Who Do You Follow?

Are You Willing To Answer The Call To Follow Jesus?

George Wright
Feb 21, 2021    28m
Are you willing to answer the call to follow Jesus? Jesus promises us new and eternal life when we give our lives to Him, and following Him and living His mission will bring us the greatest joy in life. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:01 So, where do we turn when we need encouragement, where do we turn when we need to be reminded of the hope that we have? For, we are not a people who are without hope, but we are a people that have hope eternal and hope today. We turn to the Word of God, and so when I ask you to do that with me now, as we turn our attention to Matthew's Gospel, Matthew chapter 4, we're going to be looking at verses 18 through 20. Recognizing that this is the Word of God, and recognizing that we need the Word of God, we need the truth of God, we need the grace of God laid before us in his Holy scripture, I want to invite you to stand with me. That we all would be reminded that the Word of God is our foundation, the Word of God is where we turn in our time of need, and the Word of God is what lays before us what we need to hear, what God says is right and good and true.

George Wright: 01:00 So this is the word of the Lord, Matthew chapter 4 beginning in verse 18. It says, "While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him." I want to ask us all to consider a question here today, the question is simply this, who are you following? Who are you following?

George Wright: 01:59 To that end, let's pray together, asking the Lord to use his word to speak clearly into our lives today. Let's pray. Father God, we come before you now needing your spirit to guide us, needing the ministry of your spirit, the great comforter, needing to hear what you desire for us to hear. So I pray that our hearts would be open, I pray that our mind would be attentive, I pray that our ears would be receptive, Lord, that these words would not fall on deaf ears, but these words would fall on fertile ground. So use your word now to speak into our lives, we commit this time to you, in Jesus' name I pray. Amen. Thank you for standing, you may be seated.

George Wright: 02:53 Matthew chapter 4 shows us the first disciples of Jesus, the first two men that are given an invitation to follow Jesus. And this invitation, at first glance, really is a little crazy. Drop everything, drop your nets as fishermen who earn a living as fishermen. Drop all that you're doing, walk away from your career, walk away from your livelihood, even though you have not been told specifically where you're going or how this is going to play out, come now, drop it all, and follow me. And amazingly, perhaps a little crazy it seems, Peter and Andrew accept this invitation on the spot and they follow Jesus. Now, standing here before you today, we actually have a tremendous advantage that Peter and Andrew did not have when the invitation to follow Jesus was laid before them, for we do know how this story plays out. And we do know that as these first disciples lay it all on the line and follow Jesus, they are used by God to literally turn the world upside down and to usher in a message of hope, the message of grace, the message of salvation, hat is the gospel of Jesus Christ that the world desperately needs to hear. But they did not know that's where this was going, they were being asked to follow Jesus into the unknown. Certainly these first disciples, as they stepped down on faith, knew that Jesus was inviting them into something greater than they were currently experiencing, but they had no idea of knowing how this would play out.

George Wright: 05:13 And so, as we look back in Matthew chapter 4, we get to look back through the lens of knowing how the story unfolds. And we look back to see what exactly is being offered to the disciples as they follow Jesus, what is being offered to anyone who steps out on faith to follow Jesus? Look at verse 19 again of Matthew 4, Jesus says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” What is Jesus doing here? Well, Jesus is inviting his followers into a new identity. These fishermen are going to be called fishers of men, that tiny little preposition makes all the difference, fishermen are going to become fishers of men. Their occupation will no longer be their identity, for their identity will now be rooted and grounded, not in what they do, but rooted and grounded in the one who has called them to follow. And isn't it true for those who study the scripture, that when we talk about Peter and Andrew, we don't talk about them as fishermen, we talk about them as disciples. For their identity has been changed, these men devoted their lives to following Jesus, and they're given this new identity. They're no longer known for what they do, they're no longer known even for what they accomplished, they're known for who they follow. Who are you following?

George Wright: 07:14 This idea is so very important, especially as we think about leaders in ministry, for it is very easy for leaders in ministry to be known for what they do. I'm a pastor, one might be called a church planter, one might be called a missionary, one might be called a Bible study leader, one might be called a Sunday school teacher, or a small group leader, one might be called a worship leader. But when our identity is rooted and grounded in what we do, instead of who we follow, we're actually walking a very dangerous path. And here's why that is true, because when our identity is built on what we do, even if we're doing a good and noble thing, our identity begins to form around what we are trying to accomplish, or what we are trying to produce, or what we are trying to achieve, instead of being rooted and grounded in what has already been accomplished and what has already been achieved by the blood of Jesus Christ.

George Wright: 08:37 And the reason this is so important in the kingdom of God, please don't miss this, we cannot control the production, we cannot control the fruit, if you will. For we are not responsible for the catch, we are responsible for the cast. Jesus, doesn't look to his first followers and say, hey, follow me and I'll make you catchers of men. No, he looks at these two men and says, I will make you fishers of men. Because Jesus knows the tendency for anyone who is following him is to become more consumed with the outcome, or the production, or the accomplishment, than we are consumed with him. And so Jesus says, no, as you follow me you're being invited into something greater, you're being given a task, you're being given a mission. But don't lose sight of what that is, it is to fish, I will be responsible for the catch. For it is God alone who can save, disciples are called to fish. And you see, when we start to believe that we are responsible for the results, or we are responsible for the outcomes, or we are responsible for the catch, we begin to suddenly put ourselves in a place that only Jesus can occupy, and sometimes we begin to take credit for things that only God can do.

George Wright: 10:33 The Apostle Paul understood this greatly, and he addressed this as he addressed a division in the church in Corinth. I'm going to show you this in First Corinthians chapter 3, if you turn there with me, First Corinthians chapter 3 verses 4 through 7. The scripture says, "For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth." God gave the growth, God gave the growth, so neither he who plants, nor he who waters is anything, but only God, only God, only God, who gives the growth.

George Wright: 11:36 So here Paul is saying to a church that is experiencing difficulty, and a church that actually is experiencing division because some are following this leader, and some are following this leader, and some are allegiant to this leader, and some are allegiant to this leader. And some say, this way is better, and some say way is better, and it's creating all this division. And Paul says, hold on, don't be confused, you're called to follow one. You're called to follow one, his name is Jesus, and the leaders, and the pastors, and the planters, and the teachers, and the missionaries, and the Sunday school leaders, and the small group leaders, and the disciples, they are simply servants being used by God. Puts your focus on Jesus, for he alone can cause the growth. It is Christ alone who can save, it is Christ alone that must be our identity, if we truly want to see the power of God at work in our lives.

George Wright: 12:45 And isn't this so important in a culture that is so obsessed with our followers? We live in a culture that loves to ask the question, hey, how many followers do you have? How many times did your followers like what you did, or what you said, or what you posted? How many followers do you have? Who cares? Who cares, because it is such a dangerous place to live, where we are more concerned with the number of followers that we have than we are concerned with the one who we've been called to follow. Who are you following? The call is to follow Jesus, and when we do, we are given a new identity that is rooted and grounded in what he has already done. And the beautiful gift of this is, it takes the pressure off as we see our calling is simply to fish, and God is the one who catches the fish. He uses us, he invites us into his mission, because he loves us. But do not be mistaken, it's not because he needs us, it's because he wants us to be involved in something that is so much greater. For God knows that the greatest joy we will find in this life is when we give our life to his mission.

George Wright: 14:30 And that's what we see here in Matthew 4, look back at the verses again. Jesus invites his followers into his mission from the very beginning, from the moment Jesus says, follow, he's inviting his followers into his mission. Matthew 4:19-20, "And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him." So again, the question, who are you following? Are you following men or are you following the mission? Even though these disciples did not fully understand who Jesus was in his entirety at first, they knew that Jesus was more than a good teacher. And they did not understand at first the authority of God through Christ, but they would clearly see through the cross and the power of the resurrection that Jesus is in fact God in the flesh, Jesus is in fact their only hope, and their faith was not placed in a mere man, their faith was placed in the Savior of the world and the Son of God.

George Wright: 15:46 So don't miss this, don't miss this, the mission that the Son of God called his followers to, is a mission that cannot fail because it is a mission that is not dependent upon men to accomplish it. Please don't misunderstand me, the calling is to live the mission, the calling is to life send, the the calling is to leverage who we are and what we've been given for the sake of the mission, to go fish, that's the calling. But God does not need us to accomplish this mission, this mission is accomplished through God himself. And so when a leader fails us, or a leader disappoints us, do we walk away from the faith? When a leader fails us, or a leader disappoints us, do we throw in the towel and abandoned the church? When a leader fails us, or a leader disappoints us, do we give up on the mission altogether and say, hey, we tried that, we tried to live sin, but look what happened. Or do we see a leader fall, or a leader disappoint us, do we recognize that the call is to follow Jesus? And the call to follow Jesus is an invitation into his mission that cannot fail, because his mission is not built on the strategies, and the accomplishments, and the leadership, and the creativity of men, it is a mission that is built on an empty tomb that defeated sin and death. It is a mission that is built on the risen Savior, who is seated at the right hand of God the Father, who will come again to perfectly and completely reveal the power of God when he takes his followers home. The mission will not fail, the mission cannot fail, because the mission is God. And because God loves his followers so much, he has invited his followers to be actively involved in the mission. Again, not because he needs us, but because he knows we will find no greater joy in this life than to live our life for the sake of his mission.

George Wright: 18:46 So let me remind you of Matthew 28, the Great Commission, what every follower of Jesus has been called to be about. I know many of you know this by heart, but look at what the scripture says before Jesus ascends into heaven. Matthew 28:18, "And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." And then listen, don't leave off the last part, because the last part is the guarantee that the mission will be accomplished, "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." You see, the mission of God will not fail because the mission is empowered by the authority of heaven and earth through the resurrected savior Jesus Christ. And the resurrected savior Jesus has promised to his followers that he will be with his followers always, he will not leave or abandon us, he will not fail us, his grace is sufficient, his mercy is unending, and his power is unlimited. And he will empower his church to the end of the age, when he comes to take his followers home.

George Wright: 20:27 So I close today by simply saying, fix your eyes on Jesus and follow. Fix your eyes on Jesus and follow, build your life on him alone, and live for the sake of this mission that saves you and invites you to be a light of this salvation to a world that so desperately needs to see the life, and the hope, and the forgiveness, that comes through the good news of Jesus Christ our Lord. We are in the middle of our live sent focus, our missions focus, the month of February. I can assure you this is not what I planned on preaching or dealing with today. I can also stand before you in tremendous confidence and say, the mission will continue, and the mission will not fail, because the mission is all about what God has done and is doing, and we've been invited to join him.

George Wright: 21:55 So next Sunday, as we conclude our live sent focus for this month, we'll be having a time of commitment. In fact, we'll have a commitment card for everyone who joins us here in person and online, and we are asking you to begin now to pray about what it is that God might be prompting you to do, or calling you to do, for the sake of the mission. There's going to be a lot of different options, a lot of different ways, that you can be involved and step out on faith. And so we just want to ask you to begin to pray about that now.

George Wright: 22:30 I also want to remind you that next Sunday, we will be receiving a special offering, our live sent offering, that goes to specifically fuel and fund portions of the mission outside the walls of the church here at Shandon, and the goal for that offering is a hundred thousand dollars. Here's what I'm praying, here's what I've been praying over these last couple of days in knowing that we were having a commitment time, and and a specific giving time coming. I honestly was going, do we just cancel that, do we change that, do we call an audible? And the Lord has been [inaudible] over and over again, no, you move forward in this. And I've been praying that this would be a time as the enemy wants us to be discouraged, and wants us to feel defeated, and wants us to back off of the mission, that this would be a time that we would step out on faith, even more boldly and declare that we are more committed to the mission than ever before. I am praying that our commitment time, and our offering time, and our giving next week would make a statement that will rattle the gates of hell, as we declare that we are living this mission, that the gospel might advance through us, that we are following Jesus. He is our hope, and we believe that he is at work, he is at work for his glory as the best is yet to come. So begin to pray, begin to pray about what your step of faith might be, and what your specific gift might be as it relates to the mission.

George Wright: 24:16 And let's ask God to meet us in this time and to use us for his glory. Let me pray for us as we close. Father God, there is nothing easy about this day and this message. In fact, this message is impossible if it is up to us. But in times like these, we are reminded of our desperate need for the savior, and we are reminded that the savior has done for us what we could never do for ourselves. The tomb is empty, death and sin have been defeated, even as the enemy lashes out, even as the enemy wants to mock us, even as the enemy wants to knock us back on our heels, he does. So because he knows the end of the story. And he knows that his time is short, and the mission of God will not fail. And so we cling to the promise of you, our God, that you are at work, even in the struggles, even in the difficulties, to bring beauty from ashes.

George Wright: 25:58 You are at work to lead people to the good news of your mercy and your grace, you are at work to invite people to the gift of salvation. And Lord, there are some today, even on this day, there are some who are recognizing their needs for the savior. They are recognizing that there is sin in their life that needs to be brought to the cross, they are recognizing that they desperately need the grace of God. And so I pray specifically for those who are wrestling right now with that truth about themselves, this would be the time, this would be the divine moment where they would step out and they would say, I'm following Jesus.

George Wright: 27:09 Lord, we praise you that in Jesus we are given a new identity, an identity that does not define us because of the things we've done, or the sin of our life, or the things we're trying to accomplish. It's an identity that defines us based on the one we follow, the perfect savior who has given all so that we might find true life in the good news of the gospel. Lord, we pray that the message of salvation would advance in the hearts of many, people would trust in you even through this difficult situation, we pray there would be many that would turn to you. And we pray that you would use us for your glory and even greater ways, not for our benefit, not for our promotion, not for our accomplishment. No, no, no, we pray that you would use us, that your name would be displayed in even more beautiful and great ways in the lives and the hearts of many. Jesus, this is all about you, so lead us to follow you by faith, to seek to live a life that can be used for your glory. We trust you, and Lord, we need you. We pray that you continue to guide us as we seek to follow. In Jesus' name, I pray.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206