What It Takes To Follow Jesus

What It Takes To Follow Jesus

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Luke moves from a sample of Jesus’ teaching and work in the synagogues to His teaching and work among the common people in Luke 5:1-11. For the first time, in Luke five, we see individuals responding to His teaching by following Him. Though Luke only identifies one of the men at this point, the three other gospel writers mention that Simon Peter’s brother, Andrew, was also in that number. Matthew and Mark tell us that the men in the other boat were James and John. These four fishermen would soon “be catching men” (10). Luke seems to focus his attention on the reaction these men had to Jesus, His teaching, and the impact the miracle with the fish had on them. Their reaction to Jesus mirrors the reaction we need to have when called by His Word to follow Him.

DISCIPLESHIP REQUIRES EXPOSURE TO JESUS’ WORD (1-4).

Luke shows us Jesus teaching in close proximity to the fishermen, but gives no clear indication of how much or if they are listening to Him. He does show how compelling Jesus’ teaching is and how the people were listening (1). John tells us, though, that Andrew had already been listening to Jesus and was trying to persuade Simon to follow Him (1:40-42). Paul’s teaching that faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17) will be apparent in the lives of these followers, as Luke will demonstrate in this gospel and the book of Acts. We cannot follow one whose ideas, instruction, and incentives we do not know or believe. 

DISCIPLESHIP REQUIRES UNCONDITIONAL SUBMISSION (5-7).

This is not a one-time act. Submission is a process that must be practiced continually. But, no one can choose to follow who does not surrender his or her own will to Christ’s (cf. 9:23-26). Jesus, the carpenter, tells these fishermen how to fish. Despite their all-night total failure at their craft, they trust Jesus’ word. Simon says, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets” (5). Success followed submission, something they would see in greater, more important ways as they continued to follow Him. Jesus asks us to do difficult and perplexing things. Our task is not to question, but simply to surrender. 

DISCIPLESHIP REQUIRES A HUMILITY TO SEE OUR SINFUL SELVES (8).

Simon will show traits which prove him to be a work in progress, from impetuousness to inconsistency. Yet, Jesus could see his heart and the inspired Luke sheds light on it, too. When Peter sees the power of His Lord, he says, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (8). All of us will disappoint Jesus in our walk with Him, but He loves a heart that harbors no stubborn pride. This is the man Jesus will choose as a leader and spokesman, one who does not try to project perfection and superiority. So it is today (1 Pet. 5:5-6). 

DISCIPLESHIP REQUIRES PROPERLY CHANNELING EMOTION (9-10).

Exposure to Jesus left these fishermen “seized” (enclosed, completely taken hold of) with “amazement” (9). It made them “fear” (10). Others felt emotion like this who were exposed to Jesus’ power and preaching, and they audaciously reject Him (4:22-30; 8:26-39). These four men, amazed and afraid, will be prompted by this to make the life-changing (and life-giving) choice to follow Him. I have seen people in Bible studies and in their pew who realize the truth of the gospel, showing (and even telling of) remorse, dread, and anxiety over their lostness, but who just cannot make the decision to deny self and follow Jesus. I cannot think of a greater tragedy. In my own life, it is not simply enough to feel sorrow over my sin. I must allow this to move me to obedience (2 Cor. 7:9-11). 

DISCIPLESHIP REQUIRES RADICAL CHANGE (11).

Luke will record several positive examples of people whose encounter with Jesus is transformational! Think the sinful woman (7:36-50), the demoniac (8:26-39), the grateful leper (17:11-21), and Zaccheus (19:1-10). Some, though, were just not willing (18:18-27). Luke records multiple occasions where Jesus warns that discipleship requires radical change (cf. 9:57-62). Other writers will contrast it as putting off the old man and putting on the new man (Eph. 4:22-32; Col. 3:5-17; Heb. 12:1; 1 Pet. 2:1ff). Here, Luke simply relates how that they immediately left everything and followed Him. While that may not be a literal necessity today, we cannot hope to have eternal life while holding onto this life so much that we are not following His will. 

These men were about to see things they could not have imagined, experience highs and lows they did not know existed, and be given opportunities they could not have anticipated. It wasn’t going to be an easy life; in fact, it would demand everything they had. But it gave them something only Jesus could give them. This hasn’t changed. If we want what they received, we must do what they did! 

The Coolest Intro

The Coolest Intro

Wednesday Column: Third’s Words

gary and chelsea

Gary Pollard

One of the most concise and beautiful teachings about God is in John. He plainly states some awesome things, full of impact and depth.

“The Word existed in the beginning…” This, along with other statements made in this context, highlights how tragic it is that the world systemically rejects him. There was only a “beginning” because of him.

“…the Word existed with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God, who created everything through Him. Nothing that exists was created without Him.” God took a demotion to save us (Heb. 2.9). The same one who used the Father’s power to fabricate reality.

“Life came from Him…” Humans only had the power to take life away from the source of life because He let them.

“…and this life was humanity’s light.” His selflessness gave us hope for a better existence.

“This light shined through the darkness, and darkness can’t smother it.” Evil is on borrowed time and it knows it. Jesus put a countdown on the existence of evil. When its time runs out, it’ll never bother His people again (II Pet. 3.13; Rev. 20.12-15).

We deal with real problems thanks to darkness. What Jesus did wasn’t just a nice gesture. He destroyed the very possibility of darkness, creating a reality in which His own – made eternally perfect through His sacrifice – can never mess things up again. I want to live in that kind of reality with that kind of God.

We’re Different & The Same 

We’re Different & The Same 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

 

 

Dale Pollard

When it comes to the families that make up the church, what ties us together is a common bright future. While every family has its differences, one constant remains— the church. All strive to follow those guidelines laid out in scripture. Paul says in Philippians 1:6, “And I’m SURE of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” 

The writer speaks with assurance, and that confidence is well-placed. From “His-story” we see that God always completes His projects. He never dreams; He creates. He decided to create the world and here it is. He decided to save the world, and here we are. 

Paul also would write in Romans 7-8 that the flesh tends to get in the way of the spiritual. God is perfect, but we’re not. That’s what makes us a work in progress. Aren’t we thankful that God provides the solutions to “fix” us up? 

We’re involved in a great work because there simply is no better work  than what is being done by His church. That being said, many of us struggle with overcomplicating things. We try to make sense of our individual lives, and when we leave God out it all becomes a discouraging battle. Where’s the peace? Joy? Confidence? Maybe it was left behind when we left God’s path. Thankfully God came down to earth years ago to teach us everything we need to know. We see that in His interactions with people. Even His twelve original followers were an odd group. 

Each had a diverse background. Some were Fishermen and some tax collectors. 

Each one had a unique personality too! They ranged from timid to assertive.

 Each one had spiritual battles from greed to crippling doubt.  

Yet each one rallied under His leadership and were united through a common hope. 

What’s changed? Not much. 

The personalities, talents, backgrounds, and flaws mixed together create a unique blend that make up each one of us. Yet, here we are rallied under His leadership, united in common hope. 

Several Lehman ladies (men are at the table in the foreground) enjoying “Federal Grove” the night before it (sadly) closed, being regaled with one of Kathy’s stories. I think this one was about snakes crawling out of a hole.
But Grow In Grace And Knowledge…

But Grow In Grace And Knowledge…

GUEST WRITER: Charlie Smith

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“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.” – 2 Peter 3:18

Peter writes this letter knowing that he’s going to die soon (2 Peter 1:14), and he wants the church to remember his teachings after he’s gone (1:15). This illustrates how deeply invested Peter was in the church’s success:

  • He had been on the ground floor of Jesus’s ministry, literally walking off the job site, leaving everything behind, to become a fisher of men
  • He had seen the crucifixion, the empty tomb, and the pierced side of his resurrected savior
  • He had helped the church grow from 120 to untold thousands covering the entire known world in one generation

And now Peter realizes that he’s soon going to be gone and the church will not have the direct guidance of the apostles but instead will need their indirect guidance through the New Testament writings. What are the last words of this apostle, his final thoughts for the church that he loved so dearly, which continue to echo down to us today as the spiritual successors of those first-century Christians?

Always keep growing!

First, he asks us to grow in the grace of Christ. When we obey the gospel, our sins are completely forgiven; God forgets them; we are “saved to the uttermost,” according to Hebrews 7:25, and when we walk in the light, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sins (1 John 1:7). So how can we grow in something that is complete?

I think a key is found in 2 Cor. 12:7-9. Paul has been given this thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan, to torment him, and he prays three times that the Lord will take it away. But God tells Paul that His grace is sufficient. It was enough that Paul was a Christian; Paul did not need any particular problem taken away; God’s grace sufficed.

Likewise, no matter what we face in this life, it really doesn’t matter if we’re a Christian.  God’s grace is enough. It takes effort and maturity, though, to gain this perspective. We need to keep growing in the grace of Christ!

Second, Peter asks us to grow in the knowledge of Christ. This is an easier interpretation: We must go to The Book! In my experience, and from what I’ve observed in others, those who grow as Christians are those who study the Bible on their own, digging in to see for themselves what God says. The preacher who baptized me told me one time that, in addition to his other study, he read a chapter a day from Proverbs and the gospels because he wanted to remain connected to the wisdom of God and the heart of Jesus; this is the attitude of someone who, know matter how much they know about the Bible, is still striving to grow in the knowledge of Christ.

May we all have this desire to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We’ve been blessed to have the Smiths at Lehman since last August. Charlie begins work as an economics professor at Freed-Hardeman next month. We’re so sad for us, but very happy for them. What a wonderful family!
WRONG QUESTION: “WHO’S THE GREATEST?”

WRONG QUESTION: “WHO’S THE GREATEST?”

Neal Pollard

It was the late ’70s and I was spending the night with my best friends, Patrick and Jody Smith.  We had just finished watching The Bionic Man on TV, and there was a special on Muhammad Ali.  I can still remember his banter with Howard Cosell and the gifted boxer looking at the camera and saying, “I-am-the-greatest!”

“Who is the greatest?” is a burning question in men’s minds.  We want to know who’s the greatest.  Whatever the profession, endeavor, or skill, there are folks vying for the top spot.  People once immortalized for feats and accomplishments, like Tom Courtney, Neil Armstrong, George Washington, Clara Barton, Florence Nightingale, or Muhammad Ali, fuel future competitors to meet and exceed their successes.

The disciples wanted Jesus to tell them, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matt. 18:1).  On a journey to Capernaum, they argued among themselves about who was the greatest (Mk. 9:34).  Here were twelve men who were selected by Christ to have a part in the greatest work on earth.  That was honor and purpose enough, but they wanted more.  If that was good, being the best of the best was better.  Such thinking was way off base, which Jesus repeatedly demonstrated through His humility, sacrifice, and service for the good of others.

Today, we wrestle with the same affliction.  Whether in our daily lives or even within our function in the church, we can get caught up in being recognized as the best.  This is a destructive exercise and misses the point.  If we are Christians, we are among God’s chosen on this earth.  What a privilege!  We have the highest, most important business to do.  Let us do our best and work our hardest, but let us never get caught in the trap of showing others that we are the best.  The very attempts disqualify us.