Is it any different today? We tend to think that we have come a long ways since the beginning of time. We know more now. We’re smarter than those who lived in the past. We live better because of all the technological advances.
Now there is certainly some truth to this. It’s quite obvious life is easier for us in a material sense. We’ve made considerable advances in the field of medicine. This has allowed people to live longer lives. We have clean water and good plumbing systems. Power is brought to our homes. We have all kinds of appliances to make life easier. So, in some ways it is different today. Life today looks quite different than it did at the dawn of time.
But going back to my opening question, is it any different today? If we’re talking about people’s spiritual lives then not really. Our text for today is a story that happened 2,000 years ago. Yet to me it’s uncannily familiar. It could have been written in our time. It goes to show us that not much has changed in 2,000 years in terms of how people view the importance of spiritual things.
In our text Jesus called a couple of people to follow Him. It sounded like they were excited at first. As a matter of fact, one of them came up to Jesus and asked if he could follow Him. In the case of the second person, Jesus asked him to follow Him. But both of them had to take care of other business before they could commit themselves to Jesus. "I gotta do this; I gotta do that first." Jesus wasn’t the top priority for them. Now this occurred 2,000 years ago. Does what happened in our text happen today? It certainly does.
People in our day and age are exactly the same as the people were in Jesus’ day. How many excuses do we hear today from people? "I gotta get that done before I can commit to Jesus. I don’t have time to do things for Him. I have other things to take care of." People have made other things their priority in life. "Jesus, I’m a little busy right now. Don’t get me wrong--I believe in You, but I’m just not that dedicated. I’ve put you first but in my own way." This sounds like a lot of people I know.
Jesus goes on to say that a person who looks back isn’t fit for His kingdom. What does He mean? He’s saying that anyone who focuses on this life isn’t worthy to spend an eternity with Him. The people in our text seemed to be good guys. They wanted to follow Jesus, but their stipulation to follow Him was unacceptable. It proved that their hearts weren’t completely intent on following Him. They had other things to do first.
That sounds a lot like us at times. It seems that we have Jesus first but a simple observation indicates to me we don’t. We’ve gotta do other things that are more important. Of course, the choice is ours, but we will have to answer to God for our choice.
I know most people have the mindset that they’ll worry about that later. "When the time comes for me to stand before Jesus and give an account I’ll put my silver tongue into action. I know I can talk my way out of a tough bind if I find myself in one as I stand before God. I’ve been doing it all my life on this earth. I’ve pulled one over on people here lots of times. Why won’t I be able to pull one over on God?"
I don’t think it’s going to be as easy as some people think it will be. God isn’t going to be fooled by our silver tongue. Maybe Eve was fooled by the devil’s silver tongue when he told her everything would be just fine if she ate from the tree God commanded her and her husband not to. Well, we see how that turned out. God certainly isn’t going to be persuaded by our cleverly crafted excuses.
And we won’t be able to plead ignorance. "I didn’t know I was supposed to put you completely first. Nobody ever told me that." That’s hogwash. We’ve all been told many times before. And now we’re being told again. So we won’t have an excuse as we stand before the Lord.
But the good news is we have time to change. As long as we are alive we have the opportunity to heed our Lord’s call by making Him first in our lives. This is going to matter in the end contrary to what many people believe.
I practically say this every week to remind us. I have to because every time we leave this place we switch off our thoughts about Jesus and flip on the switch about the worldly things we gotta do. So every week I have to reprogram us to a degree. I need to remind us that we need to get our minds back on Jesus so that we will be fit for God’s kingdom.
We need to hear it again and again until it finally sinks in. I don’t remember exactly with whom I was talking but the topic came up about getting through to people. This person told me that research suggests that it takes around thirty or more times of repeating the same thing before a person begins to somewhat get it. I personally think that is a conservative estimate. Some people have been hearing the word of God for years but they still don’t get that Jesus has to be first in their lives. How many more times will it take before they do understand? Your guess is as good as mine.
The only thing that will help people get it is the Holy Spirit. Only He can break through the obstacles barring God’s word from getting into a person’s heart. So I pray that those who still don’t get will someday get it as the Holy Spirit works on their hearts. Jesus has to be first.
In our text Jesus makes this abundantly clear. The men He had called had to do some other things first. This didn’t sit well with Jesus. Their choice to do other things first indicated that Jesus was of secondary importance to them, which meant they weren’t worthy of the kingdom of God.
This teaching really shouldn’t be that hard to wrap our heads around. Jesus wants to see how bad we want His kingdom. If we put Him first that’s a pretty good indication that we are interested in what He offers us. On the other hand, if we haven’t put Him first in our lives it shows that we aren’t interested.
In many ways it works this way in life. In order to get a job you have to demonstrate to the company that you really want the job. In a competition of some kind you have to give it your all to win. In a way you have to be consumed with your goal in order to reach that goal. Is it any different with Jesus Christ? No. We have to be consumed with Jesus in order to receive the prize of eternal life.
Now maybe what I’m saying sounds too radical for us to deal with. It couldn’t possibly be true. "Pastor, you’re exaggerating. Jesus certainly doesn’t want us to be that extreme in our belief in Him. He just wants us to be good Americans with a little bit of religion in our lives. That’s all." You run with that philosophy. Let me know how it turns out for you.
Jesus’ forgiveness of our sins by going to the cross and rising from the dead is everything to live for.
I want to see all of us in heaven, of course without all of our quirks and idiosyncrasies. That’s why I encourage us each week to live for Jesus and explain what that means. It doesn’t mean how the men in our text for today acted toward Jesus. It means "Jesus, I am here for you to do your will, not when it’s convenient for me but on your terms." And what are His terms? Look in the Bible. It’s all there for us.
I pray that the Holy Spirit will empower us to heed our Savior’s call without any stipulations on our part.