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