What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus Christ, and have you made that decision in your life?

ROBERT >> There’s a popular song that we’ve been singing in the church for many years now, I have decided to follow Jesus, the world behind me, the cross before me, though none go with me, I will follow, no turning back, no turning back. What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus Christ, and have you made that decision in your life? Stay tuned. We’ll be back in just a moment.

SINGING>> Speaking the truth, speaking the truth,
speaking the truth, speaking the truth in love.

ROBERT >> The song, I Have Decided To Follow Jesus, is a song that’s based upon Luke 9:57-62. Let me encourage you to turn there and look with me this morning as Jesus talks about what it really means to follow him.

Let’s read it together here, Luke chapter 9, beginning in verse 57. “Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, Lord, I will follow You wherever You go. 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. And then He said to another, Follow Me. But he said, Lord, let me first go and bury my father. Jesus said to him, Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow You, but let me go first 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.”

As you can see here, Jesus is talking to folks about following him. In fact, there are three men that encounter Jesus in the reading that we just had. And you’ll notice that two of these men were asking Jesus to follow him. And another, Jesus asked him to follow him. And in each case we see that men were in different places in their relationship with Jesus Christ, and they all received different responses. And you know, that’s the way it is with all of us.

There are some who have made that decision, there are others who want to make that decision, there are some who have never made that decision. And all of us need to examine where we are with Jesus Christ and if we’re truly following him and what it really means to follow Jesus Christ. That’s what we learn from this reading today in Luke chapter 9. But I want us to go out just a little bit further from what we read here, and I want you to see what’s happening here in Luke chapter 9.

Look with me here in Luke 9:51. And here it says, “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.”

You know, Jesus Christ was determined to go to Jerusalem. And we know what he was going there for, what it was he was about to do. He was going to the cross. He knew as he made his way to Jerusalem that there would be those that would reject him, he knew he would be betrayed and arrested and scourged and put upon a cross; but he also knew that he would be raised up the third day, that he would ultimately ascend into heaven to sit at God’s right hand to establish his kingdom here upon this earth, his church. Jesus Christ was not going to let anything deter him from accomplishing the mission that God had given him to do. And so it says, He steadfastly set His face toward Jerusalem. And as you read on here in Luke chapter 9, you’ll see that he went through the country of Samaria.

These were people that the Jews greatly despised. The Jews would go around Samaria rather than going through Samaria because they despised them so much. But you see here Jesus was determined to go to Jerusalem. He was determined to fulfill his mission of paying the price for our sins at the cross, and he was not going to let anything deter him. He was going to take the straightest route into Jerusalem to accomplish his mission, even if it meant he would go through Gentile or in this case Samaritan territory. And it also reminds us that Jesus went to that cross not just for Jews, but also for Samaritans, that Jesus died on the cross for every man.

Just as we read in Hebrews 2:9, “He tasted death for everyone.”

Jesus Christ is the savior of all people, and Jesus Christ is the one who we are to follow. And to follow Jesus means that we’re going to have to be as determined and as committed as Jesus Christ to the mission that God has given us. Let’s see what we can learn here in Luke chapter 9 about following Jesus and about our own decision to follow Jesus Christ.

Let’s read first of all again verse 57 and verse 58. “Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”

Let’s stop here for just a moment. Here the man said that he would follow Jesus. Wherever Jesus would go, he would follow. You’ll notice here that this one makes a very bold statement. Lord, I’ll follow You wherever You go. It reminds me of Peter, who once said to the Lord how he would die with him, he would be willing to give his life for Jesus Christ.

We’re talking here about discipleship. And look at the answer that Jesus gave this man. “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.”

You see, Jesus wants this man to think about his decision to follow him. He wants to challenge that decision. He wants him to think about what it means to really follow Jesus and to count the cost. You see, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, stepped out of heaven to become one of us. He was begotten of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the virgin, and you remember that they lay that child in a feeding trough because there was no place to lay the baby, there was no place in the inn, and so they put him in the feeding trough. As he was involved in his ministry, you might remember how that he told the story about the coin, but he had to borrow somebody’s coin to tell that story. When he died upon the cross and they took him down, they put him in a borrowed tomb. Everywhere Jesus went, he was without a home. But others accommodated him, and they would loan their home and a place to stay for Jesus. Jesus had nothing in this world. He gave it all up to fulfill the mission that God had for him upon this earth. And so Jesus is saying to this man who said, I’ll follow you wherever you want me to go, he’s saying to him, count the cost. Realize what it means to truly be a follower of Jesus Christ. To be a follower of Jesus Christ, we are going to have to count the cost. Just as Jesus went to the cross, we’re going to have to be prepared to walk that very same path. There are a lot of things that we love and we have some great high expectations about.

We think about heaven, we think about the gold streets and we think about the tree of life for healing that’s there and the crystal water of life and to see God there in heaven; but when this man said I’ll follow you wherever you go, Jesus didn’t say anything about those great blessings that we have in heaven; but rather he talked to him about the fact that you may have to give up things to follow me. You may have to let go of some things. You may have to leave some things behind. In fact, anything that comes between us and Jesus Christ, anything that would keep us from following Jesus Christ, we must be ready and willing to give it up, to let go of it. I think about the apostle Peter in Matthew chapter 19 and a conversation that he had with Jesus. Jesus had called them, to Peter and the others, to follow him. And they were going to have to leave their homes and leave their occupations to follow Jesus. And so Peter, he asked the question, what do we have?

What are we going to have, Lord, if we give up all of these things?

And look here in Matthew 19, and let me read Jesus’ answer in verse 29. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.”

Yes, we may have to give up a lot of things that we love, that are dear to us, that are near to us. We may have to leave those behind to follow Jesus; but whatever the cost, Jesus wants us to know that it’s worth it. It’s a good investment. No matter what you have to give up, he says you’re going to receive a hundredfold, a thousand percent on your investment. And above that, eternal life. Oh, but there are so many things sometimes that come between us and Jesus, and we forget that it is worth it to pay the price. It’s difficult for us when we’re counting the cost.

I want you to read about a man who had that same problem in Mark the 10th chapter, one who was wanting eternal life and asking Jesus how to obtain eternal life, and Jesus told him to keep the commandments, and he said that he had been doing that. But Jesus said there’s one thing that he lacks.

Look what Jesus said to him here in Mark chapter 10, and let’s read verse 21. “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, One thing you lack; go your way, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. And come, take up the cross and follow Me.”

He says there’s one thing that you lack. There’s one thing coming between you and me. It was the man’s riches. He loved the riches more than Jesus. He trusted in those uncertain things rather than in that certain one, Jesus Christ. And so Jesus said there’s one thing you lack. There’s one thing you must give up. And that applies to anything that we have our hearts set upon, that we treasure more than Jesus Christ. If we start trusting in anything else but Jesus Christ, we must be willing to give that up if we want to follow him. That’s what it means to count the cost.

We’ve got to find our safety, our security, our hope, our trust not in stuff, but in the savior; not in all of these things around us, but in the Lord and savior Jesus Christ. We must be ready and willing and prepared to follow him wherever he goes, no matter what we might face, no matter what the cost might be.

Read with me in Luke 9:23, where Jesus challenges everyone to follow him, but also helps us to count the cost. Here’s what it says in this passage: 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.”

Jesus reminds us that we must deny ourself, we must become unselfish; it must not be about us and what we want and what we need, but what Jesus wants for us. And that means that we’re going to have to take up our cross. There may be some persecution, some difficulty, some trial as we strive to follow Jesus, just as there was for him. And if we will daily submit to him and follow him, then we can truly be his disciple. He went on to say in the next verse here, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”

You see, to follow Jesus, we must give up ourselves, we must give up our own lives for Jesus Christ for the life that he wants for us, the life of salvation and of blessing and of eternal life. It’s a great swap. It’s a great investment. Though the cost is great, the profit is greater. Listen to this next verse.

In verse 25 Jesus said, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?”

There’s only two choices: Either we give ourselves to Jesus Christ and know that blessed eternal life through him, or we find ourselves miserably lost and destroyed forever.

Yes, to be a follower of Jesus Christ, we must count the cost. But let’s go back to Luke chapter 9, and I want you to see that in order to follow Jesus, we must also get our priorities right.

Here’s the second man. In verse 59 of Luke 9, chapter 9, Jesus said to another, “follow Me. But he said, Lord, let me first go and bury my father. And Jesus said to him, Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”

Now, that sounds like a pretty reasonable request to me. Let me go bury my father. But Jesus said, Let the dead bury the dead. It’s almost disturbing.

What is Jesus trying to say to this man?

Why would he say something like that to him?

Understanding the Jewish culture I think will help us with the answer. You see, in those days, when a person would die, they would normally bury them immediately. But then it might be a year later after the body had disintegrated that they would take the bones of that person and put it in a special box, an ossuary, and they would take that box and they would put it in a slot in the tomb wall. Probably this man was talking about that very thing. His father had been buried, but the bones had not been taken care of. If that’s the case, this man was asking Jesus to wait maybe another year before he would come and follow him. And Jesus wants him to know that to follow him is urgent.

Following Jesus is not something we can put off, that ought to be delayed. When we make that decision to follow Jesus, we must act upon it immediately. Now, others have looked at this, and they’ve suggested the man’s father has not yet died, and he’s still working and he’s taking care of things until his father does die, and then he’ll come and follow Jesus. That means that he might be waiting months, even many years before he would come and follow Jesus. But the point that Jesus is making here seems quite clear: That he must come before anyone or anything else.

We must put God above everything, even our own families.

Do you remember what Jesus said in Matthew 10:37 when he talked about this idea of following him, of being his disciple?

Look what he said here in Matthew 10:37. “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”

Jesus says you must love me more than anyone, even your parents, even your children.

Now, don’t misunderstand who Jesus is. He was not some kind of cult leader that wanted people to reject their families and disown their families and have nothing to do with them, not at all.

Jesus loved his family, and he cared for them. One of his last acts was there on the cross as he spoke to John and encouraged him to take care of Mary, his mother. Jesus wants us to honor our father and mother, he wants us to love our children. But you see, he’s telling us that he must come first in our life. And you see, when we love Jesus more than anyone or anything else, then we love our families more. We’re better husbands, we’re better fathers, better wives, better mothers. We’re better parents for our children, and children are better children. When we love Jesus more, he makes us all better. And he makes our love greater, and he’ll bless our families just as he’s blessed us who make that decision to follow Jesus, who put him above everyone and everything else. Many people often ask me about how to prioritize their lives.

Should I put family first, country first, job first, sports first?

What comes first in my life?

And I always bring them to Matthew 6:33, where Jesus was addressing the worries and the cares that we so often have in our hearts, in our lives, worried about what we’re going to eat and what we’re going to drink and what we’re going to put on, how we’re going to survive in this life. And he reminds us here, listen to this, Matthew 6:33,” But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Jesus says all these things we’re worried about, the cares of this life, he says God’s going to take care of those. But you seek his kingdom first, you seek his righteousness first. When God becomes our top priority, everything else is going to fall into place. It’ll help us to keep those things where they need to be when we remember that God is first.

As Paul said in Colossians 3:5, “Christ our life;” or in Philippians 1:21, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Our life must be about Jesus Christ, and everything else must revolve around him. He must be at the very center of our heart and of our life. But let me look at this third and final point with you today back in our text in Luke chapter 9. If we’re going to follow Jesus Christ, we must never, ever look back.

Look what it says here in verse 61. “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.”

Again it sounds like a reasonable request, doesn’t it?

Just let me go say goodbye to everybody. And I don’t think Jesus is so concerned about him saying goodbye, but he is concerned about this one looking back, longing for the things of the past, the things that he’s going to have to leave, because Jesus knows that looking back can be dangerous to us spiritually.

He knows that many times when we look back, we become discouraged, we see these things that maybe we’ve had to leave behind. And sometimes we see we haven’t really made a whole lot of progress. And other times we begin to long for those things, and they become important to us again, and they take our heart away from Jesus, from God, and from the work that he wants us to do. Looking back, we lose our souls. And he says when we return, when we go back, we’re not fit for the kingdom of God.

God cannot use us until we keep our eyes, our heart, our life focused on him, until we have that determination, that endurance to keep on keeping on for him. Just as Jesus at the beginning we noticed steadfastly set his face toward Jerusalem, he was determined he wasn’t going to let anything deter him, he would never go back, but continued on all the way to the cross, so we must have that same endurance, that same determination, that same steadfastness in our following of Jesus Christ.

“He that endures to the end shall be saved,” Matthew 10:22.

The apostle Paul gave up many things for Christ, but he said, “Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

” The Hebrew writer said in chapter 12 verse 1 and verse 2 to, “Lay aside every weight, the sin which so easily besets us, and run with patience, with endurance, with steadfastness the race that’s set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, despising the shame, has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Keep your eyes on Jesus. Never look back. Make that decision if you haven’t made it. Say today, I have decided to follow Jesus, counting the cost, getting your priorities right, but keeping your eyes on Jesus, never looking back. The reward for you is great: A hundredfold in this life, and in the next, eternal life.

SINGING>> As the deer panteth for the water,
so my soul longeth after thee.
You alone are my heart’s desire,
and I long to worship thee.
You alone are my strength,
my shield, to you alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart’s desire,
and I long to worship thee.
You’re my friend and you are my brother,
even though you are a king.
I love you more than any other,
so much more than anything.
You alone are my strength, my shield
to you alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart’s desire,
and I long to worship thee.

ROBERT >> Thank you so much for watching our program today. We would love to hear from you. Let me encourage you to contact us with your questions, your comments, or requests at The Truth In Love, P.O. Box 865, Hurst, Texas 76053.

You may e-mail us at requests@ttil.tv.

Or call our toll-free number, 800-819-2966.

And also, please visit our web site at www.ttil.tv.

Remember that all of our materials and services are absolutely free of charge. We just want to do what we can to help us all towards heaven. So let us know how we can help you, and please join us next time right here on The Truth In Love.

SINGING>> Sing to me of heaven,
sing that song of peace.
From the toils that bind me it will bring release.
Burdens will be lifted that are pressing so,
showers of great blessing o’er my heart will flow.
Sing to me of heaven, let me fondly dream
of its golden glory, of its pearly gleam.
Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall,
sing to me of heaven, sing the sweetest song of all.
Sing to me of heaven tenderly and low
till the shadows o’er me rise and swiftly go.
When my heart is weary, when the day is long,
sing to me of heaven, sing that old, sweet song.
Sing to me of heaven, let me fondly dream of its golden glory, of its pearly gleam.
Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall,
sing to me of heaven, sing the sweetest song of all.

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