“I have decided to follow Jesus… no turning back, no turning back.” So says one of the most popular hymns of the Christian church.
By faith, we know what the Scriptures teach us about the action of following Christ. This is not our decision. The Holy Spirit first works faith in our hearts, and then we have the strength and courage to make the decision to follow God.
This morning I want to talk about this, and I want is, that, when we get out of here, we can fully understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
Let me start with two very personal questions: Do you want to be a follower of Jesus? Are you willing to leave your nets behind?
Let’s start then …
#1 Jesus calls us… and we follow Him
Jesus begins his ministry by calling his first disciples with a very clear message: “Repent, and believe in the good news” (V.15)
That is … number one: leave behind your bad deeds, change your lives, ask for forgiveness for your sins … and number two: believe in the good news of the Gospel, believe in me, and what I do and will do for you.
Then, Jesus invites us to follow him. Do you know that God loves you? Right? Do you know that He loves you so much that He gave His only Son to die for you on the cross? Do you know that Christ won eternal life for you? Do you?
Therefore, after knowing that God loves us so much, we listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd, and we begin to follow Him. Jesus says: “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
Two pairs of brothers were busy in their work. Simon and Andrew & James and John. They were fishermen, they were probably fixing their nets on the seashore, and right there Jesus found them… and told them … “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”
My dear brother … my dear sister … Jesus today speaks to you with the same invitation: Follow me, I will make you fish for people.
Sometimes we hope that the voice of Christ comes from the heavens, with special effects, wind, angels, fire… MYYYY SOOOOONNNNN…. I WAAAANNTTTT YOUUUU TO FOLLOWWW MEEEE TODAAAAAYYY.
The truth is that God speaks to us every day with the force of his Word … and He is speaking to us in the power of the biblical readings that we have heard today. In the gospel, Jesus told these four men to follow him… but at the same time this invitation is for us too … Follow me, I will make you fish for people.
Jesus has chosen you to be here this morning … whether you realize it or not, God has made you a missionary from the moment you were baptized … whether you realize it or not, today you are here because it is His will … and today, He is telling You, all of you, me, and everyone again: Follow me, I will make you fish for people.
He knows your abilities. He knows your weaknesses. He knows the reality of your life today … but you know what … He doesn’t choose super heroes to be his followers and his missionaries … He chooses imperfect and sinful people like these four brothers, like you, and like me, and He says: Follow me, I will make you fish for people.
I know we can have many fears … I know that there will be many doubts among us … I know we don’t know what words to use, or how to behave … but just as He works faith in our hearts, He equips us and prepares us to go and fish for people… to our relatives … to our friends … to our neighbors … to the people we meet in our everyday lives.
Jesus calls us … He forgives all our sins … and prepares us to reach out others with the love and power of God. This is not your decision, nor your work, but the work of our God acting through you. He leads us to tell him: Lord, today I want to follow you … today I want to fish for people … your will be done, not mine … please say this with me: Lord, today I want to follow you … today I want to fish for people … your will be done and not mine
Let’s see now, the second point …
#2 Jesus invites us to leave behind our nets, and to follow Him IMMEDIATELY.
Do you know something… Often we don’t want to follow Jesus. This doesn’t mean that we don’t love God … this doesn’t mean that we don’t have faith in His Word. Sometimes we are afraid … we have doubts … we make excuses … or we don’t know how to do it.
Following Christ is not easy … and to go and fish for people is yet more difficult.
Jonah, the prophet who preached to the people in Nineveh, and about whom we read in this Sunday’s lesson, did not want to do it.
He went to Nineveh … but first he tried to flee from God … Jonah didn’t want to be a missionary of God. He was afraid!
I don’t know about you … but I also have fears… It’s easy for me to be standing here and share the Word with you each week, or teach a Bible Study… but sometimes I’m afraid to tell people to come to church, to know Jesus … That’s not easy for me! I am very shy! But I have to do it, not because it’s my job, but because God wants me to do it.
There is another problem … we often find people very busy, because they are working with their nets.
I like that in the Gospel, Mark highlights the fact that these four brothers, Simon Andrew Jacob and John, left their nets “immediately.”
For God there is no tomorrow … God wants us to be his followers TODAY … not tomorrow … God wants us to invite people to come to Christ TODAY, not tomorrow. There is an old saying: don’t leave for tomorrow what can be done today.
IMMEDIATELY … Jesus says to you: Follow me, I will make you fish for people, TODAY…
What are your nets? Your comfort zone? your work? Those things you think are your priorities? Your excuses?
Pastor, I don’t have time! Pastor, I’m very old! Pastor, I am very young! Pastor, I have no talent! Pastor my wife doesn’t give me permission to do it!
Simon didn’t say to Christ: Lord I want to follow you, but the woman that I have is crazy.. she will not leave me … and my mother-in-law is even worst. She will not believe that I’m with you but with another woman.
John didn’t say to Christ: Lord let me go fishing first, because business is first. You know that!
To follow Christ means to leave our nets … leaving behind our excuses … it means giving up our comforts and what we believe is the most important thing. Is not God the most important in life? Well, Jesus is telling you today: Follow me, I will make you fish for people.
What do you say? What is your answer?
– Final Comments –
Last week, one family decided to become members of the church. On Wednesday, two men decided to be elders of our congregation. Every year new families and new people come to our congregation … and we are very happy about it. There are people who leave … it’s normal – it always happens … but there are others who come and stay.
They stay because people keep listening to the voice of Jesus … and, in the power of the Holy Spirit, they decide to follow him … IMMEDIATELY.
Jesus loves you … in your imperfections and weaknesses … He loves you so much that He gave his life for you … so great is his love for you … in that love, He forgives you, equips you, and gives you the strength to stay in the family of God. So, don’t worry, God will put words in your mouth to speak to others, and will guide you in making the best strategy to invite those you love and that you want to see here.
But remember something … following Jesus is not about staying here in the church only… faith goes from here to your pews, right where you are now … but this same faith, that comes to our hearts, leads us to be willing to lead others to know Christ … and I know that out there, in your family, in your neighborhood, in the place where you work, in the place where you go to eat every week … there are people -out there- that you know, and who don’t have a relationship with God.
Talk to them about Jesus, invite them to church … tell them to come … and tell them that God doesn’t want Batman or Superman here (He wants them!) … He loves them, as much as he loves you, and He wants us in this great family that we call GRACE. To God be all glory and honor forever. Amen
Homework: Follow Jesus and invite others to follow him too.