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"He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me." (NASB)
These words of Jesus have a harsh tone that seems quite foreign to the way Churches often explain the plan of Salvation. Often, we've been guilty of saying, "just pray this simple prayer and you'll be saved and we fail to explain the implications of that simple prayer." Yes, it is true that salvation is only a prayer away and that it is available without cost to anyone who will call upon the name of the Lord, but it is also true that the very act of allowing Jesus to be the Lord of your life requires total commitment. We don't purchase our salvation by our commitment it is not a transaction we make with God, but an attitude of total commitment is involved in our salvation. Even if you understand the words of Jesus to be hyperbole an exaggeration to make a point, you still have to wrestle with what the point is Jesus is making.
Jesus uses the phrase "not worthy of me" twice in these verses. By definition, grace means unmerited favor, so there is a sense in which we will never be worthy of Jesus. We will never do anything good enough in our lives to deserve one drop of blood that Jesus shed on the cross for our sins. We will always be unworthy. Like the centurion we say, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof." (Matthew 8:8a NASB) Or like John the Baptist we say, "It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie." (John 1:27 NASB)
But there is another sense in which we can be "Christian worthies." Like the prodigal son we say, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son." ( Luke 15:21 NASB) The father wouldn't hear of the son's objection and immediately began treating him as a favored son. We're not worthy of His grace, but we can be worthy of walking in fellowship with Him after His grace has established our relationship. In other words, as you're walking beside Him, Jesus would notice you and think, she belongs here she is worthy to be my disciple.
Though this is by no means an exhaustive list, let me share with you 5 times in the New Testament that Christians are called worthy. I'll begin by mentioning two from the gospels, then conclude with three from the epistles.
We are worthy when we are FOCUSED on His Kingdom. Those who are worthy of walking with Jesus are those who have Kingdom tunnel vision. People who are recklessly pursuing the great cause. Matthew 6:33 says, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you." (NASB) In many ways, discipleship is a quest living life with a single purpose.
Did you hear about the man who is trying to visit every company-owned Starbuck's in the world? John Smith, a.k.a. "Winter," is a 32-year-old man has been on his quest for 7 years and has visited 4,122 stores in North America, 114 in Britain, and 53 in Japan. Though Winter is doing well, his quest will keep him busy for some time, because Starbuck's opens an average of ten new company-operated stores around the world each week.
Winter works just enough to fund his ongoing quest for coffee. He plans out a trip to visit a number of stores and then hits the road. He sleeps in his car, which he admits has no air-conditioning, and smells like stale coffee. On a recent swing through Oregon, Winter managed to call on a record 28 stores in one day.
Winter's quest began in Plano Texas in 1997. When the topic of the chain's growth came up, Winter says an idea randomly popped into his mind. "What would it be like to visit every Starbuck's?" After attending a concert later that year, and visiting a few Starbuck's along the way, Winter was hooked.
Winter's self-imposed rules require him to drink coffee at each store, so he usually asks for half a cup. Though he sometimes gets tired of the taste of coffee, Winter says, Starbuck's is his life. He adds, "There's no way to be finished unless Starbuck's goes out of business or changes its name. Those are two scenarios under which I would essentially be done. But there's really no such thing. The best I can hope for is to keep up. I can't foresee myself stopping. It's too rewarding an experience." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
Now that's dedication! I enjoy a good cup of coffee as much as the next guy, but I would never devote my life to such a quest. It is one thing to be dedicated, but it is quite another to be dedicated to a worthy cause. Jesus requires total commitment. He wants us to radically pursue Him, like Winter is pursuing his coffee. That's why He said, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me."
We are worthy when we are PERSECUTED for His name's sake. The disciples rejoiced when they were considered worthy to be persecuted for Jesus, Acts 5:41 says, "So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name." (NASB) The pain didn't make them happy, but knowing they were following in the steps of Jesus did.
In his book, Mission to OZ, Mark Tabb writes, "Sure, life goes better with Jesus, but that doesn't mean life will be more comfortable or easier. Personally, I've found the opposite to be the case. The more serious I am about walking with Christ the harder the road becomes." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html) Following Christ means sacrifice. The disciples were persecuted, yet they found joy in knowing they were taking up their cross and following Jesus.
The Apostle Paul writes about being a Christian worthy in several places. I want to close this morning by mentioning three of them. If you want to be worthy to walk with Jesus then you will be:
WORKING TOGETHER for the sake of the gospel. Philip. 1:27 says "Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;" (NASB) Our church's moto is working together to change the world a phrase that captures the essence of this verse. Paul encouraged the church at Philippi to work together for the faith of the gospel.
Not only will you be working together for the sake of the gospel, but you will also be FOLLOWING YOUR CALLING. 2 Thes. 1:11 says, "To this end also we pray for you always that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power;" (NASB) Notice that Paul put the word "your" before the word "calling." Each member of the body that is working together for the sake of the gospel must be ministering according to their unique calling. We are only worthy of walking with Christ when we are doing what He wants us to do, not when we are following some preconceived notion of what we think other people want us to do.
Not only will you be working together for the sake of the gospel and following your calling but you will also be BEARING FRUIT. Col. 1:10 says, "so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;" (NASB) When we do the other two, the third will happen. When we are working together with others and when we are fulfilling our calling we will bear fruit. Paul's words remind me of something Jesus said in John 15:8 "By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples." (NASB)
Would you like to be a Christian Worthy? You can be if you fulfill
the third purpose of your life what we'll be reading about this week
Discipleship. We can be worthy of walking with Jesus if we offer Him our
total commitment and pursue the great quest of following Him. Are
you living that lifestyle? If not, you can.