Burn the plow.
Have you ever noticed the theme of entitlement in advertising? Advertisers know the psychological power of three little words: “you deserve it”. “Have It Your Way” was Burger King’s slogan for 40 years. Then there’s L’Oreal’s, “Because you’re worth it.” Anthony Robbins the motivational speaker would inspire people with “The body you deserve”. Joel Osteen encouraged his FB followers with a post that said, “Surround yourself with love. You deserve the best life.” Watch banner ads online and tv commercials and billboards from now on and watch how often the appeal to entitlement occurs. They know it connects with our pride, our sense of “Yeah, you know, I am worth it! I do deserve it. Finally someone gets it! (Here’s my credit card).”
I’m thinking of marketing our church that way: “EFC: You deserve worship like this”. Or, “EFC: the best church for the best people”. Or how about: “EFC: for Christians like you only the best church will do”
How far does this “you deserve it” mindset extend? How many things in life revolve around our worth, our entitlement and our dictating the terms? One area it does not extend is being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus defines the terms of following Him. It is what it is and it is not up for debate. Discipleship is not something to be “reimagined” each generation where we can “make it what we want”, or, where we can have the terms tailored to our tastes. A disciple is not someone who lives to “have it their way”. Instead, a disciple is someone who lives for Jesus to have it His way.
True discipleship It’s not a life lived on our terms, but, on Jesus’ terms. “Go therefore and make disciples”, He said, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded” (Mt. 28:19-20). In John 8:31 He said, “If you hold to [obey] my teachings you really are my disciples.” True discipleship produces a spiritually fruitful life, “This is to my Father’s glory”, Jesus said in John 15:8, “that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” A disciple proves his or herself not by a verbal declaration, but, by visible obedience.
Our text today is the terms of agreement for entering into discipleship with Jesus Christ. Jesus gives 3 of them: (1) Reject Yourself (34-35), (2) Reject the World (36-37), (3) Be Unashamed (38)
REJECT YOURSELF (34-35)
The first term for following Jesus is to reject yourself, 34-35.
Jim Elliot was a young missionary when he made his first contact with the unreached Huaorani tribe of Ecuador in hopes of spreading the Gospel to this isolated group. For months they had flown over the tribes dropping gifts and paving the way for a friendly encounter. On January 8th, 1956, he and 4 other missionary friends flew deep into the jungles of Ecuador to finally make long anticipated, long-prayed for, long awaited face-to-face contact with this primitive and notoriously violent indian group. Stepping off the prop plane the 5 missionaries were greeted by 10 Huraorani warriors, who instantly speared to death all 5 missionaries. Jim was 29 years old, and left behind a wife of less than 3 years to raise their 1 year old daughter. Think of all that Jim never got to see, experience, or gain in this life. Then ask yourself the question: Was his effort worth it? Was his short life wasted?
Jim Elliot didn’t think so. Whatever the cost, whatever the risk, whatever the danger, he saw Jesus worth it all. Several weeks before his death Jim was reading Jesus’ words in our text this morning. Next to Jesus words Jim wrote in his journal the words that would become famous around the world: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, in order to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim denied himself, took up his cross, and followed Jesus, even unto death. For Jim, a life of self-preservation would have cost too much. He took Jesus seriously and gave it all up for the Savior.
The biggest obstacle to following Jesus is you. That’s why Jesus first deals with the “you” in you. What you want for yourself, what you think you ought to think, and what you feel will be the most frequent obstacles to faithfully and fruitfully following Jesus. What Jesus means when He says to “deny yourself” is this: to say “no” to yourself and say “yes” to Him.
- When James Calvert went out as a missionary to the cannibals of the Fiji Islands, the ship captain tried to turn him back. “You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages, he cried. To that, Calvert replied, “We died before we came here.” Now the reason he was ready to submit to death for Jesus is because every day his life was submitted to Jesus. He was dead to self and alive to Jesus.
- There is a great moment in Acts where Paul shows us what this looks like. In chapter 21:13, “Then Paul answered, ‘Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Paul had totally relinquished his life to Christ. He asserted no rights to himself, but stood ready to forfeit his life for following Christ. Now the reason Paul was ready to submit to death for Jesus is because every day his life was submitted to Jesus. If you want to know what Jesus meant by “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the Gospel will save it”, look no further than Paul’s words.
- But we must look further than Paul and we must look to Jesus. “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass”, Jesus prayed in the Garden before His crucifixion. “Yet not my will but your will be done.” Those words cannot be improved on. Jesus gave us the slogan of discipleship with that prayer. “Lord Jesus, I want to look at this website, yet not my will, but your will be done.” “Lord, I’m afraid to talk to this person, yet, not my will but your will.” “Lord, I don’t want to go through this illness, but let your will be done and not mine” “Lord, I want to wear this revealing outfit, but, not my will, but your will be done.” “Lord, I want to keep this money for me, but, not my will be done but your will.” “Lord, I want to boss my husband around, yet, not my will but yours.” “Lord, I want to divorce my wife, yet, not my will but yours.” “Lord, I want to explode on this person and tell them off, yet, not my will but your will be done in me.” “Lord, I want to get this person back, but, not my will, but, your will be done” “God, I want everyone to see me as a martyr, or, a victim, or the most important person, or the smartest person, or the holiest person, yet, not my will God, but your will.” The point of self-denial is that at the intersection of what I want and what Jesus wants I go with Jesus.
The key word in this section I think is “cross”, “take up your cross” Jesus says. The cross was a symbol of shame, of condemnation, of death, of a traitor. Crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals, unworthy of living, worthy of a painful death. Crucifixion was a way for society to heap the most pain and the most shame on a person who was guilty of the most heinous crimes. It is not accidental that Jesus uses this image: the world will condemn us; the world will hate us; the world will shame us; the world will see us worthy of death. “To some we are the fragrance of life, to others the fragrance of death” (2 Cor. 2). “Do not be surprised if the world hates you, it hated me first. The world cannot accept you because I have chosen you out of the world.” (Jn. 15:18-19). Taking up your cross means rejecting yourself for Jesus to have His wat in you. Rejecting yourself means you say to Jesus, “Not my will Lord, but your will for me.” It is the greatest trade. Abdicating yourself for Christ will always prove itself the best choice to be made: “From my many years experience I can unhesitatingly say that the cross bears those who bear the cross.” – Sadhu Sundar Singh
The thing about Christian self-denial is that it is really the only way that the new you can take shape. The “you” you’re denying is the “old” you, the you that you were before you came to Christ. That man still shares residence in your body with the new you. It’s the you that was in Adam, in sin, condemned, and dead. That old you wants nothing to do with Christ, and like Forkie, he wants to keep running back to all the old sinful trash of the old life. That’s the “you” that you have to deny. His/her urges, impulses, and energy towards sin must be refused. That “you” will only derail your faithful following of Jesus. The new you, enlivened by the Spirit, desirous of righteous things, thirsting for holiness and knowledge of Jesus, that you is the one that grows and takes on Jesus-like shape. That is the one we want to be getting expression through us.
REJECT THE WORLD (36-37)
The second term for following Jesus is to Reject The World. Read 36-37.
You have to burn the plow. Do you know what it means to “burn the plow”? Turn to 1 Kings 19:20-21. Elijah the great hall of fame OT prophet went by God’s direction to name Elisha his successor. When Elisha received his call from Elijah, he said this…
His plow was the symbol of his old farmer life. To signify a complete abandonment of the life he had lived, and that to him it was never to be returned to, Elisha burned that plow. His old life was over, and, he would now get going as a prophet of God for the rest of his life. The old passed away, and, the new has emerged.
We Christians must burn our plows. Those things we looked to in the world must be offered to the flames. “But whatever was to my profit”, Paul said in Philippians 3:7-8, “I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ”
The underlying point is this: “What in the world even begins to compare to Jesus and following Him?!” Nate Saint was speared along with Jim Elliot that day in Ecuador, and he said these words: “And people who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives and when the bubble has burst they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted.” “If Jesus Christ be God”, said the great missionary C.T. Stsudd, “and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” (This is the same C.T. Studd who said that he would rather setup a a rescue shop within a yard of Hell than to live within the sound of church bells).
Disciples of Jesus have come to the realization that absolutely nothing in the world and the sum total of everything the world has to offer pales in comparison to following Jesus and being with him where he is. Does the world offer money? Achievement? Creature-comforts? Praise and recognition? Advancement? Power?
“I had utterly abandoned myself to Him. Could any choice be as wonderful as His will? Could any place be safer than the center of His will? Did not he assure me by His very presence that His thoughts toward us are good, and not evil? Death to my own plans and desires was almost deliriously delightful. Everything was laid at His nail-scarred feet, life or death, health or illness, appreciation by others or misunderstanding, success or failure as measured by human standards. Only He himself mattered.” – V. Raymond
In 1994 a plane crashed in Tibet where an entire family perished. At the scene of the crash was a Bible, identified as belonging to the mother, Mrs. Collins. Opening the Bible the workers found on its pages this written prayer:Lord, here in your precious Word I give myself, my husband, my children, and all that I have or ever shall posses, all to you. I will follow your will, even to China. Lord, open doors, and I will go and tell the Chinese of your great love. In time of need, supply for us; in time of sorrow, give us peace; in times of joy, send someone to share. Help me to never murmur nor complain. I love you Lord Jesus.” – Tanna Collins
We don’t belong to the world any longer. We now belong to God, and, He doesn’t do joint custody. The fact is that for disciples of Jesus and the world there is a mutual rejection. Discipleship difficulty arises when we refuse to reject the world, or, we do anything to keep the world from rejecting us. Let it go.
BE UNASHAMED (38)
The 3rd term for being a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be unashamed of Him. Read verse 38.
During the final days of Jesus ministry there were many who were secret believers. Turn to John 12:42-43 with me and notice the way John describes their fear, or shame, in publicly identifying with Jesus. Read. There was a cost that so far was too high for these people: ostracization, reproach, the loss of man’s praises. These are powerful forces that work against a Christian’s devotion to Jesus.
Nonetheless it is shameful to be ashamed of Jesus. What makes it so shameful, Jesus says, is that we would care more about the opinion of this despicable world. “This adulterous and sinful generation” stands out out to me. I think one reason we might be ashamed of Jesus in front of the world is because maybe we’ve never been ashamed of the world in front of Jesus. Maybe we’ve never felt ashamed in front of the Holy One of God, because maybe our whole Christian life has been about comfort and affirmation. Maybe we’ve never had any real sense of His holiness and so we’ve never had any uneasiness about our own sin. Maybe His righteousness has never been clearly seen by us so we haven’t really felt uncomfortable with how unrighteous we are – or the world we live in. “Woe unto me”, Isaiah said, “For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the Lord.”
Here are 5 things to help us be unashamed of Jesus in this world:
First, realize you are loved by Christ. Perfect love drives out fear, 1 John 4 says. You are loved by the most holy, most powerful, most wise, most splendid, most righteous, most perfect Being – with a perfect love. How could we let such a filthy, despicable, sinful and adulterous world ever make us for a moment be ashamed of Jesus? Instead, we should be sad and disgusted the world wont believe in this worthy savior
Second, love this lost world. Again, perfect love casts out fear. Now however, I’m applying that verse differently: when we have perfect love for the world we won’t be afraid of it. Loving is the cure for fearing; You don’t fear that which you love. Not love its values and ways, but, love it like God does in desiring its salvation, “For God so loved the world…”
Third, dont live like the world. Its very hard to stand for Christ when youre walking like the world. If you want to be unashamed of your Savior before an unbelieving world then make sure youre living right before Him everyday.
Fourth, the shame of the world is nothing compared to the glory that is coming. As a matter of fact, I’ve been thinking about what it will be like to be around so many believers who suffered and the greater glory they will have for suffering for the Name of Jesus. Am I going to arrive unscathed, with no scars to show for my faithfulness? Are they going to be sitting at the Feast in the kingdom showing their scars and then say to me, “you didn’t suffer anything for Jesus? Nothing?” To see Jesus’ scars for me, but have none of my own to show Him for my faithfulness to Him….embarrassing. “Have You No Scar?” Poem
Fifth, remember the future. “When the Son of Man comes…” If we really believe Jesus is coming back, and my life is going to be evaluated by Him, then wouldn’t I want to live every day I have in such a way that it will be good for me on that day? How ashamed of myself am I going to be on that day after having spent my whole life ashamed of Him?
CONCLUSION: Steamboat Bill
One of the most famous movie stunts was performed by Buster Keaton in the 1926 movie Steamboat Bill. In the scene a hurricane is blowing everything over. Then, the stunt comes when Buster is standing in front of a house and the whole front side of the house is detached by the powerful winds and falls forward – about to crush the actor. But because he is standing in just the right spot, as the house fell down he passed right through the open attic window, and he missed being crushed by mere inches on every side. The stunt was so frightening more than half the crew left the set rather than watch Busters probable death. But he didnt die. Even though everything was falling down on top of him he was safe, because he was standing in the right spot. It was the only spot he was safe.
The Bible says Gods judgment is going to come down on this world. And the only way for anyone to be spared is if they would go to the only place where its safe. There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) we need to be in Christ when the judgment of God comes falling down all around. If we are standing in Him, we too will pass through untouched.
- Reject yourself
- Reject the world
- Make your stand in Christ