June 28, 2010 David Balzer

Luke 9:1-10:24: Undercover Agents

Do you ever stop and wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into?  You’re busily working away at something, when all of a sudden, in a moment of blinding clarity, you sit up, and say, “Why do I keep banging my head against a brick wall? What am I DOING this for?

It happened to Mike and Amy earlier this year with their teaching. They’d spend every night, and all weekend, getting lessons ready for kids who sometimes weren’t interested, and for schools who didn’t appreciate or understand them.

And at some stage, they stopped and said, “What am I DOING this for?”

I sometimes do it in the middle of Scripture at Doonside High. I’m trying to tell them something about Jesus. I don’t know many names. They don’t want to be there, or listen to me. They talk over the top of me. Or get up and walk around the room while I’m speaking. I’ve got no avenues for discipline. And the senior staff aren’t interested in helping.

And in the midst of the chaos, sometimes I stop and think, “What am I DOING this for?”

Or what about your life as a Christian? Do you ever stop and think, “What am I DOING this for?”

The same old routine. Praying when you’re SURE God’s not there. Reading your Bible when you’re convinced it’s just one big STORYBOOK. Talking to other Christians, and feeling like a complete hypocrite. Because your words sound so hollow. You’re not sure you believe ANYTHING anymore.

Knowing you’re supposed to feel happy, and joyful, and victorious, and grateful, and focussed, and other-person-centred.  But the reality is/ you’re exhausted and flat and defeated and self-centred and aimless.

You’re sitting there. Waiting. Hoping. But not really EXPECTING that the Bible’s going to have something RELEVANT to say to you today.

Something to give you a reason to keep going for another week. You’re HOPING, but not really EXPECTING. And you stop and think, “What am I DOING this for?”

Well, have I got something for YOU. Today’s passage tells us the answer.

Why are you doing it? Because of JESUS. Who he is. Who he’s ALWAYS been. What he’s done. He’s the one you’re following. The glorious, exalted, perfect, powerful and holy one.

He’s decided the path and the method. He’s got the plan. He’s won the victory. He’s defeated the enemy.

And your job is just to keep following him. Wherever the road goes. However difficult it gets.

Why? Because it’s TRUE. And it’s REAL. And once you’ve seen the truth, there’s nothing else you CAN do.

He doesn’t promise it will be EASY or COMFORTABLE. But it’s the only choice you have. There IS no other way. That’s the message today.

2. Because of Jesus

The whole section is about WHAT IT MEANS TO FOLLOW JESUS. Ch 9 starts with Jesus sending out the 12 apostles. And Ch 10 starts with Jesus sending out 72. And in both cases/ it’s WORK EXPERIENCE. Doing exactly what Jesus does. Preaching the kingdom. And healing the sick. Practicing what it means to FOLLOW AFTER JESUS.

And in between are some instructions for anyone ELSE who wants to follow Jesus. A reminder about WHO IT IS we’re following. And what it means to follow. And why it’s important.

All the answers to your question, “What am I DOING this for?”

Let’s pick it up from Peter’s confession of Christ. In v18 Jesus asks them “Who do THE CROWDS say that I am?”

They’ve heard the message, seen the miracles. What’s the word on the street?

But no-one’s been able to pin it down. Some reckon he’s John the Baptist, or Elijah, or an old prophet. In other words, no idea!

And so Jesus says, “But more importantly, what about YOU? What do YOU reckon?”

As usual, Peter pipes up first, “The Christ of God!” The Messiah. God’s anointed, chosen rescuer. The Son of David God’s promised.

Peter’s on the money. He’s got the TITLE right, but not the JOB DESCRIPTION. He’s expecting a military rebel. Someone to boot the Romans out of Israel.

You can tell that by the way Jesus reacts. He warns them not to THAT misinformation around. It will give everyone the wrong idea. And cause ALL SORTS of problems.

Instead he tells them what SORT of rescue plan God’s got in mind. He’s A RESCUER alright, but something VERY DIFFERENT from what PETER’s thinking. Look at v21.

(Luke 9:22 NIV)  And he said, “The Son of Man must SUFFER many things and be REJECTED by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must Be KILLED and on the third day be RAISED TO LIFE.”

That’s the big picture. The secret strategy.

“You call that a plan!” Peter might have been thinking. But Jesus goes on. “It’s not just me. There’s a plan for YOU TOO. Here’s YOUR part in the big picture”. V23

(Luke 9:23 NIV)  …”If anyone would come AFTER ME, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Peter wanted to take up a SWORD to follow the Messiah. But Jesus says he must take up A CROSS INSTEAD. Jesus’ way is about DENYING self. DYING to the world. Dying to its AMBITIONS and EXPECTATIONS and WISDOM and METHODS.

And Jesus calls us to do that DAILY. A conscious decision. Every morning. To die to the world. To die to SELF. And to live to Jesus. And to follow him.

That’s what Jesus calls us to. That’s your small part in the big picture. You’re answer to “What am I DOING this for?” You’re doing it because that’s what JESUS did.

And Jesus goes on. Why it’s not such a crazy thing to do AFTER ALL. When you look at the BIG picture. The ETERNAL picture. It’s the only OBVIOUS choice. V24.

(Luke 9:24-25 NIV)  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever LOSES HIS LIFE FOR ME WILL SAVE IT. {25} What good is it for a man TO GAIN THE WHOLE WORLD, and YET LOSE OR FORFEIT HIS VERY SELF?

It’s the choice between THIS WORLD, and Jesus. The choice between what seems real and constant. Stuff, people, things, riches, fame. This world is noisy and solid and attractive and consuming.

And then there’s the way of Jesus. It seems weak and foolish and quiet and insignificant. A -end road for losers.

That’s the choice we have. A choice we have to make every day.

A bit like the choice a passenger on the Titanic might be faced with. The Titanic seems solid enough. Unsinkable. Warm and bright and comfortable. Yet the word is/ she’s going down. And everyone’s jumping into these tiny life-rafts. Wooden instead of metal. The swell is huge. The water’s freezing. The boats are crowded.

That’s the choice.

But the BIG picture is/ the Titanic’s ruined. It’s holed. It’s bound for the bottom of the ocean. And you’re only hope is that flimsy, fragile, overcrowded life-raft. As foolish as it seems.

And it’s the same with Jesus. “What good is it to gain the whole world, and then lose your soul?” The big picture is/ he’s the only one who’ll stand in the end. And if you’re not in his boat, you haven’t got a hope. V26

(Luke 9:26 NIV)  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man WILL BE ASHAMED OF HIM when he comes in his glory

Where are YOU standing? On the deck of the sinking Titanic? Or bobbing up and down in the life-raft?

It’s not such a hard choice after all. Jesus’ way SEEMS weak and foolish, but it’ll end in GLORY.

And to remind the disciples of that, he gives them a GLIMPSE. A glimpse of the Kingdom of God. A glimpse into the FUTURE. The big picture of the glorious, big, King Jesus. V27.

(Luke 9:27 NIV)  I tell you the truth, SOME who are standing here will not taste before THEY SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD.”

And then he takes SOME of them up on the mountain. To SEE the Kingdom of God.

Peter, James and John. And as they watch, Jesus is changed. His normal human face becomes glorious. Brilliant white. His plain old linen clothes are changed into the kingly robes he USED to wear. And WILL wear.

And they see THE KING of the KINGDOM. “They saw his GLORY”

And then God the Father speaks up. “THIS is my son. This is what he’s REALLY like. The way I know him. LISTEN to him!

That’s the BIG PICTURE. The answer to “What am I DOING this for?” Because of Jesus.

3. Listen to Him

And when they come back down the mountain, Jesus keeps speaking. Teaching. Wanting us to LISTEN. Just like THE FATHER wants. Are you listening?

THE DISCIPLES certainly aren’t. They can’t drive out a demon. They’re unbelieving and perverse! So Jesus says it again, v44, “Listen carefully!”

“MY way’s about REJECTION. And BETRAYAL. And SUBMISSION and WEAKNESS.”

But that’s not all. That’s what it means for THOSE WHO FOLLOW HIM, TOO. The path of obedience and discipleship involves rejection and betrayal and submission and weakness. So listen carefully.

Jesus tells us six things we need to do to follow him. Six behaviours to avoid. Six attitudes to get rid of. And they’re things which are just as relevant TODAY as they were then.

  1. No pride 46-48

First up, No pride. A follower of Jesus should never COMPARE himself to others. V46. The disciples are doing what men normally do. Turning everything into a COMPETITION. This time, comparing GREATNESS. Achievements. Status. Significance.

Something WE do all the time. Even if we don’t say it out loud. Always measuring ourselves against others. Church attendance. Involvement. Time commitment. Godliness. How well behaved your children are. How much you know about the Bible. How well you pray aloud.

And we look down on people who don’t measure up.

But what does Jesus do? V47. Takes a little child. No-one had noticed him. Because everyone knows KIDS aren’t important. And he says, “Make a big deal out of this little child. Because when you do that, you’re making a big deal out of ME”

It’s so easy, isn’t it, to OVERLOOK people. Because they don’t SAY much. Or contribute much. Or achieve much.

But Jesus says “Give honour to people like that – the little ones – because it actually gives honour to Jesus. Because that’s reflecting Jesus’ priorities. And Jesus’ attitudes. And he loves it when we do that.

Quite often our churches seem to represent this. A church of “little ones”. They seem to attract the weirdo’s. The rejects. The drop-outs. The misfits. The people who rub you the wrong way. Make you squirm. (Yes, I’m talking about YOU LOT! Me included!)

Have you ever been embarrassed by the sorts of people in your church? Don’t be. You should be PROUD of being in a church like that.

These “little ones” are actually the greatest in the kingdom. The ones Jesus makes a big deal out of. And who he expects US to make a big deal out of.

First warning. No pride. Are you listening?

  1. No empire-building 49-50

Secondly, no EMPIRE-BUILDING. Something ELSE blokes are good at.

The disciples have been at it again. They see someone ELSE doing good work. And they can’t BEAR it. “You’ve got to do it OUR WAY. WE decide what’s right and wrong. Right songs, Right technique. Right theology. Right priorities. It’s MY way or the highway.” And so they tell him to stop.

But what does Jesus say? V50. “Don’t stop him. If he’s not AGAINST you, then he’s ON YOUR SIDE.”

We often think other Christians are on the OTHER SIDE. People to FIGHT against. Rather than work with. Or work in ways which COMPLEMENT each other.

We behave as if any progress THEY make / will mean OUR efforts are DAMAGED. Their success must reflect badly on us.

And so we begrudge their successes. Belittle their efforts. Instead of rejoicing when brothers rejoice.

Or when things go badly for a church, or a person, we smirk. Sit in self-satisfied judgment. “Serves them right. That’s what happens when you … don’t preach the Bible. Sing the wrong songs. Have wrong priorities. Don’t measure up.”

Instead of weeping when brothers weep.

We think if they don’t do things OUR way, then they need to be STOPPED. And we forget that it’s not OUR church at all. It’s JESUS’ church. And he’ll look after it. He really will!

Second warning. No empire-building. Are you listening?

  1. No judging 51-56

Third. “No judging”. V51. Jesus and the disciples are headed for Jerusalem. And on the way, they have to pass through Samaria. It used to be the Northern tribes of Israel. Back around 900 BC. But then they rebelled from Judah, and Rehoboam. And they’ve had nothing to do with the Jews, or Jerusalem, or the temple since.

And so, ly, they didn’t really encourage Jews headed for Jerusalem for Passover.

And so the disciples want to get even. They want to be judge, jury, and er all at once. “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven and destroy them?”

We’re tempted to do the same sometimes. Write off certain people. Too hard. No hope. Steer clear of them. Especially if they REJECT us. Or ridicule us.

Drug addicts. s. Ex-cons.

Muslims. Mormons. Yuppies. Millionaires. Academics.

All sorts of people we JUDGE. They’re not interested. They’re too far gone. Just leave them to it. After all, that’s what they deserve! Perhaps there’s even a touch of REVENGE there.

I found myself doing it just this week. One badly behaved kid at Scripture. And at the end of the lesson/ I hoped he wouldn’t come next week. I’d written him off.

So Anthony and I prayed that God would change US. And do a miracle in this kid’s life.

But what does Jesus say? He REBUKES that attitude.

Who gave YOU the right to decide who deserves a second chance? To play God. To dole out justice and revenge?

Who are YOU that God should give YOU a chance ANYWAY? You don’t deserve it anymore than any of THEM.

“Amazing grace. How sweet the sound. That saved a WRETCH like me. I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see.”

That’s the attitude to have. Warning 3 from Jesus. No judging. Are you listening?

  1. No quick decisions 57-58

And as they continue towards Jerusalem, they come across some potential disciples. And Jesus has some MORE warnings for us.

Four. No quick decisions. V57. A man jumps in boots and all. “I’ll follow you ANYWHERE,” he says.

But Jesus says, “Don’t make your choice lightly. Don’t have too romantic a view of things. Count the cost. The Christian life is NOT easy.

It was true of following Jesus THEN. He had no home. No comforts. No bed, or wardrobe, or salary, or superannuation plan.

And it’s true TODAY. It’s NOT easy. Because if you’re SERIOUS about following Jesus, then life will be HARDER.

There’ll be some tough choices to make. About how you spend your time. And who you spend it WITH. And what to do with your money. And your holidays. And your priorities will need to change.

It will be TRUE. And complete. And joyful. And wonderful. And real. But not EASY. So think about it carefully.

Warning 4. No quick decisions. Are you listening?

  1. No divided loyalties (as you start) 59-60

And straight away. Another warning. No DIVIDED LOYALTIES. Jesus invites another man to follow him. But he’s got commitments. Expectations. Pressures. And he wants to get them out of the way first.

And aren’t there lots of people like that today? Yes, I’ll follow Jesus… once I finish school. Or once I get through Uni.. Or get married. Or have kids. Or when they grow up. Then I’ll get serious.

Or when they get married. Or when I retire. THEN I’ll get serious.

And then one day, it’s too late.

Jesus says, “Let the bury their own . There’s much more important things to worry about than THAT.

Is that you? Are you half-hearted about Jesus. Putting him off. Until you get the REALLY important things out of the way? Not committing, or only HALF-committing until things change in your life?

That’s a slap in the face to Jesus. And he doesn’t deserve it!

Warning 5. No divided loyalties. Are you listening?

  1. No second thoughts (on the way) 61-62

Finally, v61, still ANOTHER man volunteers. He just wants one last chance to say good-by to his family. But Jesus warns him. No second thoughts. You can’t keep looking BACK. Yearning for what you’ve left behind.

Like ploughing a straight row – you’ll never do it if you keep looking over your shoulder. You’ll never keep your eyes on Jesus, if you’re always regretting what you’ve given up. The chance to make partner. OR own your own business. Your high-school sweetheart. The beach-side holiday house. The missed parties. The professional sports career.

Don’t look back. Keep your eyes on Jesus. It’s the only way. HE’S the answer to the question, “What am I DOING this for?”

And when we do, maybe THIS can be our declaration. Our code of honour. Our declaration of dependence. It’s called “The Fellowship of the Unashamed”. It’s taken from a book by Bob Moorehead, and it’s printed in your news-sheet.

I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made–I am a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure.

I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colourless dreams, tame visions, worldly-talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean in His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer and I labour with power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my Guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed.

I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, let up, or slow up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go until He returns, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until he comes.

And when He comes to get His own, He’ll have no problem recognizing me. My colours will be clear.

By Dr. Bob Moorehead, Overlake Christian Church, Redmond, Washington, in his book “Words Aptly Spoken”

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