DON'T LOOK BACK!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, November 9, 2003


"No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).


A man came to Jesus and said,

"Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house" (Luke 9:61).

This seems like an innocent enough request. And yet Jesus raised an objection to him doing so. Jesus objected to him going home and saying farewell to his family and friends. Why did Jesus disapprove of him doing that? Albert Barnes gave this comment on the words "let me first go bid them farewell." This man wanted to

…inform them of [his plan to follow Christ], and set things at home in order. Jesus did not suffer [give permission to do] this, because he probably saw that he would be influenced by a love for his friends, or by their persuasions, not to return to him…Men should not tamper with the world. They should not consult earthly friends about it. They should not even allow worldly friends to give them advice whether to be a Christian or not. God is to be obeyed rather than man, and they should come forth boldly, and resolve at once to give themselves to [Christ] (Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament, Luke and John, Baker Book House, 1983 reprint, p. 63).

This man said he wanted to follow Christ, "but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house." A. T. Robertson says,

"But first" (prōton de). He…had something that was to come "first"…It is thus a formal function that this man meant to go home and set things in order there and then in due time to come and follow Jesus (A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Broadman Press, 1930, volume II, p. 142).

But there is a great danger in saying, "Lord, I will follow thee, but …" Jamieson, Fausset and Brown tell us that

The best illustration of the danger of "looking back" is the case of those converts from Hinduism, whose parents, when [discovering] their intention to be baptized, travel to the mission-house, and plead, with tears and threats, that they will not take a step so fatal. Failing by this means to shake their resolution, they at length submit to their hard fate; only requesting that before they undergo the rite [of baptism] which is to sever them for ever from home, they will pay them one parting visit - to "bid them farewell which are at home at their house." It seems but reasonable…"Well, I will go; but my heart is with you, my spiritual fathers, and I will soon return to you." He goes - but never returns. How many promising converts have thus been lost to Christianity…! (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, A Commentary on the New Testament, Eerdmans, 1976 reprint, volume III, p. 55).

And so, Barnes said, "Men should not tamper with the world. They should not consult earthly friends about it. They should not even allow worldly friends to give them advice whether to be a Christian or not. God is to be obeyed rather than man, and they should come forth boldly, and resolve at once to give themselves to [Christ]" (ibid.).

"And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God"
      (Luke 9:62).

I will draw three lessons from this verse. Listen carefully, because Christ is speaking to you through the text.

I. First, who Christ is talking about.

"And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God"
      (Luke 9:62).

"No man," no human being, is fit, for the kingdom of God, who looks back to family and friends - or who looks back to anything else in life. These words, "no man," show that Christ is speaking to us all. This is a universal warning. We read the same thing in the Book of Hebrews,

"If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him"
      (Hebrews 10:38).

These are universal warnings. They are a warning to you.

The other thing to note is that this is a call to salvation. In modern times the call to salvation and the call to discipleship have been separated. But the old commentators and preachers correctly see this as a call to salvation.

"No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

This makes it clear that Christ is talking about salvation. In another place, Jesus said,

"Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5).

So Christ is speaking here of salvation. And He is speaking to everyone who seeks salvation.

"If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him"
      (Hebrews 10:38).

"No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

This speaks to everyone. It speaks to you!

The man directly spoken of in Luke 9:62 said,

"Lord, I will follow thee; but…" (Luke 9:61).

In his sermon on that verse, great Spurgeon gave this application of the words, "I will follow thee, but…"

Sinner, sinner, let me show thee thy sin. When thou saidst, "But," thou didst contradict thyself. The meaning [really is] this, "Lord, I will not follow thee." That "but" puts the negative on all the profession that went before it. I wish, my hearers, that…you would either be led by grace to say, "I will believe," or else…to say, "I will not believe in Christ." It is because so many of you are neither this nor that, but halting between two opinions, that you are the hardest characters to deal with (C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1986 reprint, volume VII, page 447).

Will you trust in Christ or not? Will you be saved by Christ or not?

"No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

II. Second, what it means to put your hand to the plough.

Matthew Henry says,

If thou lookest back to a worldly life again and hankerest [desire] after that, if thou lookest back as Lot's wife did to Sodom, which seems to be alluded to here, thou art not fit for the kingdom of God…Those are not fit for heaven who, having set their faces heavenward, face about [turn around] (Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Hendrickson, 1996 reprint, volume 5, p. 547).

Lot's wife

"Looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt"
      (Genesis 19:26).

Fire and brimstone fell on her and she was destroyed, because she stopped, and looked back toward the city of destruction. And Jesus said,

"Remember Lot's wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it" (Luke 17:32-33).

Our text says,

"No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

Dr. A. T. Robertson says,

The ploughman who does not bend attentively to his work goes crooked (ibid.).

The farmer will make a crooked furrow in the earth if he looks back, if he looks behind him while ploughing.

If you say that you are coming to Christ, you must come straight to Him. If you look back to something else in the world, you will not come straight to Christ. You will go off in some crooked way. Jesus warned of that when He said,

"Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it' (Matthew 7:14).

The gate is small and the road is narrow "which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Most people who start off to find salvation in Christ look back, and go off in a crooked path that takes them to the "broad…way, that leadeth to destruction" (Matthew 7:13). They say, "Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go…" (Luke 9:61). Let me first go and see what my lost friends and relatives say. Let me first go and live in sin for a while. Let me first go far away to college. Let me first do something else. They want to do something else before they settle down in Christ.

The Apostle James said,

"A double minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1:8).

And Albert Barnes gave these wise words of counsel,

He that comes still loving the world - still looking with regret on its pleasures, its wealth, and its honours - that has not wholly forsaken them as his portion, cannot be a Christian, and is not fit for the kingdom of God (ibid.).

"Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go…" and do something else.

"No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

God says,

"If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him" (Hebrews 10:38).

If you are going to come to Christ, come straight to Him. Otherwise, you will go off in some crooked way, and never be saved.

"No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

III. Third, why looking back disqualifies you from entering the kingdom of God.

It disqualifies you if you make excuses for not coming to Christ. This man made an excuse. He said, "Lord, I will follow thee; but first let me go…" (Luke 9:61). That's one form of excuse that makes you unfit for the kingdom of God.

Jesus gave a parable to show other excuses people make. He said,

"Come, for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse" (Luke 14:17-18).

The first one said he had bought a piece of land and had to go look at it. The second one said he had just bought some oxen and had to go try them out. The third said that he had just gotten married, "and therefore I cannot come" (Luke 14:20). "They all with one consent began to make excuse" (Luke 14:18).

You can make many excuses for not coming to Christ. "I'll do it later," you think. But you won't. You may think you will, but you won't.

"No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

You are disqualified from entering the kingdom of God by making excuses.

Then, also you are unfit for the kingdom of God if you are not willing to strive to enter in to Christ. Jesus said,

"Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able" (Luke 13:24).

"Strive to enter in." The word "strive" is from "agonizomai" in Greek. It means "to endeavor, to fight, to labor fervently" (Strong).

You will not be saved if you wait passively for it to happen. You must strive to enter in to Christ. You must fight to enter in. You must labor fervently to enter in to the Saviour.

When a baby is born, there is always a struggle. Sometimes it is a short struggle. Sometimes it is a long struggle. Jesus compared conversion to a human birth. He said, "Ye must be born again" (John 3:7). My two boys struggled for hours to be born. Others have a very short struggle. But there is always some striving. The baby and the mother go through "labor pains" when a child is born. The mother and baby endeavor to get it out of the womb. They fight to get it out. They labor fervently to experience human birth. And so it is with the new birth. "Strive to enter in" to Christ! Fight and labor to enter in!

The Holy Spirit comes to convince you of sin. That causes pain in your conscience. Don't run from it! Dwell on your sin. Think deeply about your sin. Let the pain overwhelm you. This will drive you into Christ. "Strive to enter in at the strait gate."

Many pull back. They don't want to go through the pricking of conscience and the painful experience of conversion. They pull back from the pain, and they are never converted. They die, so to speak, in the womb. You must go through pain to be born physically. You must go through pain to be born again. If you hold back from the pain of conversion, you will remain lost.

"No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

Many are not fit for the kingdom of God because they make excuses. Many are not fit for the kingdom of God because they will not strive to enter in to Christ. And many will simply not trust Christ!

That is really what was wrong with this man. He said, "Lord, I will follow thee, but…" That "but" shows that he really did not trust Christ. He was afraid of what might happen to him if he trusted Jesus with his heart and with his life. "What will Christ do with me if I trust Him with my life? I would have to change my plans and live a different life. I am afraid to do that." Thoughts like this will keep you from Christ. These thoughts come from the Devil. He wants you to go on like you are. The Devil wants to keep you for himself. Break free from Satan's fears and doubts. Trust Christ and He will cleanse your sins and give you eternal life. The Bible says,

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5).

Christ died on the Cross to pay for your sins. He arose and ascended back to Heaven to give you life.

"He that believeth…shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16).

"No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

Put your hand to the plough! Put your life in the hands of Jesus Christ! "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart" (Proverbs 3:5). Trust Jesus - and don't look back! Trust Jesus - and do it now!

Come, every soul by sin oppressed, There's mercy with the Lord,
And He will surely give you rest By trusting in His Word.
Only trust Him, only trust Him, Only trust Him now.
He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now.

For Jesus shed His precious Blood, Rich blessings to bestow;
Plunge now into the crimson flood That washes white as snow.
Only trust Him, only trust Him, Only trust Him now.
He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now.
      ("Only Trust Him" by John H. Stockton, 1813-1877).

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 9:57-62.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Only Trust Him" (by John H. Stockton, 1813-1877).


THE OUTLINE OF

DON'T LOOK BACK!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

(Luke 9:61)

I.   Who Christ is talking about, Hebrews 10:38; John 3:5; Luke 9:61.

II.  What it means to put your hand to the plough, Genesis 19:26;
Luke 17:32-33; Matthew 7:14, 13; James 1:8.

III. Why looking back disqualifies you from entering the kingdom of
God, Luke 14:17-18, 20; 13:24; John 3:7; Proverbs 3:5;
Mark 16:16.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."