Responding to the Priorities of Jesus (Week 2)

The Priority of Following Jesus!

Key Verses:  Matthew 4:18-20

 

 

One of our big 7 words is “Follow”. These 7 big words are what our church considers priorities of Jesus and essential marks of the people of God. We talk about these all the time because it is not enough to know them, but to live them. I have heard it said that I should never preach a new message until we are obeying the last one I preached; that it’s our hunger for novelty that keeps us immature in our thinking and living.

 

Biblically, we don’t know something until we are living it as a habitual lifestyle. For example: you don’t know the Lord’s prayer until you pray the Lord’s prayer. And you aren’t praying it until you are living it.

 

  • Our culture teaches you that it is enough to know the form of the words, Jesus teaches that it is enough when you are formed by the words.
  • Our culture teaches you to master the words, Jesus teaches that you must be mastered by His Word.

 

Do you see the difference?

 

In this gap is what one theologian called “The Great Omission” of our Great Commission. We are not calling people to follow Jesus; to becoming people who live in habitual lifestyles of following Jesus—being His apprentices, His learners. He explained it this way, using athletic imagery like the Apostle Paul did:

 

We know [that young people] won’t succeed [in becoming like a professional baseball player] if all they do is try to be like him in the game—no matter how gifted they may be in their own way. And we all understand why. The star performer himself didn’t achieve his excellence by trying to behave a certain way only during the game. Instead, he chose an overall life of preparation of mind and body pouring all his energies into that total preparation, to provide a foundation in the body’s automatic responses and strength for his conscious efforts during the game. … And what is true of specific activities is, of course, also true of life as a whole. … A baseball player who expects to excel in the game without adequate exercise in his body is no more ridiculous than the Christian who hopes to be able to act in the manner of Christ when put to the test without the appropriate exercise in godly living. As is obvious from the record of his own life, Jesus understood this fact well and lived accordingly. … To live as Christ lived is to live as he did all his life.[1]

 

This gets to the heart of what it means to follow Jesus, so let’s now listen to Matthew 4:18-20:

 

Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

 

Later, in a different setting to a larger Jewish audience whom Jesus had just renounced for this unfaithfulness to God’s ways, Jesus invited to follow Him in Matthew 11:28-30:

 

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

 

In both these Scriptures, the Koine Greek word (the original language of the New Testament) translated “follow” in Matthew 4:19 (cf. Mark 1:17) and “come” in Matthew 11:28 is δεῦτε. We see these words as very different, but they are actually the same word. In fact, we have distorted understandings of the word “follow” due to the dominance of social media understandings of what it means to “follow” someone.

 

Let’s explore some of these connections to get a larger understanding of why this is Jesus’ priority: What is Jesus actually inviting us to do when He invites us to “Follow” or “Come” to Him.

 

When you become Jesus’ friend by following Him, that doesn’t mean that you can disregard Him on any given day or disobey Him on any given issue. Just because you can stop following anyone you want, anytime you want, doesn’t mean that you can have that same attitude with Jesus Christ. Jesus’ word choice doesn’t allow it!

 

Let’s start in Mark 10:14-15 Jesus utilized this phrase as an invitation to the kingdom of God:

 

Permit the children to come to Me [italics added]; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all. (cf. Matthew 19:14 & Luke 18:16)

 

From Luke 6:46-48, Jesus admonished His disciples,

 

Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me [italics added] and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.

 

In Luke 14:26-27, Jesus commanded potential disciples to carry their own crosses:

 

If anyone comes to Me [italics added], 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 carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

 

This same Greek word is used in John 5:39-40; Jesus rebuked,
 
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me [italics added] so that you may have life.”

 

Next, note the parallelism found in both John 6:35 and John 7:37-38, between “come to Me” and “believes in Me.” Jesus said in John 6:35,
 
“I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me  [italics added] will not hunger, and he who believes in Me [italics added] will never thirst.”
 
Jesus made this same connection in John 7:37-38,
 
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me [italics added] and drink. He who believes in Me [italics added], as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”

 

This parallelism is like a neon sign of Jesus’ intent on what it means to truly come to Him—to enter His life with God through faith in Him. And faith in Him is manifest in a life of learning from Him how to be like Him.

 

To truly get the heart of this, we need to dive deeper into the mindset of Jesus and His Old Covenant audience.

This Greek word δεῦτε is a translation of the important Hebrew word הלך (hālakh). Listen to meaning behind this rich Old Testament word; hālakh “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 [italics added] it.”[2]

So many rich examples are found throughout the Old Testament, but I’m only going to share three.  

 

First, it is used twice in the covenantal passage of Isaiah 2:1-5:

 

The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths’ [italics added]. For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war. Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord [italics added].

 

Second, it is used in Psalm 81:11-16

 

“But My people did not listen to My voice, And Israel did not obey Me. So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, To walk in their own devices. Oh that My people would listen to Me, That Israel would walk in My ways! [Italics added] I would quickly subdue their enemies And turn My hand against their adversaries. Those who hate the Lord would pretend obedience to Him, And their time of punishment would be forever. But I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, And with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

 

Last, it is used in the famous exhortation of God in Micah 6:6-8,

 

With what shall I come to the Lord And bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, With yearling calves? Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? [italics added]

 

Are you noticing a trend in the rich usage of the word hālakh? And don’t be deceived, Jesus brought all of those covenantal promises (the blessings and the curses) with Him when he used the Greek word δεῦτε, which we hear in the now overly familiar command of “follow Me” and “Come to Me”, which we have further neutered as a social media word to sometimes pay attention to, sometimes agree or disagree with, sometimes share…

 

We’ve got to understand the gravity of what it means to “follow” Jesus! Based on Jesus’ word choice, there is a clear foreshadowing that He was asking something of those who “come” to Him; essentially, this invitation is not a one-time action, but an ongoing journey of following Jesus through the “habitual practice” of His way of life. For example, He got up early to pray… He quoted Scripture to fight against temptation…

 

Jesus’ invitation has profound implications. Through a word choice that was unmistakable to His original Jewish audience, but easily missed by today’s audience, Jesus directly aligned His call to discipleship (“Follow Me”) with what it means to be saved, to find one’s life, while also directly connecting Himself to the ancient promises of God’s redeemed rule over all nations and the Messiah’s eternal reign over all of God’s creation.

 

Jesus’ call to discipleship was, and is, an invitation to enter into a relationship with God by joining Him in His relationship with the Father. Jesus declared Himself to be more than Moses; He is wisdom and Torah incarnate!

 

In Matthew 11:27, Jesus declared that He is the only authorized way to know His Father,
 
“All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”

 

Jesus’ invitation directed His original audience to Himself, just as clearly as He did in John 10:9,
 
“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”
 
And in John 14:6,
 
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

 

I conclude with a connection between the OT and NT: God speaks through His prophet in Jeremiah 6:13-21,

 

“For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, Everyone is greedy for gain, And from the prophet even to the priest Everyone deals falsely. They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace. Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; They did not even know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; At the time that I punish them, They shall be cast down,” says the Lord. Thus says the Lord, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; [italics added] And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ [italics added] “And I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’ “Therefore hear, O nations, And know, O congregation, what is among them. “Hear, O earth: behold, I am bringing disaster on this people, The fruit of their plans, Because they have not listened to My words, And as for My law, they have rejected it also. “For what purpose does frankincense come to Me from Sheba And the sweet cane from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable And your sacrifices are not pleasing to Me.” Therefore, thus says the Lord, “Behold, I am laying stumbling blocks before this people. And they will stumble against them, Fathers and sons together; Neighbor and friend will perish.”

 

All the promises of God are yours in Jesus Christ. All the blessings and all the curses of the Old Covenant…

 

I read this to you because it was played out again in Jesus’ day; Listen to Jesus in Matthew 11:20-28:

 

Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.” At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

 

It’s being played out again today! Following Jesus is so much more than following someone on FB. It is the only way to find your life, to be saved, and to experience the promises of God in this life and for eternal life.

 

Honestly friends, you don’t have to teach a young athlete or actor or singer who wants to be like their favorite star, how to take on their mannerisms and lifestyle, their beliefs and attitudes, and their activities (on and off the stage/field). You don’t have to teach that to anyone. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.

 

Ultimately, the question comes down to who or what has captured your heart’s desire to such a point that you want to build your life and model your thoughts and actions off of them. Maybe you need to fall in love with Jesus all over again—return to your “first love” and Follow Him. You are already doing this, but with whom?  
 
 
 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, 3-5.

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

 
 

(Due to personnel being on vacation, there may be a week or 2 delay)

You can listen to the message here (It is usually ready by late Sunday afternoon):

 
 

This Message Video can be viewed HERE.

 

^