Giving Jesus First Place

Luke 14.1-24 takes place at the home of a prominent Pharisee. The scene and the crowd changes with verse 25.

Luke 14.25Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them . . .

The crowd following Jesus may have reflected some of the diversity of Christianity in America in 2021. The Pew Research Center provided their latest statistics on religion in America.

— Self-identified Christians make up 63% of U.S. population in 2021, down from 75% a decade ago.

— The religiously unaffiliated share of the public is 6 percentage points higher than it was five years ago and 10 points higher than a decade ago.

— Christians continue to make up a majority of the U.S. populace, but their share of the adult population is 12 points lower in 2021 than it was in 2011.

— In addition, the share of U.S. adults who say they pray on a daily basis has been trending downward, as has the share who say religion is “very important” in their lives.

— Currently, about three-in-ten U.S. adults (29%) are religious “nones” – people who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular” when asked about their religious identity.

There were probably no “nones” in the crowd that followed Jesus, because religion was important in first century Israel.

However, the crowd was probably a mixture of genuine disciples, seekers, curious, skeptics, and opponents.

Both then and now, Jesus desires genuine followers who desire to adopt his attitudes and actions.

Jesus is Worthy of First Place

Jesus addressed the crowd with startling words that amounted to the need to place Jesus as a person’s number one priority.

Luke 14.26 – “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”

The word “hate” in verse 26 has tripped up Bible readers for generations.

Jesus clearly did not intend for us to contradict the fifth of the Ten Commandments.

“Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20.12).

In today’s YouTube video, Rudy Ross makes it clear that whatever Jesus taught, he did not advocate disobeying the fifth commandment.

What did Jesus mean by “hate”?

If we remove the emotional element from hatred and understand it to refer to the ultimate preference of our lives, then it is more understandable.

A Personal Example

My father wanted my brother and me to continue a four-generation tradition of attorneys in our family. He supported my entrance into the ministry, but made it very clear that he wished I had chosen to be an attorney.

I recall one painful conversation where he expressed his disappointment very strongly.

My father and I loved each other. He supported me and I respected his guidance in every area, but entrance into the ministry.

I never hated my father, but I did choose loyalty to Jesus over him.

Later on, both my father and mother expressed appreciation for the path I took. Thank God.

I expect this kind of story has been multiplied millions of times by people who preferred loyalty to Jesus over the wishes of family, friends, employers, and more.

Another Victory Needed

It was far easier to tell my father that I was determined to become a pastor than it has ever been to deny myself.

Jesus teaches his followers that genuine discipleship involves self-denial.

Luke 14.27 “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

Paul understood the work of the cross in a believer’s life.

Galatians 2.19b-20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.

And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

(1) When Jesus died, all believers died with him.

(2) Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus lives his life through us.

(3) When we trust (exercise our faith), the above two statements are true of us. That is when we will live the life God intends for us

Jesus died, rose from the dead, and gave us the Holy Spirit, so that he could empower us to live a Jesus-kind-of-life.

Our role is to accept in faith what he has done for us and live guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

YouTube Video

In today’s YouTube video, Rudy Ross and I talk about this passage. We discuss how we approach these verses and attempt to incorporate them into our lives.

The video can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.

Please email your prayer request to bsprad49@gmail.com or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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