of yourself and finally they're able to get to the boat and get on the sea. Verses 23 through 27 are somewhat familiar to us. We've read them in the other Gospels. Mark mentions this scene rather briefly and Luke also. John doesn't but those two do and from what they say or write and along with what Matthew has written, we're able to piece together what occurred and it happened on the body of water many of you have never seen.

So allow me. It's the Sea of Galilee. When you travel in Israel, you will go to Galilee and when you're in Galilee, you will be around the sea. It isn't that large, 13 miles long at its longest point, eight miles wide at its widest point, interestingly 680 feet below sea level.

So it's down like in a trough. Just to the west of the Sea of Galilee, if you're on it and look to the west, you will see high hills. Some even refer to them as mountains. Texans would call them mountains because the highest hill here is the overpass at the tollway but that would be high. In fact, in some guided tours, they'll take you up in that area and it's windswept. You will look down.

There's a lonely tree. We would often stand around and have a devotional there. You look down on the Sea of Galilee, it looks like a little small body of water. The reason I take time to explain it, there are times when a western wind will sweep through those mountains and the gullies in the mountains, the valleys that are there, will send the wind with an incredible velocity and will hit the surface of that sea which isn't really that deep. And if you've been in bodies of water when the wind rises and the currents increase, you know what a real storm is like. And one man that I read called it a savage violence. Ever been in a sea like that?

I have. And I will tell you when I read suddenly a fierce storm, verse 24. By the way, the Greek is seismos megas. Seismos. We get our word seismograph from it. It's the word for earthquake.

Mega means just what it does in our language. It was a sizable, like an earthquake that hit that body of water. Now, thanks to Mark and Luke, we know it's at night. So this is on top of the storm, it's at night. And it's in a fishing vessel.

Not that big. It's a sailing boat. All boats were sailing boats. And they are seasoned sailors, but they realize this is some kind of storm.

So let's be careful before we criticize them for being afraid. You and I would have been too. It's a familiar story, but Chuck Swindoll provides a fresh look at this dramatic scene and how it applies to our lives today. Chuck titled his study, How Not to Follow Jesus. And if you'd like to learn more about Chuck Swindoll or this ministry, be sure to visit us online.

You'll find us at In addition, we're inviting you to add Swindoll's living insights commentary on Matthew to your personal collection. Chuck's commentary on Matthew comes in two hardbound volumes, and they're written in a style that's easy to understand and the format is simple to navigate.

Chuck's practical insight, conversational style and humor bring a warmth and accessibility rarely found in commentaries. To purchase Swindoll's living insights commentary on Matthew, go to slash store. Or if you prefer, you can call us. If you're listening in the US, dial 1-800-772-8888. Insight for Living Ministries is a nonprofit organization made possible not by the purchase of commentaries, but through the voluntary donations of grateful supporters. And we're grateful for the loyal friends who come alongside us with their generous donations, especially during this complicated season where the pandemic has collided with a variety of cultural issues that are pressing our friends and families into unfamiliar territory.

There's never been a season quite like this one, and we're intent on providing daily doses of biblical encouragement to anyone who's willing to listen. To help us continue, you can send a donation right now by calling us. If you're listening in the United States, dial 1-800-772-8888.

Or give online at Finally, as we enter into the weekend, remember you're invited to join us online for the Sunday morning worship service at Stormbriar Community Church. You'll find all the instructions for streaming the live worship service at slash Sundays. Join us again Monday when Chuck Swindoll continues to describe the dramatic moment when Jesus calmed the storm, right here on Insight for Living. The preceding message, How Not to Follow Jesus, was copyrighted in 2015 and 2021, and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2021 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-26 20:41:23 / 2023-11-26 20:49:58 / 9

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