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The Difference Between Admiring and Following

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
September 20, 2022 12:00 am

The Difference Between Admiring and Following

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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September 20, 2022 12:00 am

God ordained several divine encounters for Jesus as He walked along the road with His disciples. These encounters come in the form of three men, who either volunteer or are invited by Jesus to follow Him. Their three different responses illuminate three of the primary excuses the Israelites had for not following Jesus. These excuses haven’t changed thousands of years later. We need to be aware of them in our lives today.

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So here in this conversation, Jesus is just pointing out what this man really treasures. What you really want is your inheritance. What you really want is financial prosperity. What you really treasure is everything related to what I'm asking you to leave. And so he says, well, Lord, I am willing to follow you, but not just yet.

There's too many things going on in life that I want to do first. God ordained several divine encounters for Jesus as he walked along the road with his disciples. Today, we're looking at an account where Jesus encountered three men who either volunteered or were invited by Jesus to follow him. Their three different responses illustrate three of the primary excuses the people had for not following Jesus.

And you know what? These excuses haven't changed thousands of years later. People still make excuses for why they don't follow Jesus as they should. We need to be aware of them in our lives today.

Stephen called this lesson the difference between admiring and following. If you're new to our discussion and exposition, let me invite you to turn in your copy of the New Testament to a conversation that Jesus is going to have with three individuals, three different men. And we're going to watch the Lord just sort of cut right to the heart of the issue in his response to each one of them.

Now, today we arrive at the last paragraph here in chapter 9. I'm going to outline these conversations by the way by putting them into what I want to call the three most common excuses to following Jesus. And before we dive in, I want to tell you on a personal note that I've talked to many people over the years about what it means to follow Jesus.

Now I know going into those conversations that it is enough to me to do a great job to change their minds. In fact, according to what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians chapter 4 that their minds and eyes are blinded by the God of this world that is Satan. And unless God moves and the Spirit of God in opening their eyes of the truth, they're going to remain blinded to the light of the glorious gospel. That's the way Paul put it.

It won't shine upon them. Unless that new birth of spiritual life occurs. And unless that happens, I can tell you I'm going to probably hear one of these three excuses in some way, shape or form. So we'll sort of outline these conversations with that in mind. I'll put it this way.

The first excuse sort of sounds like this. I will follow the Lord but not for nothing. In other words, I'll follow the Lord as long as he makes it worth it. Now I want you to go to verse 57 here and let's pick up our study. As they were going along the road, someone said to him, I will follow you wherever you go. Now in the original language, you can expand that and sort of paraphrase it to understand that that man is literally promising the Lord here. I will follow you wherever at any time, at any distance you go.

I'm with you. Sounds like he'd be willing to go to the planet Mars for all we know. In fact, when the early church is going to be created a few months from now, this guy would sail through the application process. Talk about dedication. Talk about the vocabulary of commitment.

I'm going to follow you wherever you go. I would imagine in the early church in Jerusalem, he'd be a leading deacon or a leading elder. Not so fast. To help us understand what Jesus is going to say to him, I won't have you turn for the sake of time, but Matthew's Gospel parallel account here tells us that this man was a scribe. Scribes were the enemies of the Lord.

They daubed his heels from the beginning of his ministry to the cross. They were the experts of the law. They were the experts of the Old Testament Scriptures.

Much of it would have been memorized by these scribes. Matthew tells us that this scribe approaches Jesus and the first word out of his mouth is teacher. Teacher. And you need to know that five times that will occur with men approaching Jesus and whenever they use that term, teacher – none of them will follow him.

None of them are interested. In fact, all they want to see of him is that he's a teacher. Teacher.

It's customary during the days of Jesus for followers of a rabbi or a teacher or a prophet to literally live with them, travel with them, sit at their feet. We've already discussed that phrase where they would wear the dust of their teacher following so closely behind the sandals of the one in front of them. But this man – get this – he's a scribe already. He isn't really showing up to learn anything. He's an expert. He's already got a graduate degree hanging on the wall of his study at home. He's already anticipating much of the prophetic fulfillment of the Messiah. He didn't call Jesus Messiah.

He didn't even call him Lord, but maybe Jesus is. As a great teacher, perhaps he is and so I'll follow you and I'll assume then you'll unseat Rome fairly soon. You will usher in, as they expected, an economic boom, an incredible prosperity. You will bring the kingdom in and you will more than likely give your favorite students top positions in the coming kingdom.

Amen for that. Teacher, I will follow you there. Let's strike up the band. Let's fire up the rockets. Let's go.

It sounds like a wonderful decision. To become a follower of Christ is really an offer that is hiding his pride and self-centered desire. In his wonderful commentary on Matthew's Gospel, this parallel account, Sean O'Donnell does really a terrific job paraphrasing this man's offer that strikes at the core of his motive.

He writes it this way. The scribe came to Jesus and said, teacher, as one Bible expert to another, I've noticed who's on your team. Some fishermen, a converted tax collector, some political zealots. Perhaps you could use someone with a theological head on his shoulders and some religious respectability.

Say someone like me. I will follow you wherever you go. You and I will bring in the kingdom.

You're talking about, teacher, this is your lucky day. It's interesting that Jesus does not turn him down. The word of that here.

But he does tell him the truth and he strikes then at the true motive of this man. Notice verse 58. And Jesus said to him, foxes have holes, layers, and birds of the air have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head. In other words, if you're looking forward to the kingdom and that palace, you need to understand I don't have any real estate. I don't have a street address. In fact, we're told that whenever Jesus was in his home, we're actually never told that he stayed with his mother, Mary.

I don't have a place to call my own. The word in fact he uses for nests here, the birds have nests, is from a word family that can refer to everything from pitching a tent to having a dwelling to even having the covering of shade. So Jesus is essentially saying here that to follow me means that you won't even have the benefit of a shade tree. He sees through this scribe. This scribe happens to be a proponent of, an early proponent of what we call today prosperity theology. God always pays off his servants while they're alive.

He always makes it worth it in some way, whether it's health or wealth or whatever. Life smooths out once you decide to get on the path with Jesus. Now Jesus says, look, you follow me and animals have it better than you.

You won't even have the prospect of a shade tree in the backyard where you can prop up your feet on the back deck and enjoy a little rest. That's not what it's like to follow the Lord. Now we're not told what this man's response was. If he continued on or turned back, I think Luke leaves it open ended because God's Spirit wants us to answer the question for ourselves. What would you have done if Jesus just told you following me will not pay off? I'll follow you, Lord, but not for nothing. Not without the Lord encounters another man. This man will deliver the second common excuse.

We'll put it this way. I will follow the Lord but not right now. Verse 59, to another he said, follow me. But he said, Lord, let me first go and bury my father. And Jesus said to him, leave the dead to bury their own dead.

But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God. Now again, at first glance, this man seems sincere. He even calls him Lord, not teacher. And at first glance, the Lord seems rather severe. It sounds like he's telling this young man to skip his father's funeral. Don't show up with preaching the kingdom and the gospel.

So what's going on here? Well, first of all, it was the duty of the firstborn son to take care of the burial of his father, to be the executor of his father's estate, to be the heir to his father's business and homestead. But more importantly, the text, if you notice, doesn't actually tell us his father had died. In fact, had he died, there would be a seven-day period of ceremonial uncleanness. So if his father just died, I got to go to the funeral, he's actually ceremonially unclean.

He wouldn't be out here on the road having conversations with the Lord. What he says to Jesus can be understood to mean, I will follow you after my father is buried. Or you could put it this way, after my father dies, I'll follow you after my father dies, I'll follow you. Let me bury my father was a Near Eastern expression. We use expressions all the time that mean something else. We'll talk about it raining cats and dogs. We'll talk about giving someone a piece of our mind that we probably can't afford to lose. We use expressions like that. Let me bury my father is simply an expression for taking care of the family business.

In this case, it's his excuse to stall for time. It also reveals his priority in life. Let me first take care of business. Let me first get my inheritance.

Let me first get some financial security. I will follow you, Lord, but not now. For those of you who are believers, have you ever wanted the Lord to hold up his return for just a little while longer?

Maybe you wanted to reach some kind of milestone, maybe have some kind of experience. Maybe get your driver's license at 16 and feel the freedom of racing down Interstate 64. Just hold off, Lord, until I get the thrill of driving. Perhaps you're getting close to graduation here in a few weeks and it'd be great, Lord, if you come back, but can you hang on a couple of weeks and let me finish that, march down the aisle and get that diploma? I'll admit that I had that thought when I was getting married. I remember hoping that if the Lord was going to rapture the church, he'd wait until after the honeymoon, at least. I remember wanting to see our twin sons born. I mean, how much of a milestone is that?

What a great experience. I wanted him to hold off until then. A few months after they were born, we're both praying for the rapture to occur.

Come quickly, Lord, please. Now here in his response in verse 60, Jesus says, let the dead bury the dead. This is again an expression not intended to be taken literally, and we know that because dead people can't bury dead people. So he means something else. Most conservative New Testament authors believe that the first reference to the dead is spiritual.

Those who are dead spiritually, we would expect them with no spiritual interest to focus only on what happens during their lifetime with no thought of the life to come. Jesus is exaggerating his response. Again, he's trying to get to the point, to the heart, to the motive, and so he gives this rather exaggerated demand. The Lord did that often. You may remember when the rich young ruler, later on we'll encounter him in Luke's gospel, comes to the Lord and says, hey, I want to follow you.

What do I have to do? Jesus says to him, go sell all your stuff, give all your money away. Well, when did being poor become a prerequisite to following Christ? Well, Jesus is just getting at the heart of what this man would never want to do unless it was genuine.

Give your stuff away. An exaggerated demand to find out what the man treasures. So here in this conversation, Jesus is just pointing out what this man really treasures. What you really want is your inheritance.

What you really want is financial prosperity. What you really treasure is everything related to what I'm asking you to leave. And so he says, well, Lord, I am willing to follow you, but not just yet. There's too many things going on in life. There's another common excuse that appears in this third and final conversation. It sounds like this. I will follow the Lord, just not entirely. I'd like to work out a percentage system, maybe 60, 40, maybe 70, 30, maybe Monday through Friday.

I get the weekends or whatever. That's what he's saying here. Look at verse 61. Yet another said, I will follow you, Lord.

Oh, he uses the word Lord again, Lord. But you never want to say I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home. Now again, don't get hung up on Jesus suggesting you can't go tell mom and dad goodbye before you sail off for the mission field or whatever.

It isn't wrong to tell your family farewell. That's not the point of this conversation. In fact, Jesus makes that clear in his response. Verse 62, Jesus said to him, no one who puts his hand at the plow and looks back is fit, it could be translated better, usable for the kingdom of God. Jesus is using a farming analogy to deliver a warning to this man and by the way, a warning to you and me. Now in the days of Christ, a plow is pretty simple, rather primitive, nothing more than a piece of wood with a handle at one end and a metal tip or share at the other end and in that rocky soil and you're trying to keep those oxen going on in the right direction and you get that primitive little plow, it demanded your attention and your focus.

And again, Jesus exaggerates his response in this illustration. He says something here that no one in his audience, they know, you would never attempt to do this if you're serious about plowing the ground. He says this farmer is attempting to plow the ground while looking back. Now you might think that from this text that every once in a while he's just looking behind him.

It's a present participle. That means he's doing what no one would do. He's plowing and all the while he is looking back. No farmer would do that. No follower of Jesus would do that.

That's his point. He's getting to the heart of this man's excuse. He doesn't want to tell his old life goodbye, really. Let me go back and say farewell but I really want to be there. I'll follow you, Lord, but I want some of that to come along. I'm not going to follow you entirely.

My heart is back there where I used to live. How many would say today, Lord, I want to follow you but truth be told there's something holding me back that I really prefer. That's the point. I'd like to buy a one-way ticket as it were to heaven but I love earth far too much.

I've had many people say that to me essentially over the years. Jesus makes no room for that. I find it interesting that Luke does not provide us with any decision made by these three men.

Following the Lord's challenge to them, we're not told if they said, you know, you're right, Lord. I'll leave that and follow you. You're right, Lord.

I'll sign on today. You're right, Lord. I'll give up that real estate and follow you even if the animals seem to have a better home than we'll have.

I'll follow you. I don't think we're giving their responses again because the Lord wants us to make ours. You don't know their decision but you know what? You know yours.

You know yours. In fact, you're the only person in this auditorium that really knows your answer. I was struck again by remembering the biography of William Borden in 1904. He was the heir to the Borden enterprise, parents extremely wealthy developing that enterprise.

For his high school graduation present, he was given a trip around the world. His mother had already had a profound influence in his life. In fact, she'd come to faith in Christ.

We have no record that his father did. At the age of eight, she began taking William with her to a downtown church in Chicago that we know as Moody Memorial Church. By the time he graduated from high school, he had given his life to Christ just like these two teenage guys have done. As a 16-year-old traveling through the Far East, he was overwhelmed with the burden for these people who were lost. He wrote home and said this, I have decided to give my life to return here and give them the gospel.

At the time he wrote in the flyleaf of his Bible two words, no reserves. Now most people thought that his burden would dissipate over time. He was only 16 years old. He's off to college. He went to Yale. As a freshman, he decided to live publicly for Christ. He began a prayer meeting.

A very small group of students met. By the time he was a senior, 85% of the student body at Yale was attending his Bible studies and prayer. He created a movement they still talk about today.

After graduating from Yale, his business prospects just sort of started pouring in as you can imagine. He kept his commitment to reach those people that he had seen overseas. After graduation, he wrote two more words in his Bible next to the words no reserves. He wrote no retreats.

Borden would turn down every lucrative position including the heir to the family estate and enterprise and instead he enrolled in seminary. Following his studies, he traveled to Egypt to learn Arabic. He was preparing for a lifetime ministry among the Muslims in China, but he would never make it. To the shock of the western world that had been covering his life for several years, his decision was chronicled to leave his inheritance. He became ill.

While in Egypt studying Arabic, he contracted spinal meningitis and soon passed away at the age of 25. Newspapers, as you can imagine, just sort of headlined the story of Yale's most famous graduate reporters, business pundits. They all weighed in on the tragic waste of life and you can imagine what they had to say. It's almost as if William anticipated the response.

He knew that he was seriously ill and probably wouldn't live. Just prior to his death, he opened his Bible and where he had earlier written those statements of commitment, he wrote two more words that would be discovered after his death. Underneath the words, no reserves and no retreats, he had written no regrets.

No regrets. We admire that kind of person who says, I will follow Jesus. The question is, will we join them? The kind of decisiveness to follow Christ has a way of reordering all the priorities of life, doesn't it?

Let me put it in simple terminology for us. Where will your Bible be this coming week? How will you respond when someone asks you at work or at school, are you one of those Christians? How will you handle temptations? What will your perspective be on the issues of integrity and purity and honesty and humility?

What part will the Lord in the coming days have in decisions you make about life? This message is called The Difference Between Admiring and Following. It's lesson nine in Stephen's series through Luke 9 called Into the Spotlight. Do you find the Bible intimidating? Maybe you've read parts of it but struggled to understand what it means.

If so, you're not alone. But it is possible to understand the Bible. There are a few key principles that you can keep in mind as you read it that will help you understand God's word. Stephen has a resource called A Quick and Easy Guide to Understanding the Bible.

You'll get answers to the biggest questions people have about the Bible and get a framework for reading it with confidence. Please visit wisdomonline.org forward slash guide. You can request a copy of this free resource and we'll send it to you right away. Do that right now at wisdomonline.org forward slash guide. Then join us back here next time on Wisdom for the Hearts.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-23 07:38:04 / 2023-01-23 07:46:57 / 9

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