September 23, 2001: Let’s Keep That ‘New Leaf’ Turned Upright

Let us pray: Dear Savior, in the wake of all the horror we’ve experienced recently as a nation people have turned to You for help and strength in numbers unseen in our lifetimes. As is usually the case when confronted with things far beyond their control countless people have resolved to repent of their past follies and to embrace Your cross. Lord, today we ask that You send forth the Spirit mightily so that the new-found faith of these souls and the renewed faith of our souls may not grow flabby and lethargic ever again. Amen

TEXT: Luke 14: 25-33

Fellow Redeemed Sinners in Search of Real Truth:

The other night of President spoke to the nation concerning our newly declared war on terrorism. After the speech was over I turned to my wife and said: “His speechwriter put in some really good lines.” And one of those memorable lines was that this new war is a contest between “freedom and fear.” He also told us that this war will be long with various ups and downs, but that we dare not grow weary and backslide into complacency. As each of us re-examines our own spiritual wake-up call, those words continue to hit home. When it comes to a personal watershed event that changes our lives we often speak of it as “turning over a new leaf.” Certainly countless souls across our nation have recently “turned over a new leaf” when it comes to their relationship with God. In a sense that’s the easy part, for if you don’t turn to the Lord amid times of crisis where else is there to go? But now that the dust has literally settled comes the hard part. And that’s where today’s text comes in. For it clearly says:


“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-yes, even his own life-he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

At first blush those words jar us. I suppose the politically correct crowd would read those words and accuse Christ of a “hate crime” on the basis of them. Is Christ literally telling us to hate our loved ones and ourselves? No. For that would be a violation of the 4th commandment to “Honor father and mother” etc. Likewise, hating oneself would be a violation of the 5th commandment, as well, which protects all human life. No, Jesus is here making a point of comparison in an extremely forceful manner. He’s telling us that human relationships, even the most intimate of relationships, must take a back seat to our allegiance to Him. Being a disciple, a follower, means giving up anything and everything that hinders our Christian walk. It means we must always be willing to say “No” to our sinful nature and to suppress our spiteful spirit. It means we must never give in to blind vengeance born of hatred, but listen to the better angels who preach Godly justice. At times it even means we must rebuke loved ones for leading us away from Godly truth to mere human expediency. We as a nation and we as individual Christians dare never forget that the ends never justifies the means. What matters is always our motivation. And if that motivation is not based on Godly truth than it must be discarded and opposed. “For the love of Christ constrains us” as the Bible says.


A key phrase in this lesson is: “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.””Everything he has.” By nature we have sin in our lives. We possess pride, arrogance, envy, hatred, and rage. Up until 2 weeks ago most of us were far more concerned about the size of our 401k’s, our relatively easy lifestyles, and our increasing net worth based on the rise in housing prices than we were on anything else. In a blink of an eye all that changed. All of a sudden people who thought that ancient Christian word: repentance, was silly and outmoded found out otherwise. All of a sudden those ancient Christian values of: allegiance to God, appreciation of family, civic virtue, and common decency came to the fore. People turned over a new leaf. They sought out churches. They prayed. They became more civil. The pace of life slowed down, and we realized that there are bigger things in life than our personal wants and whims. Now it remains to be seen whether or not that new-found repentance will continue to bear fruit. Will we pass this test of faith as a nation and as individuals, or not?

To assist us our gracious Lord has given us two timely examples to follow. In the first example He speaks of building a tower-that in itself takes on a whole new meaning today, doesn’t it? “Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?” In the second example He speaks of a king going to war against a foe-another poignant example in light of Thursday night’s speech by the President. “Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with 10,000 men to oppose the one coming against him with 20,000?”

The point is clear. Following Christ is costly. Repentance is not merely a one-shot deal. It is a lifestyle that truly must last a lifetime. Thus, the cross He wants us to carry is one of daily, life-long repentance and faith in Him alone.

Is following Christ worth it? Well, let me put it this way-what do you want, freedom or fear? Following Christ with a humble heart is freedom. Think about it. Through faith in our Savior we have peace with God because Jesus won that peace for us on His cross. God died so that you might live eternally. He died so that you might be able to go through life knowing beyond any doubt that sinful humans cannot harm the best part of you, your soul. And He also rose to life to give you a new appreciation of your life. Life is special. And life renewed and made whole by God enables us to live each day in appreciation of those “better angels” like love, compassion, kindness, and civility. Yes, through faith in Him we begin to value each human being as special because God’s Son poured out His blood for them. Yes, freedom from worry, fear over the unknown future, and even death are His legacy to us.

Some have said that America will never be the same after September 11th. Others say that we will forget and go back to the way it “used to be” in a few years. What’s your answer? All of us want to “do something” to help hurting souls and a fractured nation. My message to you this morning is: “Let’s Keep That New Leaf Turned Upright!” Let’s not grow lethargic or apathetic about our God or His will for us. Let’s hold on to whatever is “good noble, just and praiseworthy.” Yes, in each of our lives let’s make the freedom of soul we have in Christ ring out loudly and continuously. Amen