First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, March 13, 2022)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“No Turning Back!”
1 Kings 19:19-21; Luke 9:61-62
“No Turning Back!” Over the last few Sundays, we’ve been learning together how to be good followers of Jesus Christ. We have examined some real-life stories and got to learn some very valuable lessons. This morning we have the chance to examine the story of another person who wanted to become a disciple of Jesus. Luke gives us the account of this person in Luke 9:61-62, “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.”
Once again, this seems like a reasonable request. “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Eight hundred years earlier, a man named Elisha asked if he could say goodbye to his family before leaving to follow the prophet Elijah. In 1 Kings 19:19-21, Elijah saw nothing wrong with this and gave him permission. But now one greater than Elijah is here. Why would Jesus do that? Why did Jesus refuse to give that person a permission to go back and say goodbye to his family? Is there anything wrong with that?
Let me clarify this. Jesus was not suggesting it was a sin to have an affection for home or an obligation toward those at home. I want you to know that this person was not asking for a moment to take care of what was necessary—he was putting forward an excuse that would not allow him to follow.
This man had no intention of following Jesus. Saying “goodbye” meant finishing that phase of his life. In other words, he was saying, “Let me raise my children, then I will follow you. Let me reach retirement, then I will follow you.”
I am sure that many of us have made such a commitment. But now, time has come and gone since you made that promise. Since then, the children have been raised, and now there are grandchildren, and they still can’t follow. Retirement has come, and with it, other concerns, and they still can’t follow. Something always comes first. Something always will, until we determine that Christ will be first above all. Two things for us to consider this morning:
First: Beware of Your Attachment to this World
True followers of Jesus should be always on guard from getting attached to the past and to the world. Jesus tells the man, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” The Lord, seeing that this person had too much attachment to the earth, told him it’s not going to work this way. Often times, those things are not bad in themselves. They become roadblocks when they stand between us and the Lord. They become a problem when the come “first” before the Lord.
No wonder that after Elisha received his call to follow Elijah while he was plowing, he cut all connections with his past. Listen to these words from 1 Kings 19:21, “So Elisha left Elijah and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.” Owning 24 oxen “twelve yoke” indicated some wealth in Elisha’s family. Once we have made the decision to follow Christ, it must be all or nothing.
We have to cut off the old life to follow Jesus. Often times, the Scriptures warn us against going back and thinking back to the old life with affection! When the Israelites came out of Egypt, the first thing they do is start looking back to Egypt. They were out of Egypt, but they couldn’t take Egypt out of them. They remembered the good food, but the forgot their misery and their harsh labor.
Second: Looking Back is Extremely Dangerous
“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Here’s what Jesus is saying. You cannot plow a straight furrow without looking straight ahead. And you cannot follow Jesus while constantly looking back over your shoulder.
The book of Genesis tells us a sad story about Lot’s wife. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be destroyed by God for their wickedness. Out of His mercy, the Lord God spared Lot and his family. This what Genesis 19:15-17 say, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city,” said the angels. When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!” Yet, despite of this clear warning and because Lot’s wife was so attached to the city, we read these sad words in Genesis 19:26 “But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” Looking back is extremely dangerous!
Friends, one of the greatest challenges and dangers for every Christian today is to follow Jesus while looking back. Imagine trying to drive a car on the highway while looking in only the rearview mirror. You’d be challenged to stay in your lane and avoid a collision. “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
I lived my childhood in a farming community. I always liked to see fields straight lines. I asked one of the neighboring farmers one time: how do you do it so neat? He replied, “Whether you’re cutting the grass or ploughing a field you need to fix your eyes on a point in front of you and walk or drive towards it. If you keep your eyes on the one point, you will have a straight line. Take your eyes off that point, you will go off line. If you look behind you, you are lost. Your hands will move slightly on the steering wheel and your line will definitely not be straight.” Followers of Christ, put your hand to the plow, keep your eyes on Jesus, and never look back! In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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