Which generation are we living for?

“[This kind of training ministry] will be slow, tedious, painful, and probably unnoticed by people at first, but the end result will be glorious, even if we don’t live to see it. Seen this way, though, it becomes a big decision in the ministry. We must decide where we want our ministry to count– in the momentary applause of popular recognition or in the reproduction of our lives in a few chosen people who will carry on our work after we have gone. Really, it is a question of which generation are we living for.”

The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman

True Discipleship: Fishers of Men

true discpleship

Part OneFollow me.  A true disciple is following Christ

Part Two: And I will make you A disciple is being changed by Christ

Matthew 4:18-20

[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.

Fishers of men.  A disciple taking up the mission of Christ.

With these words Jesus clarified the mission. Becoming a disciple means becoming interested in the eternal well-being of people. He says, “I’m going to change you. If you follow me, I’m going to make you something. Now you catch fish, soon you’ll catch people.” Let’s make it more modern. “Now you strive for As on your report card, soon you’ll strive for people. Now you strive for a successful career, soon you’ll strive for people. Now you’re building a platform, soon you’ll be building people. Now you strive for popularity, soon you’ll strive for people. Right now athletics are all-consuming, but there will be a day that the well-being of others consumes you.”

The underlying assumption is that the premiere sign of maturity is a genuine concern for other people. Jesus’s goal is to make them more interested in people than their careers. Jesus wants them to be more concerned about relationships than about their education, their status, their achievements, their awards, their scholarships, their accolades.

He didn’t say, “follow me and I will make you successful businessmen.” He didn’t say, “follow me and I will land you a good, well-paying job.” He didn’t say, “follow me and I will help you achieve your goals and dreams.” He says, “If you follow me, I’m going to reshape the way you see the world. I’m going to change your whole outlook on life. I’m going to show you that the greatest purpose you can give your life to is people.” Look at it this way: Jesus spent the last three years of his life with his people, teaching and training them to follow Christ. Your job is to do the same thing: spend your life with people teaching and training them to follow Christ. A true disciple is a disciple-maker.

If this is true, then we must understand that being relational is not an option, it’s a calling. The greatest thing we can give our lives to is relationships. The Bible speaks about two things lasting forever: God’s Word and people. Do you want to have a meaningful life? Do you want to labor for things that vanish like steam or for eternal treasures that never fade? Jesus’s call was to invest in the eternal—God’s Word and people. True disciples learn to do exactly that. They become “fishers of men.” That means, they orient their entire lives around this calling. They see that in order to be faithful they must give themselves to God’s Word and people.

So a true disciple is following Christ—believing, changing, submitting. He is being changed by Christ—learning and growing in grace. And he is taking up the mission of Christ—as a disciple-maker.

True Discipleship: And I Will Make You

true discpleship

Last timeFollow me.  A true disciple is following Christ

Today: And I will make you A disciple is being changed by Christ

Matthew 4:18-22

[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.

When Jesus said “I will make you” the offer was out on the table. Jesus was being straightforward. His intention was to make them into something they were not. Jesus wanted to fundamentally change their priorities, their desires, their goals, their dreams, their purposes—and he was clear about it. It was like he said, “I know you’ve spent your life catching fish. Not anymore. I’m going to change you.” To our modern ears, that sounds offensive. What right does he have? We shouldn’t try to change people, that’s rude. Let them be, man. Tolerate.

Jesus didn’t fit it then and he probably wouldn’t fit in now. His goal—and he was absolutely unashamed of it—was to change people. To make them into something they weren’t. From the beginning, this was laid out on the table. A disciple, then, is something who is being changed by Christ.

If you are to start following Christ—by believing, by changing, and by submitting—you must understand what you’re agreeing to. Almost everything you sign up for these days has a long tedious document with terms and conditions. Does anyone actually read those? Well, Jesus has terms and conditions that we must agree to if we are to follow him. But they’re not long, hard to read, annoying and complicated. They’re actually simple. He says” if you follow me, understand this: I am going to change you. That means you must be eager to learn and eager to change.”

True disciples are learners. People who think they have nothing else to learn aren’t good disciples. The best disciples are the best learners. They are hungry for knowledge, hungry for information, hungry for insight, hungry for wisdom, hungry to acquire skill, hungry to hone their talents, hungry to practice what they’ve been taught. Part of what it means to follow Jesus is admitting you not only have the deep-seated problem of sin, but the deep need of being taught.

True disciples want to change. This goes right along with being a learner, but it takes it to the next level. Being a true disciple means not only learning but practicing what you’re learning. True disciples aren’t about acquiring information for information’s sake. They want to change. They hate their sin and they want to grow. That’s why Jesus’s call must have been so appealing. I love it—Jesus promises to change them. “I will make you.” Perk up whenever Jesus makes an “I will” statement. He said to his disciples that he would make them fishers of men. He would set out to change them and he wouldn’t fail. This is great hope for us, because the promise we receive is that Jesus will change us to make us useful for his service as we follow him.

So a true disciple is following Jesus and eager to learn and change. And he is also someone being changed by Christ. 

True Discipleship: Follow Me

true discpleship

Follow me. A true disciple is following Christ

Matthew 4:18-22

[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.

The first requirement to be a disciple—a Christian—is to follow Jesus.

To follow involves three elements: belief, life-change, and submission.

Following Jesus requires belief in who he was and what he came to do. Simon Peter and Andrew weren’t asked to follow someone they didn’t know. They had spent time with Jesus previously (John 1:35-42), and even believed he was the Messiah. When Jesus approached them in Matthew 4, they had already known Jesus for some time, scholars say a year. So we understand that the first requirement of a disciple of Jesus Christ is to believe.

Of course, the Simon Peter and Andrew didn’t know a lot about Jesus. But they believed he was the Messiah, even though they didn’t entirely understand. And this is the beauty of following Jesus—you don’t have to be a genius to figure it out. Your understanding of Jesus doesn’t have to complete. In fact, usually it’s the simple ones who get it best. “God chooses the foolish to shame the wise.” You can’t follow someone you don’t believe.

What you do have to know is that you have a sin problem that has earned you punishment and Jesus alone can save you. There are more details—a glorious and beautiful treasure trove of details—but the essentials of following Jesus today remain quite simple. God made you. You rebelled. Faith in Christ saves those who repent and believe. Those who believe those things are saved.

Following Jesus also implies life change. When Jesus says “follow me” the underlying directive is stop following that. If he says follow me, he means give up on your ways. If he says live for me, he means stop living for yourself. Simon and Andrew got it—they left their nets and followed him. Following Christ meant giving up their careers in fishing. James and John were mending their nets, trying to fix them so they could catch more fish. And suddenly when Jesus called them, they left the nets in the boat. They weren’t important anymore—following Jesus meant leaving behind old ways.

That’s what following Jesus is—not literally following him around, like the original disciples did. For us, following him has a much broader meaning: we are to follow his way of life, his teachings, his priorities, his goals.

Following Jesus also indicates submission. Jesus says follow me, and that means we give up the rights to run our lives. This is called repentance. We have handed over the title deed of our lives. We gladly submit to Jesus as our lord, master, leader, and guide.

Some try to make Jesus’s call easier than it actually was. They like to accept Jesus as Savior but not as Lord or Master. And so they think they’ll can be saved without submitting to Christ. This isn’t so—the truth is that if Jesus ain’t your Master he ain’t your Savior. If you haven’t submitted you haven’t been saved. It’s the blunt truth that Scripture is careful to repeat over and over again.

So let me recap quickly: When Jesus says “follow me” this is what he means: believe me, make a change in direction, and submit completely.

Next post will look at Jesus’s intention: “and I will make you…”

True Discipleship

true discpleship

So a man shows up on the scene unlike any other man. He’s teaching with authority. He’s healing the sick. He’s casting out demons with his voice. People are amazed, shocked, and sometimes afraid. His message is one of impending judgment and free grace. The masses are drawn in.

The man has an iron will, determination like a freight train. Unstoppable. Fearless.

He’s something of an enigma—making a whip and clearing out the temple one day and laughing with children and comforting the sick on another.  One day he approaches some fishermen and says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

These men– and some others– start following him around. They become something of the inner circle—those who really, truly know the leader. They are given secrets into the mysteries of God. They are given insider information about the parables. They devote themselves to this man, and they are called disciples. And of course, the man I’m talking about is Jesus.
And, in a strange and somewhat unexpected twist of circumstances, their leader dies. The masses turned on him, the disciples fled, and Jesus got crucified. But three days later, he resurrects.After some time, Jesus starts giving them authority. They are sent on missions—spreading the message of good news and healing the sick. Sometimes, they even do miracles. They become something like an extension of Jesus, operating with his power, speaking his message. These disciples are the hands and feet and mouth of Christ.

And he speaks his parting words to his disciples before ascending into heaven. And you know what they are? Go make disciples. He says “I have all authority, so make disciples. I will be with you always, so make disciples.”

You see what happened? Here were some men who were everything but disciples. Fishermen. Politicians. Tax collectors. You name it. And Jesus calls them and makes them into disciples. And then, when Jesus leaves them, he tells them to make disciples. Now it’s their job.

Jesus’s life in the gospels has abundant description of his dealings with these certain twelve men. How he trained them. How he taught them. How he got them ready for ministry—how he made them disciples. And then, essentially, Jesus says—“You watched me do it. Now you do it.”

We talk a lot about discipleship here at Grace Brethren, mainly because we think it’s the central calling given to the church. I already mentioned Jesus’ final commissioning statement: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” in Matthew 28. A simple look at Jesus’ life is another strong case for discipleship—are we really faithfully modeling our lives after Jesus Christ if we have no concern for training and equipping the people around us? Not to mention the fact that in Ephesians 4 the pastors and teachers are given to the church “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” That’s training—or, discipleship. 2 Timothy 2:2 couldn’t be clearer: central to pastoral work is training up young men who train up others also. So we are convinced that our God-given task is to preach, to pray, and to prepare young men and women for lives of service to the church—that is, make disciples.

Over the next few days I’ll be blogging through ten words: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). I’ll divide it into three sections:

  • “Follow me”
  • “And I will  make you”
  • “Fishers of men”

The goal is to think hard about what Jesus has called us to and come into a deeper understanding of our role in the story of redemption.