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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10.30 am service, 2004-07-25

Text: Luke 9:57-62

A great number of believers are not serving as they should. Generally speaking, more people in this world want to be served than to serve. There are many who aspire to leadership, fame and success, but very few will aspire to servanthood. And if there are people who do serve, many of them do it only if there are prospects for personal gain. That's the way things are done in this world. It is considered quite demeaning to serve others, and it is considered quite foolish to serve for nothing!

In an age that calls us to do everything we can to climb right up to the top, any teaching given on service will continue to have an unpopular ring. Motivational talks on how to be successful are often well attended even though they are costly. Why? Because people want to upgrade their assets, develop their resources, and build up their own personal empire, of wealth and power. And the danger we face is the temptation to follow the world's pursuit of personal advancement, and forget that what God wants us to pursue is servanthood. That is why we need to study God's Word once again and examine or re-examine what it teaches us about servanthood and service to God and to others.

Service is often misunderstood. Many Christians regard it as something extra that they will give to the Lord only when they have spare time and effort for it. To them it is optional. Many can recognize and appreciate dedicated service when they see it in others, and they will praise such dedication. But they will not think of getting themselves involved in serving the Lord. It is something alien to their lifestyle. They feel quite satisfied and comfortable to let others serve in the Kingdom of Christ, while they sit down and watch as spectators. Some even regard sitting and watching others serve as their service. 

But the truth that God's Word declares is that service is required in all who belong to Christ. Romans 6:19 'for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.' Look now at v.22 'But now being made free from sin, and become servants of God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.' You may notice here that the apostle Paul says that all of us who are freed from sin, have become servants of God. If you are saved, you have become a servant. (Sometimes we tend to think of God's servants only in terms of those in fulltime service like pastors, missionaries. But here in this verse, we see quite clearly that all believers are servants of God). We are saved to serve, and therefore God requires service from us.

Let us understand that service is not an option but a requirement. The Lord expects us to be serving in His Kingdom. And we should be most willing to meet that expectation, because it is a natural response to the wonderful grace that God has shown to us. A Christian may claim that he really loves God and that he is so grateful to Him for saving him from eternal death and hell, but if he has absolutely no desire at all to serve the Lord in any area of service in God's kingdom, I would have good reason to doubt his sincerity. So let us evaluate our own lives. Are you serving the Lord in His kingdom? 

The Lord not only requires service from you, but also commitment in your service. This morning we want to consider what it means to have commitment in the kingdom of Christ. And we shall do so by studying a passage of Scripture in Luke 9:57-62:'And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.'

These three persons in the passage were perhaps just a few out of the many people who were attracted to Jesus Christ. And many were attracted to Him because He had performed great miracles. Jesus enabled the blind to see, the lame to walk, and cast out demons. Many had seen how Christ multiplied 5 loaves and 2 fishes into enough food to feed 5000 people. 

Many people who experienced these things may perhaps have thought, 'If Jesus can do all these things then surely He can meet all of my needs. If I want to benefit and gain from this then I must follow Him. This is one great opportunity that I must not miss.' And many, like these three people in our passage would then come and express their desire to follow Jesus. But Jesus did not welcome them. In fact He turned away many who wanted to follow Him. Why did He do this? 

Did He not desire to have more followers? No, He wanted something more important than that: He wanted commitment from them. Today the Lord Jesus still requires that same kind of commitment from those who would serve Him. Let us look carefully at the replies Jesus gave to the three prospective disciples to learn about the requirements of service in Christ's kindgom. From these replies we will discover that there are at least three requirements. The first is:

I. We must be willing to pay the price of following Jesus

According to v.57 the first man promised, 'I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.' This sounds very good. But what exactly did he mean by saying this? Perhaps he was thinking more about the glory of being a follower of Christ. He was thinking of how glorious it would be to be closely associated with such a great person, and to have a share in His great holy enterprise. Here was an exciting growing movement, a worthy cause. 'I must join; I must join!' the man thought. And Jesus could see that.

So, in His reply, Jesus did not want the first man to think of the glory of being His follower. He wanted him to know that there is a price to pay. This price is plain commitment, without any conditions - an unconditional commitment. And Jesus therefore said to him, 'Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.' Jesus was saying, that even the very lowliest of creatures have a relatively comfortable life compared to His life. He was saying 'If you really want to follow Me and serve in My Kingdom, are you willing to live the way I live? Are you willing to give yourself to this cause even if it means enduring hardship, discomfort and inconvenience? And even if it means that you may be persecuted, and rejected by those around you?'

The main objective in living that Christ always had, was to do what God wanted Him to do. And therefore He allowed nothing at all to hinder Him from the work of promoting God's Kingdom, the work of saving sinners. He allowed nothing at all to hinder Him from the work of teaching and revealing God's Word. He devoted Himself to these things strenuously, until He finally paid the ultimate price of sacrificing His own life on the cross. If you want to be committed to Christ, how much are you willing to do what God wants you to do? How much of your own comforts and privileges are you willing to give up for it? What price are you willing to pay?

Some of you may be thinking right now, 'Oh, that's a very costly price to pay. How can I ever attain to the kind of commitment that Jesus wants of me as His disciple?' There is only one way you can do that, and that is to love Him with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. When you are constrained by such love, no price will be too great to pay for Him. Commitment is natural to those who are motivated by love. Having seen that, let us now proceed to the next requirement for service in Christ's Kingdom. This requirement is:

II. We must be available to Jesus

No one can claim to have commitment if he does not make himself available. In v.59 we find a man who was also busy doing something else and so was not available to Christ. He said, 'Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.' Now this sounds like a very good and reasonable excuse. Why then did Jesus reply, 'Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God'? Was Jesus being unkind or insensitive to the man's needs? Not at all. God's Word shows us that Jesus was always most compassionate and sympathetic to those who were distressed. When He was dying on the cross, He even asked His disciple, John, to look after His mother.

So let us be careful how we understand this situation. One important thing to observe is that the man was together with Jesus at this point in time and not in his own home. This shows that his father was probably not dead yet. If his father had already died, he would not have been where Jesus was. He would have been at home, since it is always the Jewish custom to bury someone on the very same day that he died. So what this second prospective disciple was really saying was this, 'Lord, please excuse me this time. Please wait until my father dies and is buried, and then after that, I will follow you. I cannot be available to you now, but maybe later on.'

Perhaps at some time of our lives we may have also done this: times when we knew we should do something about our lack of knowledge of the Bible, or about our lack of prayer and service to God. And we know that God wants us to bring our loved ones and friends to Christ, and be involved in Church activities. But at the same time, there are other things in our lives which distracted us and call for our attention. So we end up postponing the things we should do. In effect we tell the Lord, 'Please wait until a time when I am free. Don't ask me to do things for you now. There are other things that I need to do first.'

There are two important rules you must follow: First of all, remember that no matter how busy you are, you must always set aside time for the Lord. Your commitment to Christ must be pursued at the same time as your involvement in other things in life. You must always maintain a healthy balance between the time you spend for your work, your career and family, and the time you spend for the Lord. Do not allow yourself to become so busy that you have no time left for the things of God.

Secondly, you need to keep your priorities in the right order. There are times when the God�s work must come first, before everything else, even over important family relationships. When Jesus said to the man, 'Let the dead bury their dead; but go thou and preach the kingdom of God' He meant that God's kingdom takes priority even over the duties that he had to his parents. Things like this must not become an excuse or obstacle to involvement in the work of God's Kingdom.

Dearly beloved, when Christ calls you to follow Him, He wants availability from you, not in some future time that is convenient to you. He wants it from you right now, in the present time. Someone may perhaps say, 'This is too hard for me to do. How can I do it?' There is one way that is sure to work: Love the Lord Jesus with all your heart, soul and mind. Then you will be most willing to make yourself available to Him. Availability is not a problem when there is love. And He will always be the no.1 priority in your life. Having see that, we now come to the third requirement for service in the kingdom of Christ:

III. We must be single-minded in following Jesus.

A person will experience great difficulty in following the Lord, if his loyalties are divided between Christ and something else. No man can serve two masters. Have you ever tried working under two heads at the same time? It is extremely difficult and frustrating. No matter how hard you work you can never please both heads at the same time. One head will always be displeased with what you do to please the other head. In the end the work becomes a terrible mess!

Look at v.62: Jesus said, 'No man, having put his hand to the plough and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.' If a farmer wants to plough a straight furrow he must concentrate fully on controlling the direction of the plough. He must keep his eyes looking in front and no where else, otherwise he will start to drift off course. Now what do you think will happen if he keeps looking backward, all the time while he is ploughing? He will end up with a very crooked furrow. Good ploughing requires single-mindedness. In the same way, our commitment to the Lord requires us to be single-minded. 

Why did Jesus need to emphasise this point to the third prospective disciple? Because our Lord knows what is in every person's heart. Perhaps he knew that this man's loyalties were divided, when the man said 'Let me go and bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.' Such divided loyalty would seriously affect his commitment and service in Christ's kingdom. A person with divided loyalties is unfit for promoting God's kingdom. Are you unfit for promoting God's kingdom?

The problem with many people is that they want to have the best of both worlds: They want God's best plans and blessings for their lives and yet they also want the best of all the good things that the world has to offer to them. We want to be successful in God's eyes and at the same time, we also want to be successful in the eyes of the world. Dearly beloved, we cannot go on like that. Let us be single-minded. Let our loyalties be focussed on just one main pursuit in life. Let us be like the Apostle Paul who said in Philippians 3:13,14: 'this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.' 

Let us decide that from this day onward that we will bring all things in our lives under just one thing that we want to accomplish: Serving the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us also remember what Jesus said in Luke 9:23, 'If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.' Once again, a person may respond, 'This is too hard for me to do. How can you ask me to give up the other things in life that I want to pursue as well?' And once again the answer is the same: Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul and all your mind. If you love Him fully, everything else will fade away in importance. You will then make Christ the one and only single-minded pursuit in life. 

We have come to the end of our message. If God has spoken to your heart today through His Word, please act upon it as well. Be bold to commit yourself to serve in the Kingdom of Christ! Today we have seen three things from God's Word that we need to do: Firstly - Be willing to pay the price of commitment to Jesus; Secondly - Be available to Him, and thirdly - be single-minded in following Christ. Will you act upon this today, and start serving in the kingdom of Christ?

Dearly beloved, let us all be willing to serve the Lord in whatever way we can. Get yourself involved in some area of service for the Lord. Doing this will mean that we have to fulfill the requirements of service that we have seen today, but each of us must be willing to pay the price for our commitment to Christ. As our Lord and master, Christ deserves nothing less than our total compliance with His will, and our total willingness to give Him our very best. Dearly beloved, is Christ truly your Lord and master? Are you giving Him what He deserves from you as Lord and master? What price are you willing to pay to serve Him? Let us examine our life today with these questions.

And if you find that your life has not measured up to His requirements, please take steps to make sure it does from now onward. The Lord wants you to serve Him and follow Him. You must be like Christ who 'came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.' (Matthew 20:28) Finally, let us listen to what Jesus speaks through His words in John 12:25,26 - 'He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be: if any man serve Me, him will My Father honour.'

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25