+ In Nomine Jesu +
The message this morning is based on the Gospel reading from Luke 9. The passage begins with Jesus being rejected by an entire Samaritan Village because He was set toward Jerusalem. Their rejection of Him was principally based on racial grounds, but, ultimately they deemed the cost too high for them to put their trust in a Jew.
From there Jesus encounters a couple of people who are reluctant to follow Him because they have a few personal matters to take care of first. To them Jesus finally says, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
We live in a day and age in which many people have come to the conclusion that Christianity is simply a private affair and that they can live out their life as a Christian in isolation from other Christians and in anonymity before the world. The phenomena presents itself in statistical data gathered over the last 70 years or so. While 75% of Americans consider themselves to be Christian, only about 40% attend services on a regular basis. Contrary to what you might think, those figures haven't changed for decades. There was a recent study, however, that questions the 40% figure. Researchers found that while 40% of Americans attend church on any given Sunday, fewer than 20% attend on a weekly basis, meaning regular worship has declined significantly.
It would seem that many people today find deliverance in the Gospel, not because it sets them free from the wretchedness of their sin, but, because, as they see it, it sets them free from any demands that might be imposed on them by Christ and His Church! Theirs is the oft repeated mantra of the non-church going Christian. "I don't need to go to church to be a Christian." Besides, "surely God's love for me isn't based on something as petty as where I spend my time on Sunday mornings!"
Unfortunately, the general softness and the insatiable craze for comfort that is indicative of our culture leaves all of us reluctant to make sacrifices for the sake of our faith. Consequently, it isn't uncommon for us to hold certain values that are opposed, or, at least, ought to be opposed by our faith in general, and, more specifically by our being a member of a church that holds certain positions on the issues.
As a case in point, just this last week, there was an article about a prominent political figure who was called to task by her denomination for holding a view on abortion that is in complete opposition to her churches Scriptural stance on the issue.. She was told she must either change her position on life issues or denounce her membership in the church. Time will tell what she will do, although, she has said before that "abortion is sacred ground to her."
The pressure is on folks. More and more you and I are going to suffer a cost and perhaps a very high cost for being a disciple of Jesus. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was just overturned by the Supreme Court leaving it completely up to the States to decide how marriage is to be defined. The decision will likely have a far reaching impact on churches around the country. In Maine, where my good friend Paul is a Pastor, same sex marriages are already legal. There is now a very real concern among Bible based congregations that, in time, they will no longer be able to perform weddings at all unless they are willing to marry same sex couples. If that becomes the case, churches will be left in the position of doing religious rites to bless marriages which will have been conducted in the civil realm. The pressure is on, my friends!
A man said to Jesus, "I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Certainly saying goodby to one's family doesn't fall into the same category as the wannabe Christian who insists on holding a non-Scriptural view regarding life issues, or, marriage, but, the principal is the same. There is a cost to following Jesus. Sometimes the cost is minor. Other times the cost is quite severe.
Our tendency though is always to underestimate the cost of discipleship and conclude that we, of ourselves, have what is necessary to be faithful in our confession of the faith. Peter, you may recall, swore to Jesus that, even though everyone else might leave Him, he never would. Only a short time later his circumstances had changed an the pressure was on. Huddled around a warming fire in the courtyard of the High Priest, a woman blurted out, 'you are a disciple of Jesus, aren't you.' 'No, Peter said, I am not.' Three times Peter denied that he even knew Jesus. Peter was wrong! He counted what he thought the cost would be for him to be a disciple of Jesus and he mistakenly thought he could pay the price.
With Peter in mind and with Jesus words to the man who wanted to say goodbye to his family, the overriding principle before us this morning regarding the cost of following Jesus is that none of us possess the power to do so by our own strength. In other words, if we are to count the cost and stand up to our cultures continual decline into the abyss of humanism and relativism, we will need the conviction, the strength and courage that we simply don't possess on our own. We aren't smart enough, strong enough, or, even committed enough, to see our promise to follow Jesus through.
Kurios Christos (Christ is Lord) was the creed of a group of people in the Roman Empire in the late first century a.d. This Christian group was far more politically concerned than its simple faith formula might suggest. They lived in a time and place in which all loyal, patriotic citizens were required to assert once every year, “Kurios Caesar,” which means “Caesar—the State—is Lord.” So when these Christians pronounced their creed, “Kurios Christos,” they were not only saying “Christ is Lord,” but they were also saying, “the State—Caesar—is not Lord.” They were affirming what the Lord had told their Israelite forebears on Mount Sinai: “You shall have no other gods before me.”
Having measured the cost of standing for this One who was crucified for us we conclude that the cost is just too high. So, as always, as disciples of Jesus, we stand before the world and before God, in continual need of forgiveness and grace.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +
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