A Call To Discipleship!
In today’s modern-day global society, we have turned many of our churches into practitioners of "consumer religion" - peopled with individuals who say and have the attitude of "What-can-the-church-do-for-me?" instead of "What-can-I-do-for-the church?"
Someone once said, "An athlete was never made by mere instruction. No soldier was ever trained by the mere study of his [or, her] training manual, but by practicing his [or, her] drill. [It is] not the hearers of the Word; but, the doers of the Word, who are justified before [Almighty] God. We must be going forward, not standing still, simply listening and learning. Where our duty is seen [Almighty] God is revealed! Duty, my brothers and sisters, is always the [Divine] Will of [Almighty] God. To see [our duty] and not do it, is the most disastrous thing for the man or woman as well as being an offense against [Almighty] God."
Before we proceed any further, let’s examine this word "disciple" for just a few moments, shall we? Tell me, "What is a disciple?" Well, the Greek word from which we derive the word "disciple" can only be found in the "Gospels" and in the "Book of Acts" - and, my brothers and sisters, it refers - primarily - to those individuals who were closely associated with Jesus Christ and becoming like Him!
Jesus Christ commands His disciples to "Follow Him" and learn! A disciple is an individual who has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour; and, has determined to give Him Lordship over his [or, her] life! He [or, she] is a follower - a learner - and, an apprentice or journeyman! Note the title “Christ”.
We need to understand that there is a vast difference between coming to Jesus Christ, "FOR" Salvation and coming "AFTER" Jesus Christ, "FOR" service! A Christian "disciple" is an individual who both believes and obeys the challenge - the call - to live a life of obedient service to the Lord God Almighty!
With the call of Jesus Christ, to "Follow Him" came a call to action! He is saying, in effect, ’Come out of your ’Comfort Zones,’ there’s a job to be done; and, I need you to get it done!’ The word "follow" is a powerful word! It literally means "blind obedience" - unwavering, unshakable total commitment - it means absolute sacrificial love - it means devotion to a great cause - in this case, the cause of The Lord - a devotion that brings us outside of ourselves - a devotion that is larger than self!
To follow Him is an extremely serious business - why? Because Jesus is giving a call to discipleship! The two (2) words "Follow Me" indicate that Christ is asking for our complete devotion - He is asking for our complete trust - He is asking for our service - and, He is asking for our loyalty! The words "Follow Me" indicate that He is asking for our lives - our hearts - our souls - our minds - and, our strength! Jesus Christ is asking for a lot, my brothers and sisters; but, then, He is offering and giving a lot in return!
The words "Follow Me" are words to ponder - they are words to meditate upon - they are words to motivate, to challenge, and to inspire - they are words to respond to with faith - with hope - and, with obedience! It would not be the last time that Christ would speak the words "Follow Me" for He has and is constantly asking us to comply to that request! Some have heeded the call; while others, such as the biblical "rich young ruler" would reject His offer!
When He asks us to "Follow Him," He is asking us to deny ourselves - He is asking us to take up our cross - He is asking us to follow Him! Our cross is the fourth cross atop Golgotha’s hill - at Calvary - a cross that only becomes visible when we accept Almighty God’s free gift of Salvation and do what He asks!
The manner in which the Son of Almighty God lived, would become the pattern of living for all of those who would follow after Him! Each and every Christian "true believer" is given the opportunity to be nurtured by the Word of God; so as to develop into fully grown disciples!
Each and every one of us is expected to achieve our fullest potential for Almighty God! To be all you can be as the Army would put it! Unfortunately, many of us fail to grow - many of us fail to mature - many of us fail to become disciples! It takes a disciple to make a disciple! The problem with many of today’s modern-day churches is the fact that we are no longer helping to produce disciples - we are no longer equipping Almighty God’s people to be more effective in their service for the Lord God Almighty!
When Christ calls us to "Follow Him," He is calling us to a new direction, He is calling us to a new future; and, He is calling us to a new lifestyle! Let’s examine each one of those areas, briefly, shall we?
Firstly, Jesus, the Christ, is calling us to a new direction! When an individual says "follow me," it is an indication that they are going somewhere! Not only that, it is also an indication that the individual wants us to go along with him!
It is an awesome and incredible invitation for each and every one of us - why? Because we all have a need, at times, for a sense of direction in our lives - we all have times when we feel helpless and hopeless! Without Christ we are totally lost but, then, He shows up and invites us to "walk with Him - to walk with Almighty God!"
APPLICATION: This is the rationale for a withreach approach. And it’s revolutionary.
1. A large religious publisher asked on a nationwide survey what churches ought to do more of in order to be credible and true to purpose. Among respondents who are active in a church, the predominant answers focused on sharing Christ (and on worship). The predominant answer from non-church attenders: “Do more for the poor and the hungry.”
2. Outreach categorizes people as “in” or “out,” and targets the ones who are out. We tend to be very skilled at this. We name committees and annual campaigns “outreach,” we have “outreach” training, buy “outreach” programs. But few people like to be targeted.
3. What people do respond to, is when we seek to come alongside, connect with them naturally and at a meaningful level, develop community with them, listen for their heart’s dream as well as their hurts and needs, discern what God may already have begun within them, and journey with them toward God and toward God’s dreams for them and for us.
Jesus, the Christ, is telling us that He will be "a lamp unto our feet," that He will give us a new sense of direction; that He will lead us and guide us through the "jungle wilderness" of life, if we will just "Follow Him!"
Secondly, Jesus, the Christ, is calling us to a new future! An individual who says, "follow me" certainly is an individual who is more interested in the future than in the past! With Jesus, the Christ, as our Guide, it is not where we have been that matters; but, where we are going that matters - It is not whether we have fallen that matters; but, whether we are going to get up and go on that matters; and, it is not whom we have hurt in the past that matters; but, whom we will help in the future that matters!
The great American psychiatrist, Dr. William Glasser (Born: 1925), the founder of "Reality Therapy" does not allow his patients to rummage around in the attic among the relics of the past - he does not allow his patients to don "scuba gear" and go deep sea diving in the "Sea of Forgetfulness!: Every single one of us has a past, we all have "come short of the glory of God!" In "Reality Therapy," the question becomes "What are we going to do about our problem?" "Reality Therapy" is nothing "new under the sun" - it has always been Almighty God’s psychiatry!
The "Good News" of Jesus, the Christ, tells us that - if, we are saved - we are no longer to be defeated by the hurts - by the failings - or, by the sins of the past - they can be - and they are - forgiven - never to be remembered again! We can begin anew - we can start over - we can make a new beginning - in Christ Jesus!
Thirdly, as I begin to close, this morning, Jesus, the Christ, is calling us to a new lifestyle! We are being called away from a life of selfishness unto a spirit of Christ-like love! It is the lifestyle of the "Spiritual Rich and Famous" - the lifestyle of a Christian disciple - to live every day in the spirit of self-giving sacrificial love!
The late great African-American theologian, Rev. Dr. Edward Victor ("E.V.") Hill (11 November 1933 - 24 February 2003), former pastor of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, in the Watts section of Los Angeles, California, became the object of hatred when he stood tall - when he stepped up to the plate - when he spoke out against the rioting during the Watts area riots, in the 1960’s! He even received a "car bomb" threat - a threat to blow up his car with him in it!
One morning, Rev. Dr. Hill got up and noticed that his automobile was not in the carport and his wife, Jane Edna Hill, was missing. A few minutes later, his wife, entered the house and Rev. Dr. Hill asked her where she had been. She replied, "I drove the car around the block to make sure it would be safe for you to drive it to work this morning!"
That, my brothers and sisters, was "pure love" in action - it is the kind of love that sent Jesus, the Christ, voluntarily to the "Old Rugged Cross" - at Calvary - to die an excruciatingly painful death, by crucifixion, for you and for me - just so that we could be safe in the arms of Almighty God! Tell me, "Is that the kind of love that you have?"
III. Jesus called people who didn’t really “get it” (2:17)
A. Table fellowship indicated a level of intimacy among those who shared it. The Pharisees were particularly scrupulous about their special rules on eating and did not like to eat with less scrupulous people, especially people like tax gatherers and sinners. Here they assume that Jesus, being a wise teacher, ought to share their religious convictions. But Jesus called people who didn’t really get who he really was or what his mission was really about. Mark makes this point again and again—and I haven’t even mentioned Judas, who would betray him.
Or Peter, who thrice publically denied him. Or Saul, who would imprison and murder Jesus’ followers out of religious zeal.
ILLUSTRATION Dallas Willard writes: “As a child I lived in an area of southern Missouri where electricity was available only in the form of lightning. But in my senior year of high school the REA (Rural Electrification Administration) extended its lines into the area where we lived, and electrical power became available to households and farms. When those lines came by our farm, a very different way of living presented itself. Our relationships to fundamental aspects of life—daylight and dark, hot and cold, clean and dirty, work and leisure, preparing food and preserving it—could then be vastly changed for the better. But we still had to believe in the electricity and its arrangements, understand them, and take the practical steps involved in relying on it. You may think the comparison rather crude, and in some respects it is. But it will help us to understand Jesus’ basic message about the kingdom of heaven if we pause to reflect on those farmers who, in effect, heard the message: "Repent, for electricity is at hand." “ Turn from your kerosene lamps and lanterns, your iceboxes and cellars, your scrub-boards and rug beaters, your woman-powered sewing machines and your radio with dry-cell batteries.” The power that could make their lives far better was right there near them where, by making relatively simple arrangements, they could utilize it. Strangely, a few did not accept it.
They did not enter the kingdom of electricity. Some just didn’t want to change. Others could not afford it, or so they thought.
To be sure, God’s kingdom has been here as long as we humans have been here, and longer. But it has been available to us through simple confidence in Jesus, the Anointed, only from the time he became a public figure.