Sunday, June 26, 2016

Discipleship's competition

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 9:51-62

 "And another also said, 'Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.' But Jesus said to him, 'No one having put his hand to the plow, and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.'" Luke 9:61-62

In one of his meditations about discipleship, Oswald Chambers says:
"If any man come to me and hate not . . . , he cannot be My disciple," not, he cannot be good and upright, but, he cannot be one over whom Jesus writes the word 'Mine.' Any one of the relationships Our Lord mentions may be a competitive relationship. I may prefer to belong to my mother, or to my wife, or to myself; then, says Jesus, you cannot be My disciple. This does not mean I will not be saved, but it does mean that I cannot be "His."

The three interactions Jesus had with potential disciples at the end of our reading today (Luke 9:57-62) shed more light on discipleship's competition. It can come not only as human relationships but also as:

1. Material security
When a man approached Jesus and promised, "I will follow You wherever You go," Jesus didn't do what we might have expected, either welcoming or turning him away outright. Instead He told the man I don't even own a place to sleep. We hear no more of the man following Jesus. As a footnote commentary in my Bible explains it: "An emotional enthusiasm that hasn't considered the cost of abandoning material security is insufficient." (New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 1406).

Do we do that—get all glowy with the romance of following Jesus, and then reconsider when we realize, missionaries don't often own real estate, have fat pensions waiting for them at retirement, or have the luxury of a six-week winter vacation?

2. Procrastination
In a second case Jesus challenged a man to follow Him, but the man replied, "Let me first go and bury my father." Does Jesus reply, "'Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God,'" mean that the true disciple wouldn't even take time off for a family funeral? Hardly. I've heard someone explain this scenario by speculating that the man's father was probably not even dead at this point. Rather, he was in a life situation where he let current responsibilities trump Jesus' invitation to be a disciple by putting Him off with, 'I'll follow you later, when…'

Do we do that—put off sold-out discipleship for when our family is raised, our current project is finished, it's generally more convenient?

3. Distraction
In the third case, a man volunteered to be a disciple, but wanted first to bid farewell to those at home. Jesus' answer, "'No one having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of heaven,'" says to me that He knew the trip home for this potential disciple would be a distraction and a means to cause him to reconsider his decision.

Do we do that—after hearing His call, return to the people, the books, the advice that conflicts with His absolute claim on our lives? Like the seed that fell among thorns (Luke 8:7) didn't produce because of cares, riches and pleasures, our return "to bid farewell" can have a similar choking effect on our discipleship.

Oswald Chambers continues:

"Our Lord makes a disciple His own possession, He becomes responsible for him. 'Ye shall be witnesses unto Me.' The spirit that comes in is not that of doing anything for Jesus, but of being a perfect delight to Him. The secret of the missionary is - I am His, and He is carrying out His enterprises through me.
"Be entirely His" - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, September 4th reading.
How will I respond to that challenge? How will you?

Dear Jesus, Your call to discipleship was not casual in the first century and is no more casual today. Help me to be a true disciple. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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