Jul 1, 2019
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Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
As I read the scriptures from yesterday’s lectionary readings, there are some disturbing verses. Words that you probably wouldn’t search out to win someone to the Christian community. But I think we sometimes fail to give the whole picture of what it means to follow God and in so doing lose a lot of people who would follow him if they understood that he doesn’t necessarily remove us from the difficulties of life, but rather he walks through them with us.
Let me give you a sample of what was in the readings yesterday.
From 1 Kings 19 as Elijah commissions his replacement, Elisha he utters these words in verse 20. ‘He [Elisha] left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, "Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you." Then Elijah said to him, “Go back again; for what have I done to you?”’
Then in Luke 9 we find these words:
As they [Jesus and his disciples] were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go."
And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."
To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."
But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home."
Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."
These are tough verses to hear if you are a new Christian. The disciples had been following Jesus for three years and heard him talking about his upcoming destiny in Jerusalem. I’m not sure they believed he would be crucified. I think they still hoped he would be the physical, political, and religious leader they wanted him to be. But they had heard his message and heard him proclaim that he would be hung on a tree just as Moses hung the snake on a pole in the wilderness, when the Israelites wandered in the desert those centuries earlier.
Jesus puts a damper on a lot of folks who made the claim they would follow him anywhere. He didn’t say they couldn’t follow him, but he questioned their ability and their commitment to do so. In effect, he told them, it isn’t just words. To follow him, it’s a life changing event. Everything else in life must become secondary to him. He will be first or he will not be at all. He will not be second place in life. Period. He won’t even be tied for first. Nothing can come close to his sovereignty in your life. Why? Because he is God, that’s why.
God deserves that position in our lives because he made us. We don’t like to think in terms of slavery and someone owning another person. It rubs against us because of some of the horrid conditions and the abuse that some owners imposed on slaves. And it’s true. Our history shows that some owners were unkind to slaves, treated them poorly, didn’t see them as human. But not all slave owners felt that way throughout history. In fact, as you read documents from ancient times, you find accounts where people indentured themselves as slaves. Did this happen often? I don’t know. But it did ensure survival for many that would not have survived otherwise.
Slavery has been a part of the world throughout its history and is still happening today. Is it wrong? I don’t think one person should own another, but I know that many of those owners saw their slaves as assets like they we would see many of our assets in business. They took care of them if for no other reason for the economic value the assets brought to their business and their home. Greece would not have become the intellectual and philosophical giant it became without the slave labor it had. Rome would not have created the network of trade and commerce had slavery not been used to make it happen. The United States would not have fed itself in its infancy had slaves not been around to work in the fields.
The face of our world would be very different had slavery never happened. Am I a proponent of slavery? Absolutely not. I only make this point about history to note that I don’t think we in our particular point in history we fully understand the ramifications of what slavery has done or not done to the history of mankind for good or bad. People of every race have been enslaved at some point in history. And I point out the magnitude of slavery throughout man’s history because of its use as an example the New Testament writers choose for our relationship with God. We are slaves either to him or to Satan. Those are our two choices. But we are slaves nonetheless.
The penalties for runaways have always been harsh. There has never been real freedom for slaves. But as we think about the two masters, God and Satan, which would you choose to serve? Satan says you are free and in control of your life, but as we mentioned last week, you are not. We can control so little. We have an illusion of freedom, but we are not free. The chains of sin that bring guilt and pain and separation from God bind us in ways we try to push aside with self-help, drugs, short-term pleasure, and all kinds of gratification that never works.
When we are slaves to God, though, we are freed from the guilt that comes from our disobedience, our sin. We are forgiven and made a part of his family. We are treated as sons and daughters of the King of kings. We begin to experience the right to live abundantly. Not necessarily with material things, but with the assurance that we will see God face to face one day and that he will never leave us while we journey through this life. As his slaves, we know he cares for us. We know he has our best in mind in all that happens around us. We may suffer, but it is not because of him. It is because of the sin scarred world that continues to plunge toward its ultimate destruction and rebirth as the new heaven and new earth Jesus describes.
Life was as hard for Elisha as it was for Elijah. He lived much of his life in the wilderness on the run from those who tried to destroy him because of his messages from God against the wickedness that prevailed among the leaders of the nations. Elisha never enjoyed a fancy place to live, fashionable clothes, or popularity with the in-crowd. But Elisha listened to and followed God’s commands.
When we follow Jesus, life will not necessarily be easy. In fact, Jesus promised his disciples, and that includes us, that the world would hate us because of him. Satan lured Adam and Eve to disobey God and he has been doing the same to every person ever born ever since that day. He does not want us to follow God. He does not want us to give ourselves to God’s sovereignty. Satan abandoned God and wants us to do the same. But the price is eternal separation from the only one who really cares about us. The one who made us is the one we need to listen to and follow.
No one, even God, never promised life would be fair or easy or fun or pain free or full of only happy times. In fact, the closer we get to the end of time, the worse the conditions will be for those who give their allegiance to him. The world seems to be getting pretty close to the time of delivery as Jesus describes these birth pangs of earthquakes, famine, floods, wars, and things that seem to tear us apart. Just look around and note the intensity and velocity of things happening around us compared to just a few years ago. I don’t think it’s climate change. I think God is counting down the days until this old earth gives birth to a new one. Read Matthew 24 and 25 and then compare today’s news to Jesus’ description of the end times.
It won’t be long. Get ready.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.