14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” 16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
We’ve taken these five Sundays in January to explore what we call our distinctives as a church. These distinctives have to do with a few of the ways that we believe God has uniquely positioned us or called us as a body, but they also speak to the things that are of primary importance to us. Thus far, we have talked about:
Our Vision: Missionary Family
Our Worship: Modern Liturgical
Our Theology: Gospel-Centered
Discipleship-Focused – Scripture teaches that Christ’s mission for his church is to go and make disciples. (Matthew 28:16-20) Disciples are simply individuals who have placed their faith in Christ as their Savior and are, as a result, seeking to pattern their lives after his example. To this end, a disciple is a learner, and Christ is the one from whom they are seeking to learn. Our discipleship process revolves around four key experiences:
- Life together in a gospel-centered community
- Biblical teaching
- Personal coaching
- Actualization of calling
We’ll break these down this morning in light of our text.
This week and last week, we’ve seen Jesus calling men to follow him. Last week it was Phillip and Nathaniel, and today it is two sets of brothers, Simon and Andrew and James and John. And, as we’ve said before, it can seem on the surface that these men have a sort of zombie response to Jesus. That’s because if you don’t do a little digging, it can seem as if Jesus just walks up out of nowhere, says “follow me,” and then these men have no choice but to drop everything and fall in line. But, there are a couple of things that are important for us to remember here.
- The influence of John the Baptist on these men. It is clear that John had a great deal of influence on mass numbers of people at this time. And, John’s ministry was all about two things: calling people to repentance and then telling them to be on the lookout for the Messiah. So, there were many people already primed and ready by John to believe. And, when Jesus begins his ministry, John is the first to say, “This is him.” And, then John tells his followers, I must decrease.
- The concept of becoming a disciple was not strange in Jewish culture. Jesus was not calling these guys to something foreign or weird. John the Baptist had disciples. It was normal for Jewish teachers to selectively take on apprentices. In Acts 22, we learn that Paul, prior to his conversion to following Christ, had been a disciple of Gamaliel, a prominent teacher within the Pharisees and a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court. Also, it could be a great family honor for a young man to be apprenticed to a prominent rabbi.
So, if you read this as Jesus randomly walking up and these guys suddenly becoming robots, then you’ve probably missed some of the backstory. We’re in Mark’s gospel, which is concise; it moves quickly. It was probably the first gospel account written after Jesus’ ascension. And, thus far just in chapter one,
- We’ve been introduced to John the Baptist, and it has been explained that he is the one that was foretold by the prophet Isaiah who would proclaim, “prepare the way of the Lord.” So, John’s been out in the wilderness calling people to repentance.
- Jesus has come to John to be baptized, and a voice from heaven has said “this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”
- Jesus has gone into the wilderness on his own to face temptation.
- Jesus begins his public ministry by calling his disciples.
- Then he starts healing people.
Now, two words get used to describe this group of men whom Jesus calls to follow him. The first is “disciple” and the other is “Apostle.”. Notice that neither of those are used in our text today. The word disciple comes from the the Greek “mathētḗ” which means, student, learner, apprentice. Jesus was calling people to be his pupils. To learn from him. This is the primary posture of a disciple, one who is a learner of his master. So, when we talk about “disciple-ship” in the way of Jesus, we’re simply trying to answer the question, “how did Jesus teach his students?” How did he go about forming them?
Now, as we said last week, there were many disciples, not just the twelve who get called “The Disciples,” but other women and men as well. The twelve are notable because of their closeness to Christ, but also because Jesus calls them specifically to Apostleship. This is the Greek word apostolos, which means, a messenger or ambassador. One who has been commissioned and sent to represent another person. Which is exactly what Jesus does at the end of his time on earth. You have undoubtedly heard of the Great Commission in Matthew 28, where Jesus tells his disciples, now, go and represent me by making more disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all things I’ve commanded you. Or in other words, teach them to do what I taught you to do. So, rather than saying, my time as your rabbi is through, go and make a name for yourself as a rabbi and take on your own disciples, Jesus says, go and represent me, teach others to become like me and represent me. This meaning is embedded in the call to come and become fishers of men.
So, we believe that this call to discipleship not only remains unchanged, we believe that it is the primary mission of the church. That while we might not call ourselves apostles, the New Testament is clear that because of what Jesus has done, we are sent by him out into our world to act as his ambassadors. Probably the most quoted passage of Scripture in this church is 2 Corinthians 5:
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
So, the picture here is that through his sacrifice, Jesus is recreating us into people who, equipped with his Holy Spirit, become his ambassadors and take his message of reconciliation (gospel) to the world.
But, realize, making disciples is not just a transfer of information. It is a multifaceted process. And, also realize, that you are called to engage it, not only as a learner, but also as a teacher. Let me explain. I mentioned earlier that there are, in our opinion, four critical parts to discipleship.
- Life together in a gospel-centered community
- Biblical teaching
- Personal coaching
- Actualization of calling
We’re going to talk about these briefly, but recognize, before the discipleship process can begin, there has to be repentance. And, I don’t simply mean, a turning from sin. There has to be a forsaking of one thing for the other. For the men in our text today, there is a forsaking of career and family. Like, we’re leaving dad in the boat with the nets. We’re putting this down, and taking this up. That is textbook repentance; it is a turning from one thing to embrace another. And, if you believe, this is essential. You can’t just add discipleship onto your already busy life.
For example: Jesus, says, no one can serve two masters because he will really love one and hate the other. In other words, you can’t fish for fish and fish for men.
Even more prescient is Luke 9:
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Now, this maybe seems harsh or unloving to us, but Jesus’ point is that you can’t be one foot in, one foot out. You can’t kinda be a disciple. You’re either with me or you aren’t. Jesus isn’t looking for enthusiasts. He’s not looking for hobbyists. He’s not looking for dabblers. He’s not looking for weekend warriors. He is looking for ambassadors.
But, once people step in…Jesus does 4 key things.
- He builds gospel community
- He teaches them the gospel and Biblical truths
- He coaches (modeling, practicum and personal conversations)
- He pushes them out of the nest (actualization of calling)
This is what we have to realize, God has uniquely equipped you with gifts and talents and passions that are to be used for his glory as his ambassador. In other words, we try to answer the question, “what is your calling in this season?,” because we believe that your calling is the unique way that God has designed you to make disciples. The call is not for everyone to become a local church pastor or a missionary or even engage in a religious vocation. The call is for you to see yourself as an ambassador no matter what you do. So, your work matters, no matter what it is. But, recognize, just like Jesus, you have to invite people in. Discipleship does not happen by accident. Friends, this is how the church actually grows. Not through simply inviting people to religious events, but through inviting people to walk with you and your community. Now, will that result in you inviting people to church? Yes,I think it should, but not just to attend an event, but to invite them into the gospel community.
I’ll close with this. Pastor Tom Mercer, seizes on the Greek word “oikos” which is the word translated “household” in the NT. It is clear in the NT that if someone followed Christ, it affected their entire household, which at that time included children, servants, extended family. He extrapolates that into today’s world and simply asks, who are the 8-15 people that would form your immediate circle of contact? What is the equivalent of your household today?
Mercer challenges people to do a few key things:
- Write down the 8-15 people that make up your oikos and place them into one of the following categories.
- Pray for all of these people every day.
- Be vigilant for ways that you can intentionally invest in their lives.
- Invite them deeper into your life and regularly invite them to experience your gospel community.
- Be diligent in your personal growth so that they can look to you as an example.
Now, here’s the tension. We can’t save anyone, and we don’t want people to think that they are our project, so our tendency is to use that as an excuse to do nothing. But, here’s the reality, while you cannot save anyone, you can introduce them to Christ, you can model the gospel, you can disciple them, you can invite them into your gospel community. So, you are not a powerless player in this equation. Rather you play a vital role. And, if you love them and are more worried about them feeling like their your project than you are them knowing and loving Christ, then you are being guided by a fear of how you will be perceived, rather than by genuine concern and care for their soul. Could you imagine us saying, well, we aren’t going to gather as the church anymore or invite people in because we don’t want them to think that we have an agenda for them. We do. We have an agenda for you and for anyone who walks through the doors and it is that they would love and follow Christ and be saved from death and hell. And, praise God that he saw fit to make me and you his project.