And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:61-62 NKJV
Moving forward in Christ
In the full context of our scripture (Luke 9:57-62), we are introduced to three men who were wishing to follow Jesus as He and the disciples journeyed on the road. Let’s notice that (v.57) the first man says to Jesus, “I will follow You wherever You go.” This is a statement that we make to Christ in our hearts. Those of us who have professed our faith must do so in our heart. Our following of Jesus, because Jesus is not here physically, is done so spiritually; we follow Christ spiritually.
The first man, a scribe (Matthew 8:19), wishes to follow Christ both physically and spiritually. Again, notice that he uses the word “will” in what he initially says to Christ. When you use that word “will” you are saying that you are definitely and inevitably going to do something. For example: if you say I will bake a cake, that does not mean that you are considering it, but that you have already thought about it and you’re definitely going to do it. What I want you to understand is that this man was not hesitant at this point in his statement.
Jesus’ response to this man:
“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
Luke 9:58 NKJV
What is Jesus saying here? This speaks to the life of a follower of Jesus Christ. As I have said before, and will likely say for the rest of my life, the life of a follower of Christ is not a glamorous life. Those men physically followed Christ and they never got to sleep in a Marriot or a Holiday Inn Express. We, again, follow Christ spiritually and the journey is not going to always be rainbows and sunshine.
Jesus turns to another man after immediately making this statement, but I do want to point out that in this scripture, we do not get a response from the first man. To the second man, Jesus says, “follow me”, but this man wants to stay a while with his dying father. Jesus’ response to this man seems rather harsh at first glance.
“Let the dead bury their own dead” can certainly seem rather harsh, but it speaks to how life works. Let’s take a quick moment to understand Jesus’ statement to this man. When we pass on from this world, the world still continues to turn along with sin in it. The world will always need to gospel and someone must share the gospel with the world! We who remain after someone passes must understand that we still must continue to live and do the spiritual work required of us until the Lord calls us home or returns for the Church. We may pause for a while because life happens, but understand that the work of sharing the gospel is one of deep and significant importance.
The third man, I want you to pay close attention too, says to Jesus, “I will follow You”. However, there is a great difference in his statement to Jesus than the first man. Notice that this man follows up his “will” statement with a “but”. I am not of fan of folks who say they will do something but there’s a “but” (a caveat) within the statement. For example, if I say to you I will mow your yard, but you have to cook me some ribs first! There is a caveat to my “will” statement.
I want you to understand that there are caveats that we can make with the Lord. We cannot say to God, “I will believe but you have to first do this for me.” This third man does not exactly do that, but I wanted to spend a moment to say that because there are many people who try to play this game with God – it does not work that way. In my mind, I could understand what this man wishes to do.
He says to Jesus, “but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house”. This does not sound like a terrible idea in wanting to tell loved ones goodbye, but again notice what Jesus response is to this man wishes.
“No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:62 NKJV
Jesus is not telling this man that he cannot tell his loved ones goodbye. In fact, Jesus does not tell either of these three men that they could not follow Him. I don’t believe you will find anywhere in scripture where Jesus denies someone from following Him. Jesus wants everybody to follow after Him. What Jesus does in this scripture is point out what is required to follow after Him.
Notice that in Jesus statement that the person He speaks of has already put his hands to the plow – meaning this person has already started working. If we think about this spiritually, the plow would be the gospel and plowing the field would be representative of working for the Lord. What Jesus tells this man is that when you start working, for the Lord, you cannot turn (look) back! In other words, when you follow Christ, you should not have any regrets; you should not ever look backward; you should not regress! There is no room to turn around.
Regressive nature is a failure in Christ
How can you ever regress in Christ? Truthfully, I tell you today, that it should not be possible. When you are genuine in your faith and are a part of Christ, Paul says (Romans 12:2) that your mind has been transformed and renewed. So, in other words, you become brand new because you have transformed in your soul. Have you ever watched Transformers?
The Transformers could transform into any kind of vehicle while in their robot mode. In fact, they could go from robot to vehicle mode and reverse from vehicle mode to robot mode. When you transform, spiritually in Christ, you should not attempt to transform back into that old soul (old man).
We have no room to turn around because we have chosen to put our hands to the plow and become soldiers of Christ. If we start to turn around to look back and regress in our ways, we have failed and our faith is not genuine. The apostle Paul spoke (Philippians 3:12) of how he was not perfect, but how he pressed towards the mark to lay hold of what Christ Jesus had also laid hold of him.
To press towards that mark, you will notice that Paul says in the next verse:
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead
Philippians 3:13 NKJV
For us to move forward, we cannot live in the past! Do you understand what I am saying here? For us to progress forward, both spiritually and physically, we cannot live in our past. God wants for us to grow, constantly, and so there is no room for growth, spiritually, if you’re always looking to turn around and go backward!
Dealing with our past
What could cause us to go backward? Let’s remember what I have preached about the past couple of weeks in spiritual warfare. I said, in my sermon last week, that the devil knows who you, the believer, are and he has an armory of tools ready just for you. The devil will use your past against you to try and draw you away from Christ. Our past is another barrier that we must face and have torn down.
Our memory serves us well in being able to remember good times, lessons, and cherish loved ones – this is a blessing. At the same exact time, the devil attempts to use our memories against us. Have you ever been in thought and in an instant your good thoughts go completely negative? Have you ever thought about your disappointments and then suddenly you start to think about how you wish you could go back in time? We consider this to be our regrets; we don’t think much of regrets. In fact, there are some who say they have no regrets, but frankly, I find that very hard to believe.
We have to watch our regrets because they certainly play into the hands of that devil. The problem with regrets and living in the past is that we will eventually begin to forget about the blessings that God has given us to bring us to where we are in the present. The devil wants you to be blind to the Lord’s blessings! The devil wants you to believe that the Lord is not blessing you. He says to us, “if you transform back into this man, things won’t be as hard for you. If you go back to doing this (thing), then life will get better for you.”
We have become a new creature, we have no room to listen to the wiles of the devil and turn back. Let us remember what it is that we are striving for in the first place. Jesus said this:
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Matthew 6:33 NKJV
The journey for the Christian begins at this very place; we begin by seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness. When the apostle Paul speaks of pressing forward, he is speaking of this mark: the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Unfortunately, there are so many things to get hung up on in this life that could keep us from reaching that mark.
We can get hung up on a doctrine that is unsound and therefore is not profitable to us, spiritually. I have spoken at length to being wary of doctrine that is not sound because of where it could lead you. Last week we looked at those spiritual barriers, that pop up out of nowhere, and know that they must be brought down. We must also cross that barrier of wanting to turn around when the road gets tough.
Turning around, spiritually, equals turning away from the kingdom of God and His righteousness. I am reminded of Lot’s wife, when he, his wife, and two girls were evacuating Sodom prior to its destruction (Genesis 19:1-26). We know the story about how they were to leave the city and not look back as they were fleeing to a safer city. Lot’s wife turned around and looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.
I feel that this is what happens to many people when they begin to turn around, on God, instead of continuing forward – their soul turns into a pillar of salt. Instead of progressing forward, they are unable to move forward because they become stuck, looking back, in their old ways. For us to lay hold on what Christ has laid hold on for us, we must keep our eyes on the Lord and stride towards the kingdom and His righteousness.