Every Christian has heard the call from Jesus. His call comes not just once, but is heard each time the Lord asks us for a deeper commitment.
I. "Follow Me"
The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, "Follow Me." (John 1:43, NKJV)
Followers of Jesus might be likened to the followers we collect on blogs and Twitter. Jesus crosses our path and captures our attention, asking us to follow and listen to what He shares. He is interesting and comforting and challenging to hear. Some followers hang on His every word. Other followers accept Jesus' words only until deemed inconvenient or offensive, at which point they either fade from His scene or un-follow Him outright.
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. (From John 6:60-66, NKJV)
II. "Be My Disciple"
"It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master." (Matthew 10:25, NKJV)
If the follower tags along long enough, and decides that the challenge of following Jesus is a small price for His life-giving words, a new call from Jesus is heard: "Be like Me; be My disciple." The way to be like Jesus is to be yoked with Him (Matthew 11:28-30), increasingly know Him, and rely on His strength to sustain us in what will prove to be a difficult journey.
"If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own.… Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' " (John 15:18-20, NKJV)
He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles. (Luke 6:13, NKJV)
And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power … (Mark 6:7, NKJV)
After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. (Luke 10:1, NKJV)
Once disciples have been adequately prepared, Jesus sends them ahead of Himself as His ambassadors (Greek apostolos, meaning "sent"). As is true of government ambassadors, Jesus' sent ones are diplomatic messengers, teachers, or ministers representing the interests of Another rather than of themselves. Occasionally referred to as an "apostle," Jesus' ambassadors may be employed in full time ministry or minister at their own expense. While they may carry the authority of a pastor or elder—(and such authority is always as leader and example, not as lord or ruler [1 Peter 5:3])—most of the ambassadors sent by Jesus to others hold no status or title whatsoever. Some are sent far and wide, but many are sent no farther than their own backyards; all are sent in fulfillment of the great commission:
"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations …" (Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV)
"Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." (Mark 8:34, NKJV)
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12 NKJV)
The final call of Jesus is evocative of His first call, "Come, follow Me." If we follow Jesus long enough, we follow Him into death. Yes, every single Christian is daily called to be a "living sacrifice" (Romans 12:1), "crucified with Christ" (Galatians 2.20). But there is yet another "come after Me" in the call to martyrdom.
Though martyrdom is occasionally prominent and heroic, private persecution is more commonplace. Any Christian may face a day when, in His perfect will and timing, Jesus issues the call to come after Him and suffer in testimony to faith. The only witnesses may be tormentor and angels. Death may be of status, employment, or relationship rather than of life.
In answering the call to glorify God through whatever death accompanies persecution, we not only receive cause to rejoice that we are "counted worthy to suffer to suffer for the name of Jesus" (Acts 5:41), but also come to know a fellowship with Jesus found only in suffering (Philippians 3:10).
"When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die."
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
No matter our present place in life, no matter the call from Jesus, we need not fear. We are promised that Jesus only calls us to do what He also enables (2 Corinthians 3:5). We have confidence that the call to suffer is faced not in our own power but with divine power (Mark 13:11-13).
We have confidence that we are never alone.
"And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20 NKJV)
(The four point outline of this post was presented by a guest preacher whom I heard several years ago. I apologize to him and to you that I failed to note his name. Exposition on the outline is mine.)
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Copyright 2013, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
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