Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Price of Discipleship, part 4

Another also said, "I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home." But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:61-62 NASB)

We have seen over the last few days that the call of Christ is a present call, a priority call, a persistent call, and a pervasive call. When He calls us to follow Him, we are to follow immediately. The following should take highest priority in our lives, and we are to follow without stopping. It is a lifelong journey that encompasses every aspect of our lives, every moment. We are to follow our Lord and share His good news as we go. 

Today's verse speaks of the danger of "looking back". Jesus uses agrarian imagery to help His listeners understand the concept. A man pushing a plow has to keep his eyes fixed on the plow and the row he is plowing in order to assure that the row is straight, as well as to watch for obstacles in the way. If he "puts his hand to the plow" but continually looks back at what is behind him, (even if he is simply admiring the straightness of his rows), his eyes will be off the path ahead. He will not be able to see the obstacles ahead in time to avoid them, nor can he keep the row he is plowing straight. 

Jesus said that the one who starts following but "looks back" is not fit for the kingdom of God. The words translated as "looking back" imply more than a casual glance over the shoulder. This phrase suggests an "intent, earnest contemplation" of the things that have been left behind. Just as we cannot serve two masters, we also cannot keep our eyes fixed on what we have given up for Christ and where we are going with Him at the same time. Following requires a choice. We must decide whether we want what we have left behind or what Christ offers in our new life ahead, for we will pursue that choice. We cannot have both at once. 

The word translated as "fit" for the Kingdom of God indicates "fit for service" and can also be translated as "useful". Putting it all together, we find that Jesus' words make perfect sense. If we are constantly looking back at our old life or at the things we have done in our new life with Christ (either good or bad), we lose our usefulness in the Kingdom of God. Looking back prevents us from accomplishing that task to which God has called us. 

Paul spoke of this "looking back" in his letter to the church at Philippi. 

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14 NASB)

He understood what Jesus was teaching that day so long ago. The life of a disciple is a three-part process that involves forgetting (the good and bad) the past, reaching forward to where God leads, and pressing on even when the way is difficult. It is a call to perseverance that endures all the way to eternity. 

In which direction are you looking? Are you gazing longingly at what you have relinquished for Christ, looking admiringly at what has been accomplished through you, or keeping your eyes fixed on the task ahead? The only way to be useful in the Kingdom of God is to keep our eyes fixed on the row ahead and the task to which we have been called and persevere all the way through. Press on, dear ones. Press on. 
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