Jesus didn’t leave any room for half-way disciples. In Luke 9:23-24 there is no way for a person to believe that he can be saved for eternity without surrendering his life to Jesus. You will probably ask why there are so many people who call themselves Christians and demonstrate various degrees of devotion to our Lord. How can we deny ourselves daily, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus when we have so many other things going on in our lives? A little bit later in Luke 9:57-62, Jesus explains how hard it is for us to truly follow him. It looks like giving up home and family is the cost of following Jesus. There still doesn’t look like there is any wiggle room to be dedicated to Jesus and the things of the world. Jesus statement that we aren’t fit for the kingdom of God if we look back at our old life not only reinforces our need to commit our lives to Jesus, but also brings into question our salvation if we experience a time of backsliding.
However, there are too many verses that guarantee we can’t lose our salvation for me to believe that Jesus was reversing his position here. After all, he said he gives us eternal life and we will never perish. He said that no one (and that would include ourselves) can snatch us out of his or his Father’s hand (John 10:28-29).
Then in the middle of all this is Luke 9:49-50. How does this fit in where John wants to keep a person from casting out demons in Jesus’ name? The key and how it ties in with the other two passages is that this person is not following “us.” This person had to be following Jesus because he was able to cast out the demon in Jesus’ name (see Acts 19:13-16 to see what happens when people who don’t follow Jesus try to cast out demons) but he wasn’t following John’s concept of what it meant to follow Jesus. He wasn’t part of the special three or twelve who thought they were the greatest followers (Luke 9:46). He was doing his part given his circumstances of life. He may have been like the one who had family that required his attention but was still told to go and proclaim the gospel (Luke 9:60).I think this one verse where Jesus instructs John not to hinder this person who isn’t doing things the way John thought was the only way gives us a more flexible picture of Christ-followers. God has us each in a different place in life. We are not all called to be great evangelist or pastors otherwise that’s all there would be in the world. But we are all called to follow Jesus. Yes, we need to surrender to Jesus. Yes, we must not turn back. No, we don’t need to be doing things exactly the way other Christians would dictate. But we must be keeping our eyes on Jesus and following him.