Following Jesus

There were two men. 

Starting out in life, they each needed to build a house.  One took the fastest way possible, and did not take the time to build a solid foundation.  The other, being wiser, took the time to dig down and establish a firm foundation.  

The first strong Kansas thunderstorm that came along blew away the house without a good foundation, and the man who had built quickly lost everything.

You recognize the story that Jesus told of the two men who built houses.  (Matthew 7:24-27)  This story teaches several truths.  One is that it is important to build a firm foundation.  Second, times of testing come into all of our lives.

Testing can take many forms.  Loss of health, loss of a loved one and financial hardship are storms that we all face.

At the outset of Jesuss ministry, there were political storms raging.  In this atmosphere, Jesus gathered His first disciples and challenged them to follow Him.  Mark chapter 1 verses 12 through 20 tell the story in which we can discover his call for ourselves.  If we heed this call, we will establish a foundation that will keep us from being shaken when storms come.

Before Jesus gathered followers, before He began His public ministry, His foundation was tested.

Mark 1:12 and 13 say, 12The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, 13where he was tempted by Satan for forty days.[i]  (NLT) 

Satan tested Jesus for forty days.  Satan is the one who tested Job.  He is also the one who tested Peter.  In Job and Peters cases, Satan got permission to test them.  In Jesuss case, the Spirit compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness.

In Job and Peters cases, foundation problems were exposed and corrected.  Both men were stronger and better able to help others because of their testing. In the case of Jesus, there were no weaknesses exposed.  This gives us the confidence that He is able to teach us and worthy to lead us in the building of our own foundations. 

The testing Jesus endured in the wilderness also assures us that: This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  (Hebrews 4:15, NLT)

Soon after John baptized Jesus, Herod arrested John and put him in jail. Mark 1:14 marks this as the beginning of Jesuss public ministry.  Matthew 14 gives us more details about Johns arrest.
 3For Herod had arrested and imprisoned John as a favor to his wife Herodias (the former wife of Herods brother Philip).  4John had been telling Herod, It is against Gods law for you to marry her.  5Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of a riot, because all the people believed John was a prophet.

6But at a birthday party for Herod, Herodiass daughter performed a dance that greatly pleased him, 7so he promised with a vow to give her anything she wanted.  8At her mothers urging, the girl said, I want the head of John the Baptist on a tray!  9Then the king regretted what he had said; but because of the vow he had made in front of his guests, he issued the necessary orders.  10So John was beheaded in the prison, 11and his head was brought on a tray and given to the girl, who took it to her mother.  (NLT)

At the point in time that Mark is recounting in chapter 1, John was in prison, but still alive.  It was not a safe time to draw public attention.  Matthew recounted the story of Johns beheading in order to make it clear the kind of negative attention Jesuss public ministry was getting from those in power.

In Marks account of the beginnings of Jesuss public ministry, this political environment is important to understand because it makes it clear that for those Jesus called there was a great risk or hazard involved.

When Jesus calls us, He asks us to risk everything.  In some countries, this means a person can lose his or her life for choosing to follow Jesus. In all countries, it is a call to follow no matter what the cost.

What is building on the right foundation worth?

If we build on the wrong foundation, will we not lose everything in the end anyway?

Jesus is seeking followers.  However, it is not for His own sake that He seeks followers.

People seek followers for many reasons, and it is usually for their own profit.  Paul warned the believers in Galatia (Galatians 4:17) and Philippi (Philippians 2:21) about those that preach the gospel out of their own self-interest.  This is something that is a danger for any in leadership, whether it is in business, church or home. The parents are there for the benefit of the children and not the reverse.  The CEO is there for the benefit of the company, not the reverse.  The teacher is there for the benefit of the disciple, not the reverse.  The pastor, elder, deacon, etc., is there for the benefit of the church, not the reverse.

Jesus called disciples in Mark chapter 1 for their benefit and ultimately for our benefit.  He came not to be served but to serve.  He came to save the world, and in order to save us, He calls us out of the world to be His followers.

Let us look at the call he makes to His first disciples.  In this call, we will find what is to be the foundation of our discipleship and our lives.

First, there is a call to repentance.

We find this in Mark 1:15.  The time promised by God has come at last! he announced.  The Kingdom of God is near!  Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!  (NLT)

This call to repentance is an announcement of good news.  The time promised by God is the time when God restores a right relationship with him for all people.  Throughout history, people have been disappointed, angry or separated from God.  In Isaiah 1:18 God says, Come now, lets settle this, says the LORD.  Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.  Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.  (NLT)  God is saying He wants to settle the differences that keep us from Him.  In Romans 5 we find this has happened when it says, Therefore, since we have been made right in Gods sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.  (Verse 1, NLT)  In addition, So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (Verse 11, NLT)

This is the Good News that Jesus announced.  This is the message He proclaimed.  This was the core of His ministry and it was the foundation that the disciples were called to build upon. 

Repentance is changing our minds.  Repentance means being willing to let the Spirit of God convict you where your thoughts, motivations, attitudes and beliefs have been wrong.

Conviction is painful.  Letting the words of Jesus in, is the first step.

Having established the focus of His ministry, Jesus invited certain ones to follow Him.  First, Mark tells us about Simon and Andrew.  Mark says, 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.  Jesus called out to them, Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!  (Mark 1:16-17, NLT)

In this invitation to Simon and Andrew, we see that the call of Jesus was a call to learn from Him and a call to give up themselves.

These two go together.  Learning from Jesus means learning to give up ones self.  The Apostle Paul puts it this way, Dont be selfish; dont try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Dont look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.  You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.  (Philippians 2:3-5, NLT)

We see this attitude in Mark when Jesus invites these fishermen to learn to fish for people.  Proverbs 11:30 tells us that he who wins souls is wise, and there is some personal benefit for the one who wins souls.  However, the purpose of Jesuss ministry and the purpose of winning souls is for the benefit of the soul won.

The call to follow Jesus is always a call to give up our own selfish ambitions and to learn from Him.  We are not better than our Teacher.  He gave His life so that others could live.

This is the only firm foundation on which we can build.  All other foundations will fail in the end.

We have seen that the call of Jesus is a call to repentance, a call to learning from Him and a call to give up ourselves.  We have also been talking about following Jesus.  This talk about being His follower is important. 

Mark also mentions the calling of James and John.  Jesuss words are not recorded in this case.  It just says he called them and they followed, leaving their father behind in the boat with the hired men.

The invitation to Simon and Andrew was to follow Jesus, and the note about James and John says they followed Jesus.  With all this talk about repentance, learning from Him and giving up ourselves, it hardly seems necessary to say it, but the whole point is to be followers of Jesus.  The repentance, the learning and the giving up are all about following.

When the storms and testing come, and they will, each one stands or falls based on whether or not he or she is following Jesus.

I do not know where you are at in your life today.  I do not know what tests you are facing.  However, Jesus does.  Let me leave you with His words.

Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers.  Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!  (John 15:6-7, NLT)

Choose to follow Him today.

[i] Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Copyright 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.  All rights reserved.


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