"All material is written by
Joe R. Price, unless otherwise
"And take...the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17)
In this issue:
“And as they were going along the road, someone said to Him, ‘I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ And He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’ But he said, ‘Permit me first to go and bury my father.’ But He said to him, ‘Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.’ And another also said, ‘I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:57-62). Though many have and continue to seek to be disciples of Jesus, Christ teaches here that to be a “follower” requires that one be willing to make sacrifices (“…nowhere to lay His head…”), and make the choice to put Christ above all else in their life (“…allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim…”). In addition, Christ makes the simple point that His disciples must be committed and dedicated in their service to Him when He said, “no one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” But what does it mean, in spiritual terms, to “put our hand to the plow”?
To “put our hand to the plow” is a proverbial expression of the decision to undertake any particular endeavor or task. If a farmer makes the decision to commit a portion of his land to grow a crop, he will then “put his hand to the plow” which is indicative of his commitment to the endeavor of farming. Once the hand is upon the plow, there is no turning back. The commitment has been made and he must be undeterred until the fruition of the harvest. In similar fashion, the spiritual application is of one who makes the decision to obey the gospel and follow Christ. The commitment has been made and he also must be undeterred until the course is finished (cf., II Timothy 4:8). Once the hand is upon the plow, spiritually, there is no turning back. Involved in the concept of “putting your hand to the plow” are two issues: dedication and commitment.
The idea of dedication is the idea of a singular focus. Following Israel’s great sin of idolatry in the wilderness, Moses charged those who stood for the Lord to “dedicate yourselves today to the LORD – for every man has been against his son and against his brother – in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today” (Exodus 32:29). They were to take their stand against the sin in the camp by fulfilling God’s commands through Moses even though it may cost them those that they love. The Israelites’ loyalty could not be divided and neither can ours. Our relationship with God as Christians must have a singular focus as well. Paul spoke of his dedication and singular focus in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. Dedication includes the idea of adjusted priorities in our lives. One who obeys the gospel must continue to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). No longer can our fleshly relations be the priority of our lives. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). Also, dedication speaks of sacrifices that must be made. In the same context of Luke chapter 14, Jesus went on to say, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple…So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (Luke 14:27, 33). We sacrifice daily all else for that which we are dedicated to (Romans 12:1-2). They are spiritual sacrifices (I Peter 2:5) that include our praise and spiritual service (Hebrews 13:15-16), as well as our time and physical blessings (Philippians 4:14-18). Indeed, our dedication to God will cost us (Luke 14:28) and we can measure our dedication by what we are willing to sacrifice.
The other aspect of “putting our hand to the plow” is that of commitment. Commitment speaks of uncompromising determination and resolve. The farmer who quits because it didn’t rain as it should have, or there were too many rocks in the way, or because of some form of blight or pestilence, or simply a lack of interest, was not truly committed and had not truly “put his hand to the plow.” Likewise, the child of God who quits because of some form of persecution, mistreatment by others, or distraction by the cares of this world (cf., Matthew 13:20-22) or a lack of interest has not committed him or herself to the Lord, nor have they in truth, “put their hand to the plow.” Those who are committed to the Lord are those who are unwilling to quit or turn back until we reach the goal, regardless of the consequences. We see a lack of commitment exemplified in the Israelites from the time they left their bondage in Egypt as they journeyed to the promised land. Their lack of commitment to reach their goal was repeatedly demonstrated in their outcries to Moses expressing a desire to return to bondage in Egypt (Exodus 14:11-12; 16:3; 17:3; Numbers 11:4-5; 14:1-4).
We read in Acts 7:39, “And our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt.” In contrast, we read of Isaiah who expressed his commitment when he said in Isaiah 50:5, “The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not disobedient, Nor did I turn back” (cf., Galatians 4:9).
What is it that we are to dedicate or commit in our lives? We are to dedicate and commit our time to God. Matthew 6:33 and our responsibility to seek God first has a direct application to how we spend our time. Would an unbiased observer look at how we spend the time of our days and conclude that we seek to put God and His kingdom first in our lives? Are we making the most of our time for the cause of Christ (cf., Ephesians 5:16)? We are to dedicate and commit our physical blessings to God. Again, what comes first? Do we allocate our financial resources to our recreation, entertainment or other personal pleasure and give to God what is left over (cf., Malachi 1:8)? Or what about our talents, abilities and our energy? Have we committed them to God or do we exhaust them for personal purposes and neglect to use them to His glory?
“Putting our hand to the plow” is to literally give our lives to God. It should impress us what is said of the brethren of the churches in Macedonia by Paul, “For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord, begging us with much entreaty for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God” (II Corinthians 8:3-5).
You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS
KEEP YOUR EYES ON…
Scripture Reading: John 9:35-41
1. Jno. 9 – Relate healing of
the blind man.
I. KEEP YOUR EYES ON JESUS – Heb. 12:1-2.
A. As the Leader of the (our)
Faith – 12:2; Acts 3:15; Heb. 2:10.
II. KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE CROSS – Heb.12:2.
A. Only Hope of our Salvation
– Col. 1:20; 1 Pet. 2:24; 1 Cor. 1:17-18; 2:2.
III. KEEP YOUR EYES ON HEAVEN – Heb. 12:2; 2 Pet. 3:13.
A. Keep Your Eyes on Heaven’s
Purity – Rev. 21:27; 2 Pet. 3:14; 1 Pet. 1:4; 2 Cor. 7:1.
1. Jesus came so that those
who do not see might have sight (Jno. 9:39).
You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS
Scripture Reading: John 2:13-22
Zeal (zelos) is “excitement of (the) mind, ardor, fervor of spirit…in embracing, pursuing, defending anything”; from zeo, “to boil with heat, be hot”.
I. MISPLACED ZEAL.
without Knowledge – Rom. 10:1-3; Acts 22:3-5; Phil. 3:6; 1 Tim. 1:13.
II. GOD-APPROVED ZEAL:
Harmonizes with the Divine Will – Num. 25:6-11 (Rom. 10:2); Phinehas, Psa.
III. THE ZEAL OF THE LORD.
Lord is Zealous of Righteousness – Num. 25:11-13.
Conclusion: Zeal w/o knowledge leads to self-righteousness; Zeal with knowledge leads to fervent & faithful service.
Created by Chuck Sibbing -
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA