I remember when I was younger. A tween, actually. I came across a foldout in the Sunday newspaper. It was for the BMG Record club. They had a great deal! 12 CDS for the price of a penny. Which sounded awesome! This was my chance to become a hipster music lover just like a few of my friends. I could build my own CD collection of Chumbawamba, Hootie and the Blowfish and Blue Traveler CDs.
But, there was a catch! You had commit to buying just one more CD in the next year.
That doesn't seem like a big deal now. A $10 CD plus $2 shipping and handling would get you 12 more CDs for a penny.
But I remember agonizing over that decision! How could I commit? Was I ready to commit? Could I make that commitment?
Today's question is of a bit more importance than your commitment to popular music CDs. Today's question deals with your commitment to Jesus.
How committed do you have to be to follow Jesus? Come to church every once in a while? Buy a few “Jesus' songs" for your iPhone. Own a Bible (or at least a Bible app)?
In the Gospel of Luke 9:57-62, through three different episodes, Jesus teaches us that following him is not so easy and that it takes total commitment.
1) More Committed to Jesus than Stuff!
Take a look at verses 57-58:
57 As Jesus and his disciples were walking along the road, a man said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Think about that situation. A man wants to join Jesus. He makes what seems to be a bold statement. “I WILL FOLLOW YOU WHEREVER YOU GO!” In other words, “I am committed!”
We might expect Jesus to be excited. To offer the man quick and easy access into following him.
But Jesus warns him.
Think about a fox. He's committed to doing fox stuff. He chases chickens and tricks gingerbread men. But he does get to take a break from this commitment to rest in the comfort of his den. It's similar with the birds. They are committed to doing bird stuff: building nests, finding worms, singing loud songs right outside my window early on a Saturday morning. But in the end, they too get to come home, take a break from their commitment and rest in the aforementioned nest.
Following Jesus? Well, there's no guarantee that there will be these comforts.
For Jesus, these comforts didn’t exist! He left his home. He traveled from city to city. He didn't make reservations at the local Super 8 either. He didn't always know where he'd be sleeping.
If this man was going to follow Jesus, he could expect the same thing. He would have to be more committed to Jesus than his own stuff!
What about you? Are more committed to Jesus than stuff?
Are you committed enough to give up tickets to the 11pm showing of Man of Steel in order to not miss worshipping Jesus the following morning?
Would you give up the pictures on Facebook of you partying hard with in order to be a better witness for Jesus?
Would you give up the next episode of The Bachelorette in order to attend a Bible study with Christian friends?
Would you give up your internet access in order to keep your eyes from sinful images and better follow Jesus?
Would you give up your bottle of Jack Daniels in order to better focus on pleasing your Lord?
Are you committed enough to Jesus to give up stuff for him?
In fact, sometimes we are more committed to the thought of stuff, than Jesus. “I'm committed to my job every Sunday and late into the night. I need to keep this job so that I can one day buy myself a better home. That’s the only reason I’m not more involved with my church and in personal Bible study. I’m working hard. Trying to save up for my retirement home. I'm committed to it!”
Certainly this isn’t the kind of commitment that God was talking about when he said, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Luke 10:26)
Thank God for Jesus.
Even though we haven't been more committed to him than stuff, he was more committed to us than stuff. All stuff. All his stuff.
Think about what he said, “no place to lay his head.” Meaning, Jesus, true God, creator of the Universe, who owns all things (trees, stones, mountains, valleys...and everything that humans make we these resources) gave all of this up! He didn't care if never laid on a memory foam mattress. He didn't need a Buckwheat stuffed pillow. He didn't care if he never had his own man-cave!
Jesus wasn't committed to any of his stuff, because Jesus was committed to you! You, worshipper of stuff, entrenched in sin and destined for hell, were the object of Jesus' desire. This is why he gave up everything to come to earth for you!
Although, maybe, he didn't give up everything. He did have one place to lay his head. A place that he was committed to. A place he was destined for:
An old, wooden plank. The cross.
Jesus was committed to this cross, because he was committed to you! Committed to save you from your sins! He forgives you for valuing stuff more than him!
And having done so, think about this, God promises you eternal rewards. Heavenly stuff. Other worldly stuff. Stuff without tarnish and beyond battery life. Bodies--imperishable. Ruby lined streets—remarkable!
A room in our Father's kingdom. Your own room. Never foreclosed. Never run down. Always warmed by the love of the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, commit yourself to the LORD more than the stuff of this earth, because he was commited to you!
2) More Committed to Jesus than To Do Lists.
But Commitment to Jesus means more than being willing to give up stuff to follow him. Listen to what he says to another man in verse 59. 59 Jesus said to another man, “Follow me.”But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
This seems kind of harsh. If the man's dad had died, why wouldn't Jesus let the man go and say his good byes?
But the truth is that he hadn't. If his father had died, culture would have dictated that he would be engrossed in funeral arrangements already.
So it seems that this man's father hadn't yet died. But he was getting older. Ready for hospice. Death was at the door.
This changes what the man was saying. In essence, “Jesus. I'll give you my promise. I'll follow you. Just not now. First, I need to wait for my father to die. That'll be a whole process. Then, I give you my word, then I'll be committed to you.”
Interesting. But what do you suppose would have happened when his dad did die?
“Jesus, I know I said I'd be committed to you now, but I've really gotta work on my career first, then I'll follow you. And I need a family, so can you wait until I'm married with three kids? But...wait, before I do that I'm gonna want to see the world, have all kinds of fun in college, make mistakes, and enjoy earthly life. So...can I get back to you after I retire? Then, I'll commit to you! I promise.”
It's what we so often do! Instead of viewing Jesus as more important than anything else on our ToDoList, we put him on the ToDoList....and he's at the bottom!
Even in the Day-to-Day! We get up. “Ok today's the day, that I start the day with a morning devotion. But first, I'd better go work out, because it's nice out.” Then, “I stink, so I need a shower. I can't possibly read God's Word while I stink.” Then, “I better eat breakfast now. Jesus wouldn't want me to be distracted from his Word because of an empty stomach.” Next, “Shoot. I better leave for work in order to beat the traffic.” Then, “Jesus wants me to work hard. So I better work hard and not focus on anything but work for now. I can do the devotion later.” Then, “I got a quick break. It's probably only enough time to check out Facebook. But hey God, maybe they'll be a devotion on there.”
Brothers and sisters, here's the truth: Often, we aren't more committed to Jesus than our own ToDoLists! That's not any commitment at all!
Instead, Jesus says, “Let the dead bury their own dead, (a great play on words) Let the spiritually dead, bury the physically dead. But you go and proclaim the kingdom of God!” Meaning: make this your most important thing on the ToDoList!
This is what Jesus did. There wasn't a single thing that he found more important to do than wining us the kingdom of God! He didn't pursue masters in carpentry. He didn't gather a following to become king of Judea. We never see him talking about retiring in a small country shack by the Sea of Galilee.
To Jesus, there was nothing more important than gathering into the kingdom of God!
And, on a personal note, there is nothing more important to him than gathering you into the kingdom of God.
This is why he's worked on you throughout your life. He opened the door to God's kingdom with his death and resurrection. Then, he brings us through that door with his Word. By the power of his Holy Spirit! He does this through friends who spoke God's Word to us. Devotions that empowered us. Baptism which washed us clean! Communion which empowers us! In other words, God is still working tirelessly on the number one item on his ToDolist: Bringing you to heaven!
Brothers and sisters, make him number one on your ToDoList. Make him greater than your ToDoList. If you don't get all your work done each day, so what? As long as you are sharing Jesus with your words and actions, you are accomplishing the most important goal!
Didn't get to retirement as quickly as you wanted? So what! As long as you were a faithful witness to the one who made you his number one priority, you will have done all that’s needed.
Be committed to Jesus. More than anything on your ToDoLists!
3) More Committed to Jesus than Relationships
But that's not it. For Jesus commitment to him is greater than commitment above stuff and todolists.
Check out verse 61, Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”
That's a fair request isn't it? He's asking to go give his mom a hug. His wife a kiss. His kids a high five. Isn't that important enough? Wouldn't Jesus allow that?
“Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
I don't assume that a lot of you have been plowing in your lifetime. But perhaps you've pushed a lawnmower. If so, you know it's important to watch where you are going while you mow. That way you have straight lines and done run into anything.
You ever tried to mow while looking backwards? It's not so pretty. The lines are crooked. You stumble. Eventually you hit a stump.
It’s the same way as we go through life following Jesus. He wants us to remain focused.
I think that we'd like to think that family and friends will be a help to us as we follow Jesus.
But not always:
“Why do you go to church anyways? They just want your money. It's all a big sham!”
“You're telling me that what I'm doing is a sin? You're being judgmental. You're not being loving to me...your own son! Stop talking about it or I'm not going to be talking to you ever again”
“Sins forgiven? Really!?! I know what you did growing up. I know how awful you are. You're going to have to work hard to win my forgiveness and certainly God's!”
How do you react to family criticisms of your faith? If you're like me then, perhaps there are times you've said nothing. You've stayed quiet. Backed down. Tried to preserve friendship at the expense of no longer following Jesus.
“But blood is thicker than anything!”
What about the one who gave his blood for you?
Think about Jesus once more. His own brothers, scripture tells us, didn't even believe in him. They thought him crazy! They thought he was speaking hogwash. (John 7:5)
Did Jesus stop what he was doing so his brothers wouldn't be so embarrassed and would go grab a beer with him at the local pub?
Not so much.
And what about us!?! We, his brothers and sisters, who have denied him, ignored him, pretended not to care about him in order to save our earthly relationships. Has he quieted down in order not to embarrass us? Has he backed down his stance on social sins in order not to turn us into bigots?
Not at all.
Yet, in spite of us. In spite of his brothers. Without their support. Without our support. He marched to the cross. He did what was more loving. He continued his mission to save us. To save us family!
It meant he was alone. On that cross abandoned by family and friends. Abandoned by his heavenly Father!
But none of that mattered to Jesus. What mattered was saving his family.
What mattered was saving you.
So what’s interesting is that by not following his brother’s requests, by making ‘turmoil’ in his family, Jesus was actually showing greater love for his family than ever before! (After his death and resurrection, two of his brothers put their faith in him and probably wrote two books of the Bible: James and Jude).
The same is true for us. Because there is no greater care for family, than care of souls! That means that when we are more committed to Jesus than our family, we are actually more committed to our family than we were before!
It's why we are willing to suffer the ridicule of our brother in order that we might lead them to faith in Jesus. It's why we suffer estrangement from cousins that God might work through your warnings to bring them closing to his family. It's why we are willing to deal with the crying and shouting of kids who don't want to go to church, in order to bring them to church where God takes care of his family!
It was the 1970s.
The Communist soldiers had discovered their illegal bible study. As the Pastor was reading from the bible, men with guns suddenly broke into the home, terrorizing the believers who had gathered to worship. They shouted insults and threatened to kill the Christians. The leading officer pointed his gun at the pastor’s head. “Hand me your bible” he demanded. Reluctantly the pastor handed over his bible, his prized possession. With a sneer on his face, the guard threw the bible to the floor. He glared at the small congregation. “We will let you go” he growled, “but first you must spit on this book of lies. Anyone who refuses will be shot.” The believers had no choice but to obey the officer’s order.
A soldier pointed his gun at one of the men. “You first." The man slowly got up and knelt down by the Bible. Reluctantly, he spat on it, praying, “Father, please forgive me.” He stood up and walked to the door. The soldiers stood back and allowed him to leave.
“Okay, you!” the soldier said, nudging a woman forward. In tears, she could barely do what he demanded. She spat only a little, but it was enough. She too was allowed to leave.
Quietly a young girl came forward. Overcome with love for her Lord, she knelt down and picked up the bible. She wiped off the spit with her dress. “What have they done to your Word? Please forgive them,” she prayed.
It was only moments later that she saw her committed Lord’s forgiving face.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus calls for total commitment. But he does so, only because he is totally committed to you! He proved it in his innocent life. He proved it on the cross. He proved coming out of the triumphant tomb!
May this message of total commitment build you up and lift you up into total commitment for him. Amen.