Today, let's talk about "Seek Ye First..."
It’s been said that the reason America doesn’t experience the power and revival that the rest of the world feels is because we pray for revival, and they pray for unity. They pray to be united together in Christ, while we pray that God blesses us and gives us more. I don’t care for hearsay or click-bait. So I’ll clarify, when I write “it’s been said…” I mean that Bro. Baily told Pastor and Sis. Ballestero; I was privileged to hear it.
Unity brings about a lot of things. Unity in learning. Unity is purpose. Unity in our sacrifice. It gets God's attention. When Jesus started delegating authority to his followers, his disciples, he gave them rules. God gives us plenty of promises... but with every covenant, every promise comes a requirement, a rule, a guideline. God is an orderly God and we can work the plan and be blessed. He tells us in His Word what His expectations are. We don’t have to cry out, cut ourselves or beg God to speak to us, when we’ve got the living Word in us, and his scriptures in front of us. But he also expects us to follow the rules... and to follow Him.
Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Disciples (Luke 9:1-6; see also: Mt 10.5–15; Mk 6.7–13)
Jesus called the twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases. Then he sent them out to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick, after saying to them, “Take nothing with you for the journey: no stick, no beggar's bag, no food, no money, not even an extra shirt. Wherever you are welcomed, stay in the same house until you leave that town; wherever people don't welcome you, leave that town and shake the dust off your feet as a warning to them.”
The disciples left and travelled through all the villages, preaching the Good News and healing people everywhere.
That first verse says that He called them together.
Then He gave them power.
Then He gave them authority.
Then He SENT them... and He sent them with NOTHING but His power, authority, and commission.
We want God to call us. We want God to give us power. We want God to give us authority. We are not very keen on God sending us. We are even LESS keen on God telling us that we are to have the bare minimum. We need a lighting budget. We need cordless mics. We need earbud monitor systems. Anything less than state of the art is a slap in the face to us.
We tell God these days that we “can’t” do ministry unless we are assured that it’s comfortable, will fit in our schedule, and we are able to ensure that we are properly paid. People want to play in church on Sundays, but they don't want to practice during the week. They want to be in the big churches and have the nice systems... but they can't see themselves helping a small church that might be one person, acoustics, and doing it simply to ensure that God's name is glorified in worship. And most people want a check. I am not correcting Paul. I believe the workman is worthy of hire, but it’s about communal generosity, not wealth or prosperity. Do you think a man of God will be uber-wealthy? Do you think if he is, he’ll keep it, or spread it for the Kingdom? Do you think about the camel and needle? What did Jesus really mean when he sent his followers, his friends… the men that would be with him out into the world and into towns like this? With nothing? As nothing? As people that would need kindness, and alms from strangers to survive?
Would YOU do it, if that’s how God called you to ministry? Could you? What did Jesus really mean by that? Like, really mean... Is it possible He meant to leave everything behind? Live in a commune?
Oh… wait... He kind of said that, didn’t he? Matthew 8:22 is where Jesus told the rich young ruler, a teacher of the law, and an actual disciple to leave it all.
All of it?
Yes, all of it. He told the rich young ruler to come with him. And he meant right then!!! He told him to leave it all behind. He told the young man to walk with him daily, forsake his home, his business, his money, his servants his house, his family. Jesus told him to say goodbye to all of that and come prepare. Jesus knew that His immediate rise and fall were coming. He knew that the Gospel would be spread. He knew that eternity was in the balance. The ruler just thought of that day. What were his tasks THAT day? What were the things he needed to accomplish THAT day?
Do you get caught up at church?
Do you get fired up and mean well and want "more" of God? More power? More help? More blessings?
Do you feel the rush of a preacher’s message and tell God you’ll follow him, literally, anywhere?
Do you balk when God accepts your offer and asks you to commit to following Him and leaving your world behind?
What about the passage in Luke to the one in Matthew? It’s nearly identical in the technicalities of what is offered as the story, but it offers a few more insights into Luke’s pragmatism and writing style. He focuses on the different phrasing used. Matthew captured the beauty and majesty of the whole “Son of Man” thing, but Luke cuts to the point: If you don’t follow God, and obey God, you are of no use to God. #Boom
The Would-be Followers of Jesus (Luke 9:57; see also, Mt 8.19–22)
As they went on their way, a man said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lie down and rest.”
He said to another man, “Follow me.” But that man said, “Sir, first let me go back and bury my father.” Jesus answered, “Let the dead bury their own dead. You go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”
Someone else said, “I will follow you, sir; but first let me go and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus said to him, “Anyone who starts to plough and then keeps looking back is of no use to the Kingdom of God.”
Could you do that and leave everything for God? Would you?
What did Jesus mean when He said that anyone that ploughs looking back is useless?
What keeps calling you to back?
What has a call so strong that you won’t keep looking forward at the task God has for you?
What is so powerful, grand, or important that the straight and narrow row you should be ploughing will be crooked or stopped due to your inability to look forward?
Ask yourself those questions and answer them honestly. Answer them truthfully. Do you think you can follow God and let Him truly mold you and use you? Or will you offer all of the reasons that YOU are the special case that He should work with? Will you convince God that you deserve the mantle of leadership and prestige and want the power to proclaim the Gospel, but YOU deserve to be let out of the sacrifice and the path that God would have you walk.
Seek Ye First: God and Possessions (Matthew 6:24; see also Lk 16.13)
“No one can be a slave of two masters; he will hate one and love the other; he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."
See, here is where the rubber meets the road for most people. Most conservative citizens in the Bible Belt consider themselves to be “Christian.” The matter is that they are conservative. They have values that are conservative. But their love of money is a problem and it’s one that will overshadow the rest of their testimony. You cannot love money and serve God. It’s POSSIBLE, but incredibly NEARLY NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN that a rich person will make good moral choices and make it to Heaven. Jesus just flat out said it: A rich person will work to make more money and hoard and keep money. They just don’t usually end up using it to make the lives of the downtrodden and poor and needy better, or even tolerable.
You can even sing the songs, wear the right clothes, look the part and be a teacher of the law, a ruler, or a disciple of Christ… but if you won’t drop YOUR plans, and YOUR life, and YOUR mindset, then you are missing the point. The Gospel has been spread. It’s been put out there. Those in charge of it have mutilated it. They’ve abused it. They’ve bastardized it for selfish gain… God can handle all of that. I’m not an apologist, nor am I ashamed of it. The cruelties done in the name of Christ were done by politics, greed, and for control. They were not done in LOVE. But, without love, we are clanging cymbals. We are useless. We are ineffective. Why? Because God is Love (1 John 4:8) See, if you are not full of love of Christ, even for those not like you, then you don’t know God.
Seek Ye First: God and Possessions (Matthew 6:25-34 ; see also Luke 12:22–31)
“This is why I tell you not to be worried about the food and drink you need in order to stay alive, or about clothes for your body. After all, isn't life worth more than food? And isn't the body worth more than clothes? Look at the birds: they do not sow seeds, gather a harvest and put it in barns; yet your Father in heaven takes care of them! Aren't you worth much more than birds? Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it?
“And why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow: they do not work or make clothes for themselves. But I tell you that not even King Solomon with all his wealth had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers. It is God who clothes the wild grass — grass that is here today and gone tomorrow, burnt up in the oven. Won't he be all the more sure to clothe you? How little faith you have!
“So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’ (These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things. So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings."
What are you doing FOR God?
When God called you to follow Him, did you only agree on YOUR terms?
When God told you to share the Gospel, is it only in the situations of which YOU approve?
When God asks you to step out in faith and help, is your obedience only when YOU are comfortable?
When God tells you to do something, is the schedule set only when YOU decide?
Don’t miss it. Don’t you dare miss what God has for you. I often wonder if the rich young ruler witnessed the crucifixion. If he told his children and grandchildren that he knew of Jesus and had a chance to go with Him. What did he think after that encounter when he left, saddened?
What about you? Do you leave saddened?
How many encounters have you had with God? How many times has God given you a chance and reached out to you? How many times has your heart been pricked with conviction and you feel the Holy Ghost urging you to talk to Jesus? How many times have you begged God to keep giving you chances, because you are "not ready." How many times have you told God that you need to take care of a few situations, just be patient while you correct and work on a few loose ends? That's not how it works with God. His love is infinite, not His patience. If you are consumed with worldly things, they will be the things that choke your relationship with God. They will be your demise. You will miss the point, and you will miss your chance.
I ask you again:
What has a call so strong that you won’t keep looking forward at the task God has for you?
What possession is worth communion and following Christ? You just "have" to have it.
What idol do you have that you have put above following Christ? You just "can't" give it up.