The Moment of Truth

Luke 9:57-62

Preachers are always preaching about winning the world to Christ.
But we are rapidly losing it.
The statistics are startling.
Some years ago, someone had estimated that the pagan population of our world is increasing
about the astounding rate of 100,000 per day.
This is the year of 2013, and that astounding statistic said that by the year 2000 only 2%
of the world's population will be Christian.
This is tragic!

Among the many answers that have been given, and certainly one of the most obvious is the lack
of dedicated, discipleship of Christians.

Many years ago, Henry Drummond said, "What the world needs is not more of us, but a better brand of us."
We must become the dedicated Christians that we should have been when we came to the Lord
and gave Him our lives.

Does Christ rule your life?
If Jesus called you to leave your home and your business and move to a foreign land, would you go?
Or if Jesus called you to take a position in another state for less money, would you go?
That is the moment of truth.

In the ninth chapter of Luke 9:57-62, we read of three men who were faced with becoming disciples of Jesus Christ.
These men faced their moment of truth concerning discipleship.
They were faced with having their way or of allowing Jesus Christ to have His way.

As we examine the moment of truth concerning these three men, we might find ourselves faced
with our moment of truth.
We may come to see if we were really believe, and if we are willing to sacrifice, and stand for that belief.

Jesus had just ended His Galilean ministry.
In Luke 9:51 we read, "And it came to pass when the time was come that he should be received up,
he steadfastly said his face to go to Jerusalem.
And a great fear fell upon his disciples as they looked upon the determined Saviour making haste
to meet his cross
."

Strong feelings were awakened by such a crisis when these three men met Jesus.
Will they become His disciples?
If so, then let them follow Him now.
There was not time for speculation and delay.

Jesus needed men who understood the need of the hour, and it is an urgent, solemn call.
Half-hearted disciples, followers who had a mere sentimental affection for Jesus,
but who gave the first place in their lives to any other interest or any other purpose or person
were of no use to His kingdom.
Jesus must have men who, "regardless of conditions," and "without reservation or hesitation," would follow Him.
Jesus Christ expected a firm commitment.

With this in mind, let us look at the three men.

First, there was the impulsive follower.

This man comes to Jesus with great enthusiasm, and says, "I will follow you wherever you go."
But Jesus repelled him or in effect, throws cold water on him.
Not many of us would do that for we are so anxious to add numbers that we will take people any way
that we can get them.

I remember a pastor speaking to me of his disappointment that a major program that he had proposed
to his church was defeated.
This pastor said to me: "I will get numbers anyway that I can get them, and then, we will outvote them
and I'll get this program that I want
."

Jesus must have recognized that this would-be follower was not aware of the cost of discipleship.
Perhaps, he wanted to follow Jesus because he had seen the great crowd surrounding Jesus,
or maybe he had seen Jesus performs some mighty miracle or maybe he had dreams
of the great, coming Messianic kingdom.

It seems obvious that this would-be follower has been motivated by emotion.
He is so self-confident that he can carry out any task – in fact he is cocky.
He seems to think that his emotional experience will be sufficient to take him through any experience.

Whatever his motives were, they seemed to have been inadequate.
Jesus stopped him cold in his tracks, and said, "If you are going to follow me, you must count the cost."

Jesus never invited anyone to follow Him by offering them the easy way.
The followers of Jesus are to be willing to endure anything for His sake.
There is no such thing as "cheap" grace in the economy of God.
The way of Christ is the way of sacrifice, and of total abandonment to the will of God.

So Jesus has this first man to face his moment of truth.
Jesus did not actually tell the man that he could not follow Him.
He did not humiliate him or spurn him.
He simply referred to Himself and to His own ministry when He said, "Foxes have holes
and birds of the air have nest, but the Son of Man have not where to lay his head
."

The hole of the fox was for concealment.
In this statement Jesus made it plain that those who would follow Him could not conceal themselves.
They must be like a city on a hill which cannot be hid. (Matthew 5:14)
Those who want Christ to confess them before the Father must confess Him before man.
(Matthew 10:32, 33)

The nest of the bird symbolized safety.
Jesus made it clear throughout His ministry that He had come, not to offer a comfortable life, but to offer a cross.
Jesus made it clear that when someone received Him that person must die to self.
Jesus also taught His disciples to expect persecution and even death for His cause.
There would be no quiet, restful bird's nest for any true follower of Jesus Christ.
Christians cannot be at ease in Zion.

Now take a look at the second follower.

He seems to be timid, shy, and hesitant.
It is possible that we are more often to be slow than to be fast in our response to the call of Christ.
It could be said that a reluctant spirit oftentimes reveals an unwillingness to follow.
At any rate, Jesus had called him to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom of Christ.

And evidently, he wants to do so.
He does not refuse the Master.
He only asks for a little more time to be given.
He said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father."

When Jesus said, "Let the dead bury the dead," He not only faced this man
with his greatest moment of truth, but He also set off a controversial issue which still has not been
resolved in the minds of many critics.

Jesus has often been unjustly criticized for making such a "cruel and heartless" declaration.
There are many possible explanations of the meaning of Jesus as we will see
as we look at three possible explanations.

First, the man's father may not have been dead and all, but only very old or ill.
So the man whom Jesus called was perhaps saying in effect, "Let me stay and take care of my aged father
until his days are over, and I have buried him.
Then I will follow thee.
So, after I finish this obligation, then I will be willing to start a new life with you
."

This sounds reasonable and logical.
However, we must remember verse 51.
Jesus had very little time left in His own life.
It was possible that Jesus would be crucified before the father of this man would die.
Those who would be with Jesus in His last days and follow Him to the death,
and must come now or not at all.

The second possible explanation is that the man's father actually had died and that he wanted go
and take care of the funeral arrangements.
This also seems to be a very reasonable request.
However, if this were the case, we need to remind ourselves of the custom of that day.

In the time of Jesus, the dead were buried immediately after death.
Then, there was a long period of mourning lasting sometimes for weeks or months,
usually involving all sort of fasting and sometimes feasting, religious ceremonies and rites,
settlement of estates, etc.

The saying of Jesus was probably not received with a sense of shock as it is by so many in our day.
In the time of Jesus, there was a saying that a young man was not fit to be a Rabbi
unless he was willing to leave his father's funeral for the study of the law.

The third possibility is the unusual interpretation which says that the man simply wanted
to attend his father's funeral.
Who could possibly turn down such a request during the time of this man's deep loss and sorrow?
Yet, even if this were the case, it is still true that there are times of crises in a person's life
when the choice is not always between good and evil.
More often, it is a choice between the good and the better.

This man's problem was that of traditional duty.
He was afraid of breaking with a past tradition.
He felt obligated to assume the duties which society had assigned to him.
He was more concerned with society than he was with Jesus Christ.

The third man was weak, impressionable, and unstable.

He wanted go, and yet he wanted to stay.
He wanted to be on both sides at once.
This man is as a volunteer was willing to follow Jesus, but we wonder why.
When approached by Jesus he responded,
"I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." (Verse 61)

He is torn between two affections.
His desire is to follow Jesus, and his love is to those at home.
He is paralyzed by indecision.

Is it possible that he hopes in his new relationship with Jesus to find new friends
and new social awareness in which to enjoy?
Is he thinking of the romantic, glamorous aspect of a new crusade?
Is he dreaming about "faraway places with strong sounding names"?

This man's moment of truth comes when Jesus demands immediate discipleship.
He was perfectly willing to follow, but not yet.
He wanted do something new, but he had not yet finished with the old.

In His wisdom Jesus knew that this man would be overly influenced by friends and loved ones.
So Jesus was not being hard-hearted when He rejected the man's request to return home for a farewell.

Jesus simply did not have time to waste on the social life involved in a hero's departure.
Jesus needed men who understood the urgency of discipleship.

No one can follow Jesus Christ unless Christ occupies first place in his or her life.
The reply of Christ in verse 62 indicates the stern demand for total allegiance.
Below are some instances of why this total allegiance is necessary.

A plowman who does not keep his eye constantly on the goal cannot plow a straight furrow.
Also, he who is looking back to other attachments and affections of life cannot do what
the service in the kingdom of Christ required.

The tragic story of Lot's wife who looked back towards Sodom and was turned into a pillar of salt is a stern warning
to all who do not seek first the kingdom of God.

And today, accepting the call to be a disciple of Jesus is not a matter of being
at the right place at the right time or having your name on the right church roll,
but it is a matter of responding to the call of Christ to leave all, and follow Him.
Most of us have a strong inclination to build nests, have comfortable buildings and Christian cliques
where we are protected from the expectation to do Christ-like service regardless of the pain or the cost.

Discipleship centers not on a place, but on a Person.
The essence of this not going to a church, but following a Christ -- Jesus.
Our security and comfort and rest is in Jesus and in wherever He leads us – we are secure.

Discipleship is not a self-satisfying treasure to be kept, but is a self-forgetting love to be given.
It is surprising how many Christians have not begun to love their enemies.
It is surprising how many Christians do not turn the other cheek.
It is surprising how many Christians have not gone the second mile.
It is surprising how many Christians delight in putting other people down.
It is surprising how many Christians are back-biting.
It is surprising how many Christians are cruel and criticizing.

It is surprising how many Christians do not rejoice in persecution.
It is surprising how many Christians who are not willing to lay down their lives for the sake of Christ.
It is surprising how many Christians are still as self-centered as ever.
It is surprising how many Christians see in Jesus a way to satisfy desires of prominence or of popularity.
It is surprising how many Christians who view Christianity as an opportunity to get great blessings.

He who follows Christ must learn to lose himself in the care and compassion of others.
A follower of Christ isn't always tooting his own horn, but he is always pointing others to Jesus.
Instead of worrying about getting blessings, he is worrying about helping the poor, ministering to the sick,
lifting up the fainthearted and bringing mercy to the sinful.
He is not interested in glory for himself, he is always giving glory to the Lord.

Every Christian is commissioned to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ.
Witnessing is the job of every Christian -- the emphasis is on every.
When the church loses this concept of discipleship it's ministry will be hampered.
This is probably one of the greatest failures of the church today.

We have expected a few people to do all the witnessing for Christ.
And we, as pastors, have been diluted to believe that we must do it all from the pulpit,
and very few of us anymore are are going outside the walls seeking and witnessing people
who are lost in their sins and dying without Jesus.
As pastors we have also neglected to equip the saints, for the work of the ministry,
and for the edifying of the body of Christ.

We have been raising shallow saints who have not learned how to do the work of disciples.
And so in attempting to reach our man-made goals for man-made rewards, we are not growing
a better brand of Christians who are needed to change the world for Christ.
This is tragic!

What are we waiting for?
Our moment of truth is here!
Is it self or Christ?
How is it with you?
What do you use as your "reasonable" excuse for not being totally committed to Jesus Christ.

Obedience

"I said, "Let me walk in the fields."
He said, "No, walk in the town."
I said, "There are no flowers there."
He said, "No flowers, but a crown."

I said, "But the skies are black;
There is nothing but noise and din
."
And He wept, as He sent me back;
"There is more," He said; "There is sin."

I said, "But the air is thick
And fogs are veiling the sun
,"
He answered, "Yet souls are sick,
And souls in the dark undone
."

I said, "I shall miss the light,
And friends will miss me, they say
."
He answered, "Choose tonight
If I am to miss you, or they
."

I pleaded for time to be given.
He said, "Is it hard to decide?
It will not seem hard in heaven
To have followed the steps of your Guide
."

I cast one look at the fields
Then set my face to the town;
He said, "My child, do you yield?
Will you leave the flowers for the crown
"?

Then into His hand went mine,
And into my heart came He;
And I walk in a light divine
The path I had feared to see."
-- George McDonald

This sermon was adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White