“Can You Pay the Price?


June 30, 2013
Galatians 5:1, 13-25 2 Kings 1:15-21 Luke 9:57-62

Whenever we do something, there is a cost to what we do. If we go to watch a football game, we pay to get in, but even if we decide to go to the park, which is free, then there is a cost to us in time and in other things that we cannot do with that time. While we are enjoying our time walking or resting in the park we cannot, at the same time be doing laundry or vacuuming the living room. Patti and I just recently bought a new (to us) car and while we were shopping we saw cars that had lots of nice accessories that we would have liked to have, heated leather seats, outside thermometers, compasses, built-in navigation systems and all sorts of other things. But we had to decide at some point whether we were willing to pay the price for those extra things (we weren’t). If you decide to go to college and get a degree you have to pay tuition but you also lose the money that you would have made working if you had not gone to college. As we passed through Memorial Day and Veterans Day and again as we draw near to July 4th we often hear the message, “Freedom isn’t free.” And we know that the freedom we enjoy was purchased for us and is, in fact, fed and watered by the blood of patriots, men and women who have sacrificed their time, their energy, their families, and even their lives so that we might keep what our forefathers gave to us. Even as ordinary citizens there is a price to be paid for living in the United States and for being an American citizen. We pay sales taxes, school taxes, property taxes, income taxes, state taxes, federal taxes, unemployment taxes, Medicare taxes, Social Security taxes, telephone taxes, highway taxes, inheritance taxes, and even death taxes as well as a bunch of others. Living in a free country is anything but free. Likewise, there is a price to be paid when we declare our allegiance to the Kingdom of God. There is a price that must be paid if we are to declare ourselves followers of God and believers in Jesus Christ. Like many of our taxes, some of these costs are small and easy to pay but others are bigger and are much harder. Remember last week when we heard Elijah whining that nobody loved him, that everyone had turned away from God, and the king was trying to kill him? Do you remember what God said to him?
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The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel —all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”
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So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. 20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.” “Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”
21

So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant. 1

When God called Elisha to follow Elijah and succeed him as the Prophet of Israel, Elisha already had a job. He was working the fields of his family farm and seems to have been in charge of a number of servants and hired hands as well. When Elijah wrapped his cloak around Elisha’s shoulders he knew what it meant. He asked to go back to kiss his parents goodbye and then burned the plow to cook the oxen he was plowing with. This is a bigger deal than we often think. Killing the oxen would be like a modern farmer setting fire to his tractor to light the barbeque. Most people could not afford a cow and to have more than one, let alone twelve pairs, was a major investment. The way that Elisha does this so that he can feed his workers (and probably most of the neighbors), I think, means that he was leaving with the expectation that we wasn’t ever coming back. This is not a bon voyage party as someone leaves for vacation, but more of the kind of party that people had when their children set out for the New World or left the East Coast to settle the Wild West. Friends and family and other people came to say goodbye because they expected that they might not ever see Elisha again. The price to Elijah was similarly high. Elijah followed God for his entire life and his reward was that he got to watch most of his friends and colleagues get hunted down and killed by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel and spent a lot of his own time running and hiding in the wilderness as well. Now, at the end of his life, God calls Elijah to anoint his replacement and then go out into the wilderness to die. For all of the prophets of Israel there was a price to pay for following God. It is important to note that those who are asked to sacrifice and to pay a price for the Kingdom of God are not just the prophets of God and not just the pastors and the priests. In Luke 9:57-62, Jesus meets several men who wish to follow him. He invites them to do so, but they want to put things off. Jesus warns us all that there is a price for all of us to follow him…
57

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.”

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But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
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Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

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The first man offers to follow Jesus but goes away when he discovers that Jesus lives in the wilderness and sleeps in borrowed rooms. The next man offers to go with Jesus but first he has to go and bury his father. Now, some writers have imagined that the man’s father was not yet dead and so in asking to follow Jesus he was asking to follow him sometime… later… sometime in the future. The third man just wants to go home and say goodbye to his family. Heck, even Elisha was allowed to do that so what’s that all about? Here again, commentary writers have said that going home to say goodbye would have allowed the man’s family and friends to convince him to change his mind. Jesus’ question then is, “Are you willing to make up your mind, or not?” We are called to understand the price that is to be paid, to make up our 2

minds, and get moving. If you have ever tried to plow a straight line, you know that you can’t do it if you keep looking over your shoulder to see where you’ve been. The same is often true of mowing a large lawn. The first time your attention is taken away from what you are doing, your path forward begins to drift off course. Jesus says, ‘Are you all in, or not?” Jesus isn’t looking for half-hearted followers. And Jesus reminds us that following him can be costly. If you struggle with that, it gets even harder. In Galatians 5:1, 13-25, the Apostle Paul describes the freedom that we have in Jesus Christ, the freedom that was bought and paid for, not by men and women in uniform, but by the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
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You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
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So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
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The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
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But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to live our lives differently than we used to. We are called to live our lives measured by a different standard that we used to use and a different standard than our friends and our culture use. We are called to love one another and to love our neighbor. We can no longer say that we hate someone because their political opinions are different than ours or because they have a different religion than ours, or are from a different country, or a different state, or speak a different language, or their skin is a different color than ours. None of that matters any more. We are called to love them, despite our differences, as much as we love ourselves… and that’s hard. On top of that, we are called to live our lives in service to a different kind of morality. We are not to live our lives as the world and our culture live in service to ourselves and to our own pleasure. Our culture assumes that premarital sex is normal, natural, and irresistible and any attempts to be pure are ridiculous and impossible. Honestly, the things we see in our culture today still pale in comparison to the things that Paul saw in the cultures of Greece and Rome but all the same, Paul says we are to put aside all those things that culture and Hollywood say are normal. We are to live our lives measured by a different standard. 3

Living life this way is not normal. It will not win you many friends, especially if you are young and unmarried. I have heard popular television personalities openly ridicule anyone who dares to think that they might maintain their virginity until marriage. Even as married adults, for us to live without immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy and drunkenness is not going to win us a lot of popularity contests either. If we live our lives in the way that God has called us to live them, we will stand out. We will be obviously different than the world around us. And we will pay a price for that. Just as our freedom has come at a price, there always has been, and always will be a cost to being a follower of God. Are you prepared to pay the price?

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You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribe@trinityperryheights.org. If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online). These messages can also be found online at http://www.scribd.com/Pastor John Partridge. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

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