Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mark 1:16-19 "Follow Me"

Mark 1:16-19
16 And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 They immediately left their nets and followed Him. 19 When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. 20 And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.

The following is just some thoughts on following Jesus. What it entails and what it does not. I hope that you find it instructing (if you are just beginning your journey with the Lord) or encouraging if you have been a follower of Jesus for some time. For there is no greater Person and Purpose then to follow the the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, the Son of God.

Thoughts on Following Jesus:
Notice Jesus doesn’t say follow a denomination or a program. He doesn’t say follow a charismatic leader or the latest Christian trend or book. He doesn’t say follow a particular form or day of worship. Nor does Jesus say follow a particular Bible translation; (Jesus quoted from both the Hebrew Bible as well as the Greek version of it called the Septuagint) and so Jesus says follow Me.
Again Jesus does not say follow various religious ceremonies or ordinaces born out of the traditions and commandments of men (Matt. 15:1-9; Titus 1:14-16). Nor does Jesus say become a Jew and follow the letter of the Law, or the rabbinic teachings and traditions born from that (Acts 15). Jesus says to all follow Me. For in following Christ there is a liberty of person and life expressed by the Life and Person of Jesus Christ dwelling inside all who believe in Him as Lord and Savior.
Now in this following Jesus, He does not say in our following Him, make Me cultural, national or regional. As if following Jesus is limited to a certain culture, nation or people group. For there is no culture, nation, language or people whom the Lord does not love and want to redeem from their sins and eternal damnation (Acts 10). Nor does Jesus say in our following Him for us to base His accepting people on whether they have lived good, righteous and or virtuous lives in our eyes (Rom. 3:23). For if that is the basis of our (or anyone else's) being accepted by God, our being "good enough", then Jesus’ suffering and dying on the cross for all our sins was in vain (Gal. 2:21). For neither the Scriptures, nor the Gospel, is a message about "good people" for “good people". For we have all proven that there is no one that is good, except One, and that is God, as Jesus said (Matt. 19:16-17). Again Jesus said He did not come to call the righteous, (that is those who are righteous in their own eyes) but sinners to repentance (See Matt. 9:9-13).

Similarly Jesus does not say in following Him that we are to make His accepting someone based on whether or not they will adhere to our own personal likes and dislikes (in all non-moral, ethical and doctrinal matters) in whatever areas of life we have these in. Especially in regards to how we worship and serve the Lord Jesus Christ. For God does not give us who believe liberty to love, worship, and serve Him freely in all joy and peace so that we can exclude or judge other believers when they do not conform to our (or our congregations) personal likes and dislikes in whatever areas of life we have these in (Rom. 14). For it is Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead and that makes for all our acceptance before God because we believe in Jesus Christ’s Person (John 3:16-21; Rom. 1:16-17). For that is the sole basis for our being justified in the sight of God, faith in Jesus, period (Rom. 3:19-28; 5:1).

And so back to Jesus’ command to follow Him. He’s not asking us to take on some sort of heavy religious burden (Matt. 11:28-30). And thus bear the fruits of that self-imposed and self limiting  servitude. For all works based religions inevitably lead to legalism, isolation and or self justification. And thus all to frequently religious arrogance, indifference (Luke 18:9-14), or worse justifying the condemnation of others. For sadly it is often the most “religious” of people who are often the most indifferent towards wayward mankind (Matt. 9:9-13), and or hostile towards God’s redeemed people of grace (Gal. 4:21-31), of whom we all are as Jesus' followers; for we all who believe in Christ are now Christ's and are all washed by the Lambs blood, and thus saved by the grace of God (Eph. 2:8-9). Therefore Jesus is inviting us all to follow Him, to first acknowledge our own sinfulness, and thus our need for His redemption of our persons by His Crucifixion death and Resurrection from the dead, then as we go on with Him in His Spirit's power, our own powerlessness along the way. For to follow Jesus in discipleship is to follow Him with no preconceived ideas of what that is going to look like (John 12:26). In other words Jesus is asking us to let Him write the script of our new lives (2 Cor. 5:17).

But again first we must see our need for Him (in this consider Peter's own acknowledgment of his own sinfulness when Christ called him; Luke 5:1-11, vs. 8). And so to follow Jesus in grace and truth (John 1:14) we have to come to the place of acknowledging our sinful condition to God and look to Jesus Christ crucified as the sole solution for it (John 3:16). Then having received the solution for our sins by repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ’s Person. God accepts Jesus Christ’s atoning work on the cross for our sins and then imputes His Righteousness to us (2 Cor. 5:21). Having then received the gift of God's salvation by faith in Jesus Christ's Person we then are to follow Jesus in discipleship. That is how one becomes a Christian. Not by water baptism (1 Cor. 1:17); not by trying to emulate charismatic gifts, not by endlessly confessing one's sins, or making prayers to Mary or any "saint", and thus not by practicing useless religious rituals, counting beads on a string, or observing sacred days (Gal. 4:9-11). And certainly not by scrict bodily neglect and or self abuse (Col 2:20-22). But only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ's Person as the sole means of being made right with, and transformed by God (Titus 3:4-7). And so having been born again by the Spirit of God who regenerates us, and baptizes us into the Body of Christ, we begin the incredible journey of Living the life of Christ. That is of Jesus Christ Living inside us and manifesting Himself through us.

Today then it may be that Jesus will bring into your path someone whom He has prepared to receive the gospel; or has a certain need that He has Spirit equipped you to meet, witness too, or build up in love as Jesus has commanded we do as His disciples (Matt. 22:37-39; John 15:12). Or maybe it is too do some good work that God has prepared before hand for you to do, or to encourage or bless someone today by (Eph. 2:10). And thus you may find yourself sharing Christ on a street corner, or in a university campus. Maybe you'll find visiting someone in the hospital or serving in a local food bank. Maybe it will be preaching a sermon somewhere, or teaching a Sunday school class. Maybe it will start by just being a Godly mother, father or role model in some capacity to someone and thus preparing your children, yourself and those in your sphere of influence for greater things. I cannot limit or prescribe what Jesus will have you do for Him, and what He will do through you and me individually, as well as corporately as a church body as we follow Him in discipleship. For we are as the recipients of the grace of God to be, and always striving to be, a blessing in this life to all people. Regardless of what may distinguish one person from another. Since we all bear the image of God. Therefore whatever it is, may it always revolve around being a maturing disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. For it is Jesus Christ alone who has brought us into God’s love and salvation so that we might manifest it to all. Therefore we are to be His servants and witnesses of this by both words and deeds. That’s the outworking of following Jesus Christ, where ones faith, by abiding in Jesus Christ's love, produces works and words like Christ's (John 14:12; 15:1-11). Now the the inward part of our following Jesus is our sanctification; that is our progressively being transformed by the Power of the Holy Spirit as we obey Christ's commandments. Now in both of these obedience to Jesus Christ’s commandments really takes precedence. For in order to remain grounded in Christ’s life one must not only believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, but we must also learn obedience to Him by abiding in and keeping His Word (John 8:31; 14:23). For we cannot possibly be Christ like in this life unless we strive to put into practice what He Himself does and has commanded us all to do.

Now in saying this I want you to understand I’m not immune to either temptations or failure (just as you are not). But I am thoroughly confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in me (and you) will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6). Therefore I'm always encouraged by the knowledge of my co-crucifixion with Christ (Rom. 6) by which the Holy Spirit who works in accord with this truth, empowers me to either resist or flee, and thus eventually overcome whatever temptations the flesh or the tempter brings my way (1 Cor. 10:13). For that is my, as well as your responsibility. To overcome the flesh, the world, the devil (Hebrews 12:1-17) . Ultimately by submitting to God and resisting the devil. For in so doing he will flee from us (James 4:7-10). Now in this struggle we are not alone as the Lord Jesus Christ our merciful High Priest is with us in all our temptations and trials (Hebrews 4:14-16), as we learn to resist and overcome the enemy who seeks to devour us, and or forward our falling into sin (1 Peter 5:8-11).

Therefore as believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ we are called to bear each other’s burdens and thus fulfill the Law of Christ by encouraging and strengthening each other in our common faith, trials and weaknesses. And so when necessary restore in a spirit of gentleness those who fall into sin; (for that is what a merciful person does, Matt. 5:7) while still holding each other accountable for our own lives. For we shall each bear our own load (Gal. 6:1-5). Yet I believe it will be through every trial of person and faith that God will increase our discernment as well our knowledge and understanding of Him and His dealings with us and others as well. Therefore we are to always “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might" (Eph. 6:10). As we bear up under the pressures of this life by using the whole armor of God which is exceedingly effective as we believe and obey the truth given us (Eph. 6:11-18), and thus as we put into practice what we are taught and commanded (1 John 5:18-20). For we must overcome it all by the power of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection (Rom. 7:4-6; 1 Cor. 15:56-57; Col. 2:11-23; Rev. 3:21). And so in accord with this as a follower of Jesus is our mind renewal (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 10:5). Therefore readily receive the Word of God which alone can sanctify us (John 17:17-19) and grant us an inheritance amongst those who are sanctified by faith in Christ (Acts 26:18). For having lived according to this world and it's evil age we should not return to it (1 John 2:15-17). Something that God works in all who truly believe, our separation from it (John 15:19-21; Rev. 18:4-5). Therefore in all wisdom, discernment and patient understanding believe in and follow Jesus Christ to eternal life (Col. 1:9-23).

Scripture Quotations
The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

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