57 As they (Jesus and his disciples) were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:57-62)
To the seasoned Christian and new convert alike Jesus is pretty straight forward about what it looks like in everyday life to be his follower. Each individual who wanted to join Jesus had to wrestle with their priorities. Each man had good things to be concerned with, having a place to sleep, a burying his father, and saying good-bye to close family. Yet when it came to following Jesus those answers would not do. The reason found in a couple little words that creep in to their response to Jesus, “I’ll follow you but first let me…” They were saying, “Jesus you’re important but not that important. You can fit into my life at best in second place.” Would our answer to following Jesus be different?
Jesus says to us, “follow me”. “I want a relationship with you. I want you to listen to me and talk to me.” Honestly, most often I’ll bet we sound something like, “I’d love to God. I want to follow you, it’s just. I don’t have the background. I want to “but first” I’ve got to drive the kids to the next event. I don’t have the time right now. God I know I can talk to you all the time and you speak to me through the Bible but I’ve had a hard day at work, first I need to watch TV for a couple hours.” But first I need too… the phrase that jumps in and shows misaligned priorities. To one degree or another I think we are all guilty of this. I know I am. It’s not that we aren’t busy doing good things, taking care of niceties for our families or ourselves but too often these other things take the primary place of Jesus in our life. It is as if God is good and I keep him part of my life as long as he doesn’t get in the way of my wish, wants and desires.
Jesus’ takes issue with the “but firsts” of our life and basically says, “No, no, if you will follow me then you must follow me, period. I am God and must be that in your life.” If anyone deserves first place it would be God and it is right that he would demand it. But there is another reason he wants it. When he’s not first in our life the one missing out the most is us.
When Jesus is number one it changes everything. How we carry ourselves, our self-worth, and our value in Jesus is based not on past mistakes but on his Words and promise. Why do I matter? God says, “This is love: not that we loved God (Him), but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) Instead of focusing on who or what I am or am not my identity is based on who God says he is and what he has said he has done. I matter because I am “one who is loved” or as God puts it elsewhere in the Bible, “beloved”.
This is why we regularly remind partners at the end of sermons: You matter and are loved. God has placed such a high value on you and your soul not only in the unique way he has made you but also in the unique way he has saved you. His only Son took your place. I think we can forget the “but firsts” of an overly busy life and relax by just listening to our God in the Bible and praying to him from the heart. Take Jesus words to heart and follow Him.
How are you going to connect with Jesus this week?
-Pastor Eric Hansen, Discipleship Pastor