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 Sermons on important subjects by Rev. Paul C. Jong

 

Follow the Lord First



< Matthew 8:18-22 >
“And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side.Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, ‘Teacher, 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.’ Then another of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’”



It is written here, “Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, ‘Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.’” Jesus then said to the scribe, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” This man called as a scribe, in worldly terms, was a high-ranking public official. This man of a high position chose to follow Jesus, saying to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” This man had a great respect for Jesus, and he really wanted to follow him. He must have truly realized who Jesus was, and he must have thought that there was no one in this world who was greater than Jesus.

But 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.” Hearing this, the scribe probably gave up. Though he respected Jesus as a man, he gave up the moment he realized that he had nothing to gain from Jesus. The scribe expected that he could gains something from Him as one of His disciples even though he initially wanted to follow Jesus out of his respect for Him. But Jesus said to him that the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head. Hearing this, that Jesus had not a single plot of land, neither his own home, nor anything else in this world, the scribe gave up.

When one of the disciples of Jesus said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father,” Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

A disciple is one who follows his teacher. When it comes to following the Lord for us, what Jesus said here is rather shocking. Jesus is telling us that the worldly people cannot follow the Lord even if they want to, and that there is nothing that they can gain by following the Lord. In fact, what worldly things could anyone gain by following the Lord? As Jesus said that the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head, the worldly people have no reason to follow the Lord.



To Follow the Lord, One Must Love the Gospel

One of the disciples here asked Jesus to allow him to first bury his father and then follow Him. Since his father had died, was it not only proper for him to first bury him and then follow the Lord? This would indeed be the right thing to do when judged based on the ethics and morality of this world. But in the Bible, Jesus said, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” How, in other word, could someone calling himself a disciple of Jesus follow the Lord only after taking care of all his carnal affairs? If one really wants to follow the Lord, then he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow the Lord (Mark 8:34). The Bible is telling us here that if we really desire to follow Jesus Christ, we can do so only if we let the worldly people take care of their worldly affairs.

Let us think about this carefully. When you try to follow the Lord, there are many obstacles of the flesh that hinder you from abiding by your faithful discipleship. When someone meets the Lord and wants to follow Him, the first obstacle to his way is the issue of his family. If he does not take care of his family, then he feels sorry for them, and he thinks to himself that he should be taking care of them and helping them.

After I was born again, there was a time when I actually faced the same problem. My older brother passed away suddenly, leaving his wife, two sons, and two daughters, for a total of four children behind, all by themselves. I had loved and cared deeply for these nephews and nieces from the day they were born. But the great turning point was that soon after my brother passed away, I came to be born again. I then had a sense of duty for the lost souls, and I felt a strong desire to follow the Lord. My heart just wanted to spread the gospel to even one person and help him receive the remission of his sins.

But there was something that was holding me back. Given my nephews and nieces, I felt that I had to make money to take care of them. There was no compulsory clause that required me to do this, but I had this desire deep in my heart. So I began to anguish over what I should do. Grown-ups can obviously take care of themselves, but since my nephews and nieces were still just children, living with their heartbroken mother without their father, I felt obligated to be kind to them and to take care of them. And for me to take care of them, I had to make money. Making enough money to support all five of them, including my sister-in-law, was no easy task for me. A considerable amount of money would be required to feed all four children, to clothe them, and to put them through school. But I also had to preach the gospel. If I were to serve the gospel, I could not take care of them, and if I were to take care of them, then I could not preach the gospel. So I kept thinking and anguishing for a long time over what I should do.

After a while, I eventually made my decision. The conclusion that I reached was this: although it was important for me to take care of my nephews and nieces, I could help them later on when I could afford it, but God’s works had be done now and could not be put off, for if I did not preach the gospel, then many souls in this world would die in sin. My dilemma over what I should do was then resolved. Instead of spreading gospel, if I were to make money and take care of my family, this would have been for the carnal happiness of only four, five people at most. But if I were to serve the gospel and follow the Lord, it would bring many people to life and serve the true happiness of the many. So after careful consideration, I reached my final decision and said to myself, “I am sorry to my nephews and nieces, but I just can’t do this. It’s not because I do not love them. I do really love them, but there is little that I can do. I only hope that they would work hard and overcome these adversities, and that God would bless them and help them.” I then stood up to follow the Lord.

Many such things happen to us as we live our lives in this world. After being born again, just how many times have we asked, “Let me first bury my father”? Though we have been born again by believing in Jesus, aren’t there so many things of the flesh that we need to do? How many people do we have that are in need of our care? The disciple in today’s passage said, “Let me first go and bury my father,” but if he were to take care of all his carnal affairs, then when would he find the time to do the works of God? When would he have enough time? That’s why Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” He said this because this was the truth.

No man can do two things well all at once. Though we want to take good care of both our carnal affairs and spiritual works, we can never achieve these two things at the same time. Even if someone is talented enough to take care of two things simultaneously, when he is hung up on one thing, then he is bound to be unfaithful with the other work. This is because regardless of how gifted he may be, there is a limit to his ability. Let me show you an example. Back in the old days when we were still in school studying for exams, we often focused on certain subjects. When we placed a greater weight to a particular subject and devoted more of our study time to it, it was only natural that we would not be able to study the other subjects with the same intensity, and we were bound to spend less time and pay less attention to them. All this is because we are finite beings.

So before God, we must consider the following passage as a matter of actuality: “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” We need to realize the meaning of this passage and follow it. To bury one’s own father is only proper. It is something that we must all do. Is there anyone among us the born-again who would not give a proper funeral to one of his family members that passed away? Everyone does this. But the Lord spoke to His born-again disciples about what it is that they must first do, what the disciples who truly follow Him must first do.

What must the righteous do first? They must first do the works of God, follow the Lord, serve the gospel, do what the Lord wants them to do, and be led to wherever He leads them. This life of discipleship is to follow the Lord. After being born again, whether we remain as the disciples of the world or become the disciples of Jesus is determined by whether we decide to follow the Lord or the world and its secular values. The people of this world think that the disciples of Jesus are extremely petty, utterly infantile, and cunning, as if they were nobody. They think like this based on their worldly standards and on their own, but the true disciples of Jesus could not be more different. The disciples of Jesus think on a much high plane than the disciples of the world, their goals are noble, and their hearts are as big as the seas. Born into this world once, everyone must live a meaningful life, and to live this life is the life of discipleship.



Whose Disciples Are You?

Are you the disciples of Jesus, or are you the disciples of the world? Put differently, do you follow the world, or do you follow Jesus? Those who follow Jesus leave everything of this world aside and seek to serve the gospel of our Lord. It is those who live like this who are the Lord’s disciples. In God’s Church, there are some laymen believers who are serving the Lord while living their social lives, taking care of their families, and carrying on with their works and businesses diligently. This, of course, is also the life of our Lord’s discipleship. But there also are those who follow Jesus and serve the Lord’s gospel wholly and exclusively. They are the true disciples of Jesus, and they are living the proper life of discipleship.

No matter what, a disciple follows the footsteps of his teacher. Jesus’ disciples like to do what Jesus wants them to do. Therefore, those who have decided to believe in and follow Jesus must follow the Lord forever. Jesus said here, “Follow Me,” and it is indeed a great joy to follow Him. What a great teacher is Jesus, how almighty is He, and just how good is our Lord? If we really follow the Lord, we will never regret ever.

If we follow the Lord, He will never cast us out, nor will He ever betray us. And following the Lord is never in vain. This is why the Lord Jesus told His disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). He still tells us, today’s disciples, to make disciples of all the nations.

We must really think about what the true discipleship is, and examine carefully whether or not we are indeed living this life of discipleship. Laying aside our busy schedule and urgent tasks for a while, we must think about this issue seriously. We must reexamine our mind before the Lord whether we are pleased with our decision to be His disciples, and whether we are ready to please the Commander who has enlisted us as His good soldiers (2 Timothy 2:4). We must confirm that the life of His discipleship is the most precious and worthy one for us to live. And then, we must set up our hearts as His good disciples once again.

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My dear fellow Christians, the scribe wanted to follow the Lord, but he was unable to do so. He failed to do so because the Lord had told him that there was nothing for him to gain by following Him. He said, “I have nothing, but if you still want to follow Me, then follow Me. I have no possession in this world. But in truth, I am the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, the Lord of all hosts, and the King of kings. Yet I have nothing of this world. Foxes have their holes and birds of the air have their nests, but I have nowhere to lay My head. So if you want to follow Me with your worldly lusts, then do so while you are fully aware that you will not gain anything of this world. If you want to follow Me even as you realize this, then follow Me.”

But to His disciples, Jesus said, “Follow Me. Let the dead take care of the affairs of their dead ones, and follow Me.” Who are the dead here? Are they not those who have not been born again? They are the people who do not believe in Jesus and His true gospel of the water and the Spirit. The world may be full of obstacles, and it may be hard for us to follow the Lord, but as you live your lives, remember what our Lord said here: “Follow Me.”

It is my hope and prayer that you would always remember in your hearts that the Lord has told you to follow Him, and that you would indeed do so.

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