Responding to Jesus (Week 2)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

“Jesus is Master: Follow Him and Obey His Commands!”

 
Welcome to 2020, A Year of Celebration at FBC! This is our 110th anniversary year as our church was chartered on July 7, 1910. We are planning a big celebration the weekend after our anniversary date, so save the date for that weekend.

 

Who are we celebrating? We are celebrating Jesus and in doing so we are going to do one thing all year long: LIFT UP THE NAME OF JESUS! We are not lifting up the name of FBC although we will celebrate. We are not going to pat ourselves on our collective back: we are not here because of us or our great ability. We are here as a church because of Jesus and His great ability.

 

Our theme verse for 2020 is John 12:32 (ESV), which proclaims,
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
 
This verse explicitly points to the fact that Jesus would be lifted up on the Cross of Calvary, as the very next verse says,
“He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.”
 
The implications of this verse go beyond Jesus’ death and influence every area of our lives: we live in response to Jesus being lifted up on the Cross by exalting Him (lifting up His Name) with every aspect of our lives!

 

If you were here last week, you might remember that we talked about our responses to Jesus’ call are:
1) to believe in who He is and what He did to save lost sinners,
2) to exalt the name of Jesus above all other names and authorities, and
3) to gather to Him and listen closely to His teachings
 
If you missed last week, you can check out the video and the blog notes on our website, www.newcastlefbc.com.

 

Building upon this teaching, and not repeating it, we are going to focus on the next implication of Jesus being lifted up: Follow Him and Obey His Commands! 

 

Jesus draws each of us, personally, to Himself for God’s glory and our good! Jesus did this with his first disciples in Mark 1:17,
“Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
 
We have turned this into a mysterious verse. What is Jesus inviting us to? What does He mean by “fishers of men”?

 

Being a follower of Jesus is a very practical call. Those first disciples had to make a choice between remaining fishermen (that was their occupation) and continue on with their regular schedules or literally leave their normal rhythm of life behind in order to follow Jesus. As the historical records shows in Mark 1:18-20,
“And immediately they left their nets and followed [Jesus]. And going on a little farther, [Jesus] saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately [Jesus] called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.”

 

Jesus’ call to follow Him is not only a practical one, but it is also a comprehensive call. What I mean by comprehensive is that this decision affects how you are going to live your life, work your job, raise your family, and invest your time and money. It is complete!

 

Jesus’ invitation, “Follow Me” is a short phrase including the Greek word δεῦτε which for these original followers of Jesus, Israeli fishermen, carried the implications of the Hebrew word and concept of הלך (hālakh). While the use of this concept does not jump out at us today, it carried a tremendous amount of practical and comprehensive connotation to those first invited. As the Lexham Theological Workbook explains of hālakh:

This word can refer to literal walking, i.e., traveling by foot (e.g., Genesis 9:23; Deuteronomy 11:19). It sometimes also refers to forms of literal travel that are not on foot, such as the motion of Noah’s ark on the waters (Gen 7:18). It has a common metaphorical sense that pertains to one’s manner of living. To walk (hālak) in a certain lifestyle or custom is to habitually practice it (e.g., 1 Kings 16:19; Isa 33:15; Psalms 1:1; 81:13).[1]

 

Jesus was not just inviting these early followers to take a walk with Him, He was inviting them to take on His lifestyle and go on a life transforming journey with Him. To put it in our language, Jesus was saying, “Come with me and learn how to talk the talk and walk the walk.” This is more comparable to a young person’s decision to join the military, rather than find a job or go to college—it is an all-consuming decision to take on the way of Jesus (hālakh). The mannerisms of Jesus, the lifestyle of Jesus, the language of Jesus, the mission of Jesus! That is why Jesus says, “and I will make you become fishers of men”.  More than a play on words, it is the promise of the Holy Spirit to transform their stories to the glory of God by putting them to the plow (in His easy yoke, ref. Matthew 11:28-30) of His harvest fields!

 

In the same way, Jesus is calling you “follow” Him. By God’s grace, I pray for you to respond to Jesus’ call today!

 

But before I go any further. Let’s make sure you and I are hearing the same thing. When I say the word “follow,” what do you hear? Scott Underwood helps us answer how our culture hears it:

It seems to me that the world/culture/society has hijacked the word “follow”.  Social media and social networking sites have cheapened the word, making it mean nothing more than “keep tabs on” or “keep track of”. I can follow a company on LinkedIn, bands on Spotify, or companies, bands and people on Twitter, Facebook or various other social media platforms. I can follow as many or as few as I want. With even less commitment from us, it means that we are following by having someone send us info on something we are interested in. I don’t have to do anything. And when someone or something I follow does something I don’t like; I can just unfollow them. No commitment, no relationship, nothing. On the other end of the spectrum, we often hear the term “follow” applied in a weird or uncomplimentary way toward people that follow cult leaders – Charles Manson, Scientology, etc.. The people who have pledged their lives to live out the wishes and precepts of an individual or another are often described as followers, which is a very different definition than the social media following. Of the two extremes, I think the cult leader portrayal is closer to the biblical understanding. The problem with the cult situation is not the followers – it’s the object (person or group) of their worship. He or she can’t be trusted.  Like you have said many times before, the person who is worshiped is not worthy of that worship, and the worship itself will crush them. When we follow a worthy God in a way that pledges our lives to live out His wishes and precepts, we can truly be thought of as followers. To keep tabs on Him with the understanding that we can unfollow Him when he asks too much of us surely is not the way He has intended.[2]

 

Truly “following” Jesus means we will submit our lives to His life. In following Jesus, we come to Him as our Lord (check out last week’s sermon) and Master/Teacher (John 13:13)!

 

The Holy Spirit then starts God’s work in us to conform us to Jesus’ likeness and to transform our stories to bring glory to God by bearing much fruit; hence, proving ourselves to be His disciples (John 15:8). God saved you to do good works which He prepared in advance for you to walk in—to do! (Ephesians 2:10). Again, this is the 2nd half of Mark 1:17, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

 

Here is another illustration from the Bible of what happens when someone follows Jesus in a practical and comprehensive way. This time, not a fisherman, but a tax collector. Think of an accountant for the IRS or government employee as I read to you Mark 2:14-17,

And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

 

Jesus continues by calling Zacchaeus, who in response to Jesus’ invitation changes the way he does his family business and gets right with people he has victimized by paying them back restitution for his previous crimes (Luke 19:1-10). Jesus challenges the rich young ruler on the one thing he won’t give up in order to follow Him (Mark 10:17-22). He tells others that they shouldn’t return to their lives to bury their father or tend to personal business (Matthew 8:18-22). Following Jesus changed the daily lives of all these early followers because they knew Jesus was calling them to make a practical and comprehensive decision. Not just mental assent to an idea or an emotional decision to a felt need. The faith decision is mental and emotional, but it is also practical and comprehensive. Jesus never said it was anything but all this—He calls us to join with Him in His relationship with the Father and that is eternal life!

 

Listen to Jesus make this very clear in Luke 14:26-33,

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. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 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? Otherwise, when he has laid a 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 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? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

 

If Jesus is your Lord and your Teacher/Master (as He says He is in John 13:13), then follow His commands! Listen closely and obey His commands. As He says in Luke 6:46-49,

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.

 

When you obey Jesus’ teachings you are lifting up Jesus Christ—the exalted One who was crucified, resurrected and ascended to the right hand of the Father—and through your submission to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit will draw people to Him, to the glory of the Father.

 

As Jesus taught in Matthew 5:16,
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

 

If you don’t know where to start, then this is the right time to start. I am teaching a class on how to do this on Wednesday nights. Join me as I follow Jesus. Open up your Bible with a Christian and go verse by verse, chapter by chapter through the Gospel of Matthew and start doing what Jesus commands. Submit to God, read your Bible, pray for guidance, and obey with God’s help.

 

This is a decision for your head, heart, hands and feet. As the earliest followers of Jesus heard in the command of “Follow Me”, they were taking on the walk (hālak) of Jesus, meaning they were changing their lifestyle and their customs to now habitually practice the commands of Jesus.

 

This is how the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ keeps getting told, sermon after sermon, good work after good work, person after person. It is all a work of God’s grace in and through you! It is a visible witness—a shining of His Light!

 

You may be the only way for someone to know Jesus. Will they see and hear the call to follow Him? Is your life proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ?
 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] “Travel,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

[2] These words are from a private email between me and Scott. Scott may or may not say these words exactly during the sermon as it is our intent, Lord willing, for Scott to share his thoughts during the sermon.
 

Listen to the message here:

 

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