Follow – a Practical Calling

In keeping with Ken’s theme in this summer 2020 FOLLOW series, the chosen passage today also contains the word FOLLOW – “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” from 1 Peter 2:21. The title and emphasis today is very compelling, to follow is… a practical calling. At first glance, I see three things that grab my attention. The first is that we are CALLED.

We are CALLED For a Purpose – From reading the gospels, we easily see that Jesus gives us an invitation to follow him, just as we have seen in the messages and in the passages Ken has unpacked in this series. Jesus shows up in everyday life and offers an invitation to discover that he is someone worth investigating. He has a message for all people and will meet the needs of all those who are willing to allow him to enter into their lives. Upon entering the life of a person, Jesus puts his claim on their life. They are called for a purpose, which is to allow the mission of Jesus to become THEIR mission. It is all about obedience to the one who has called us.

The focus in this verse is on being called for a purpose; salvation not just about going to heaven after we die. So many believers think about heaven as their final destination, but they fail to remember that we have a job to do right here and now. The kingdom is upon us. The King has called us into his service. The King tells us that we are to be his ambassadors, to represent him as we live in this earthy world. We don’t do whatever we desire and pray that Jesus will bless it. We are called for a purpose, to build his kingdom on earth, to spread the message of salvation to those living in darkness, to recruit players to join God’s winning team, showing up at practices, working hard at the drills, getting better at playing our positions. We need to get off the sidelines and into the game, and develop the passion to win, not just be content with wearing the team jersey.

Not only do we have a CALLING with a purpose, we have our CHRIST as our example.

Jesus – He is the example set before us. The text mentions that he left us an example to follow. In context, Peter is talking about suffering in this life, but let me bring in a little theology. Jesus was the God-Man, 100% divine, 100% human. I know the math doesn’t add up but sometimes theology can get a little complicated. The point is that Jesus is the unique Son of God, (as described primarily in the gospel of John) and he is also the unique Son of Man, (as described in Book of Daniel and the four gospels). He lived a life worth imitating. That which Jesus teaches and does, we are to follow in his steps, allowing him to be the example for us. The best way for us to follow his example is to KNOW his example, meaning we are to know his life and his teaching so well that we can believe and behave in a similar fashion. Check out these passages about following the example of Christ…

the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” – 1 John 2:6 NASB

so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; – Colossians 1:10 NASB

so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:12 NASB

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” – 1 Peter 2:21 NASB

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 11:1 NASB

It’s very difficult to defend that we can say YES to following Jesus just enough to get into heaven, yet still live a life of open rebellion by how we act, the attitudes we possess, the things that we say, how we treat other people, our failure to make disciples. We live in open rebellion when we fail to walk in obedience to the Scriptures, and in some cases, we flat-out embrace sinful activity, promiscuous behavior, racism, sexism, and even mixing American patriotism of God and Country with the authentic gospel of Jesus.

We are called to live and love as Jesus did. Paul says to “be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” To me, this statement is like saying, “if you want to know what a Christian looks like, what a follower of Jesus looks like, look at ME. Since I am following Christ, you can look at me and see an authentic Christian.” Who among us is ready to make such a claim? Probably none of us because we each know the darkness that resides within. But what if we constantly dealt with that darkness and daily laid our sin at the foot of the cross? What if we confessed our failings and sinfulness as in 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

What if we look back at our lives over the past year and we see progress toward conforming to the image of Jesus? What if we looked more holy today than we did last month or last year? If you are not ready to say, “be imitators of me,” what is it going to take for you to grow in godliness?

And did you know that you don’t have to do all this on your own, that’s what the church is for. We exist as a community of faith to extend the love of Christ and His Kingdom in Virginia Beach and to the world. We are in this together, helping each other to grow in godliness, eliminating from our lives everything that doesn’t look like Jesus. There is strength in numbers. There is success in numbers. There is sanctification in numbers (becoming more and more like Jesus over a lifetime).

Let me remind you that all of this is simply head knowledge unless we internalize it. The way we internalize our faith is to develop conviction.

We will never follow in his steps without CONVICTION.

Just what is conviction? Is it knowing the right thing to do? That certainly is a good start, but the dictionary defines conviction as “a fixed or firm belief.” But with this definition, we can easily believe something and still not act on it.

Christianity is a faith that is constantly being put into practice; it is more active than it is passive. There are many things in which we BELIEVE but we are called to OBEY because of our belief. It is not obedience that saves us, because we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is not obedience that saves us, but how can we say we are saved without it? (James 2:14) Let me illustrate conviction…

I had a friend in high school that joined the Marines that summer after graduation. He was in the 6-year reserve plan, and Parris Island was his starting point. He learned discipline, how to defend this country, fight, shoot, work as a team, and likely he learned how to kill a man just by using his thumb.

Now, when he came to my college town for work, we roomed together for a while. You would think that a man who learned how to keep his uniform perfect, his shoes impeccable, and his rack neatly tucked in with tightly fitted sheets, that he would not have been such an untidy roommate. I love this guy, but I learned an interesting spiritual lesson – good behavior does not continue without the conviction that it is the right thing to do. You make your bed each day and clean up after yourself only if you have the conviction it is the right thing to do, otherwise, without the threat of a drill instructor, some things just might not get done.

So, we need conviction to do what Jesus has called us to do. And it starts with understanding that you are CALLED for a purpose (and that purpose is NOT just to go to heaven when you die). Jesus has work for you to do no matter what your station in life, or your livelihood, or your chosen career. We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) representing our King, Savior, and Lord. We carry out HIS marching orders!

You know, we cannot carry out his marching orders if we don’t know what those orders are, so without holding up the entire New Testament, let me show you the abridged version. We find it in Matthew 28:16-20, the Great Commission.

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

I love the way Jesus looks around and then looks right at the camera, at us, right in the eyes. And then the invitation for join him, to follow after him…

His last words are supposed to be our first concern. What does this Great Commission mean for us today? Let me suggest a few things, because if we want to follow his in his steps, according to 1 Peter 2:21, it might be a good idea to look at what he did with his disciples.

Let me point out a few observations I see in the Great Commission.

First is the TASK in the Great Commission – Matthew 28:19 – we are called to make disciples. That’s what Jesus spent the past three years doing, investing in these 12 men who would in turn spread the gospel and change the world. Because of their obedience, they transformed the lives of billions of people around the world since the first century. Remember that a disciple is a learner. A disciple learns FROM Jesus, learns ABOUT Jesus, and then actively helps others to do the same. It is one thing to receive knowledge and instruction on biblical matters, but we are challenged to be the providers of biblical knowledge and instruction. The writer of Hebrews tells us that there were some who ought to have been teachers by now (Hebrews 5:12). What about you? How are you making disciples? The Great Commission is given because we are CALLED for a purpose. Let’s not stop short.

The second thing to notice is the PROCESS in the Great Commission – Matthew 28:19-20 – we are to make disciples with the aid of three helping words in the text.

We are to GO – but as a participle, this means more accurately, “as you are going…” make disciples. We make disciples as we live out everyday life. It is not about involvement in a discipleship program, it is a part of who we are. We must be disciple-makers. Follow me as I follow Christ. In short, we are to put in a good word for Jesus as we find lost people in everyday life.

Not only are we to go but we are to BAPTIZE – This means to baptize in water but also has the understanding that we will help to establish these new converts in their newfound faith. As followers of Jesus, they now have a new identity and must make progress toward spiritual maturity. Those who are secure in the faith need to help those who are new to the faith. How are you doing this in everyday life?

Not only are we to go and baptize, but we are to TEACH – Many times we think that teaching is the goal, but it’s not. The verse actually tells us to “teach them to OBEY all that I have commanded you.” This verse appears to be all about obedience. Are you obeying Christ? What areas in your life are yet to be surrendered to Jesus?

This also tells us to teach them to obey all THAT HE HAS COMMANDED, so what are the commands of Jesus he expects you to obey? He then gets even deeper because he wants us to teach them to obey all that he has commanded YOU. That makes this very personal. You can’t teach something that you have never experienced. How is Jesus dealing with you? What is he teaching you? Then pass THAT on to others.

The third thing I see in this passage is the SCOPE of the Great Commission – Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:8 – here it tells us to make disciples of all nations. This is not just to become a missionary to another culture somewhere around the world. For some, that may be exactly what it means, but for many, we are called to reach those in our circles of influence. Who are the people around you who don’t know Christ? Who is unchurched? Who appears to be far from God?

The fourth thing I see in this passage involves the RECIPIENTS of the Great Commission – Matthew 28:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:6 – While Jesus is speaking to the eleven disciples, there is evidence that the crowd may have been much bigger. 1 Corinthians 15:6 mentions Jesus being seen by over 500 at one time. Could this be that time? Matthew 28:16 tells us that some who gathered there, “doubted.” Who of the eleven could Matthew be talking about? Thomas doubted for a week but when he saw the risen Jesus, he made the most significant declaration ever, “My Lord and my God.” I can’t imagine that any of the eleven doubted, after what they had witnessed. So, it IS plausible that there were more people present at the Great Commission than just his closest men. Certainly, this is something to think about.

The fifth this I see here is the FUEL for the Great Commission – Matthew 28:16 and Revelation 7:9 – when the eleven saw him, they “worshipped.” The fuel for the Great Commission is worship. I love what I read in the book called, Let the Nations Be Glad, that “missions exists because worship doesn’t.” We are a missionary people because all nations need to hear about the saving message of the gospel. Missions will one day end, but worship will continue into eternity with Jesus!

Finally, we see in this passage the DURATION of the Great Commission – Matthew 28:20 – until the end of the age. He is with us to help us to make these disciples and spread the gospel around the world, and to all those in OUR part of the world. Remember that he is with us, and apart from Jesus we can do nothing (John 15:5).

So, I’ve spent the past 25 minutes talking about how we are CALLED for a purpose, that CHRIST has left us an example to follow in his steps, and that in order to be an effective witness, we must develop a spiritual CONVICTION that people are lost without Jesus. When we finally get this truth, our focus is forever changed.

Perhaps you have been challenged in a new way by the familiar story of the Great Commission. Maybe you now see some things a little differently than you did before. Ken’s series is FOLLOW, which is all about how to better follow Jesus, and my challenge today is to follow the leader, follow Jesus, who has set before us an example for us to follow. Commit to being a disciple and discovering how to better make disciples.

You know, the Bible never calls this commission “great.” This commission is an everyday commission for everyday kind of people who offer themselves to be used by our risen Savior. Will you allow Jesus to use you to do great things in your life and in the lives of those around you?

Let’s pray about it…

Dear Lord Jesus, we humbly come before you to submit to your lordship. Help us to embrace your calling on our lives. May your Spirit shake us out of complacency and burn deep within our souls. Work through us for your kingdom’s sake. Plant deep within us a holy discontent, knowing that we are not fully surrendering to your calling on our lives. May you be glorified as we follow you every day. AMEN

If you need to talk about where you stand with Jesus, I would welcome that conversation, as would any of us on the leadership team here at King’s Grant. Just contact us on our the website you see here, or text the word MORE to our church mobile number. We’d love to hear from you!

I love you a lot. How can we help you grow in your faith? How can we help you get connected to a small group community (even in these days of COVID-19)? How can we help you find a place of service, and live your life on mission for Jesus’ sake? Let us know.