Are we willing to "Follow Him"?
"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 good-bye 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." (Luke 9:59-62)"
'Oh, I'll follow Jesus BUT...'
'Yes, I'm a believer, BUT...'
'I'm a christian, BUT Jesus didn't mean that...'
Oh heavenly Father, help us overcome our deceitful hearts.
The Way is narrow indeed (Matt. 7, John 14), and one of the greatest stumbling blocks is hanging onto people who are not willing to forsake all and follow Jesus with all their hearts. Take, for instance, the men Jesus addresses in the Luke 9 passage quoted above. The first is unwilling to let go of his unbelieving natural family members, and uses as an excuse not to follow Jesus, the attending of a ritual of hopelessness and death. The second, making the same error of holding onto his natural family (Matt. 12:48-50), Jesus' judges as unworthy to enter the kingdom of God.
This same mistake of hanging onto various people who are not willing to forsake all to follow after Jesus, is made countless times today, and no doubt through the centuries with "love" as the justification for not following after Jesus the way JESUS says we ought. The religious folks say, 'oh, it would be disrespectful for that young man to not attend his very own father's funeral (Matt. 23:9)'. The christians say, 'oh, it would be unloving not to let a young man not say good-bye to his family'. And so the teachings of men continue to nullify the Words of the Word, and these sad Words of the Word judge many, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments".
Yes, many forsake Jesus, his Family and the kingdom of God in order to hold onto the people they love more than Jesus...their natural relatives and legally related christians. We pray, dear reader, that you are not one of these who have received the seed, yet in the time of temptation, fall away, or allow the concerns of the world choke out your potential fruitfulness.
So how do we who are trying to follow Jesus with our whole heart, handle dealing with others who proclaim to be followers of Jesus, yet who do not willing to TRY to forsake all to follow Jesus? Jesus makes it perfectly plain, for those willing to receive his Words, that we who follow him must forsake all things, including people who are not also willing to try to forsake all in order to follow Jesus. In case the reader is confused as to how to identify these folks, here are some evidences. They are comfortable in the religious system and do not like to discuss Jesus and his teachings in a personal setting. They defend their religious organization and its clergymen against the teachings of Jesus which expose its/their error. They do not like to discuss Jesus and his teachings in any setting. If they are willing to discuss Jesus' teachings, most of the time is spent either not understanding what he says, or disagreeing with the plain meaning of what Jesus says. Even if they will discuss Jesus' teachings, and come across one which calls for us to do something we don't want to do, they will say either, 'oh, he doesn't mean that' or, 'I can't give that up' or 'I can't do that'. They are those who take the label "christian" and who love the world and the things of the world. I pray that you, dear reader, don't fit into this category.
So, Jesus makes it plain that if we are to faithfully follow him, we must leave behind those who are not willing to faithfully follow him. It does NOT mean we condemn them as we separate. It means we keep moving forward when they are unwilling to move forward. It means that we, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God". It means we leave them behind as they refuse to walk on the narrow way. It means that there might be tearful separations, or dire warning separations, but there will be separations as we choose to walk the narrow way and they the broad way. It means that, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." If you have grasped this teaching of Jesus, and have been trying to live by it, you might find yourself largely alone for long periods of time. Hopefully not because of self-righteousness, nor because of petty religious division, nor because of laziness, but because of faithfulness to Jesus' commands in a time and place of great unbelief.
The reader might ask, 'but what about those brothers and sisters who are sincerely trying to follow Jesus and who are willing to try to forsake all to follow him, but who have been walking along the narrow Way for a shorter time and thus are walking slower. Or those who fall frequently along the Way and are slow to get up. Or those who are afraid to walk more earnestly. Or those who are hanging onto or carrying various items that the Lord does not want them carrying, and thus are inappropriately burdened and cannot walk down the narrow Way as quickly towards the goal'. The answer is found in John 13:34-35 - love one another. Love includes compassion and patience. We should be very slow to decide to walk ahead, and only for two reasons. First, either they are unwilling to allow us to help them when they stumble or fall, or they are unwilling to receive Jesus' truth and thus start towards greater freedom in him. Second, the Lord makes it clear for some specific purpose that we must push on ahead of those brothers or sisters. If we do push on ahead, it should be with much prayer and listening to the Lord, and the parting should be positive with as much encouragement as possible. For there are others ahead of us, or who are walking more earnestly than us and who might pass us by if they didn't practice patience and compassion.
Here is the beauty and elegance and truth of Jesus' teachings. All of his teachings fit together to guide us IF we are willing to receive them as little children.
People who have not yet grasped or received the key commands of Jesus which free us up to truly be his followers often as us, 'how do we know the will of God for our lives'. They ask us, 'how can you hear God's voice in the day to day leadings and guidance of His Spirit'. The answer is before all of us IF we are willing to receive it. However, we will never be able to receive it until we are willing to receive the plain Words, commands, teachings of Jesus that are plainly written in the gospels. If we would be willing to obey teachings such as these:
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26, 33)
"The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." (John 12:25)
...then it would be a much simpler matter for God to guide us individually in our walks along the narrow road.
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