Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Where is your heart?

Tonight, I'm thinking about Elisha. Elijah came by and threw his mantle upon him, signifying that Elisha was to be his servant and the servant of the Lord. Elisha immediately dropped what he was doing and followed after Elijah asking that he be allowed to return to his family to bid them farewell. Elijah didn't explicitly allow this, but didn't deny Elisha permission, either. When I think about this passage from 1 Kings 19, it brings to mind the passage in Luke 9 that tells a similar story where Jesus tells one man to follow him and another voluteers to follow Jesus. The first man asks for permission to bury his father before following Jesus to which Jesus responds in verse 60, "Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." The second man volunteers to follow Jesus, but only after he goes to tell his family at home what he was doing and to say his farewells. Jesus' response is not as ambiguous, saying in verse 62, "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." We've all heard the sermons about how the first man was called by Jesus and the second man called himself to Jesus. We've heard the comparisons between the dead of this world and those that are alive in Christ. We've heard the preacher tell us not to promise God we'd do something when we won't follow through. As Christians, we've heard these and many other sermons as well. I have something I would like to share about these two events that, hopefully, will help you in your walk with Christ.
When Elijah laid his mantle on Elisha, he did this because God directed him to. Elijah knew that Elisha would follow him because God had told him that Elisha would. Jesus, in the same manner, knew that the first man would go preach the kingdom of God and the second would not. How do we know this? Look at the answer that Jesus gave to the first man. We've heard the first part of the verse all of our lives. People in the world say it as "sage advice", telling people that the dead should bury the dead in reference to people with one problem or another taking care of people just like them, such as drug addiction, alcoholism, laziness, etc.
However, I want us to focus on the second part of the verse, where Jesus tells the young man, "but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." Contrast what Jesus says, "but go thou" with the first part of the verse and you see that Jesus is making a distinction between "the dead" and the young man, essentially saying that the young man was alive. Now, what would Jesus mean by calling someone "alive"? Just what you think it means, that to be "dead" is to be in the world without God, but to be "alive" is to have a relationship with God, to be part of the kingdom of God. What a thing to have Jesus say to you, that you are alive and not part of this dead world! Doesn't that get you excited just thinking about it? The rest of that verse shows that Jesus entrusted this man with the same responsibility that we have today: to preach the gospel, the kingdom of God, the Good News of Jesus Christ. He didn't ask the young man, He commanded the young man, "but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." First, Jesus tells the young man that he is not part of this dead world, but part of the kingdom of God. Then He tells him to go tell the people in this dead world about the living kingdom of God! Jesus knew from the moment He chose this young man what the outcome would be, just as Elijah knew before he even saw Elisha what the outcome of that encounter would be.
Jesus knew the volunteer's heart, as well. He knew that the man wouldn't follow through with his promise. We don't know why the man wouldn't, but we know from the response Jesus gave that the commitment wasn't there. Jesus was giving this man a warning not to promise something that he couldn't or wouldn't follow through with. We all need to heed that warning or we will not be "fit for the kingdom of God." Making a promise and not keeping that promise is the same as lying; there's no other way of saying it. We cannot make a promise to God, not keep it and then expect to be rewarded. I'm not condemning anyone to Hell, your spiritual condition is between you and God. My concern is, I believe, the same as the concern that Jesus had for this man: that you not make a promise that you aren't going to keep. In other words, "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." Be careful what you promise and make sure that you can fulfill that promise once you have made it.
There are many similarities to these two events. Jesus makes a reference to plowing a field and Elisha is plowing a field when Elijah arrives. Elisha asks for permission to say his farewells to his family, as do these two men in Luke. Jesus and Elijah both knew the outcomes of these encounters. The difference is the heart of Elisha and the young man that Jesus called and the heart of the volunteer. Both Elisha and the young man were called by God and accepted that call. The volunteer called himself to do the work, but didn't have the commitment to follow through. Are you the young man or Elisha that God knows before He even asks will do what He calls you to do? Or are you the volunteer that makes a promise that you can't keep? I don't pretend to know the heart of those who read this post. I simply want you to go deeper into the Word of God so you can become the Elisha of today or the young man sent out to preach the gospel and not be the volunteer, who makes a promise, but never fulfills it. The plough is ready, the field is ready, harvest time is drawing near. God is calling workers that are willing to put their hands to the plough and never look back. Will you answer the call or are you too busy burying the dead?

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