The Bare Soul - March 15, 2009
Leaving It All Behind

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "Leaving It All Behind" delivered to the homeless
at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on March 12, 2009.

Leaving It All Behind - March 12, 2009

Luke 5:11, 28 - When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him. ... And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him.

Luke gives us a glimpse into the compelling nature of Jesus Christ and His ability to influence others to give up everything on His behalf. First, we see Simon, his brother Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee (James and John) casting aside their previous lives to follow this man from Galilee. Within the space of 17 verses we see the calling of Matthew with identical deliberateness.  With the same verbiage, Luke describes the disciple-elect throwing off his former way of life in order to adopt a new way of living that was at the best, unclear. In both instances, the disciples are remarked upon leaving "everything behind". These are quite extraordinary statements regarding these first-century Israelites. Undoubtedly, Peter and Andrew as well as the Zebedee brothers caused great consternation and probably outright anger within their own families. Sons were raised to carry on the family business. If the family did not work, then it did not eat. Can you imagine the shame these families faced from the community? "What is this," the towns people might say, "that your sons are traipsing after this shiftless character that has left his own home and carpenter profession to pursue lunatic presumptions that he is a preacher and healer of sorts?" Surely, there was much head-wagging over the disciples' decision to leave everything behind and follow this Jesus of Nazareth.

Then there was Matthew. This tax-gatherer already had an unsavory reputation, so any move he would make regarding a vocation change would be viewed as an improvement. However, unlike the severing of familial and social ties that the fisherman encountered, Matthew must make the decision to break with his great love -- wealth. Tax-gatherers in ancient Palestine were notorious for not only exacting exorbitant taxes for the occupying Romans, but they would inevitably tack on additional "taxes" that were nothing less than extortion to be pocketed by themselves. In Luke 5:27-28, Luke tells us in the space of two verses how Jesus saw Matthew, called Matthew, and how he inevitably followed the Lord. As in the previous case with his fisherman brethren, the scripture states that he "left everything" and followed Christ.

Today, one might say that it was "easier" for them to leave behind their lives to follow the Lord. After all, He WAS and IS Jesus! In reality, however, it was still a huge risk for the disciples to leave everything behind and to follow this man they really knew little about. Their hindsight (as well as us as historical readers) confirmed to them that in time they made the right decision. However, in that initial instant and in the beginning when they had to decide whether or not to follow -- that was a huge leap of faith. In our present day, Jesus Christ is still looking for the same sort of abandon to Him as the early disciples showed by dropping everything and following Him. We might think we are much different today than those of early Christendom. We might think that our lives are much too enmeshed with our daily lives, families, businesses, activities, etc. to be able to dedicate such an abandoned commitment to the Lord Jesus. However, God's eyes are searching throughout the earth to find those whose hearts can be totally given to follow His Son in the way of these early disciples. In most cases, I believe that God is NOT calling us to become a St. Francis and give away all that we possess and to go follow Him. However, the Lord Jesus is desirous that we "leave everything" of the world behind in comparison to the devotion that we have for Him. To the degree that we can do this without covetous misgivings and follow Him, is the degree that He will share His life with us as he disciples us daily.

Few will know the calling of truly leaving behind everything and following the Lord in this lifetime. However, I will challenge us all with this statement: To the degree that we leave everything behind that is not of Him, is the degree that we won't be left behind in how God desires to use each and every one of us! As with God's universal law of giving and receiving, in just such a way will we receive back from the Lord blessings that we would never encounter unless we had "left behind" the life that was not in agreement with His divine will. Many concern themselves these days with the Rapture of the saints, or the great taking away of believers in the end-time (I Corinthians 15:52; I Thessalonians 4:16-17) . While this is certainly something to prepare for, it is nothing to be overly concerned. For as deliberately as we leave behind the things of this life, giving our hearts and lives to Christ, in the same measure we should have assurance that we will not be left behind. If one is frightened or is dreading the day of the Lord Jesus' return, then they probably have good reason since they have obviously not left behind everything to follow Him. However, for those of us who desire and yearn for His coming with unashamed, uplifted faces this will be a day of glorious deliverance. Those who have forsaken their old lives, leaving behind the encumbrances and the godless living of the past, these can be assured a lifetime of peace and happiness upon this earth and the promise of eternal glory in the life ahead.

Almighty Father, help us to leave everything behind all that is not of Your desire and to follow your Son, even as these early disciples. Sanctify our unsanctified lives that we often hold so dear, that ultimately keep us from full devotion to You. As we leave behind the things of this world, we glorify and rejoice in You that we will not be left behind in Your glorious plans for our life in this age and in the age to come. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Leaving It All Behind - March 12, 2009

 

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