Sunday, September 5, 2010

You Cannot Follow Jesus

You cannot be my follower…Why can’t I be your follower? I love you! I’ll do anything you ask!

Put me first, Jesus says. Love me more than these, he says. Give up everything you have, he says; otherwise you cannot be my follower.

Put you first? But I have a family. Linda needs me. My children still need me. I have grandchildren who need me. Lord, you are first but I have to take care of my family too. Won’t you let me do both?

Lord, you know everything about me. Surely you understand the predicament this Message puts me in. What do you mean, give up everything, everything like my bike, my routers, my books, my computer, my dog, everything? I must be misunderstanding what Luke’s written, everything?

I cannot be your disciple unless I give it all up? Jesus, that doesn’t sound fair. How can I possibly give up everything?

Friends, these are questions I’ve asked Jesus many times. How do you understand the lesson from Luke today? What’s it saying to you? Does he really mean that we have to hate our parents and our siblings and our children, even our own lives? Hate is such a strong word and my mother taught me not to use that word. But Jesus uses it here. Hate, are we reading that right? We have to hate before we can be His follower? We must not be reading that right.

Following Jesus costs more than we realize, at first. And at first we think the cost is too much. We try to barter with Jesus. We try to negotiate an easier package but He won’t budge. It’s all or nothing. Jesus will not back down until we’ve consented to giving him all our attention, all our desire, all our love.

What does it mean to you to be a Christian, a disciple of Jesus? How much has it cost you? Who comes first in your life? If Jesus calls you and your spouse calls you at the same time, who do you follow? Where are your priorities?

Before you committed your life to Jesus did you sit down and calculate what it was going to cost you? If you’re following Him today is it what you expected it to be?

What’s happening to those who can’t give it all up? They cannot follow him, so what now?

I wouldn’t give up hope. God is like the potter. He made us and he can reshape us if we haven’t turned out like he planned. It isn’t without some pain and discomfort, this reshaping.

Have you ever watched a potter at work? They begin by cutting a chunk of clay from a big block. Then they add water and beat and hammer that lump with their fists until the block becomes a little more malleable. They add more water and beat and shape and hammer and push with fingers and fists until they have a ball.

Then they throw the ball onto the wheel. More water is added as they begin to spin the wheel keeping pressure on the ball with their fingers and palms. More water and the potter keeps the wheel spinning. Soon there is a cone. Fingers push into the center of the cone and, it’s a miracle how it happens, there’s a bowl.

Friends, it’s a whole lot of work. There’s a lot of pressure exerted on that lump of clay. And if it doesn’t turn out exactly as the potter planned he just pounds it down, reshapes it, and begins again until it comes out like he wants it.

So, good friends, there’s still hope for us. We may not be exactly as God planned for us but he’s just like that potter, he can and will reshape us. But it isn’t without a lot of pressure and not a little pain. If we give up and don’t let him shape/reshape us then, well we cannot follow him.

So, can we give it all up to follow Jesus? Are we willing to pay the price to be a follower? Do we trust the One who came to save us?

If we’re struggling with these questions what is it that we find so hard? Is it giving it all up? It’s not really ours you know. None of these things can we take with us when he calls us home. So why do we find it so hard to let them go? What’s it costing to hold onto them? That’s the real question, isn’t it.

Jesus says, “If you don’t give up everything you cannot follow me.” Tough love, but friends it is love. He has our best interests at heart. He loves us and he knows we aren’t able to do it right by ourselves.
Friends, Jesus wants our all, otherwise we cannot follow him. Are you ready to give him all of you? He’s waiting for our answer. What’s it going to be, yes or no?

My prayer is that you will be a follower of Jesus and give it all to him. Thanks be to God for his patient, forgiving, compassionate grace. Amen.

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