A highlight from Let the Dead Bury Their Dead
Welcome to Gospel and Life. This may sound strange at first, but in many ways, Jesus is an upside down Savior. He came not in strength, but in weakness. He came not to gain power, but to give away power. As a teacher then, He spoke in a way that turned people's expectations on their heads, calling people to lose their lives to gain them, to die to themselves so they can truly live. Some of His teachings can be difficult to understand or accept. Today, Tim Keller is teaching through one of the hard sayings of Jesus, showing us that while Christ's teachings aren't always easy, they provide the answers to having a meaningful life and a relationship with Him. After you listen, please take a few seconds to rate and review our podcast. Your review can help others to discover our podcast and experience the hope of the gospel. Now here's today's teaching from Dr. Keller. I'm going to read to you from Luke chapter 9 verses 57 to 62. We're in the middle of a, or actually near the end of a series we're doing here, morning and evening sermons on the hard sayings of Jesus, the difficult teachings of Jesus. Luke 9, 57 to 62, and as they were walking by the way, one man said to him, I will follow you wherever you go. Jesus replied, foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the son of man has no place to lay his head. He said to another man, follow me. But the man replied, Lord, first let me go and bury my father. Jesus said to him, let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God. Still another said, I will follow you Lord, but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family. Jesus replied, no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. This is God's word. There's a sense in which Jesus, it doesn't seem to me if Jesus was a pastor that his church would have grown very fast. Jesus acts in a completely different way than most church leaders do. People come and say, I want to join up and Jesus says, get back, think, he's harsh. He sets them back on their heels. He's so different than, well, not just church leaders, but any leader of an institution, any leader of a movement very much wants to inspire people to come and make commitments. Leaders of movements want people to be attracted. They want to make it easy for them to enter. They want to make it attractive for them to sign up and to buy, buy in. Jesus is very different. In fact, if you really read the scripture, you will see that Jesus is altogether different than anything the human race has ever produced. He's continually surprising you. When you think he's going to be harsh, when you think he's going to be stormy, he's sunny. And when you think he's going to be sunny, he's stormy. When he comes up to the prostitutes and the pimps, he sits down and eats with them. When he sees the lepers, when he sees the woman caught in adultery, with so many of these people, there's exquisite tenderness. But then when he comes up, not only with the religious leaders, but people who come up and say to him, I'm sold out for you, I want to live for you, I want to be with you, he's harsh. He's cold. He almost seems to be wanting to repel them. Now the reason that Jesus does this in this case, in these cases of these three men, is clearly because they do not understand what they are asking for. They don't understand what it means to follow Christ. And therefore, if we take a look at what Jesus answers, how he answers these three men, we're going to learn a great deal about what it means to follow Jesus. This is a very basic text, it's a very basic sermon. What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? What does it mean? Let's look. First thing, we're taught by the text, is Jesus is showing them that to follow Jesus, to follow Christ, is to enter the kingdom. To follow Christ is to enter the kingdom. Excuse me. See, in every case, the men are talking about following, I want to follow you, and in each case, Jesus keeps talking about the kingdom. They're talking about following Christ and he's talking about, he's making them see following Christ in terms of entering, serving, proclaiming the kingdom. Why? Jesus is pointing out, something that we often point out here, but let's look at it from this perspective again, that being a Christian is not simply a matter of ethical and doctrinal improvement. But rather, Jesus is saying, to become a Christian, to follow me, is not just a quantitative thing, it's a qualitative thing. It's not simply a matter of improvement, but it's a change in status and nature. Put it this way, becoming a Christian means to cross a border. If you're in Texas and you want to go to Canada, how do you do it? You get in a car, let's say, or you get in an airplane, and you go for a long, long way. You may spend a great deal of time getting to the border. And yet, you may have spent, I don't know, now see, I don't know much about the dimensions, I don't know how many hundreds of miles or even how many thousands of miles it is from the bottom of Texas to the border of Canada, but you can go thousands of miles and you could be standing right at the border. However, the fact is, all of that improvement of your location, all of that change, and it's been a massive change, all of that exertion and all of that cost has not gotten you into the kingdom at all. The fact is, before, you were 100 % outside of the Kingdom of Canada, and now you're still 100 % outside of the Kingdom of Canada with all that improvement. What gets you from one kingdom into another kingdom is not tons of improvement, but one step. And Jesus, by continually telling people to follow me means that you're entering the kingdom. What he means is that becoming a Christian is not just a matter of doctrinal or ethical change and improvement, but it's a translation from one realm into another realm. I read recently where somebody, I was reading about a woman who was a scholar who had been a liberal Democrat and it said now she's converted into a neo -conservative Republican, and he used the word convert. Well, you see, I guess that's a conversion, that's a massive change, but that's not what Jesus is talking about. Most people tend to think that that's what Christianity is, that it means changing your ethics, changing your lifestyle, changing your doctrine, and of course all that is entailed. But it's something much more radical and revolutionary than that. Following Christ means you're translated from one kingdom into another kingdom. The Kingdom of God, let's remind ourselves, because a couple weeks ago we talked about this when we looked at the term, we looked at the teaching where Jesus says the Kingdom of God suffereth violence and the violent bear it away. What Jesus is teaching, not necessarily right here, but throughout the New Testament, the Kingdom of God is the power of the outside world, the heavenly world, come into this world to heal it of all of its hurts. And the teaching of the New Testament, which is so radical, is that when you believe in it, comes down into your life immediately. It's like an acorn that's planted that eventually will grow and take over. The Bible tells us, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is here now through Christ so that when you make him your savior and your king, you cross a line. And there is an immediate change. And the power of that kingdom comes in. Now it's partial. It's only spiritual. And at this point, we are not at a place where the Kingdom of God is here in its fullness. And yet, you see, what it means to be a Christian is to say that the Kingdom of God is at hand. It's here and yet it's coming. It's already and yet it's not yet. And we said a couple weeks ago, there's a certain sense in which when old Maggie Smith, you know, in the Steven Spielberg movie, when old Wendy talks to Peter Pan, who's grown up and has forgotten where he came from. And she says, Peter, the stories are true. That's the gospel. What is the gospel? The gospel is that the Kingdom of God is real. See, Peter, there is. It's true. We are going to live forever in a castle. That's what a Christian believes. We are going to fly someday. We are going to wear crowns and live in a place where there's no more decay or death. There is a Camelot. That's what a Christian believes. There is a Never Never Land, you see. There are all these things and there is a kingdom coming, which is even greater than all the fairy tales can even convey. The minute I step over the boundary from being my own savior and king to having Jesus be my savior and king, the power of that future age comes into my life now and begins to change me, begins to renovate me. It's partial, but it's real. It's come, it's here, and yet it's on its way. And Jesus says, therefore, do not think that following Christ is simply a matter of, okay, teach me what are the new beliefs I've got to teach, I've got to believe. What are the new doctrines I have to believe? What are the new ethics I have to do? It's not just that. There is a moment. There is a spot at which you take one step and you cross from one realm into a brand new realm. These men didn't understand that. They still saw following Christ as really pretty much like converting from being a Democrat to Republican or Republican to Democrat. They said, I've left my own party. I'm going to follow you. Jesus says, you have no idea yet the radical nature of what it means to follow me. To follow Christ means to come into a whole new realm. It means to enter the kingdom. Secondly, now, once you understand, say, the doctrine of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of God is something that happens to you immediately as you make Christ your savior and king instead of yourself. And we've said the doctrine of the kingdom is that it's the power of the future age. Come into our lives now, partially, but not fully. That's the doctrine. And you really can't follow Christ unless you understand that. So that's the first thing is to follow Christ is to enter the kingdom. But secondly and thirdly, Jesus is dealing here, the first man and the last two, the first man and the second and third represent two different kinds of misunderstandings of the that kingdom Jesus is heading off at the past. And he's saying to them, you can't follow me until you understand the kingdom properly. The first man doesn't understand the hardness of the kingdom. And the second and third men don't understand the greatness of the kingdom. The first man is precipitous. The second and third men are hesitant. The first man is an idealist. The second and third men are pragmatists. Neither kind of person can enter the kingdom because they misunderstand it. The one kind misunderstands the fact that the kingdom is here only partially. And when the kingdom of God comes into your life, it brings you into conflict with the world and therefore many of the things that you want, like health and status and popularity and wealth may never come to you, nor does it have to because the kingdom of God doesn't consist of those things. Idealists need to be brought down to see the hardness of the kingdom. On the other hand, the realists, the people who say, well, you know, everything is good in moderation, religion, you can't go overboard with religion, you can't, there's got to be qualifications to religion, those people don't understand the greatness of the kingdom. And those people do not understand, as Jesus points out, you must not have any conditions on your obedience or you haven't taken a step into my realm. Now I just gave you a summary, let's look at those two. First of all, you can't be a Christian if you're really an idealist. Idealistic people are not for the kingdom. They don't understand the kingdom. See this man comes to Jesus and he says, I will follow you wherever you go. This is completely different than the last two guys.