Life is found when we fully commit to follow Jesus beyond our initial attraction.
We’re continuing this All-in theme. I get to share with you this morning as we continue what it looks like to be All-In. You know, maybe it’s because of the past number of weeks where it’s been raining a little bit. I’m usually on a motorcycle when it’s raining. The new rule is I don’t ride the motorcycle and my wife gets the car. So I’m usually on Uber going around wherever I need to go. I get into these conversations where people ask surface-level questions. It’s one of those non-threatening questions. The surface level, get-to-know-you questions, like, what do you do for a living?
Now, they wouldn’t ask me if they knew what I did for a living. But they ask, right? So I let them know what I do for a living. I find myself in these conversations where inevitably it turns into a conversation that was meant to be a more surface-level, 10-minute ride. It becomes a conversation a little bit deeper. It ends up becoming a conversation either about life or the state of our culture, our city, or whatever’s going on. But it usually turns toward Jesus. It always occurs to me that when I ask people what they think about Jesus, I found this to be true. I don’t know if you have as well, but when I ask people, “What do you think about Jesus?” I know you have thoughts about religion, church, institution, but Jesus? What do you think about Jesus? He will say, “Well, He’s a good teacher. He was a good man.” Do you know what I like about Jesus? He seems to love people. I don’t know. I haven’t read much about the Bible, but everything I hear about Jesus, He accepts people where they’re at. All those things are true. They’re all true. It’s what makes Him attractive.
Here we are over 2000 years after He walked this earth and these statements are still the overriding statements. People have thoughts about Jesus. Yet the truth is, there is a reality for those of us who choose to move beyond that place of being attracted to Him and choose to join in a journey of faith with Him. Do you know what happens? Inevitably, in our journey, we will find something of this faith disappointing us, or we will find it lacking in some way. I know we’re not supposed to talk about it and I am not supposed to say that, but it’s true. There will be moments in our faith where we will find ourselves in a way disappointed or let down. Something will appear to be lacking and a gap will emerge where we have certain expectations of what this was all about. We will start to experience the reality of what this is about and in that gap, a number of things can happen.
This is what I have found in conversations in coffee shops or at different social gatherings, with friends that I might have, with my barber, or with a person in Uber. What I have found is people have had some experience with faith. They come to this place, not measuring up to what they expected. In that place, I’ve noticed it’s easy for some to become cynical that are almost upset with themselves, feeling foolish for having ever hoped in the first place. Others become I would say bitter, resentful because something of their longing and hopes aren’t actually being met. It’s not measuring up and something festers within. Yet others I’ve noticed become neither cynical nor resentful or bitter. They become resigned. Perhaps thinking, “You know what? Maybe this is it. This is it. Why expect more?”
In that place, I have found that some end up choosing, in many conversations I’ve had where they say, “You know what? Maybe it’s just not for me this whole faith thing.” In that place, we will find ourselves in that place at points. How we respond matters. Because really, this is why Jesus invites us to consider the reality that our faith may let us down. It’s simply because I just want to put this up there on the front end here, the life of Jesus, true life. True life is found when we commit ourselves to follow Jesus beyond that initial attraction. By the way, that’s an aspect of what it looks like to be all-in. When we say, “There are things that attract me, but I’m going to follow beyond that level. I’m going to move forward beyond that.” This disappointment is a gap. It doesn’t just happen in faith. It happens in all aspects of life. In fact, I think very few people captured it quite so eloquently as CS Lewis does.
CS Lewis, when he had his radio addresses to England during World War II had the opportunity to speak to the nation through BBC radio. He had these discourses that he started speaking of the deeper issues of life. Lewis ended up capturing it. The radio addresses ended up being transcribed into a book that’s called Mere Christianity. It’s worth reading. One of these aspects of what he was speaking of, caught my attention. It’s pertinent to discuss here together. I just thought I’d read it.
Lewis says, “Most people, if they’d really learned how to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want,” they desire, “and they want acutely something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never keep their promise. There are longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first, think of some foreign country or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning can really satisfy. I am not speaking of what would ordinarily be called unsuccessful marriages or trips and so on. I’m speaking of the best possible ones. There is always something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing that just fades away in the reality of it. The spouse may be a good spouse. The scenery has been excellent. This turned out to be a good job, but it nonetheless has evaded us.”
Lewis is addressing the reality that there might be areas in our lives that attract us because there’s something deeper we’re longing for that to paint. There might be people in relationships, experiences, and knowledge that we long for. Long for it to satisfy something within our soul. We may actually attain it, experience it, and grasp it if only for a minute to see it not fulfill or we so fervently wished it would.
This perhaps is why Jesus invites us into a discovery of sorts, a discovery that we may bring into this faith journey certain things that He may not actually be promising. He may be promising something far greater and stronger than what we were initially attracted to. This is the journey He invites us into. In fact, Luke captures in accounts in which he speaks to have three different encounters. If you open up your hand out, I thought we would take a look at it. Three different encounters with three different people, three different aspects of what this shape might look like for us.
We’ll just jump into Luke 9:57. We’re told that as they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” It is in the way of Luke that his entire gospel is a journey. It is a capturing of Jesus moving His way toward Jerusalem. That is the context of the entire account. As he was journeying with His disciples, things would happen. People would be healed. Other people would be able to be lifted up, accepted, and embraced. There was this movement that began to emerge and along the way, Luke says in Luke 9 that this man comes forward and says to Jesus as He and His disciples are walking along the road, he declares this, “I will follow You wherever You go.” What may be difficult for us to appreciate in the text here is that Jesus was an attractive figure. I mean that in the best way. He was magnetic to those around Him.
Maybe if we can consider just the breadth of His affinity to different types of people. The marginalized found Him approachable and safe. The politicians found His source of power intriguing and threatening. The religious found His teaching filled with authority, not just intellect. The downcast found Him encouraging. The wealthy found themselves compelled to consider His way of life even though they had everything life had to offer. The poor found hope in His words and actions. The sick saw Him as a healer. Jesus was a man with a large following, a following that saw Him in many regards as their ticket to a better way of life.
In the words, Luke records they’re not an anomaly. These words, “I will follow You wherever You go,” they’re not a one and done. Many people declared those words. Many people uttered those words. They weren’t thoughtless. They were carefully chosen words meant to convey something. This person seems to have recognized Jesus’ caliber. It’s almost as if he’s saying, “Jesus, I see. It’s not just the teaching. I see You’re doing something historic. If movement is arising, I want in. Wherever You’re going, I want to be there. I want in.” Jesus looks at the man and He gives him an interesting response. He says in verse 58, “Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
If you’re not expecting it, these words take you off guard. I mean, who wouldn’t want followers? We live in a day and age, we love followers. If we get alerted in a notification that we have a new follower, internally, maybe not externally, internally we celebrate. If we have a new subscriber to our blog, yes. If somebody views our YouTube video and says, “You know what? I want to see another one,” something inside of us celebrates that. The more followers, the better, right? Jesus ends up standing perhaps in this moment in history more than any other in complete and utter contrast. It seems Jesus isn’t so much concerned with His popularity as He is concerned with a man’s expectations of what He is actually saying. It’s almost in a nutshell He’s telling the guy, “Listen, this life, it’s not about comfort.”
I mean, think about it. What would we say if somebody said to us, “Hey, I’m going to follow You wherever You go.” If someone said that, it would freak us out, right? Why, who are you? But think about the loyalty that’s been declared. Think about the emotion behind it. In its sincerity, think about what an amazing thing to be said.
Jesus ends up saying to him, what does he say to him? He says, “Listen, I want you to clarify what it is you’re actually signing up for. “Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” In other words, animals in some ways have it better because they have creature comforts. But if you want to follow me wherever I go, it will mean giving that up at a certain level. Do you understand that?
Luke doesn’t do something for us that I wish he would have. Perhaps all of us do. Do you know what Luke doesn’t do? Luke doesn’t tell us how the guy responds to Jesus. We don’t know. Some have speculated that when he said these words to Jesus and Jesus responded the way he did that the man just stepped back and said, “Oh, if that’s the case, let me rethink this.” Others have said, “No, no, no, no, no. Perhaps he was silent because the man said, “Oh, that’s great. I’m up for an adventure.” It might be either one. Here’s the reality. It’s silent. Perhaps it’s silent because every single one of us will find ourselves in that very silence. How will we respond?
Jesus continues to move forward and Luke continues to draw us into this account to another with Jesus. The first came to Jesus. Jesus comes to another. We’re told in verse 59, “Follow me,” he said. But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father,” a reasonable request. Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.” It’s a harsh, harsh word. Jesus invites a man, a person into a relationship with Him and says, “Listen, you see this following I have. You see, I’m at the height of My popularity. I want to extend My influence to you and pick you out of the crowd and tell you that I think you’re worthy of My investment. I want to tell you I’m inviting you into this apprenticeship. My name will be a part of you. Will you now follow me?” And the man says, “Ah.”
There was a way we could read it on the surface. It’s almost as if the man is so honored, so deeply honored. He says, “Yes, yes, I will go. But first, let me take care of my father who recently passed away. I need to take care of the final ceremonial things that we need to do as a people to honor my father’s memory and my family.” To that Jesus, it would seem, responds with something that’s so out of character for who He is. One of the most insensitive words Jesus could ever utter if that’s indeed what was happening. The reality is a little bit different because, in that culture, there was a degree of responsibility held to the eldest son. There’s a degree of being tethered to one’s family, a responsibility that always was meant to be carried out, the bearing of one’s parents, the tying up of their affairs, the being there in the final hours.
It’s almost as if this man is not really saying my father is imminently on his deathbed as much as he is saying younger man perhaps. Though my father is very healthy right now, perhaps has decades of life left to live, I can’t really leave home because you never know what could happen. If something were to happen, I need to be available so I can’t make these other commitments. I need to keep this one and then once this is done, in other words, because my father is alive and able and everything’s there, I can’t really go until I fulfill that first. Do you know what he was doing?
Have you ever been invited to something by somebody you respect, but you don’t really want to go? Have you ever found yourself not wanting to outright say no, because that would be almost disrespectful? Perhaps close a future opportunity off you don’t want to be closed. So what do you do? You look at your deck of cards. Which one can I play here? What responsibility would he or she understand? Oh, it’s such an honor. Thank you so much for thinking of me. Oh, thank you for inviting me into this, but you know what? Boom, ace in the hole. I have to take care of my father. You can’t argue that, can you? We would expect them to say, “Oh yeah, totally understand. Well, next time.” “Yes, thank you please, next time. Maybe I’ll fill up to it next time.” That’s what he would say certainly, right?
But Jesus calls him out, sees right through it, and says, “Listen.” If the man was being hyperbolic, Jesus emphatically responded in a like manner. If the man was using a straw man, well, Jesus said, “All right, well, let’s think about this.” There are people in this world who are going through the motions and aren’t truly alive, they’re existing. You need to stop existing, start living. Don’t make excuses for why you’re not living your purpose out. What’s worse, don’t use people as a reason. Own your life. You, you know what you’re supposed to do. It’s time for you to do it.
Jesus continues again without being told exactly how the man responds. But as He continues in verse 61, we’re told that yet another said, “I will follow You, Lord. But let me first say farewell to those at home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” It’s again a word that is delivered so sharply. One would say less like a hammer, more like a scalpel. Because this person wasn’t actually saying anything other than, “Jesus, I’ve been around You. I’ve heard about You. Now You’re here, I want to tell You my intention is to go with You. But before I go with You, here’s what I want to do. I want to have a farewell tour. I want to go back home. I want to go to my friends. I want to go to my family. I want to let them know, ‘Hey guys, soak it up right now because I’m going to be gone.’ In fact, I want to throw a party for everybody and I want to be able to capture this moment and enjoy it with every last drop. It may take a week. It may take a month, I’m not sure. But first, let me go on this farewell tour, and then I will follow You.”
Jesus says, “Oh, well, listen. If you are unwilling to walk away from what you have, it’s going to be hard for you to actually ever follow Me.” You will not see any results from this labor if you’re constantly wondering about what could have been, what should have been, or what you might be missing out on so you decide. But I just want you to know you’ve put your hands to the plow and it’s time for you to decide. Are you all in or not?
Three encounters with enthusiastic people, three encounters of people attracted magnetically to Jesus, three sobering words. We don’t know, again, we really don’t know how they responded. Perhaps because we may at certain points in our lives find ourselves in that exact place. It reminds me of what Jesus told His disciples and those listening to him just moments before these three encounters when he said this to them, ask them, put this out there, “Whoever would save his life,” look at this word, “Whoever would save his life will lose it. That is, whoever hangs on tight to what they have, whatever little they might have, whoever desperately grips it with everything they got, unwilling to surrender it, it’ll leak through them and leave. But whoever willingly loses it for My sake, they’ll discover a soul fully alive.”
That is the paradox of this faith. The more you fight to protect, the more endangered you put your life. The more you’re willing to surrender and give it to Him and move forward with Jesus, the more life you will actually end up receiving. Because essentially what Jesus is challenging those who are listening to Him and I believe may actually be speaking to us about in terms of what it looks like to follow Him beyond our initial attraction is He will give us a number of challenges. One of them, here we go, is that Jesus challenges us to move toward a relationship above any other tangible reward this faith gives us. What he ultimately offers is a relationship above any other tangible benefit.
This, by the way, is at the core of what is offered. This is it. Anything other than beyond that is a by-product. But at the core, it’s a relationship at its core. Jesus wanted to be clear. It wasn’t going to be all posh, comfortable, glamorous, and cozy. This is what He was saying to the man. It’s almost as if the man was saying, “I’ve heard of You. I’ve seen You. I’m excited. With all this enthusiasm, Everybody likes You. Everybody’s with You. I will go with You wherever You go.” Okay, well, just to double-check. It may not be exactly as you think it is. It may not be all the glamor and the glitz. It may not be. So just make sure you know.
Because listen, you know what Jesus didn’t do? He didn’t guarantee an easy path. He didn’t guarantee a pain-free life. He didn’t guarantee a pillow to rest his head on. He didn’t guarantee that, but He guaranteed himself. He guaranteed that the reward, path, and the prize were Himself and a relationship with Him. So young man, do you still want to come with Me or do you want to come because of the comfort and the things you see? Or do you want a relationship with me? Because that you will get, all you will get it. You will get in abundance. You will discover the promise that is given to anyone who actually wants that. A relationship with the one who is willing to endure the most torturous death the Romans could come up with, death on the cross. A death stepped into courageously for our sins, not His own. Blood that was shed courageously, lovingly, full of forgiveness and grace so that we would never have to shed it or be ashamed like He was.
This is the relationship, one who was buried and three days later came back offering life to those who abandoned him, offering a commitment they had never ever experienced, a commitment that would declare I will never leave you nor forsake you. I will be with you every single season of your life. I will be there. I cannot guarantee it’s without trouble, but I can guarantee you will never be without me. Do you want that? That’s what’s offered, a relationship, which by the way our world offers education, possession, resources financially, knowledge. Our world offers comfort. Technology is amazing, with opportunities and experiences.
But you know the greatest resource this life has to offer us? It’s a relationship. It’s a relationship with the people that we know and get to know. When we discover this, what we start to recognize is that relationships are fragile. They are tender. They require care. Do you know what they require? A willingness to sacrifice on their behalf. A willingness to be let down and disappointed and in the disappointment choosing to remain and not leave. They require a willingness to yield from time to time, maybe even for a season at a time for their benefit on their behalf. It requires pain to oneself so that another could be strengthened. That’s a relationship. It is the very thing Jesus decided to do for all of us. When we find ourselves willing to do that with Him or when we find ourselves willing to say, “You know what? I’m willing to surrender to You. I’m willing to yield to You. I’m willing to sacrifice because You’re asking me to.” I’m willing to not leave Jesus when I feel disappointed. I’m willing to stay even though my expectations aren’t being met. That’s when we’ve discovered we’re all in.
When we are all-in with the Lord, you know what happens? We find ourselves being much more willing and able to do that with those around us. What did Jesus say when somebody asked Him, “Hey, what is the greatest thing a human being can do? What is the height of humanity’s creation? What does that look like?” Jesus says, “Oh,” I’m going to paraphrase, “Love God with everything you have.” Go all-in on loving God. Do it, do that and you’ll be able to love people as well. Love God with everything. Do you know what happens? It’ll unlock your heart and you’ll be able to do that for those around you. When we’re open to His challenge, we will discover something amazing will happen. We’ll discover ourselves stepping into true life. Because you know what He also does? He challenges us to move beyond convenient delays.
Convenient delays. What does this speak of? It speaks of urgency. If we hear His voice speaking to us, if we ever read His word and something inside of us gets prompted, if we ever hear something of His conviction fall over us, or we hear someone saying something and we know it’s causing a response to wanting to come out of us, here’s what he challenged us to do. Don’t delay, don’t delay. Instead, what you should do is do it today. Do it today, right now. In other words, what is he saying? Stop with the excuses.
I don’t know if you’ve ever felt this way, where something inside of you knows, “Oh, I got to do this,” but then another part starts rising up resisting it. Maybe it’s just me because I don’t want to rock the boat. Because you know what we’re really good at? I mean, we are so good at rationalizing. We’re the experts at rationalizing what we don’t want to do. I don’t want to ruffle feathers. No, no, no, no, I should do it. I should do it. Because they might not respond the way and then guilt is confusing and I don’t want to be in worse shape than when I started. So you know what? I’m just going to back away, I’m going to rethink this. I don’t even know if this is actually what you actually want me to do, God, even though it says right there, “Go and forgive your neighbor,” or “Go and pray for your neighbor.” I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s what exactly would speak of me, “Declare My name.” I don’t know if I would. Is it really literally what you want Me to do or metaphorically, right? What is it? I don’t know.
This is part of the human condition. This is not something new. This is something that’s been said about humanity for ages, generations. In fact, Hebrews says this. He asked him and then he said, “Today if you hear His voice,” it’s the voice of God, “do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” It’s an unbelievable statement. One of the greatest things a person could experience is something of the prompting of God’s love and His voice to sense His pleasure, to hear Him, to hear His voice speak to us, one of the highest forms of experiencing His amazing grace. At the same time, there is an aspect of us that simultaneously rises up and says, “No. No, no, no, no.” When we do that when we delay, the heart hardens. It hardens and it grows deaf and it stops being able to hear.
Do you know Jesus? Jesus is the ever-patient one who approaches even the hardened heart. The loving one who never relents, never gives up, never forsakes, but continues to invite. Will you come? How about now? How about today? If that is you, Jesus would say, “Don’t delay. Do it today, do it.” You will discover the true life this faith offers. Because at the end of the day, Jesus will challenge us toward a future-focused faith.
If faith in so many ways, you know what Jesus is telling the man who placed himself on the plow? He says, “Listen, if you look back,” He was using the agricultural term, “Listen, if you put your hands on the plow, you’re supposed to be moving forward. But if you keep looking backward, you know what you’re not going to do? You’re not going to move forward.” So if you continue to focus your energies, attention, and emotions on what was, you will never discover this core truth. A future with Jesus is always better than the past behind us. A future with Jesus will always be better than the past behind us.
So He’s saying, “If you can focus yourself on what it is you’re actually working toward and start to get an image of what is being created in your future, you will start to understand. Your future is filled with promise. Maybe not all of them are fulfilled in this world, but in the world to come for sure. Hope and strength will start to become a stronger part of who you are. You will start to see fruit from your labor because it is as Paul said, “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the Word of the Lord, knowing your labor is never in vain.” Any degree of plowing, any degree of effort put into this relationship and this faith journey will never be without fruit. It always produces. This is the truth. You will start to see something happen within your soul. You’ll start to see virtue, start to rise up, and satisfaction and fulfillment. You will experience authentic love, intrinsic value, and worth because you will receive it from the one who created you. You will see the miracle of your own heart, my heart being transformed unlocked, one that was locked in unforgiveness, set free, start to see.
A relationship is what He longs to build up, not tear down. If some of us are experiencing hardship, we’ll start to understand it’s not meant to destroy us but to teach us, instruct us, refine us, and empower us. If we’re fatigued and moving forward and are even right now considering what I look like when I turn back. We should know that He will never relent in giving us the satisfaction that will drive us through to the future, the only future that can satisfy. Life eternal with Him is meant to keep us. It’s meant to hold us.
That same CS Lewis, says something rather profound. He said those who have a future-focused faith does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. Somehow, fantasizing about something that doesn’t exist becomes irrelevant to the world around us. He says, “No. If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the one to come.” We discover that He is the one who invites us to experience His life here now, continuing to move forward knowing a future with Him is always going to be better for us and those we love than a past with Adam.
How do we do that? You know in the days of explorers when different ship captains landed on new lands, they saw the terrain and decided they were going to commit themselves. They weren’t going back. They would do something symbolic. But actually, it was so much more than that. They would burn their ships. They would watch and burn their ships as a statement declaring, “Men, women, children, and family, we’re never going back.” This is it. We’re all-in. We’re moving forward and the future is brighter than the past we left behind. Oh, may that be the case for us. May we experience His profound love relationally in our soul and in our human relationships. May we respond if we sense Him speaking and we declare, “Lord, by Your grace, I’m never going back. I’m all-in.”
God, I pray that You would meet us wherever we might be, however we might be, walking, living. I asked Jesus that You would give us the courage every single one of these people needed, to respond to You, to follow You, to go all-in beyond the initial superficial attraction. I pray You give us the joy and the pleasure of experiencing true life with You. I ask for this, Lord, in Jesus’ name. Amen.