A Call to Follow, Not a Call to Lead

Mark 1:16-20

16 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 17 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 18 And they left their nets at once and followed him. 19 A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. 20 He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men.
Introduction
Our challenge this morning is to understand God’s Call to follow his son Jesus Christ. To that end let me point four aspects of the call found in our text: 1) the call is to follow not to lead; 2) the call is to follow only Jesus; 3) the call is plural, many are needed for the task; 4) the call is specific to one vision that of evangelism and discipleship. Let me state those elements of the call again. (Repeat)
Now the one criteria necessary to answer this call is repentance and I’ll say more about that momentarily. Our quadrennial theme is “The Investment Factor: A Changed People, Changing the World.” Repentance is the way to change and repentance sustains change. Repentance is an ongoing phenomenon that results from following Jesus. A follower of Jesus has been changed, is changing, and awaits new changes each day they follow Jesus. The hymn writer wrote, “Everyday with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.” Hallelujah! Only a life of repentance can do that. Praise the Lord!

Move 1
Beloved, when people encounter Jesus through a life of discipleship they change the world around them. True story. A little girl stood near a small church from which she had been turned away because it was “too crowded.” “I can’t go to Sunday School,” she sobbed to the pastor as he walked by. Seeing her shabby, unkempt appearance, the pastor guessed the reason and, taking her by the hand, took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday school class.
The child was so happy that they found room for her, and she went to bed that night thinking of the children who have no place to worship Jesus. Some two years later, this child lay dead in one of the poor tenement buildings. Her parents called for the kindhearted pastor who had befriended their daughter to handle the final arrangements.
As her poor little body was being moved, a worn and crumpled red purse was found which seemed to have been rummaged from some trash dump. Inside was found 57 cents and a note, scribbled in childish handwriting, which read: “This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday School.
For two years she had saved for this offering of love. When the pastor tearfully read that note he knew instantly what he would do. Carrying this note and the cracked red pocketbook to the pulpit, he told the story of her unselfish love and devotion. He challenged his deacons to get busy and raise enough money for the larger building. But the story does not end there. . .
A newspaper learned of the story and published it. It was read by a wealthy realtor who offered them a parcel of land worth many thousands. When told that the church could not pay so much, he offered to sell it to the little church for 57 cents.
Church members made large donations. Checks came from far and wide. Within five years the little girl’s gift had increased to $250,000.00—a huge sum for that time (near the turn of the century). Her unselfish love had paid large dividends.
When you are in the city of Philadelphia, look up Temple Baptist Church, with a seating capacity of 3,300. And be sure to visit Temple University, where thousands of students are educated. Have a look, too, at the Good Samaritan Hospital and at a Sunday School building which houses hundreds of beautiful children, built so that no child in the area will ever need to be left outside during Sunday school time.
In one of the rooms of this building may be seen a picture of the sweet face of the little girl whose 57 cents, so sacrificially saved, made such remarkable history. Alongside of it is a portrait of her kind pastor, Dr. Russell H. Conwell, author of the book, “Acres of Diamonds.”
Who would have thought that the investment of this pastor in this one, unkempt child would result in such a change. That’s the power of a changed life investing in someone else, hallelujah! This little girl, penniless, homeless, and broke fell in love with Jesus. She took everything she had and invested so that others would be blessed. When ordinary people answer the call to follow Jesus, God does miraculous things.

Move 2

That notwithstanding, everybody is not ready to follow Jesus; you have to observe people and target those you sense are ready to answer the call. Jesus passed by a lot of men, prayed many days, before he finally walked up to those he chose to follow him. As disciples of Jesus Christ before you invest in someone look for the same traits Jesus found in these men in those persons.
Let’s look at four criteria Jesus used to select members of his discipleship team.
Look again at Mark 1:16-17, it reads, “16 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 17 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”
First Jesus looked for men who exhibited a consistent work ethic. These men were not afraid of hard work. Jesus looked at the way those men threw those nets into the water, the way they worked as a team, and decided these men can help me. Jesus called Simon and Andrew to serve because they were committed to a purpose.
Next, Jesus chose men who were teachable. Luke Chapter 5 tells us that Jesus had used their boats as a platform to teach and afterward gave them instructions on fishing and they obeyed. They were teachable. Listen, if you are not willing to learn, if you think you know it all, Jesus can’t use you. Someone who can’t be taught, also can’t follow.
Thirdly, Jesus chose men who were willing to follow. Look at verses 18, “18 And they left their nets at once and followed him.” Simon and Andrew heard the call to serve, to learn, to go on a new adventure and because Jesus had proven his ability to be successful, they followed him. Jesus didn’t have to bribe them, cajole them, or brow-beat them. When they heard the call, immediately, they followed Jesus. I wonder this morning is there anybody here willing to do likewise. I wonder this morning if in 2015, someone would enter a deeper level of commitment as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Hallelujah!
Finally, Jesus chose men who would sacrifice. Look at verses 19-20: “19 A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. 20 He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men.” These men sacrificed what they were in order to become who Jesus needed them to be. They accepted an invitation to change and to begin doing something with eternal ramifications. They, along with Simon and Andrew also had witnessed the ability of Jesus to get results. No longer would they simply be ordinary men engaged in the fishing business, now they would become ordinary men engaged in the business of salvation.
They sacrificed their livelihood and chose to follow Jesus. Why, because discipleship requires sacrifice. Jesus needs somebody to answer the call to follow who is willing to sacrifice who they are to become who he needs them to be. Jesus offers a brand new life, not a part time job. I wonder if I have anybody this morning willing to sacrifice their livelihood to follow Jesus.

Move 3
The sum total of these four criteria – hardworking, willing, teachable, sacrificial – is repentance. When you answer the call to follow Jesus, you have to repent.
In Mission in Christ’s Way Lesslie Newbigin (d. 1996), long-time missionary to India, writes:
I remember once visiting a village in the Madras diocese. There was no road into the village; you reached it by crossing a river, and you could do this either on the south side of the village or on the north. The congregation had decided that I would come by the southern route, and they had prepared a welcome such as only an Indian village can prepare.
There was music and fireworks and garlands and fruit and silumbum (the performance of a South Indian martial art done on ceremonial occasions)—everything you can imagine. Unfortunately I entered the village at the north end and found only a few goats and chickens. Crisis! I had to disappear while word was sent to the assembled congregation, and the entire village did a sort of U-turn so as to face the other way. Then I duly reappeared.
This is what metanoia, the word repentance means. The TEV translation gives a misleading impression by translating it: “Turn away from your sins.” That might make it look like a traditional call for moral reformation. That is not the point. There is nothing about sins in the text (Mark 1:14-18). The point is: “The reign of God has drawn near, but you can’t see it because you are looking the wrong way. You are expecting the wrong thing..”

Move 4
God’s call comes to us as an invitation to follow, never to lead, never to take risks independently of him. In other words, when you follow Jesus, success is assured. For when we follow Jesus our sins no longer have dominion over us. So then, God’s call comes despite our sins, flaws or handicaps. In other words God does not reject us because we’re flawed; he calls us who are flawed to serve others who are flawed. Hallelujah!
One of the main characters in the movie Seabiscuit is a broken-down, unemployed cowboy named Tom Smith. Millionaire Charles Howard, who is about to engage in a horse racing enterprise, has a campfire interview with Smith, and asks why he bothered rescuing an old, lame horse that was sentenced to death because of a broken leg.
Tom replies, “You don’t throw a whole life away just ’cause it’s banged up a bit.” Every horse is good for something, Tom claims. This devotion to horses convinces the millionaire that Tom should be his trainer.
Together they find and purchase Seabiscuit, a horse whose physical shortcomings and temperament make it an unlikely prospect for racing success. Tom’s method of training, while unorthodox, is tailored toward curing the horse of its inner demons, a byproduct of the neglect shown by its previous owners.
Tom hires a second-rate jockey named John “Red” Pollard to ride Seabiscuit. At 5’7″, Red is considered too tall to be anything but a bush-league jockey and a bad match for this undersized horse. But Tom notices a mystical connection between Red and Seabiscuit.
Red has another handicap. He is blind in one eye, and he has concealed the handicap fearing that track officials would no longer allow him to race.
During a crucial race at Santa Anita, Red’s limited vision allows a competing horse, Rosemont, to overtake Seabiscuit on Red’s blind side, costing them the victory.
Tom, the trainer, is outraged that the jockey failed to urge Seabiscuit to keep the winning pace. He presses the jockey to explain how he could let this happen. Finally, in a burst of emotion, Red shouts, “Because I’m blind!”
Stung by the loss and betrayal, Tom scornfully urges Mr. Howard to fire Red. To Tom’s surprise, Mr. Howard requests that Red remain as his jockey. Dumbfounded, Tom demands a reason. Mr. Howard states, “You don’t throw away a whole life just because it’s banged up a bit.” God doesn’t throw us away just because we’re banged up a bit. Hallelujah!
This is it, precisely. Jesus recruits those who enjoy life, those who are teachable, those who are willing and those who will sacrifice their livelihood in exchange for his. Your sins are swallowed up in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. God calls you as you are to follow his son Jesus in service. Are you that person Jesus is calling today? Are you willing to answer the call of Jesus Christ to follow him? Come, follow Jesus and begin to live the abundant life of serving others through faith in him. Hallelujah!

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