Monday, September 24, 2007

Loitering on the Heavenly Journey

‘As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." 58 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." 59 To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." 60 And Jesus said to him, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." 61 Yet another said, "I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home." 62 Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."
-Luke 9:57-62

‘Oh that I may feel this continual hunger, and not be held back, but rather animated by every cluster from Canaan, to reach forward in the narrow way, for the full enjoyment and possession of the heavenly inheritance! Oh that I may never loiter in my heavenly journey.’
- Jonathan Edwards, The Works of President Edwards, Memoirs of Brainerd, p. 77

The Gospel of Luke will change us. As we begin this preaching schedule through Luke it will make a difference in us. And, truth be know, we’ll likely find ourselves uncomfortable at points. Consider the citation from Luke 9 shown above. Sometimes Jesus shakes us up with His abruptness and His call to radical discipleship. Intimated in His words are God-ward sacrifice, self-denial, commitment and faithfulness. It seems to be a question that comes up every so often. Maybe you have heard it asked in different ways, but the question comes down to this - The biblical doctrine of God’s sovereignty and the doctrine of God’s grace are pitted against the gospel call to discipleship. As if these things can be divorced from one another. The inference is that the sovereignty of God in the salvation of sinners and the grace of God in the unmerited favor of God towards sinners is such that Jesus’ unequivocal demand for gospel obedience loses its clarion and radical call. The correct answer is that these things are never to be held in tension. If our view of sovereignty and our view of grace somehow minimize the gospel call to discipleship we have misunderstood them. Conversion, regeneration, and the new birth all are synonymous with the action of the Holy Spirit that re-creates the sinner to true repentance (i.e. discipleship). Over 300 years ago the writers of the Westminster Shorter Catechism answered similar questions, What is repentance unto life?, by answering, Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it to God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after new obedience. As a church, may God give us great grace so that we are supremely conscious of the radical gospel call to repentance, faith and obedience. In our amazement of God’s sovereignty and grace we mustn’t let the words of Jesus lose their force. In Edwards’ words, may we not loiter in our heavenly journey.

All total, it’ll take less than two hours. I’d like to encourage you to read through the Gospel of Luke this week. You could divide it up into sections and it will only take you 15 minutes a day. Parents, it would be great if you could read it together as a family, even taking time to discuss the implications of what you are reading.

I am profoundly grateful for you all and the many ways you provoke me to be a true disciple.

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