How many of you have ever played Follow the Leader? Most of you. Great! So you know the rules of the game. There is a leader and if that is not you, then you do whatever the leader does. Fairly simple game.
So I was 12. Always a great way to start a story. Tell you how old I was then, because I am much wiser now…But I was 12. And I had a group of friends. We were a real biker gang. Riding our assortment of 10 speed huffy’s and the like. All 5 of us. We would ride to school every morning, and back home in the afternoon. Drop off all our things and then go terrorize the neighborhood. Which mostly consisted of our version of follow the leader, the leader would select a trick or a jump and then each of us would do it, trying to outdo what everyone else had done. And the rule was that you had to do whatever the leader did on his bike. And if you could top it, then you became the new leader.
David was usually the leader, he was the only one of us who had a cool bike, it was dynmo viper. Yep, it was as cool as its name. Supposedly the same type that the pros used, whatever that meant…but on this particular day Robert had convinced the group to go down to the trails. The trails was this small wooded greenbelt that ran between two neighborhoods, and it was often used as the short-cut for traveling between the hoods, with several dirt paths to choose from.
As we entered into the trails that day, something was different. There were lots of older kids hanging out in the trails. And when the older kids hung out in the trails it was never for any good reason…And then I saw it. Across one of the dirt paths a giant mound had been erected. And I watched with huge eyes as one of the older boys took off down the path at blazing speed and launched off the newly constructed ramp and flew high into the sky, twisted his bike to the side and then landed gracefully 25 feet later and promptly slid his bike to a stop throwing dirt up into the air like it was fresh powdered snow. It was awesome! And with that Robert turned and looked at David and Said, “I challenge you to do that.” Pointing at the ramp.
Oh Jesus, Please don’t let David do that. I prayed. And I prayed hard! I knew that my 12 speed road bike could not do that jump. Hey I never said that I had the cool bike! And I also knew that I could not do that jump, even on someone else’s bike, I could not do that jump. I was okay with the fact that I was too chicken to do that jump! I just did not want anyone else to know that I was too chicken to do that jump. So I prayed harder! And the posturing began, who was going to do the jump, until finally Robert said, if I make this jump I become the new leader, and almost in chorus each of boys said ooooohhh. So Robert took his 10 speed mountain bike with a carry on mount, fancy way to say basket, behind his seat, back up the dirt path. At the top of the hill, I saw the older boys saying something to Robert. I assumed then it was tips for how to make the jump, and Robert held up his hand, and came barreling down the path. A few moments later, Robert was vaulted up into the air and unlike the grace that was exhibited earlier, I witnessed something much different. Robert began flailing about in mid-air, he came crashing back down. Robert on one side of his bike and his bike summersaulting its way into three new pieces. A wheel over there, a bent frame, and a piece that I am not even sure what it was…
Needless to say none of the rest of us attempted that jump that day. I believe that it was because God answered my prayer! But Robert is not any different than me, or you. None of us want to be a follower. Everyone wants to be the leader. We all want to be the boss. We know that there is power and respect as the person in charge and nobody tells the leader what to do. In fact, if you do an amazon book search, you will find thousands of books on Leadership and how to be a great leader, or build a leadership culture, in fact there is a whole genre called leadership, and I love to read these books, because everyone wants to be a leader…but is everyone a leader? Are we supposed to be leaders? What if you are not a leader? What if you don’t want to be a leader? Does that mean that you are flawed? What if you are leader and you want to give back all the power and decisions and stress that comes with being a leader?
And is that what Jesus calls us to be? Are we supposed to be leaders? Or are we supposed to be something all-together different?
If you have your Bibles, or your Bible App open them up to Matthew chapter 4 and we are going to start in verse 17.
While you are turning there, let me just quickly catch you up to speed on what has happened in the first few chapters of Matthew. It is designed to be read like any book and we are just leaping into the middle of it, so Chapter 1 Jesus was predicted and then born. Chapter 2 the Magi come to visit young Jesus. Jesus and his Parents flee the country, or as one of my friends put it, Jesus became a refugee, in chapter 3 he returns home to Nazareth and Jesus gets baptized by his friend/ cousin John the Baptist. And then Chapter 4 happens. Matthew tells us that Jesus is driven into the wilderness where he prays and fasts for 40 days. I can’t go 40 mins without food, let alone 40 days. And in that time Satan comes and attempts to derail Jesus. But Jesus wins (it’s a theme in the whole book, Jesus wins, Jesus always wins, No matter what Jesus wins), and then Jesus starts his public ministry which drops us right into verse 17- let’s read together…
- From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Jesus Calls the First Disciples
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. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 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. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
This is our second preview service for the Church at Estrella. And in our first preview service I tackled the question of what is a church and why start one here in Estrella. Two huge questions and it took us about 30 minutes to unpack both of those questions.
If you were here then you possibly remember that I said that a church is a group of Jesus Followers who are committed to living out the message and mission of Jesus Christ together. That is what we think a church is. It is a bunch of people. In fact, our mission statement, Leading People to Be the Church reflects this thinking.
But I skipped over a question last time, maybe you caught it if you were here, or maybe like a decent magician I hid the question well enough, and that is what in the world is a Jesus Follower. Perhaps you wondered if I meant a Christian? Churches will talk about becoming a Christian lots of times, but I have not heard the word a Jesus Follower before.
So yes and no. We as a leadership team here at TCE have chosen to use the term Jesus Follower to describe a disciple and a Christian. Let me back up just a little bit and explain. The word disciple is a loaded term, because we think of the 12 disciples. These were the 12 guys who followed Jesus for 3 years and then were launched as the heads of the greatest movement this world has ever known. We get tangled up in who these 12 guys were when we talk about the word disciple, but really a disciple is someone who intentionally studies and follows after someone else. The word Christian was a description given to the early Jesus Followers of The Church at Antioch. I love their church name! The Church at Antioch…anyways, Those individuals looked so much like Jesus the people in the town started calling them little Christs, which is translated into our word Christians. So great word. It too means to follow Jesus. So why have we chosen to use a different description here at TCE? In America, today, nearly 70% of people consider themselves Christian. However, if asked if they are actively following Jesus’ teachings, only about 40% would agree to at least striving towards that. Yikes, that is a huge disconnect. In fact, when asked a huge number of the people who claim to be Christian but are not following Jesus would say things like, well I attend church at least 1 or 2x a year and that makes me a Christian, I pray, my parents are so I guess I am too. Or, I was baptized, or even christened in the church and that makes me a Christian. But does it? Does any of things make you a Christian? Would any of those things make you a disciple of Jesus?
Of course not. So what makes someone a Jesus Follower?
I think we see three Great things in this passage.
The first is the Great Invitation.
Look back with me at the passage. Verse 19 says. “Follow me”- It is the Great Invitation. In fact, this passage has been labeled by some as just that, the Great invitation. Why in the world is this called the great invitation? Surely there have been greater invites given in the history of the world? Walk with me for just a second. After beginning his public ministry Jesus was walking alongside the sea of galilee. Now this was somewhat different, as most Rabbi’s would center near a temple, but a traveling Rabbis was not unheard of. But what happens next stands in opposition to everything religious.
You see in 1st century Judaism every boy aspired to be a disciple of a rabbi. Being a disciple meant everything. It demonstrated your pious or holy nature, because in the 1st century your heart was not the concern, people could not see that, so everything was based on your outward actions. Now every Hebrew boy was educated until age 13 in the scripture, they were taught them, memorized them, and learned the stories. At age 12 or 13 they had to demonstrate mastery over the three parts of for us, Old Testament. Even Jesus went through this process. And we find his parents accidently left him at the temple and the scribes and rabbi were marveling at his knowledge and understanding. And those boys that demonstrated exceptional understanding were encouraged to continue their studies and pick a rabbi to study under. Now here is the difference, if you did good, you got to select who you wanted to hang out with, and everyone knew that you were good because you were hanging out with a rabbi. In fact, it was common for a well-known rabbi’s name to be thrown around the same way that we use would say I studied at Harvard, or the likes. So you can see how being a disciple would change things. It changed your very standing in the culture.
But these boys, Peter, Andrew, James and John, they were not being encouraged to study anymore scripture. They were out on the boats learning the trade of being fishermen. It was a living. Not a great living, but a living. They had already tried and failed and been kicked out of the system. And up comes Jesus. Walking by the sea of Galilee and he says to them, Come, Follow Me. Come be my disciple. They received an invite. Jesus Initiated this invitation. It was not anything that these 4 boys could have done for themselves.. Jesus while walking along the sea invites them to be his followers. That is absolutely incredible. In fact, it is absolutely absurd. This is not how this is done. These boys had their shot. They were shown not to be fit. They did not have the mind for this. In fact, in the book of acts, when Peter the very guy who was being called here to follow Jesus, is standing in front of the religious ruling council, is called by the council uneducated. In other words, unfit and did not have the mind or capacity to teach on the scripture.
So the first things we notice is the Great Invitation
Here is the second thing we notice.
The Great Initiator
Look again at verse 19. And He said to them, Follow Me. Jesus says it.
Contrary to popular belief you can’t just become a Jesus Follower. It is not something you just accidentally fall into. You cannot be born into a being a Christian. You cannot be baptized to become a disciple. Your friends and family cannot get you in. You can’t get it from just showing up to church every Sunday. And you don’t get it because you called Jesus your homeboy.
This past week I was talking to another Pastor friend of mine and he shared about a friend of his that is not a Jesus follower. My friend had an opportunity to share about Jesus with this man, and the man looked at him and said, My grandpa once told me, Jesus was a fisherman, and I am a fisherman, so I figure that is good enough. And if gramps is in, I figure he can get me in too. Look that is not what it means to be a Jesus Follower. You can’t initiate this on your own.
It is not even really a choice that you can make. You have to be called, you have to be invited by Jesus to be a Jesus follower. And it is at that moment that you can respond to the invitation like these 4 disciples but you have no power in making the invitation happen. These guys did not walk up to Jesus and say, hey, we have been thinking about becoming one of your followers, what do you think? These guys did not even know that they needed to become followers of Jesus. Everything is initiated by Christ. Jesus was the one out walking. These guys were not out looking for Jesus. He came and found them, right where they were at. I love this. These guys were not clean. Peter and Andrew were on the boat, they had been fishing. They were sweaty, they were grimy, they probably had fish guts all over them as they cleaned and prepped the haul for market. James and John were cleaning and mending the nets. I have been fishing, and the grossest part of fishing is cleaning the green slime off your line over and over again. Eventually it is all over your jeans and your shirt because to get it off your hands you wipe it on your clothes. These guys were not at their best when Jesus found them. They were in life. Doing the things that they thought they needed to do to survive.
Religion has been defined as man’s attempt to get back to God. But Jesus was all about God’s attempt to get back with man. He is the initiator. Not us. Because we can’t do it on our own. The Bible says that our works, the good deeds that we try to do are like dirty stinky filthy medical waste bandages. Why? Because we want something for what it is that we have done. And even if we don’t, if your deeds were done to get you into good standing with God then it is the wrong motives. We can’t, So Jesus did. John, one of the four guys called to follow Jesus, sums it up this way. We love God, because He first loved us.
It all starts with Jesus. He is the Initiator and the Inviter.
Why did Jesus choose these guys? I don’t know. There are some things that only God knows, and why he called this group of guys may be one of those things. But in order for them to become a follower someone was going to have to come find them and invite them. Because the world had spoken, they were unfit, unworthy, and unremarkable.
It doesn’t matter who you are, the world tells us the same things. It doesn’t matter who youare, take any celebrity you want, and then go listen to the media. Or take a president, doesn’t matter what you think about them personally, just go listen to the musings of the world about them. They are no good. The world’s message is the same for you and me. You are not good enough for God. You have to be cleaned up, get your stuff together, God could never accept you, let alone love you the way that you are. But that is not what Jesus said after he issued the invitation.
Jesus gave them his Great Intentions and Investment plan.
Look at the end of verse 19, Come Follow Me, and I will make you Fishers of men.
I will. You don’t have to change anything yourself, I will change you. I will make you something totally different. I will give you value. Jesus is not only the initiator but the author and perfecter of our faith. He is the one who will transform you. He is the one who will change your desires. I love the stock market. Anyone else here happy with your stocks right now? Absolutely, but you know what my favorite thing about the stock market is, I don’t have to do anything. I place a little bit of money in and it does all the work. Ok I realize that the market is a lot more complicated than that, but really, the compounding interest, the dividends, the splits and gains are all out of my control. Jesus says if you are willing to make the investment with me, I am going to do something mind blowing with and through you. SO mind blowing that what I am about to say won’t even make sense. Because what in the world is a fisher of men? But to find out you have to accept my invitation to follow me.
I read a story this week of a young woman who wanted to go to college, but her heart sank when she read the question on the application that asked, “Are you a leader?” Being both honest and conscientious, she wrote, “No,” and returned the application, expecting the worst. To her surprise, she received this letter from the college: “Dear Applicant: A study of the application forms reveals that this year our college will have 1,452 new leaders. We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower.”
Maybe our problem isn’t that we need to be better leaders, maybe being a leader and our desire to be a leader comes out of our sinful nature which desires to be in charge and take nothing from no one. Jesus invitation wasn’t for these guys to become leaders, it was to become followers.
Here is the difference between leaders and followers, leaders attempt to blaze their own trails and forge their own way, followers take the path that has already been set by someone else.
Several years ago my wife and I were living in Oklahoma. It was Christmas Eve and we were being pounded by an incredible snow storm. It had snowed 13” in a little over 8 hours. Our tradition was to stay the night with my parents, spend Christmas morning with them, and then drive to her parents house. Needless to say as the warnings for the storm were coming, I was not preparing to be snowed into my house. I was prepared to be at someone elses home, eating their food, and snuggling my then 6 months pregnant wife by the warm fire. The snow was bad! But I couldn’t stay at my house. We would freeze and starve to death. So we loaded our vehicle and headed towards Mom and Dads. As I was driving I began to notice that other cars were stuck in the snow and some had slid off the road. Others had just abandoned their cars in the middle of the road! But I also noticed that a trail had been cut. And I remember at one point looking at the trail as it veered onto what would normally be oncoming traffic and looking ahead the glistening snow…I had a choice to make. Would I follow the trail even though it seemed to go against where I was supposed to go, and my wife is yelling at me not to do it…Or would I try to cut my own new path. I decided to follow the trail. And as I went I saw car after car that had gotten stuck trying to forge their own path, in fact, at one point there was 5 cars that completely blocked the other side of the ride. I would have never made it that night had we gotten off the trail.
Jesus said come follow me.
There are two types of people reading this today. The first is the follower of Jesus. You are not perfect, but you are striving to be more like Jesus as you follow the path he has made for you. I want to encourage you. Remember, that the investment is total, it is everything you have, but the work is His. He who started a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. Don’t quit following.
Some of you if you were honest with yourself, you might call yourself a Christian, but you would not call yourself a Jesus Follower. Maybe one of those things, born into it, went to church, I am good person, you thought that qualified you. But you have never responded to Jesus invitation to follow him? You have never seen the return on the investment because you haven’t made the investment…Maybe you are asking yourself the question how do I know, or how do I hear Jesus calling to me. Jesus spoke that day in a gentle and unassuming manner. But it was firm and direct. He speaks to our hearts today much in the same way. Gentle and firm, you know without a doubt what you need to do, that is Jesus calling to you. You just have to respond. Jesus has already done the rest. If that is you, then this is your moment of response. Without anyone else looking around, if that is you, and you know that Jesus is calling to you to follow him then all you have to respond with is yes. If that is you and you are saying Yes to Jesus for the first time in your life, would you look right here.
Jesus was clear about two things when it came to saying yes to him, the first was that a celebration was held in your honor, and the second was that you needed to learn more about what being a Jesus Follower is all about. In fact, he says it this way at the end of Matthew: Make disciples, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded. We want to help you with that- So before you leave if that is you, on your phone would you text the words JesusFollower to 84576. And we will follow up with you this week.