Disciple: The Call to Follow
February 6, 2022 | Who's your one? | Disciple:The Call to Follow| Matthew 4:18-22
To listen to the sermon audio click here
(Adapted from the NAMB Who’s Your One campaign.)
What comes to mind when you hear the word Christian?
Many of us would say we are a Christian. That Christians make up the local church. Odds are you associate that word with certain characteristics as well. In the same way, the broader culture forms impressions of what a Christian is and whether or not they are one.
Interestingly, the first followers of Jesus didn’t call themselves Christians. It was a derogatory term used by people outside of the faith.
The argument has been made that changing the word we use to describe ourselves has impacted both our understanding of ourselves and the clarity of the call on our lives as followers of Jesus. So where did this term Christian come from?
In Acts 11:26 we find (ESV) And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
The internal word they used to refer to themselves was disciples, the external word that others used was Christian.
The word Christian is used three times in the whole Bible; the word disciple is used 281 times. Disciple is a far more accurate and compelling description of what it means to follow Jesus. And, as we will see, the concept of a disciple exposes the fact that many who claim to be Christians are not actually disciples of Jesus.
So, what is a disciple?
To get an idea of what it means to be a disciple, let’s examine Jesus calling his first disciples.
Matthew 4:18-22 (ESV) 18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Have you ever thought about that? If we are honest, the way we learn that story as kids has always confused me a little.
Here are these blue collar fishermen who are hard at work and this guy named Jesus in his white robes and sandals walks by and is like ‘Hey guys, drop what you are doing and follow me’; and they are like, ‘Sure guy we have never met! Yes!’
But with a little history this story makes much more sense. In the Jewish community all Hebrew boys went to Torah school starting around age 5. By 10 the best students went on to study the remainder of what we call the Old Testament for the next seven years or so,. The rest returned home to work in their families’ businesses. After that, if you wanted to continue in your religious studies, to become a scribe or rabbi (religious teacher), you had to find a rabbi that you admired and apply to become his student. The rabbis had their pick of the best and brightest, the most talented boys to be their disciples. Young men that would not just learn what they knew, but that would become just like them.
It is in that culture, that background, that we find the calling of these four disciples.
Matthew 4:18 (ESV) 18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.
The first thing we notice about the calling of Jesus’ disciples is that.
Jesus calls the willing.
What’s the first thing you notice? These were Jewish fishermen, working in the family business. They didn’t make the cut. Notice that Jesus did not choose the best or the most deserving. He chose the B-team!
Think about that for a minute, when Jesus chose his disciples, when he gathered his team, he did not pick the best of the best. Now that’s encouraging for someone here today! So of course, these guys followed him. Jesus, this new rabbi that had come onto the scene with authority, who some of these men had heard John the Baptist when he said, Jesus was so great that he wasn’t even worthy to untie his sandals. This guy comes by and invites these fishermen to be his disciples.
Not the best, not the deserving, not even the seeking. Remember the way this usually worked was you sought out a rabbi, who had his pick of the best of the best, and if you passed his tests, you would become his disciple. Jesus bypassed all of that, went and found fishermen and called them to be his disciples, skipping all the wise of the day, inviting these men without much potential or positions to follow him, to become like him.
John MacArthur says it this way.
“God skipped all the wise of the day! The great scholars were in Egypt; the great library was in Alexandria; the great philosophers were in Athens; the powerful were in Rome. He passed over Herodotus the historian and Socrates the great thinker and Julius Caesar. He chose men so ordinary it was comical. No Rabbis, no teachers, no religious experts...”
Why? Because Jesus wasn’t concerned with their abilities but their availability. Jesus wanted men who didn’t think much of themselves so he could show them what God could do with men who were available and willing. We see time and time again, Peter tripping over his words, James and John not understanding their calling, we see these men weren’t the best, the brightest, but they were willing.
The same is true for us. I’m going to tell you something that maybe no one has ever told you before.
Jesus didn’t call you because you’re awesome, or because of your abilities. The question for someone who would answer the call to follow Jesus is not how able are you, but how available are you?
Isn’t that great news? Some of you have hesitated following Jesus, being a disciple because you don’t think you are smart enough, good enough, religious enough, talented enough, bold enough. Here’s the good news, you can stop it. Jesus is far more concerned with what he can do through you than what you can do for him.
As we consider the call of the disciple we see that number one, he calls the willing, not the best. The second thing we see pertains to the call itself.
Jesus calls us to be with him.
Matthew 4:19 And he said to them, “Follow me,
Notice Jesus doesn’t tell them where they are going, what exactly they were going to be doing, aside from learning to be fishers of men, or what He was calling them to ultimately do. Why? Because his primary call on a disciple is to be with him. It is to become like him. How? You have to know Him? How? You have to spend time with Him? Why? To soak up every single word that comes out of His mouth.
Follow me. Go where I go, stay where I stay, learn from me so you can minister the way I minister, pray the way I pray, love one another the way I love you.
Isn’t this what we see from the disciples from this point forward? For three years they were with Jesus almost every minute of the day, listening, learning, following his example.
So how do we do this since Jesus is not with us in the same way?
In the same way, daily, listening, learning, following his example. Everything we need is in our Bibles. .
Do we treat this like it is the very word of God to us?
Do we take advantage of the Sunday morning bible studies, do we come to the Sunday morning service, are we gathering together on Wednesday nights to hear from God in our prayer time? If you are serious about being a disciple, you are going to take advantage of all of those and more. You are going to be in the word daily, you are going to be listening to podcasts that dig into the word, you are going to be reading books about books of the bible.
How else are we going to get so close to Jesus that we can be formed as his disciples? J.D. Greear says ‘You cannot know Jesus any more than you know His Word.’
Jesus' call is not to invite him into your heart, to repeat some prayer, to be friends with Jesus, to walk an aisle, or to join a church, his call is to come and follow me, learn from me, imitate me, allow the Holy Spirit to teach you and produce things in and through you that look like me.
The primary call on the disciple from Jesus is to ‘follow me’. What keeps many of us from being disciples is that we haven’t fully understood that call and what it means for our life. It means we have to be willing to leave some stuff behind.
The third thing we see in this encounter is that we may have to leave some stuff behind.
Jesus calls us to leave it all behind.
Their nets, their boat, and their father..
Why do you think the author listed these three things?
Because they represent the most significant things in our lives. Nets and boats, these were the tools of their trade, this was their livelihood, their identities. Father, this represents their most significant relationships.
Jesus says, to follow me I have to take precedence over these things.
There was a time when a great many people were following Jesus and he wanted to make sure they understood this clearly.
Luke 14:25-33 (ESV) 25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
We know Jesus is speaking in hyperbole to make the point. He isn't saying we must hate anyone, what he is saying is that if we aren’t willing to follow him so closely and make him the priority in our lives over everything else, we are not a disciple.
The reality is for many of you, following Jesus will not cost you your family. For some disciples, it is an absolute reality. To follow Jesus is to be cast out of the family. But for many we won’t be called to do that, but it may absolutely cause discord in your relationships.
When following Jesus means no longer participating in the lifestyle of your extended family. It may mean saying no to some things that upset people because you are saying yes to Jesus. It may mean you get labeled the religious nut in or Jesus freak of the family. In the same way, you are probably not going to have to give up your job to follow Jesus. But you might, God may call you to move and plant a church or move to a new job or a new city for His kingdom. He may call you to be a missionary and completely change the trajectory of your life. Some of our close friends are in the middle of discerning a call on whether God is leading them to move to Rwanda and labor alongside the church there. To leave their careers, their extended family, their homes and their comforts.
For many of you, that won’t be the case for you. But make no mistake, every one of you, who is a disciple, is going to have moments in your life where you must decide what holds the greater sway over your life.
Maybe it will be in business where there is a temptation to take a shortcut, to fudge a number, or to do some clever reporting on your taxes, and everyone else is doing it, and you must be patient, wait on God, trust him with the finances, etc.…
For many of you, it may be as simple as what you are going to do with your finances. We saw over the last couple of weeks that we are called to be generous and sacrificial in our service to one another. Many people prove they aren’t a disciple here because Jesus doesn’t have a greater sway over their lives than their nets and boats.
The question to ask yourself concerning your own position as a disciple is not ‘what would I give up to follow Jesus’ but what would I not. If there is anything in that category then Jesus says you cannot be his disciple.
You see, to follow Jesus means he is the lord of everything in your life. You forsake what he forbids and you pursue what he prescribes unconditionally.
The last thing we see in this encounter of Jesus calling his first disciples is that the call to follow him involves the command to spiritually reproduce.
Jesus calls us to spiritually reproduce.
“Follow me,” he told them, “and I will make you fish for people.”
"In the same way that I am calling you to follow me, you are going to call others to follow."
This is essential to the call to be a disciple. Last week we looked at the final command Jesus gave these disciples. Go into all the world and make disciples. We saw that everything serves this purpose. The baptizing, the teaching, the going, all of the other verbs in that sentence all stem from the only imperative- Make Disciples.
Isn’t it interesting that He began their call by telling them he was going to make them fishers of men and he concluded his call by telling them to go do it! These two bookmarks tell us what being a disciple looks like. Jesus calls his disciples to spiritually reproduce, to make disciples who make disciples. If you are a disciple, this is going to be a part of your life, and if it is not, you have a good reason to question whether you are a disciple or not.
God’s plan for the great commission is not accomplished through preaching to the masses, it is not in implementing Bible studies at the church building, it is not in programs or ministries. All of those exist to facilitate and support the plan. People reaching people. You are God’s plan to fulfill the great commission.
So here's the deal, I’m going to lay all my cards on the table.
As the church, I want to see you become, every one of you, by God’s grace, a reproducing Christian this year. And I want you this weekend to commit to it.
You say, Pastor, what are you asking me to do? Remember what I said last week. Making disciples is simply teaching someone else what you know about how to follow Jesus. I am going to introduce tools for you to do that, but more than techniques and tools, discipleship is opening your life to make room for others that need to be discipled.
More than that, don’t forget what Jesus promised, I will be with you until the end of the age.
You say well what do I do? What are you asking me to do, exactly?
I’ll make this as practical as I can. I’ll give you a few things I’m asking you to do. First of all, you need to get engaged in the church. Get plugged in to a small group on Sunday morning, make Wednesday night prayer gathering a priority. Draw near to God’s people who share your mission and purpose, so that together we can spur one another on.
Secondly, maybe most importantly, what I want you to walk away from here with is I want you to identify today your one. To be able to answer the question ‘Who is your one?’ I’m going to challenge you to have one person this year that with the help of God you’re going to introduce to faith in Jesus Christ. I know you can’t control the outcome, so I’m not asking you to put it on you, but I’m saying, will you commit to God and say, “God, will you show me one person this year that I am supposed to reproduce myself in spiritually?”
Can you imagine?
If God answered this prayer and the hundred of us reached a hundred more for Jesus this year?
Can you imagine, if every Bible study group collectively picked a group one to pray for and seek to engage them with the gospel as well?
What an impact this church body could have for the kingdom of God.
Are you engaging in that mission? Are you reproducing yourself? Because what we’ve seen here is that if you’re not, you’re not actually a full disciple. The call to follow Jesus, and the call to make disciples are one and the same.
The call has been made; how will you respond?