Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Commands of Jesus: Come, Follow Me

The Context of this command: Mark 1:16-20
In Mark, Jesus is beginning his ministry. He is calling his “disciples.” in this context, being a disciple meant being a “follower,” “adherent” or “student” of a great master. They obviously learn a great deal from listening to his teaching, but they also learn a great deal by simply observing: with attentive eyes they observe all that the teacher does and then proceed to imitate him. Students would then flock around the great Rabbis of Judaism. And such a group formation – teachers and students – become something of an extended family. The teacher is the spiritual father, the students his spiritual children. They spend their time with him, they follow him, and they serve him. But they also learn a great deal by simply observing: with attentive eyes they observe all that the teacher does and then proceed to imitate him.

Here Jesus calls Simon (Peter), Andrew, James and John. They were fishermen practicing their trade. James and John actually left their father and his hired men in the boat in order to follow Jesus. It seems these men left their families and trades for an itinerant ministry based on faith support.
Others were given this opportunity. Read Luke 9.57-62 (especially v. 58). This was not an easy decision.

Question: Why did these men leave it all to follow Jesus?
It seems they were already spiritually minded. They may have been influenced by the teaching of John the Baptist. In John 1.35-42, we already see evidence of two unnamed disciples of John leave and follow Jesus as John pointed toward Jesus. We see Andrew (and Simon) listening to John as well. John the Baptist was a powerful preacher/prophet who pointed to someone greater. They were listening and eager to find the Messiah.

What did they leave? In the passage (Mark 10.17-31) where Jesus is confronted by a rich man about the requirements of inheriting eternal life, Jesus tells the rich man to sell everything, give to the poor and then follow Jesus. The rich man goes away sad, knowing the cost of discipleship is high. Peter (verse 28) reminds Jesus, “We have left everything to follow you!” Jesus then acknowledges that the rewards of following him may come at great costs (verse 29, leaving home or brothers or sisters of mother or father…for me and the gospel).

Why did they stay? In John 6.43-58 Jesus confronts his followers with some challenging words. He speaks metaphorically about eating his flesh and drinking his blood.
The response? Verse 60 – This is a hard teaching, who can accept it?
Verse 66 – many of his followers turned back and no longer followed him.
Verse 67 – Jesus turns to his core, “Do you want to leave?”
Here is why they stayed, verse 68 – You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe you are the Holy One of God.

When Jesus says, “Come, follow me”, who is he talking to, just the Twelve?
Mark 8.34-5 – Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. *Whoever* Is it worth it?
Read verses 36-38 – gaining the world versus losing your soul.

We need to investigate more closely what being a disciple looks like. That is one of the reasons why we are looking at the commands of Jesus. What do they teach us about Jesus? Do they reveal how we relate to Jesus? Do they always apply to us?
Remember David Platt’s challenge from last week – Do I believe Jesus? And am I going to obey Jesus?

Have you ever thought that these calls applied to you?
Are you ready to apply these commands if/when they come if they do?
What are you prepared to sacrifice for the Kingdom of God?

Let’s look at these questions together and see how we can help each other follow Jesus and keep his commands.
John 14:15 – If you love me, keep my commands.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Commands of Jesus: Repent and Believe

I haven't posted to this blog since middle of October. Got to get back on it. At least once a week. I am starting a new Bible study at Mizzou this semester. We will be looking at the Commands of Jesus as we survey the gospel of Mark. When we see that Jesus issues a command, we will stop and look at it, examine it in context and ask "how does this apply to us?" The first lesson is "Repent and Believe" (Mark 1:14-15).

I was reading the book, Radical by David Platt and he discusses two questions that confronted him as he examined his call to pastor a huge church against the reality that Jesus spent his time “shepherding” a smaller group of about 120. And Jesus gave those early followers (and those on the outer edge of his inner circle) some very serious commands. The questions that confronted Platt were, “Was I going to believe Jesus?” and “Was I going to obey Jesus?” We are going to try to ask those same questions as we look at what Jesus demanded of his followers.

Repent and Believe – Mark 1:14-15

Context – The writer is setting the stage for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He calls his story about Jesus “good news” (or the gospel). Mark immediately connects this story of Jesus to God’s story in the OT as he tells about John the Baptist. The OT prophets prophesied that there would be a forerunner to prepare the way for God to visit his people.
Read Mark 1:2-3 – Mark shows how John the Baptist fulfills this role of a forerunner who was predicted in two OT passages, Malachi 3.1 and Isaiah 40.3. If we go back and read those passages, we see that it was God himself who was going to come and visit his people. The one who would follow after John (Jesus, the presence of God himself) would give the power of the Spirit to those who would believe.

Read verse 4 – John’s message was one of “repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. The word for repentance here means “to change one’s opinion, feelings, (more importantly) change one’s purpose.”
John’s call to repentance was in line with the OT prophets. Their call for repentance meant:
1. Obedience to the will of God (Hos. 6:1; Jer. 34:15a)
2. Trust in God in rejection of all human help and false gods (Jer. 3:22-23)
3. Turning aside from everything that is ungodly (Jer. 26:3; Ezek. 18.26-27)
Keep all this in mind as well look at the first commands of Jesus.

John has prepared God’s people for this message of turning away from your own agenda, purposes and will. Jesus comes and preaches a message in line with John’s.
Jesus declares that the Kingdom of God is near. In what manner has the Kingdom of God come near? Mark has declared that Jesus is Messiah/Christ. To the ears of the hearers, Mark was declaring that Jesus was King. The Kingdom has come near because the King was near.

And because the King was near, Jesus is calling his people to repentance. Jesus was calling for a “once for all” turning to God in total obedience. Anything that might be put before God must be renounced. Repentance applies to everyone, demanding a complete commitment that seeks forgiveness (regret for our former way of disobedience) and full trust in surrender to God’s will. Why should we repent, change our agenda for God’s agenda? Because Jesus is King and deserves our obedience and allegiance.

After our call to obedience, the next command is to believe. Believe what? Believe that this is good news.

So, we are called first to repent, that is to change our agenda, our way of life, our purpose to conform to God’s agenda, God’s way of life, God’s purpose. Why, because the King is here.

We are called to believe that this is “good news”. An important feature in this “good news” is that Jesus gives us the power to change our agenda to follow his.
Read Mark 1:8 – I (John) baptize with water, but he (Jesus) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. This baptism with the Holy Spirit is the bestowal of the power of God to enable you to change your agenda and follow God’s.

Do you believe that Jesus is King? That is the basis of following the commands of Jesus, because you believe he is king.
Does this passage apply to us? If it does, then have you made a break from the past? Have you turned to God in total obedience? Do you reject the help and wisdom of human and false gods? Do you turn aside from everything that is ungodly? Do you follow God at the expense of your desires and purpose?

Maybe you don’t have enough information yet to believe that Jesus is King. If that is so, then stick around let’s look at the claims of Jesus and his commands. Maybe we’ll see together that he is worthy of our allegiance and obedience.