I love to hunt, eat meat, and I’m almost a pyromaniac!! So, “Kill the Cow and Burn the Plow” is a great subject for me to talk about!
Matt. 4:21-22 21 A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. 22 They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.
This is early in Jesus’ ministry and he’s inviting some guys to “follow him.” James and John are fishermen, they are in a boat, repairing nets, with their father- it’s a family business, doing what fishermen do. Note: They “left behind” the boat and their father!
Not a spontaneous decision… They’re ready to take the next step… THIS IS A BIG DEAL!!! They were in the family fishing business: “Zebedee and Sons!” This was not a causal decision!
1 Kings 19:19-21 19 So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field. There were twelve teams of oxen in the field, and Elisha was plowing with the twelfth team. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and then walked away. 20 Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, “First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!” Elijah replied, “Go on back, but think about what I have done to you.” 21 So Elisha returned to his oxen and slaughtered them. He used the wood from the plow to build a fire to roast their flesh. He passed around the meat to the townspeople, and they all ate. Then he went with Elijah as his assistant.
This is an OT story about an old prophet who has identified his replacement and is about to begin a process of mentoring him. And the young “prophet-to-be” has to go all in! Notice:
- He kills the cows!
- He burns the plow!
- He has no intentions of “going back” to where he once was! James and John “left some things behind”- Elisha “let it all go” up in smoke!
There is no such thing as casual Christianity! There is a cost to follow: Luke 14:28 “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?” You must calculate what it means to follow Jesus!!
What are the things in your life you need to “kill”, “burn”, or leave behind in order to follow Jesus? What are you holding onto or what’s holding on to you?
Following Jesus means you’re taking on his character and taking up his cause! Call it “discipleship” or “development” or “spiritual growth/maturity” or “doing the will of God” or simply “living a life that looks a lot like Christ” here’s a key principle…
The truth is you can’t “follow” Jesus without leaving some things behind, killing some things off, and burning some things up!
To Follow Jesus I Must Leave Some Things Behind!
In almost every instance in the Gospels where Jesus invited people to follow him they were challenged to leave some things behind! Peter, James, and John- the fishing business. Matthew- tax collecting. The Rich Young Ruler- his love of wealth. Mary Magdalene- prostitution!!
For Mary Magdalene, maybe that wasn’t too hard to leave behind. The rich young ruler? He couldn’t let the money go! We know Peter went back to fishing a couple of times…
For most of you in this room today, Jesus isn’t calling you into full-time vocational ministry; to leave behind a job or career, family, community, etc.
For all of us Jesus is challenging us to leave behind whatever it is that we would “follow” more than “following” him!
You can’t follow Jesus- take on his character and take up his cause, without “leaving behind” whatever it is you’re following or tempted to follow more than him! Because whatever or whoever you follow is the thing or the person who is going to have the most influence and impact on your life!
Sure, you can and should follow a career path or some purpose, but are you following Jesus down that path or in that purpose?? What do you need to leave behind to follow Jesus??
To Follow Jesus I Must Kill Some Things Off!
In the story of Elisha, he didn’t kill just one cow, he killed at least 2 (his team) and possibly 24 (12 teams of 2)!! He not only made a statement, he made a declaration! He killed off what he was “stuck” behind (oxen butts) and what was keeping him from ever leaving that field and that farm!
Now, there’s nothing wrong with farming! That’s not the point in Elisha’s example. The point is, Elijah had just put his mantle on him!! Don’t miss this!! It mean’t he was being “appointed and anointed” for leadership!!
In the OT and in certain cultures, when someone put their cloak or mantle or royal robe on someone else, it was deliberate and it was indicating a transition of leadership, power, influence, etc. Moses did it with Joshua…
The challenge facing Elisha was this: “Do you want to keep the current perspective you have (cow’s butts) or do you want to experience life from a much greater point of view?? 2 cow butts and 22 more cow butts!!!
Changing your point of view!!
For me… It was sitting behind a D9 dozer blade pushing dirt back and forth! And Jesus was calling me to life with much greater “scenery!”
What are you stuck behind- maybe the “behind” you’re stuck behind?? Man, I could get really graphic here… But stay with me… Think of the view Elisha had all day!! Think of the stuff he had to smell and step through!! Hey, I’m just being real here… Maybe you can relate…
Now here me out… I’m not talking about your family or your kids or your church relationships, etc. because God can redeem those things!! What we’re talking about here is PURPOSE and PERSPECTIVE!! God has “appointed and anointed” you for something far more than what you’re seeing and where you are right now!
And they only way you’re going to be able to follow Jesus out from behind those “oxen” and out of that “field” is to kill off what you’re stuck behind so you can see what Jesus wants you to see and follow him where he wants to take you!
It may mean killing off your selfish ambition, your pride, your bad attitude, your victim mentality, your excuses, or things like bad influences, habits, or __________?? Elisha killed the cows so he could take on the mantle of following Elisha and becoming Israel’s next prophet. His view changed and his “field” was enlarged!!
I do know Jesus has purpose and perspective for every person in this room… but for you to see it and experience it… you will have to kill some things off!
To Follow Jesus I Must Burn Some Things Up!
Now, we also know, Elisha “burned” the plowing equipment!! I’ve actually plowed potatoes (behind a tractor) using a potato plow! Let me tell you, you’ve got to keep a firm grip on that plow or it will jerk right out of your hands!!
Elisha “burned” the thing that he no longer wanted to have in his hands or that he wanted to jerk him around!
Here’s the thing… whatever you think you’ve got a firm grip on… it actually has a grip on you and it’s potentially pulling your life all over the place!
That’s why you want Jesus (God) to have his hand on your life- to have a firm grip on you! IF “God is your co-pilot” then you’re in the wrong seat! In both the OT and NT you come across the phrase, “The hand of the Lord was on them!”
That means they had God’s favor, his blessing, his control… God won’t jerk you around like a potato plow will!! When Elisha burned the plow he was saying, “I’m choosing to have God’s hand on my life and be under his control instead of having my hand on a plow that wants to pull me all over the place!
What is it in your life that’s pulling you all over the place? What do you have your hand on that is keeping you from following Jesus?
You need to burn it! Don’t put it in a corner, in the barn, burn it! Burning it not in the literal sense… but spiritually recognizing that what’s “in your hand” is just “wood, hay, and stubble…”
But you, in God’s hand, following Jesus, is living a life of purpose, power, and provision!!
My nephew, Matt, is hiking the Appalachian Trail. It’s a 6-7 month journey and just a few weeks into his trek he realized that a lot of the things in his backpack were not only weighing him down, but he really didn’t even need them at all.
What’s slowing you down in your walk with God?
What do you need to leave behind to follow Jesus?
What do you need to kill off?
What do you need to burn up?
Prayer: Alright!! Everyone stand up again- “Follow Me!” Put your hands up and say, “God, all I have I give to you!” Now, put hands out front and say, “God all you have for me I receive!” Letting go of some stuff is a big deal if you’re going to follow Jesus- and it’s the key first step to receiving all he wants to give you!