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"Go and teach all nations to observe whatsoever things I have taught you..."  Matthew 28:19-20

The Call to Discipleship


Perhaps the greatest gift that God has given to mankind is free will. Have you ever thought what it would be like to be a robot? Being programmed would mean not having to think or make decisions for ourselves. But we are different. Every day we have to make thousands of decisions. We can’t escape it. Even if we make up our mind to make no decisions, that’s a decision in itself!

So it’s very important what decisions we make. Our life hangs on it. There is no such thing as a small decision. One little decision can affect the whole course of our life. What is the most important decision we can ever make in our life? Is it the decision to follow Christ? You would think so. But I believe that there’s a much more important decision that we have to make after we become Christians! How can I say that? Can anything be more important than the decision to follow Jesus? Well, I think so, and I think I can prove it, from scripture and from experience. I have five examples to illustrate.


1. Israel


Israel were delivered from Egypt. They had to make a decision to leave or stay behind. But that wasn’t a hard decision! They’d been slaves all their lives, under cruel masters. They didn’t have to think hard about whether to go or stay - they nearly ran out of Egypt! And it’s like that when we accept Jesus. When God opens our eyes and we see what Jesus has to offer, we want to run to Jesus. It’s an easy decision. But after Israel left Egypt, they were faced with another decision - a much harder one. That was the decision whether to go into the promised land. God said to them, “Now go in and take the land”. Why was that such a hard decision? Well, God had promised them a land flowing with milk and honey. Wonderful! But He didn’t tell them that the milk and honey belonged to someone else! They had to conquer 7 powerful nations to get it! And there were giants in the land. And we are the same. When we first follow Jesus, everything is wonderful, we’re walking on air. But then God says, “Now go and take the land”. We’ll see what that means for us in a moment. But we know what Israel’s decision was. They said “No”. They refused! Only Joshua and Caleb - 2 men out of 2 million - were willing to go and obey God. So God said to Israel “Now you will have to stay in the wilderness and die there”. He never gave them a second chance. That’s frightening. They then changed their minds, and said “We’ll go in", and when they tried to, God let them be defeated! We must be careful with God. He’s merciful, but we can’t play around with mercy, or demand it. If we say “No” to God, especially after He’s delivered us, that’s a serious thing.

Now this is a picture of our big decision - the call to discipleship. Jesus has too many followers! - and not enough disciples. There’s a big difference. Following Jesus is easy. But being a disciple is very

costly. It’s a big decision. People think that when we follow Jesus we get our ticket to heaven, and that’s it, we’re safe. No we’re not! Because Jesus isn’t looking for followers but for disciples.


2. The Hebrew Slave


Immediately after the Ten Commandments in Exodus come these unusual instructions about how to treat your slaves (Exodus 21:1-6). In those days, there was no social security! If you were destitute, you’d starve - or you could become a slave, and someone would buy you and feed you, and you’d work for them. God said it was all right to buy a man. But you couldn’t buy him for life. After 6 years he had to be released. However, if the slave wanted to stay on with his master, he could, for life. His master would then put a mark on him, piercing a hole in his ear lobe, which everyone could see - not a tiny pin-prick like today’s ear piercing, but a big hole - a mark for life.

We don’t easily understand about slavery, because we associate it with exploitation and suffering. But that’s the abuse of slavery, when the master is bad. Slavery to a good master is great! Why? The master has all the responsibilities - the slave has none. The master carries the can, he has the financial burdens, the organizational burdens. All the slave has to do is be obedient. And that’s what frightens us! We have to do anything we’re told to do. But if we don’t mind saying “Yes” every time, then it’s great! If we can be happy doing anything, it’s a wonderful carefree life!


When we make a decision whether to stay on with our Master, that is also for life. God’s character hasn’t changed. When big decisions come, He wants us to think about them. He gives us time to make our own decision. When we first come to God, it’s like being bought. It’s not really our decision at all. It’s God’s grace. But after a while, we get to know whether we have a good master or not. And then we’re in a position to decide. God gives each one of us that initial period to get to know Him. But after that is when we have to make our big decision.

Perhaps you are wondering what all this talk of slavery is about. Didn’t Christ come to make us free? Yes! He freed us from the devil. Why? So that we can serve Jesus! We’re still slaves - we’ve just changed masters. So God bought us, with a price. But sooner or later we have to decide - are we going to serve him for life? And He lets us make that decision ourselves. He wants us to reason it out and think about it.


3. My Experience


I had a Christian upbringing. I gave my life to Jesus Christ as a child. For years, I was a follower. I knew Jesus was in my heart. But when I was 30, God challenged me. I knew I had to give everything to Jesus. I could no longer be just a follower - I was being called to be a disciple. I made my decision, and I’ve never looked back. But it’s a completely different life. You see, I used to follow Jesus - but please myself! Now, I don’t make the decisions, I just obey. If God says, “Give everything away”, I don’t even have to think. I just do it. It’s no problem!


4. Isaiah


When we first follow Jesus, we experience God’s grace helping us in every area of our life. We’re carried through. But when He wants to call us as a disciple, He has to take His hand off us and show us ourselves as we are without His grace. That’s not so nice! Isaiah was a prophet who knew God. But one day God showed him himself, and Isaiah cried out, “I am a man of unclean lips!” He saw himself. But then God called him and gave him his commission (Isaiah 6:1-8).


5. Peter


Was Peter an “instant disciple”? Matthew’s account of Peter’s call made it look that way. “Immediately he left his nets and followed Jesus” (Matthew 4:20). But actually, Peter was a “follower” before he was a disciple. Matthew only tells us the end. The other gospels give us the background. In John, we find that Andrew and Peter were at first disciples of John the Baptist! They’d had the “baptism of repentance”: they were already following God. In Luke, we read that before Peter’s call, Jesus healed his mother-in-law. So, Peter had time to see Jesus’ power and character before he made his decision. He was seeing what sort of master Jesus was - but Peter hadn’t seen himself yet.

One night they were fishing, and caught nothing (notice, Peter still had his fishing business at that time) and Jesus did a miracle, and suddenly they had a huge catch of fish. What was Peter’s reaction? Did he jump up and down with excitement? Did he think to himself “Great! Now I’ve seen Jesus provide a month’s worth of fish - I’ll leave the business, because now I know Jesus will provide and prosper me”. (Many of us would leave our work and go full-time for God, if God would prove to us that he would provide by doing a miracle - before we leave!)

But that wasn’t Peter’s reaction at all. He didn’t say “Now I can follow you”. He said the opposite. “I can’t follow you! Depart from me. I’m a sinful man!” Peter saw himself! And he saw who Jesus really was - he was sinful, and Jesus was holy. He saw the distance between them. We have to see that before we’re called into service for Jesus. People who go into ministry without seeing that get into terrible problems. It’s not a light thing. We’ve got to get humbled first. The gifts of the Spirit without the fruit of the Spirit are very dangerous.

So Peter recognized that he was a sinful man, and said to Jesus, “It’s no good. I can’t possibly serve you”. But Jesus already knew that Peter was sinful! He just wanted Peter to know it as well. And then he called him to discipleship, and said, “Now you’re in a position to be a fisher of men”. And Peter left all and followed Him.


The Hebrew slave had 6 years to learn his master’s character. It will be different with us. It may be 6 months. It may be 16 years. But God knows the time to face us with the decision.


God doesn’t need followers. He needs disciples. This country doesn’t need followers of Jesus but disciples of Jesus. Jesus had thousands of followers in His 3 years of ministry. But what happened to the multitudes who were fed in the wilderness, the thousands who were healed?


Only 120 got filled with the Holy Ghost. Why? Because followers won’t go through the cross. Only disciples will do that. That’s the decision. What’s your decision? Are you ready?

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