The Call to Follow
Follow Me. This is the call of Jesus – to follow Him. We see this calling first to Peter and his brother Andrew in Matthew 4:
17 From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!”
18 As He was walking along the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, since they were fishermen. 19 “Follow Me,” He told them, “and I will make you fish for people!” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
These disciples left their lives as they knew it to follow Jesus.
In bridging the gap between the days of Peter and Andrew to us, David Platt questions our understanding of the call of Jesus on us: “Two thousand years later, I wonder how far we have wandered from this path. Somewhere along the way, amid varying cultural tides and popular church trends, it seems that we have minimized Jesus’ summons to total abandonment.”1
The initial call to Christ is a call to die. In Luke 9:23-24, Jesus tells his disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it.”
In commenting on these 2 verses John Stott writes, “Every day the Christian is to die. Every day he renounces the sovereignty of his own will. Every day he renews his unconditional surrender to Jesus Christ.”2 Stott continues,
So in order to follow Christ we have to deny ourselves, to crucify ourselves, to lose ourselves. The full, inexorable demand of Jesus Christ is now laid bare. He does not call us to a sloppy half-heartedness, but to a vigorous, absolute commitment. He calls us to make him our Lord. 3
Dietrich Bonhoeffer interprets Jesus’ call on our lives most pointedly when he wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”4
Living in a “self” absorbed culture, this call of Jesus doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Dying to self is completely opposed to the message the world bombards us with. Why would we want to die to ourselves?
Platt counters by saying:
…why would we not want to die to ourselves in order to live in Christ? Yes there is a cost that accompanies stepping out of casual, comfortable, cultural Christianity, but it is worth it. More aptly put, he is worth it. Jesus is worthy of far more than intellectual belief, and there is so much more to following him than monotonous spirituality. There is indescribable joy to be found, deep satisfaction to be felt, and an eternal purpose to be fulfilled in dying to ourselves and living for him.5
How Do You Become a Christian
When Jesus calls us to follow him, how should we respond?
Do we ask Jesus into our heart?
Do we invite Christ into our life?
Do we repeat a prayer after someone and receive salvation?
To these questions Platt responds with his own questions: “Should it concern us that the Bible never mentions such a prayer? Should it concern us that nowhere in Scripture is anyone ever told to ‘ask Jesus into their heart’ or to ‘invite Christ into their life’?”6
He’s not saying that if you’ve responded in the ways mentioned above that you are not a Christian. What he is saying is that we have minimized what it means to follow Jesus and that it’s possible that many who profess to being a Christian do not really know Christ. And, if we listen to Jesus, not only is this possible, but it’s probable:
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’” – Matthew 7:21-23
Consider also the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14:
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.
To follow Jesus is not easy. It’s a hard road. Though his grace is sufficient, it is not cheap. There’s more to following Jesus than “easy believism.” Belief is important, but as Platt puts it,
…belief in Jesus for salvation involves far more than mere intellectual assent. After all, even demons ‘believe’ that Jesus is the crucified and resurrected Son of God [James 2:19]. …Clearly, people who claim to believe in Jesus are not assured eternity in heaven. On the contrary, only those who obey Jesus will enter his Kingdom.
Jesus is not saying that our works are the basis for our salvation. The grace of God is the only basis of our salvation. …But…only those who are obedient to the words of Christ will enter the Kingdom of Christ. If our lives do not reflect the fruit of following Jesus, then we are foolish to think that we are actually followers of Jesus in the first place.7
In Matthew 4:17, the first word out of Jesus’ mouth as He began His earthly ministry is “repent.” After Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, the crowd was convicted. They came to Peter and the other disciples and asked, “Brothers, what must we do?” Peter’s first word to them? Repent!
What does it mean to repent?
Repentance is a rich biblical term that signifies an elemental transformation in someone’s mind, heart, and life. When people repent, they turn from walking in one direction to running in the opposite direction. From that point forward, they think differently, believe differently, love differently, and live differently.8
We need to repent. And when we do,
We now want God’s glory more than we want our own lives. The more we glorify him, the more we enjoy him, and the more we realize that this is what it means biblically to be a Christian.9
- David Platt, Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale, 2013) 3.
- John Stott, The Call to Follow Christ, http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/The_Call_to_Follow_Christ_SinglePage. Taken from Stott’s Basic Christianity.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995) 89.
- Platt, 4.
- Ibid., 6.
- Ibid., 15-16.
- Ibid., 19.
- Ibid., 23-24.