Are We Willing to be Obedient?
Luke 9:22–25, 57–62
Discipleship Lesson #04
August 19, 2018
“Father, we are so thankful that we have Your Word, that Your Word is alive and powerful. It is living, it is eternal, it changes our thinking, it changes our lives, but we need to understand it, we need to study it, we need to let it saturate our souls.
“Father, it is through God the Holy Spirit Who helps us to not only understand the Word, but to see its implications for our lives. He is the One Who also prompts us, encourages us to apply it, and He is the One Who produces fruit in our lives, produces spiritual growth, and maturation.
“Father, as we reflect upon these things this morning, help us to understand their implications and applications for each one of us.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Luke 9. We’re continuing our short series on being a disciple:
- What did Jesus teach about being a disciple?
- How are those teachings of His developed when we get out of the Gospels and into the Epistles?
We’re asking the question, “Are we willing to be obedient?” That is at the core of being a disciple. Are we willing to be obedient to the One Whom we are following? That is the essence of the concept of a disciple.
The word “disciple,” as I have pointed out, means someone who is a learner, a student or pupil, someone who is following the teaching of a master in a particular area. Philosophers had disciples, the Pharisees had disciples, John the Baptist had disciples, and Jesus had disciples.
The Eleven that He had that were believers were those that He was training a specific way for their future ministry in the Church Age. He was not setting forth what He did as a pattern for the future church, because He was doing something unique and distinct with those Eleven.
As we study the Scripture, though, we realize that the term “disciple” was used of many who were followers of Jesus. As we study that, we realize it’s not a term that’s used as a synonym for a believer, for there were believers who were not disciples.
But disciples who were not: you have Judas and others in a technical sense; they were disciples who were not believers.
But once you start thinking in terms of the disciples of Jesus, they’re all believers who have made a decision after salvation to pursue spiritual growth and spiritual maturity.
Among those who had become believers, there were those who were curious, but did not grow very much, if at all. There were others who became convinced and grew more. They may have followed intermittently.
Some of these are the experiences that many of us have had. We were saved and, for a while, that was good enough. Then at some point, we realized that maybe there was something more to this salvation than just going to Heaven when we die.
But then as we began to wrestle with what the Scripture said, we were trying to decide just how seriously we would take what the Scripture said.
There is, I think, in everybody’s experience, either over a short time or a long time, a decision as to whether they are truly convinced of the exclusivity of the claims of Jesus—and I don’t just mean as a Savior—but in every area of thought, in every area of life.
There are those who gradually become convinced, and they grow more, but sometimes they become comfortable or complacent. I think that it is true for many of us, that that has happened. I think that we reach plateaus just like in any area of life.
Sometimes they’re short, sometimes they’re long, but the ideal is that we are reaching for being a committed, consistent disciple for the length of our lives. That is the challenge of the New Testament: to be committed and to produce fruit—that which brings glory to God—both now and for eternity.
Discipleship is based on the concept of following Jesus. In many passages, Jesus said to those who were with Him to follow Him. He said that to the multitudes, He said that initially to His 12 disciples to follow Him, but as I pointed out last time, not all stayed following Him.
In John 6, we focused on the question, “Are we willing to be trained?” As the implications of training became obvious to the listeners, we learned that many of the disciples went back and walked with Him no more.
I know that many of us can think about people we have known who at one time were consistent, Bible class consist, in their Christian life, but no one has seen them darken the door of a church or Bible class in many years, because they have become distracted by the issues of life.
This happened in John 6:68. Jesus turned to His 12 disciples who were with Him, and He said to the Twelve, “Do y’all also want to go away?”
See, it’s a plural there, so I’ve translated it correctly. Jesus was from South Nazareth. “Do y’all want to go away?”
And Peter says—and this is so profound, something to really sink your teeth into and reflect upon—“ ‘… Lord, to whom shall we go?’ ”
We can’t go to Mohammed, we can’t go to Buddha, we can’t go to Sartre, we can’t go to Nietzsche, and we can’t go to Aristotle or Plato: they don’t have words of eternal life.
John 6:68, “ ‘to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’ ”
The Greek term that he uses, translated “words” here, is RHEMA, which emphasizes spoken words: he’s talking about the teaching of Jesus.
This was a period of time in Jesus’ ministry when He was teaching and training the disciples specifically for their future ministry.
Peter states the foundation of their discipleship in John 6:69: “ ‘Also, we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ—that is the Messiah—the Son of the living God.’ ”
This is profound. Again and again we get these statements by John telling us these 11 are all believers. We know it is only 11 because, just before this, Jesus had made it clear that Judas was not a believer.
They have all trusted in Christ Jesus as the Messiah. They understand He is the Son of the living God, and they understand that that is an idiom, which means that He is fully God.
He’s not some derivative being. He wasn’t somehow created in eternity past, so that He didn’t have a beginning. That was the ancient heresy of Arianism that gets picked up in modern times by Jehovah’s Witnesses, but that Jesus is eternal, infinite God, one in essence with God the Father.
As Jesus taught, it became clear that He expected more of those who would follow Him. And the challenge is there: are you willing to pick up that challenge, to really take the challenge, and to follow Jesus? As that became more and more clear, people dropped out.
Same thing we see today. We see many people who drop out, or they go to churches where there is just a lot of fluff, there’s a lot of whipping cream, and there’s a lot of meringue, but there’s no substance.
Because, if they get to a church where there’s more substance, they have to think, they have to realize what the implications are for their spiritual life, and they don’t want that. So they settle for a very low level of expectation.
This has happened throughout the Church Age. You’ve always had periods of time when there was little interest in spiritual growth or spiritual maturity. There have been times in the Church Age when it’s been punctuated here and there by what we refer to as revivals.
We can think back to the 1600s in the Reformation. There were periods of time here and there throughout the early church that experienced those in different locations at different times.
In the modern church, even in America, we see that there were times in the first Great Awakening. I’m still not sure the second Great Awakening was all that spiritual. But there were times when God raised up great evangelists who were true to the gospel, preached the gospel, and there was tremendous response.
But there also were times in between when there was a great rejection of the truth. If you read the preachers before the second Great Awakening in the 1790s and 1800s, you would think that the United States was the most pagan reprobate place in the world.
Don’t get this idealized view that the founding generation was all that spiritual. At some times they were, but as people moved west, they got away from their families and any kind of structures that gave them discipline or controls on their morality, and they got pretty raunchy.
Then there was a second Great Awakening, and there was a huge turn in America, a huge shift.
There are changes that have taken place, and we live in a time today when fewer and fewer people want to even talk about being a disciple, or even talk about what Christianity is all about outside of just going to church, who will listen to somebody—but that’s as far as it’s going to go.
The question that we’re addressing today is this, “Are we willing to be obedient?”
I want to go back as we look at the context of Luke 9. What happened earlier was that Jesus was having a confrontation with the Pharisees.
Actually, the passage I want to look at first is in Matthew 21. Jesus was being challenged again by the chief priests and the elders—by the religious leaders of Israel. In that challenge, He pointed out that their real problem was a lack of obedience.
To understand that, what we have to do, first and foremost, is understand the framework where those Jewish leaders were coming from, and that’s passages from the Torah.
Deuteronomy 7:9 says, “Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
What I want you to notice here is a number of passages in Deuteronomy, but also throughout the Torah, the Law, that loving God is equated to keeping His commandments. A barometer of our love isn’t how we feel; it is our obedience.
Deuteronomy 11:1, “Therefore you shall love the Lord your God, and keep His charge—loving and keeping, loving and obedience.”
Deuteronomy 11:22, “For if you carefully keep all these commandments which I command you to do—to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, and to hold fast to Him.”
The other passages that communicate the same ideas: Deuteronomy 19:9, Deuteronomy 26:17, Deuteronomy 30:16.
Sometimes you’ll hear people say, “Well, that sounds like legalism to me.” I find that in a lot of churches people call it legalism if they’re expected to do something that they don’t want to do. They’re too lazy, they’re uncommitted, and they’re not involved in the Word.
So anybody who says, “If you’re Christian you really should be doing A, B, C, or D,” they’re going to say, “You’re a legalist!”
They’re antinomian, because there are obligations that have been put on believers all through the New Testament. Every time you have an imperative verb such as, “Pray without ceasing.” Now is Paul being legalistic when He says that? Of course not, that’s silly.
There are Christians who say, “If you insist that I pray all the time, that’s just being legalistic!” No, that’s being grace oriented.
Let’s define these terms a little bit. What is legalism? A lot of people don’t understand this. Legalism is basically the idea that by our obedience to God’s Word, we merit God’s blessing.
That’s what happened with the Pharisees. They got the idea that if they would just do the letter of the Law, then God would bless them. They got the cart before the horse.
I hear this from people, “I’m going to read my Bible. I’m going to change my life. I’m going to read my Bible, I’m going to church, I’m going to give money to the church, I’m going to witness, I’m going to read my Bible, I’m going to give, I’m going to be good. Whatever it is, I’m going to do A, B, C, or D, then God will bless me.” That is legalism.
Or someone may say, “That person, they’re such a mature believer! Look at how God blessed them!” That’s legalism. That’s not grace orientation.
What is grace orientation? Grace is recognizing that God has already blessed us. What does Ephesians 1:3 say? We will be in Ephesians in about a month or so. Grace is recognizing that God has already blessed us. That’s what Ephesians 1:36 says. He has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing.
Now, what gets left out of the word “every?” Nothing. “Every” includes all things. There aren’t extra blessings that we can convince God to give us. He has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing.
That’s a potential for us to realize it, and our response to His grace enables us to develop the capacity to experience and enjoy His blessing.
I’ve used the illustration before. This is like a daddy who’s really proud of his little boy, and he goes and buys him a brand-new Ferrari, and the kid’s only two years old. And dad keeps the keys, because he is going to wait until the kid is old enough and mature enough to handle the responsibility of having this car. But the car is his.
God has given us these blessings, but if we don’t mature and have the capacity to enjoy them responsibly and spiritually, then they may not be realized in our experience.
So our thinking should be, “I’m going to do X: I’m going to read my Bible, I’m going to memorize Scripture, I’m going to witness, I’m going to go to Bible class because God has already richly blessed me and I need to learn about those blessings and develop the capacity to enjoy what He has freely given me.”
That’s the difference between legalism and grace. In both systems, you do what God says to do, but you do them for completely different reasons.
Matthew 21:28–31 focuses on the issue of obedience. It’s a simple little story; we don’t need to spend a lot of time on it. The chief priests and the elders confront Jesus, and He wants to point out the basic flaw in their whole system.
Matthew 21:28–29, “… A man who has two sons, and he comes to the first and said, ‘Son go work today in the vineyard.’ And the son says, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went.” He did what his father wanted him to do.
Matthew 21:30, the father went to the second son, and said the same thing to him, and the second son said, “‘I go, sir …’ ” But it’s all talk. It’s no action, no obedience. He doesn’t go.
Matthew 21:31, Jesus asked the question then, which one did the will of the Father? The one that said I’m not going to do it and did it, or the one who said I’m going to do it and didn’t do it?
Obviously, He’s telling the religious leaders that they are the second son. They’re talking the talk but they’re not walking the walk. It’s all lip service, but there’s no relationship with God.
Matthew 21:31, “Jesus said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you the tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.’ ”
Why? It’s because they have humility. The religious leaders did not have humility. You’ve got to have humility to be grace oriented. You’ve got to understand it’s all from God, and it’s not from us. So, there’s this contrast, and we have to understand this within the framework of Matthew, which I spent a lot of time teaching.
Now this phrase, “enter the kingdom of God,” is a tricky one for a lot of people, because the average evangelical Christian thinks that entering the Kingdom of God means going to Heaven when you die. That it is a synonym for being justified, for being saved. That’s not how Matthew uses the term.
If entering the Kingdom means going to Heaven when you die, then what we have here is something that is close to works, because what Jesus is talking about is these sinners were sinners first, and then they were obedient, and they’re getting into Heaven because (of) their obedience. But that’s not what Jesus ever taught.
In fact, in Matthew 18:3, which is a similar context that took place a little earlier, Jesus was with His disciples, and they were having an argument about who was going to be the greatest in the Kingdom, and they’re full of this competition.
Those disciples in Matthew 18 are much further down the road than where they were in John 6. In John 6, we saw that they already believed and knew that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God. So, they’re already saved and justified.
Matthew 18:3, Jesus, talking to these disciples who were arguing about who was going to be the hotshot in the Kingdom, “… said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.’ ”
Here we have a problem, because it looks like Jesus is talking about getting saved, so you’ll go to Heaven when you die. Isn’t that what the word converted means? It may be what the word tends to mean in English, but that’s not what the Greek word here means.
The Greek word is STREPHO, which means “to turn.” It’s for changing your mind. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re changing your mind to trust Christ as Savior. You may be a disobedient Christian, and now you need to change your mind to be an obedient Christian.
He was talking to these disciples who were already justified, had already secured their destiny in Heaven. He said, “unless you turn—turn around.” What was the problem? They were arrogant. They were full of themselves. They thought they were the greatest gift of God, and “which one of us is going to be sitting next to Jesus when we get into the Kingdom?”
Entering the Kingdom here can’t be talking about justification, because then it would be justification by works. You have to become like a little child to get into Heaven. Well, that’s works!
What He’s telling them is that if you don’t learn humility like a little child (who is counted as a nobody in that culture), unless you think of yourselves as not being significant and a hotshot, and unless you have humility, you’re not going to enjoy the riches and the blessing of being in the Kingdom.
You’re going to suffer loss at the Judgment Seat of Christ, if we want to use Paul’s terminology later on as it’s developed in 1 Corinthians 3. He reminded them that the issue for growing and being a disciple has to do with humility.
That is the same thing that He’s telling the religious leaders in Matthew 21: “You’re arrogant and you’re full of yourself; and therefore; you’re disobedient and you’re never going to enjoy the Kingdom.”
The passage I want to talk about today is in Luke 9. We’re going to look at the first part and the second part in Luke 9:23–25, and see what Jesus says there about being a disciple, and how this is illustrated when we come to the end of the chapter in Luke 9:57–62.
Luke 9:23, “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’ ”
Let’s look at this little bit. When we just read it over and think about it, we read that Jesus is talking to them. Who are the “them?” To whom does the word “them” refer? If we compare with the parallel passage in Mark 8:34, we know that it’s more than the disciples, the Twelve; it involves a multitude.
Mark 8:34, “When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also …”
This is one of those situations where He’s teaching His disciples, but the lesson was for everybody who was there, those who had been following Him.
And this is repeated in several different contexts, so this is crucial and foundational to being a disciple. Mark 8:34, “… Whoever desires to come after Me, let Him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.”
In Luke it says “if.” Jesus said this many different ways, but He said the same thing. The “if” here is a conditional word that—as you know, Greek uses three different ways to express an “if” clause. This one is “if, and we’re assuming this to be true that you want to be a disciple.”
So. He says if you want to be a disciple there are three prerequisites:
- Take up your cross
- Follow Me.
I left a word out, didn’t I? What word did I leave out? You need to take up your cross daily. That’s important, because when we talk about “are you willing to be a disciple,” this isn’t a one-shot decision.
Sometimes you may have heard a pastor say you need to recommit your life, walk the aisle, make this decision, dedicate your life to Christ, and there is some truth to that, because I think that at some point in our lives, in our experience, we reach a point where we say, “You know, I really need to be serious about God.”
Now we may come to that point and bounce back and forth off of it a few times before we start to settle in, but it’s not really a one-shot decision. It’s sort of saying, “Okay I really need to be serious about God,” and it’s important to reach that, but that doesn’t mean that that’s good for the rest of your life.
It’s not this one-shot dedicatory Keswickian type of thing. It just means you’ve reached the stage in your life when, “You know, I need to put away childish things, I need to grow up, and I need to do what God wants me to do.”
But every single day, every hour, and every minute we have to be willing to reevaluate and stick with that decision. It’s not just a one-shot decision. It’s not just walking the aisle and dedicating your life to Jesus. That may be a starting point, but it’s every day. Jesus says take up your cross daily. This whole thing is every single day.
As we look at these three steps, there are a couple of things we ought to observe. First of all, before we can truly follow Jesus, what Jesus is saying is you have to learn to say “no” to your self-centered agenda.
You’ve got one; I’ve got one. I don’t care how mature you are as a believer, you still have your self-centered agenda. But we have to learn to say “no” to it more than we say “yes” to it, and that takes time. It’s not a one-shot decision.
We have to grow, and we have to understand how the Scripture says that we are able to say no. It’s not Paul in Romans 7 pulling himself up by his own spiritual bootstraps; it’s learning to walk by means of the Spirit. That’s what’s developed as we get into Galatians 5:16.
That is the first part of self-denial. We have to learn what it means to walk by the Spirit, to abide in Christ, to walk in the light. Those are all the different synonymous terms that are used in the Scripture to define the life of the growing, maturing believer. Self-denial means we have to learn to walk by means of the Spirit.
Second, we have to learn what Paul means in Romans 6:11 where he says we are to reckon or consider ourselves dead to sin.
Now, I know a lot of believers who for a long time after they were saved were, “Well, I’m going to Heaven, so it really doesn’t matter what sins I commit, because I’m forgiven and I’m going to Heaven.”
I think that’s an infantile, immature decision, but when you’re a baby, you make infantile, immature decisions. You’ve made them, I’ve made them, we’re not proud of them, but as a spiritual baby we make those decisions.
If you don’t have believers taking advantage of grace in a wrong way in your congregation, then you’re not teaching grace, because when you are immature, you will take advantage of grace in wrong ways, and then you grow up.
But don’t expect an immature believer to act like he’s an adult. You teach them, and God the Holy Spirit will make it clear.
But there comes a point, as Paul says in Romans 6, when we understand what the baptism by the Holy Spirit is all about: that we’ve been identified with Christ in His death, burial and Resurrection, the power of the sin nature is broken, and it never happened to any believer before the Church Age, then we understand that we’re dead to sin, that power is broken.
That doesn’t mean we can’t continue to sin. Paul describes that in Romans 7: his continued problem with sin. He said, “I didn’t do what I wanted to do, and I did what I didn’t want to do,” and he doesn’t start talking about the Holy Spirit and the walk by the Holy Spirit until Romans 8.
We have to “reckon ourselves …” That’s a mental attitude decision. Day in, day out—daily—we have to reckon ourselves. I’m dead to sin, why am I still doing “X” when I’m supposed to be dead to sin, separated from sin? That’s the second part of self-denial.
The third part is we have to exchange the garbage in our soul for the truth of God’s Word. We have to flush out all of the human viewpoint. We have to flush out all of the opinions that we picked up from our peers, from our parents, and our professors.
We have to flush that out and replace it with the Word of God. We have to get rid of the lies and the fantasies that our sin nature and our culture tells us, and live according to the truth of God’s Word.
That’s Romans 12:2. The more I study the Word, the more I think it is this verse, more than any other, that summarizes what the Christian life is all about.
“And do not be conformed to this world …” Well, how do I avoid being pressed into the mold of the world? Because that’s what conformed means, is being pressed and shaped by the culture around you.
We are to be transformed. That means there’s a metamorphosis that takes place here, a complete change by the renewing of our mind. This happens daily, day in, day out. You get up in the morning, you may not have a lot of time, you get in the car, you put in a CD, or you turn on your iPhone, and you download one of the Bible apps where they will read the Bible to you, or you’re listening to a Bible class, but you’re letting your soul be washed by the Word of God.
That’s so important! We have so much garbage that comes in. We need to make decisions about reading the Bible every day. Try to read the Bible through in a year—follow various different programs, memorize Scripture, all of these different things. That’s how we renew our mind.
Why do we do it? So we can prove—that means to demonstrate, to be a visible exhibit in a court of law type of thing—demonstrating that God’s will is good, and acceptable, and complete. We are an exhibit before the angels on that point.
We’re to deny ourselves, we’re to say “no” to self.
The second thing is, we’re to take up our cross. Now, this was an idiom of that day, because only the worst criminals were crucified—those who had turned against Rome, who were violating the authority of Rome. They were traitors, they were rebels - these were the ones that were crucified.
If you saw the movie Spartacus—I don’t know about the recent one, but the old one with Kirk Douglas—Spartacus led a slave revolt in the first century before Christ against Rome. And when it was over with, they just lined all the highways with crucified slaves.
It was to say, “Look, we’re in control - not you.” When rebels rebelled against Rome, then they had to carry their cross to the place of their execution. It was a demonstration that they were forced to submit to the authority of Rome.
So, the idiom, “take up your cross,” means submit to authority, be obedient. We are to be obedient; we are to submit to God, to His authority. Jesus took up His Cross in submission to God, literally.
Philippians 2:8, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—humility is related to obedience to God even when it hurts, even when it costs you everything—He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
We’re to say “no” to self—self-denial. We’re to take up our cross daily - that is being obedient to God, recognizing His authority in our life daily. Third, “follow Me.” If you want to be a disciple, say “no” to self, be obedient, and follow Me.
This grows right out of Philippians 2. If we follow Jesus, that means we are to imitate Him. And how do we imitate Him? We imitate Him, Philippians 2, by submitting to God’s authority. That’s what Jesus did. We follow Jesus, we, too, will submit to God’s authority. That means that we will be obedient to God.
This is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “‘Imitate me—not because he was sinless and perfect, but because, he’s saying, “just as I also imitate Christ.” Imitate me in the ways that I imitate Christ. We’re to imitate Him. That’s what it means to follow Jesus.
This leads to character transformation. Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the spirit is the character of Christ, what the Spirit is producing in us as we walk by the Spirit.
God’s goal is what’s expressed in Romans 8:29, a passage that Calvinists often distort, “For whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son …”
“Predestined” means “to set a goal ahead of time.” That’s all it means! It doesn’t mean to be chosen for salvation ahead of time, because here it’s not talking about salvation. It’s talking about the end result of sanctification, which is so that we are conformed to the image of Christ.
We’re made to be like Christ, to look like Christ, to think like Christ. God says, “this is my goal for every believer: for you to be like Jesus.” He had set that goal for Church Age believers in eternity past.
In Luke 9:24–25, Jesus started talking about the importance of this. We have to make decisions in relation to our values, our priorities, and our goals and objectives in life.
He says, “ ‘For whoever desires to save his life will lose it.’ ”
This is what happens to a lot of people when they get involved in a culture. “I need to save my job, and if people know I’m a Christian, then I may not get any advancement. I work for a company that’s pretty liberal, and if they know that I value what the Bible values, then I might lose my job.”
“I’m a student. I’m going to some university …” I was going to say some liberal university, but I’d be redundant. Almost every university with about five exceptions is brainwashing our children into radical liberalism.
You have to train your children if you’re going to send them there to avoid it. But there’s too many who get overwhelmed because of peer pressure, so they desire to save their life, so that they can conform to the culture around them.
Jesus says you are going to lose it. It’s self-destructive, and what counts for real life is that which counts for eternity, and if you are more concerned about avoiding conflict and avoiding confrontation with the culture around you, then it will be self-destructive.
Second thing He says, “ ‘… but whoever loses his life for My sake—that is, you take a stand and take the consequences, whatever that may be. That doesn’t mean you’re obnoxious about it. That doesn’t mean you’re belligerent about it. That doesn’t mean you’re looking for opportunities to cause an argument or fight, “ ‘… but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.’ ”
I think of about three examples I’ve heard of in just the last year of someone in the military, chaplains, a couple of these were related to chaplains, one does not, one relates to a company officer who was asked to do something that would indicate approval of a homosexual marriage—a homosexual union—and they said I can’t really do that, because that violates my beliefs, but I will make sure it gets handled for you, and I will find the best person possible to take care of it for you.
Now see, you’re not being belligerent, you’re not attacking them, you’re not judging them, but the nature of these instances is that that’s exactly what they want. They are being confrontational, and they want to make an issue out of the fact that you’re a Christian.
They want to cause a fight, and as a result you may lose your career, you may lose your business, you may lose whatever it is that you’ve been working for, but your stand for the truth of Scripture is more important than your comfort zone.
Jesus says, “ ‘… whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.’ ” There will be eternal rewards.
Luke 9:25, “ ‘What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and is himself destroyed or lost?’ ”
What profit is if you gain the whole world and you lose your life—you don’t have that abundant life that Jesus promised?
Then He brings the point home. It’s not just about what happens in this life, it’s about what happens at the Judgment Seat of Christ. That’s where the real issues are, and that’s what counts for eternity.
Luke 9:26, “ ‘or whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory …’ ”
That’s talking about at the Judgment Seat of Christ. That’s not talking about eternal salvation. That’s talking about the fact that there are going to be Christians who were failures in the Christian life, who denied Jesus and the Christian life.
The result is that Jesus is going to deny them rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and they will be shamed because of their failures in this life. That’s the issue: obedience.
When we get down to the end of the chapter, we see that there are some examples of each of these qualifications—four examples of disciples who are failures.
The first one is one that gets away from a lot of people, and that’s in Luke 9:51–52, “Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.”
He had been up in Galilee, He is going to go to Jerusalem, but He is going to take the direct route through Samaria.
One of the things that we learn in John 4 is, that after Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well, many Samaritans had come to be saved.
John 4:42, “Then they said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ the Savior of the world.’ ”
They were saved, but they weren’t committed, because they were going to be choked out by their culture. The Samaritan culture said that there was a conflict between them and the Jews. They weren’t going to worship in Jerusalem; the right place to worship was on Mount Gerizim. For them, culture got in the way of their spiritual growth.
Luke 9:52–53 as they entered a village of the Samaritans, “… they did not receive Him, because Jesus has set His face to go to Jerusalem.”
They let their culture, which involved a misunderstanding of God’s Word, interfere with their following Jesus.
That happens with a lot of people. The culture chokes out their growth. They don’t want to lose their life because of the cultural pressure, and so they don’t get very far. That’s the first example.
The second example comes in Luke 9:57, “Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, ‘Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.’ ”
He was over-enthusiastic. He hadn’t counted the cost. He was in too much of a hurry. What he learned was that for him, comfort was more important than saying “no” to self.
Luke 9:58, “And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ ”
He was saying, if you’re going to follow Me (and we’re going to walk all over Galilee and all through Samaria and across to Perea), then we’re going to be camping out on the ground. We don’t have all the comforts of life, but we’re focusing on eternity. Are you willing to give up the comforts of life to trek around with Me?
This guy hadn’t counted the cost of discipleship, and he discovered that he would rather be comfortable than be committed to Christ. He’s a believer, but he’s a comfortable disciple who doesn’t get very far in spiritual growth.
The third example is of those for whom other commitments are a distraction, and consequently, they are not willing to submit and obey.
This first guy was not going to deny self because he wants that comfort. This group is not going to take up their cross daily. Then another one comes along, and Jesus is the one who initiates. Luke 9:59, “Then He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’ But he said ‘Lord, let me go first and bury my father.’ ”
It’s important to understand some cultural things here, and that is that in the Jewish culture the responsibility of the elder son was to take care of the parents. He is using that as an excuse, “Lord I can’t really go now, because I need to take care of my parents, and I have to wait for my father to die.”
Some people say the father hasn’t died yet. I don’t see that in the passage. If his father is dead, then he has to wait a year. They put them in a tomb; they’re waiting for the body to decompose. He’s got to wait a year to say Kaddish, and then to take the bones and put them in a bone box, an ossuary, in which case he’s using his family responsibilities to avoid following Jesus.
He is not willing to submit and obey. Jesus orders him, “Follow Me,” and He said, “No, no, no, I’m not willing to obey. I’m not willing to take up my cross daily and follow You. I’m going to use other obligations as an excuse for not being a committed disciple.”
The last example comes in Luke 9:61, and this is one that strikes home for a lot of people. Other commitments are distractions here. He’s not willing to submit and obey. He’s not willing to do everything that Christ said to do, and he’s not willing to follow Him.
Luke 9:61 he says, “ ‘Lord, I’ll 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.’ ”
It doesn’t say you can’t be saved, but you’re not going to enter the Kingdom. It’s just another way of talking about it. You’re not going to experience the fullness of the Kingdom because you’re going to put your family first, ahead of your responsibilities as a disciple.
As a result, you’re not going to make it to maturity in the Christian life, and the implications are there will be no rewards and responsibilities for you in the Kingdom.
Next time, we will come back and develop this as it’s developed a little more later in Luke along the same theme: are we willing to obey? Or do we have things in our life that we’re not going to say “no” to just because it’s more pleasurable for us now, and we can’t think in terms of eternity?
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study Your Word, to be reminded of the truth of Your Word, to be challenged with what it means to be a committed disciple. I think in many ways most of us would like that. We want to be a committed disciple.
“We’re somewhere along the path, moving from being simply curious about Christianity or learning to be convinced about it, to where we know we don’t want to just get comfortable and complacent, but there are some serious challenges here when it comes to being committed.
“Father, we pray that God the Holy Spirit would work in each of our lives to help us to recognize we are to live today in light of eternity, we’re to focus on that long-range plan and not on the short term.
“Father we pray that You would help us to understand that all of this is based on grace. It is based on the fact that You’ve already given us everything, and what we need to do is learn what it is that You have given us, and learn how to exploit it and use it for Your glory.
“Father, we pray, too, that there’s anyone listening, anyone who has never trusted in Christ as Savior, not sure how to get to Heaven, not sure why they think they’re going to Heaven, that they would understand that the point here is not about getting into Heaven. This is about what we do after we know we’re going to Heaven, what we do after we know that we’re justified.
“That to be justified, to have that eternal destiny, simply means to trust in Christ. It’s not a work. It’s not an effort. It’s not commitment. It is simply believing that Jesus is the Messiah Who died on the Cross for our sins, that He is the Son of the living God, and that simply by trusting in Him and Him alone we have eternal life.
“Father, the challenge for the believer is: daily, are we willing to press on to spiritual maturity to glorify You? And we pray we may be worthy of that challenge. In Christ’s name. Amen.”