I Have Decided to Follow Jesus! Part 1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
I have decided to follow Jesus, No turning back, no turning back.”
I Have Decided to Follow Jesus!
Text: Luke 9:18-9:26; 57-62
There is a great old chorus that I love to sing. Maybe you know it. It goes like this:
“I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
No turning back, no turning back.”
Do you remember it? There are some other verses.
“The world behind me, the cross before me.”
“Though none go with me, still I will follow.”
You get the picture. Well, it’s mighty easy to sing that song, but let me ask you a question: Are you serious when you sing it? Are you really ready to follow Jesus, no turning back? Are you really ready to leave the world behind, to really follow though none go with you? I ask myself, and quite frankly, I don’t like how I answer it all the time.
We are going to look at the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke this morning as we look at the issue of truly following Christ. My purpose this morning is to get us to take a fresh look at what it means to give it all over to Jesus, and not just talk about it. I need to tell you that this is not an easy lesson for me to teach. I might very well step on some toes today; including my own. I would rather stand here and teach a nice lesson about love and happiness, or something flowery like that. But God has laid this on my heart.
No one wants to hear about the costs of discipleship. We don’t want to hear that it’s not always easy to live for Christ. We’d rather hear that it’s nothing but a bed of roses. I know that’s what I would prefer!
I’m a wuss, when it comes right down to it, folks! But it is not always a bed of roses. It certainly can be at times, but God has not promised it will be that way all the time. Let’s see what it says in the text for today: Luke 9:18-26.
Once when Jesus was praying in private and His disciples were with Him, He asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am? They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.” “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”
Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And He said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then He said to them all: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”-Let’s skip down to verses 57-62.
As they were walking along the road, a man said to Him, “I will follow you wherever You go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” He said to another man, “Follow Me.” But the man 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 his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
To me, this whole thing boils down to one word: Comfort. It’s my personal opinion that comfort is one of the church’s biggest problems.
We are much too comfortable in our walks with God, and today we will look at three areas in particular where comfort gets in the way: our OUTWARD LIVING, our OUTPOURING in worship, and our OUTREACH to those around us who need Jesus.
Let’s start off by looking at COMFORT IN OUR OUTWARD LIVING, and quite frankly, this is where we will spend most of our time this morning.
The first thing to consider is Comfort in General. By this is meant, mainly, our material comfort, though we will look at other areas as well. Before I get too far into this, I need to say that I am a big fan of comfort. I like living in a house that shelters my wife and me from the elements. I like eating my fill at a good meal. I like driving a vehicle in which the air conditioning and heating actually work!
Having said all that, let me state what I see as the problem: In our pursuit of comfort, the Church of Jesus Christ has allowed a form of materialism to creep in that has gained such a foothold that it interferes with the spiritual growth of many people, it interferes with worship, and it interferes with evangelism. We (and I say “we” because I am guilty as well) are so caught up in being comfortable and looking good doing it that pretty soon little else matters. Let me give you a couple examples:
I am NOT a morning person. I would love it if I had a job where I could go in at say, 10 or 11, and leave about 3 or 4.
I am naturally a very lazy person. But, when I worked, I went to work at 6, not 10. And, if I wanted any time with God in His Word and prayer, I had to get up very early. That is NOT comfortable for me, and I thank God for the guy who invented coffee makers. I NEED that time, so I am willing to get uncomfortable to get it.
Second example: One time I had a job where my bosses asked me to do something that was unethical. I simply could not do it, and I had to tell them. Let me tell you what it was about. Business was down, and the owner said that everyone had to take a 15% cut in pay.
Then they came to me and said that I wouldn’t have to take a cut, but if asked I would have to say I did. I replied, “But I can’t lie, because I am a Christian.” I took the pay cut, and I am glad I did, because I was NOT comfortable doing that, but it needed to be done not only for the sake of my reputation as a Christian, but more importantly, so that the name of Jesus would not be slandered because of me. Wouldn’t it just have been easier for me accept their offer? Yes, but that is not what Christ wants. It is not always easy to live a life of Biblical conviction, especially in the workplace.
How about in our relationships with our neighbors? When you spend time with them (and I think we should), do you join in their unbiblical activities, or do you refrain? It is many times easier to “not rock the boat” than to say, “No, thank you,” when invited to do something you know would not honor Christ. By the way, I am not saying you should cry out in proud indignation every time you see something you don’t like. You don’t win many to Christ by shouting, “Away from me, Satan, and take your devilish brew with you!” when you are invited for a friendly gathering.It is possible to be with them and not join in all the activity. Remember, Jesus was a friend of sinners.
Secondly, I want you to consider Comfort in entertainment. What do you watch on TV? Do you watch wholesome television, or are you trapped by the entertainment industries standard of “good television.” This is a struggle for me. I like action movies. I generally wait until they are on television, because I don’t want to pay what they charge in movie theatres. But have you noticed how LITTLE editing goes on in movies these days? People cursing, talking about sex outside of marriage as easily as they talk about their favorite pizza, and you name it. It is getting increasingly harder for me to watch these, even though I no longer have to worry about my son or daughter being exposed to it. I have to ask myself, “What would my kids think of me watching this?” Would it make them think less of me, in light of everything I have tried to teach them about Jesus? That question is another way of stating this: “How does what I am doing reflect not just on me, but on Christ. An honest answer to that question will go a long way toward helping us conform our entire lifestyle to one that honors Him, not just give Him lip service. Folks, this is just the tip of the iceberg. We could go on for hours about getting out of our “Couch Potato Christianity.”
Now, third I want you to consider that there’s Comfort in avoiding persecution. I mentioned earlier that we are often afraid to “rock the boat” in living for Christ. We have it real easy here in the South when it comes to living for Christ. We don’t face the persecution that others do. About the worst we come across is someone possibly making a snide comment teasing us about it, although I do know of instances where the person was rejected by family and friends. But we don’t face hatred and torture for our faith in Christ.