There quite a few references in the scripture where we see Jesus openly inviting individuals to follow Him. But what does that really mean? Considering the world we live in, what does it look like to respond to His eternal invitation of following Him? There is a specific story that I have been meditating on found in Matthew chapter 4, verses 18-22.

And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.  And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they immediately left their nets, and followed him. And going on from there, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.  And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.
an invitation to follow Him comes from an encounter with Him
The first thing we can learn from this is that an invitation to follow Him comes from an encounter with Him. Looking closely at the story, we notice is that Jesus came to them, HE encountered THEM in their environment just as they were. There was not much of a dialogue that took place to convince them to follow Him.  He didn’t have to sell a dream of success, or a life of prosperity to them. The encounter they had with Him was so real that it convinced their hearts He WAS the truth – so much so, that Jesus used 2 simple words before they all followed Him.

When the truth was revealed to them, their lives were changed.  There was no time to “think about it” or “figure it out”.  This was a moment of a life changing opportunity to fulfill their calling, and fully utilize the gifts which were already stored within them.  There was such a great revelation released in that encounter that the scripture tells us they immediately dropped everything they knew to embrace the unknown and unseen. Do we live our lives from a radical encounter like that?

The Need To Encounter Jesus

Many of us today want to follow Jesus but we haven’t actually encountered Him.  We may have seen Him work in the lives of others, or we may have seen evidence of His work in all things around us, but we have not encountered Him face to face.  And the truth is, you can only follow something that you have not encountered for so long before giving up.

A genuine encounter with Him radically changes us from within
 So many of us today do a pretty good job at convincing ourselves that we are following Him because we are doing “all the right things”, or perhaps because we are going to church enough times during the week, or because we’re dressed right, talk right, and surround ourselves with other “followers” etc. but if we were to examine our hearts we would find that most of the things we are doing are driven out of selfish ambition and desire – not out of radical obedience that is birthed through an encounter with Him.  As a result, it becomes difficult to see our lives bear lasting fruits.

Remember Saul (Paul)? A man who persecuted followers of Christ thinking he was doing the right thing.  It wasn’t until that encounter He had with Jesus face to face that He realized the error of his ways.  And it wasn’t until after that genuine encounter that he was able to truly follow Christ.  A genuine encounter with Him radically changes us from within – it never leaves us how it found us.  A genuine encounter with Him leads us to place where we have no time to think about what we are losing for the sake of following Him, rather everything we are gaining through Him.   A genuine encounter with Him brings out the gifts stored within us that bear forth eternal fruits – fruits that go past our today, and overflow into generations yet to come.  Since the disciples understood this, accepting His invitation to follow Him even through persecution, torture and gruesome death made perfect sense.  Have you encountered Him in such a way?

What His Invitation Means

The second and most important truth we need to realize is that accepting His invitation to follow Him requires leaving behind a life of familiarity. 

accepting His invitation to follow Him requires leaving behind a life of familiarity
 A while back, I was having a conversation with someone regarding ministry and sharing some of my personal experiences in my journey.  In that conversation I was telling this person that through my journey of living out the calling of God over my life, there were moments where I felt like I wasn’t cut out for it.  I felt like I was in an unfamiliar place, and I never knew what to expect next.  It felt like where I was, was much bigger and carried far greater weight than I ever imagined it would.  Following Him means you are now no longer in the driver seat of your life, rather in the passenger seat.  You are being led to what is unseen, unknown, and unfamiliar.  There is no longer predictability, or security in yourself.  The only security found, is in Him.

You are being led towards high mountains that you never thought you were capable of climbing.  The disciples were fishermen and tax collectors which was a respectable occupation for their time, and most likely the only source of income they had to support their families.  They were living lives of familiarity surrounded by what they knew best – their families, friends, and their daily responsibilities.  Yet, one radical decision changed the course of their lives so much that today, thousands of years later, you and I are still benefiting from the fruit of their obedience and labor.  All that, just because they made a simple decision to leave behind their “comfort zone”.  They left their boats, their fishing nets, their families, and followed Him without looking back until they drew their last breath.

What Does Following Him Look Like?

Remember the call of Abraham? If you look at the verse in Genesis 12:1 when God first encounters Abraham He tells Him,

Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
That’s it. God doesn’t hand him a map, location, direction, or name to this unknown “land”.  Although He promises great blessings over His life, He doesn’t tell Him what to expect in his unknown journey to this unknown land.
Many of us today want to follow Jesus but we haven’t actually encountered Him.
 God simply tells Him to leave behind everything he is comfortable and familiar with for a place he has no knowledge, guarantee, or security on.  And that later shows us that a great need of faith and obedience was required from Abraham in order for him to see that the land God wanted to lead him into was going to be far greater than the current land he had built his life in.  Abraham had to let go of everything he knew for him to become the father of all nations. He had to let go of what he was comfortable with, for Isaac to come.

If we believe God to be this great being that moves and lives in a realm far greater than we’ve imagined.. then you better believe that the plans He has of where He wants to take us, and what He wants to make out of us are going to be just as great as He is. However, our place of comfort is only a wall we build up that prevents us from moving forward towards the glory we are meant to see.  You see, the rich man in Mark chapter 10, wasn’t ready to let go of that familiarity.  He had the interest to gain eternal life, but he was so focused on the material things he would loose that he missed the opportunity to gain greater treasure that stood right in front of his face, Jesus Himself.

Final thoughts

An invitation to follow Him, is an invitation to be like Him. 1 John 2:6 sums it up perfectly by saying,

Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
The ultimate goal and core purpose of our walk with Him, should be to be like HIM. We can’t claim to follow Christ, to love Christ, or to live for Christ, but not imitate Christ.  The most discouraging thing to the world around us is when we are preaching a Gospel we are not living. One of the biggest reasons why people today have their hearts hardened against God is not because God Himself has done something to them, but it’s because those who claim to follow Him are living a life that contradicts who God is.

As a follower of Christ, your biggest and most important responsibility is to remind yourself that you are the closest reminder of God’s love between God and the rest of the world around you. If you are not striving to be like Him, then you have missed the whole point.  Being like Him goes far beyond the simplicity of our words. Being like Him means to look to Him in every aspect and be a mirror that reflects Him in all we do, and who we become.  Pray that you are equipped with the wisdom you need to be aware of your words, your actions and overall life because to claim that we follow Him means to have encountered Him, to have been willing to leave behind our place of comfort, and to have desired to live just as He did. 

See you next Monday!

Written by Christina Girma

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