This is the first of three lessons in the “Follow Me” discipleship series from the 2014 Harvard Avenue College/Career Ministry Spring Retreat.
What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus?
Jesus first spoke the words, “Follow me” to twelve ordinary men two thousand years ago. They answered the call, leaving behind their families, friends, and jobs, to follow a Man who would give them a new family, new friends, and a new mission.
Ever since that time, Jesus has called out to millions with the same two words: “Follow me.” Men and women, rich and poor, young and old, red, yellow, black, and white have responded to this summons.
But what is Jesus asking us to do when he says “Follow me”? Is it simply to “pray and ask Jesus into your heart”? Do we just have to gain an understanding of who Jesus is and what He did? Or is it something more?
This series of blog posts will be looking at three components of Jesus’ call to “Follow me”: the call to discipleship, the cost of discipleship, and the command to disciple. Along the way, we will see not only the gravity of what we must forsake in this world but also the greatness of the One we follow in this world. In Him is found indescribable joy, deep satisfaction, and an eternal purpose.
Becoming a Disciple
The first component of following Jesus is the call to discipleship. (Read Matthew 4:17-22)
Two elements of becoming a disciple:
- Belief (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9)
Believing Jesus is fundamental to following Jesus. Becoming and being a disciple of Jesus involves far more than mere intellectual belief in Him (the demons even believe that Jesus died and rose again-James 2:19), but it certainly doesn’t involve anything less than that. Many profess publicly to a belief that they don’t actually have personally (Matthew 7:21-23).
To believe in Jesus requires an obedience that encompasses trusting the claims He made about Himself, relying on the promises He made to those who would follow Him, and being devoted to the very words He spoke (John 8:31-38, 14:26). As we continue to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:1-2), we gain a deeper and deeper understanding of who Jesus is and what He has done on our behalf.
- Repentance (v. 17; Acts 2:37-38; Galatians 2:20)
On the other side of the discipleship coin is repentance. When someone repents, there is a foundational transformation in the person’s mind, heart, and life. Like the disciples that Jesus called, a repentant man or woman willingly leaves behind their former way of life with its idols, sins, and self-righteousness in order to run to answer the call of a new way of life as a follower of Jesus. For every Christian in every culture, repentance is a necessary element of discipleship.
The call to discipleship is:
- Initiated by God… (v. 18, 21; John 6:65, 15:16; Romans 9; Ephesians 1; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1-2)
There are few doctrines more despised by the prideful human mind than the truth that God is absolutely sovereign. However, this truth is seen over and over throughout the pages of Scripture. Like the nation of Israel in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 7:6-8) and the four Apostles in this Matthew passage, God initiates the call to discipleship. He does so based on His mercy not because of who they are, but often in spite of who they are. Like a Good Shepherd, He goes searching for the sheep that belong in His fold (John 10:1-18). He has to.
- …Towards Rebels Dead in Sin… (v. 18-19, 21; Romans 3:9-12, 23; 6:23; Ephesians 2:1-3)
The reason that God has to initiate discipleship is because in our natural sinful state, not even one person willingly seeks for God. Our identity is too wrapped up in our jobs, family, social status, pleasure, and self-righteousness. In fact, we sin has distorted us so much that the Bible refers to everyone’s natural state as “dead in sin.” Because of this sinfulness, we are under the just wrath of God. The penalty for this sin isn’t determined by our measure of it, but instead the penalty is determined by the magnitude of the one who is sinned against. So our problem isn’t so much that we’ve made bad decisions or messed up, but that we have rebelled against God and as a result are utterly unable to turn to Him.
- …Unto Adoption as Sons. (v. 20, 22; Romans 8:12-17; Galatians 4:1-7; Ephesians 1)
Adoption is at the heart of Christianity. God not only takes initiative, He takes initiative towards people in rebellion to Him. His aim isn’t to capture these rebels as P.O.W.s, but to bring them into His very own family so that they cry out “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). Before we were even born and while we were lying alone in the depth of our sin, God was planning and working to adopt us.
So then the call of discipleship is initiated by God towards rebels dead in sin unto adoption as sons. The disciple’s journey begins not with his pursuit of Christ, but Christ’s pursuit of him. It doesn’t start with us inviting Jesus into our heart, but Jesus inviting us into His family. The wonderful love behind this call is entirely beyond our imagination and completely out of our control. Just like Jesus called His first disciples, He has called out to us as well: “Follow me!”
Learn It. Love It. Live It.
For more on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, check out David Platt’s book Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live.
BONUS: Pictures from the 2014 HACM Spring Retreat