Dad tells the story about the pastor who visited a church member who had been missing from church services on a frequent basis. The pastor was concerned, and asked the lady if anything was wrong.
"Well preacher, I'm out of Peanut Butter", was her answer.
"Out of Peanut Butter?" the preacher said incredulously. "What does that have to do with not coming to church?"
"Actually nothing." she replied. "But I've always heard that one excuse is as good as another!"
Don't you hate excuses? Every pastor has heard plenty of them - and God hears even more of them than we do!
Benjamin Franklin once wrote, "A man who makes excuses is seldom good at making anything else."
Some folks are awfully good at making excuses. I've heard so many over the past 3 1/2 decades of ministry that I have wondered where they all come from. How many excuses can there be? Well, I have found a website that lists over 900 excuses. It's called "The Mother of All Excuses Place" (http://madtbone.tripod.com/ ) Absolutely amazing. People always seem to come up with new ones, but making excuses to God is actually an age old practice.
The decision to follow Christ is not one for the fickle or faint hearted. God offers us a personal relationship with Him. Salvation begins and ends with God. His gift is free, but we must make the commitment to accept. With the acceptance of the gift comes a willingness and a desire to follow Him. In Luke chapter 14, Jesus gives us some insight as to how God feels about our excuses. In this passage, some guy at the dinner table casually mentions "eating bread in the Kingdom of God", and Jesus makes it plain who will be at that "meal".
"Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, "Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!" Then He said to him, "A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, "and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ "But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ "And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ "Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ "So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ "And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ "Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. ‘For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’ " (vs. 15-24)
The parable tells of a great event that takes place. A feast - given by a "great man". Invitations were issued, and the inviteed guests all, with one consent, began to make excuse. Consider for a moment how silly these excuses are.
The first excuse is, "I have bought a piece of ground and I must go see it. I ask you to have me excused"
How lame is that? This man is either a liar or a fool. Who buys property without first seeing it? Granted, there are some folks out there who have been conned into buying cheap ocean front property in Arizona, but those folks are certainly in the minority. Prudent people want to see the property (sometimes on several occasions) before signing on the dotted line. One would be foolish to do otherwise. This excuse didn't hold water.
The second excuse is even more far fetched. "I have bought five yoke of oxen and I must test them. I ask that you have me excused." Now think for a moment in modern terms. Would you buy a car without test driving it first? Of course not! You're going to kick the tires, look under the hood, listen to the motor, maybe even take it to a mechanic or go to CarFax.com to check this thing out. Above all you're going to get behind the wheel to see what it will do. You'd never consider laying out your hard earned money for a vehicle without testing it first. Now consider the excuse itself. The purchase of an ox would have been an important one. Any farmer in Jesus' day would count the cost - haggle for the best price possible - but NEVER put down the cash until he had tested the animal. It's just good business and common sense. Now look what this guy says. "I have bought five yoke of oxen..." He claims he has already paid for TEN oxen and now he's going to see if they can plow...
There is an ancient Hebrew expression for that. "Hogwash!"
The third excuse is, "I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come." This is the most outlandish of all the excuses in this narrative. Just look at the picture here. The richest man in town is throwing a big dinner party. It's by invitation only, and you got one! It's the social event of the season and everybody who is somebody will be there. Somebody else is doing the cooking and serving (and the cleaning up afterward). It's an opportunity to dress in your finest (or buy a new outfit), and walk down the red carpet. You'll see old friends and make new ones.
What wife wouldn't want to be there?
And yet this clown uses his wife as an excuse for his lack of interest in the invitation.
Jesus makes the point that those who refuse His gracious invitation are without excuse. Following Christ requires commitment. It's not for the fickle or faint hearted. Consider what the Master says in the following verses...
"And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— "lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, "saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ "Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? "Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. "So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple." (vs. 27-33)
Jesus' call is simple. "Follow me". If you will follow Jesus, you must count the cost - take up your cross - deny yourself - be willing to forsake all to be a disciplined student and follower of Him. The above passage, and others (including Romans 12: 1-2) indicate the necessity of being willing to give it all up for Jesus - who gave it all up for us. Consider what Jesus says to three half hearted potential followers in Luke 9: 57-62...
"Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." Then He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God." And another also said, "Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house." But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
I didn't say that. Jesus did and it is a powerful, sobering truth!
Some people seem to use Jesus for a crutch. Some for a "spiritual 911" emergency service. Some think of Him as a "good buddy" when everything is going well. Others seem to view Him as a "fire insurance" policy - good to have if needed. Friends, in your life, if He is not Lord OF all, He is not Lord AT all.
As this new year rolls around, I hope you'll take inventory regarding your relationship with Jesus. Don't think you can just be a casual follower of Christ. There is no such thing.