Last Thursday we began our new series at Southampton Student NAVS with our first session entitled “An invitation to Follow – Jesus is Enough”.
We thought a little together about what it means to follow Jesus using the framework of Jesus’ encounter with Simon Peter in Luke 5. In that encounter Jesus asked Simon Peter to pull out into the deep and let down the nets. This must have sounded ludicrous to Simon Peter who had been fishing all night but had caught nothing. He clearly realised however that there was something about this Jesus and so he said “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5). You probably know what happened next – there were so many fish they had to call in some other boats to help and even then the boats started to sink with the weight of the fish.
Following Jesus begins with seeing ourselves as we really are – Peter’s response to this is quite noteworthy “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (v8). At this moment Peter responded in worship but he also saw who he really was – a sinful man. There was much astonishment about the catch but as He understood more about who Jesus was, Peter became fearful. Jesus’ response to him however is amazing in that He told him, ‘Don’t be afraid” (v9). Peter and his friends (probably Andrew, James & John) then “pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him” (v10). Following Jesus meant giving up everything to follow Jesus. Fishing was their livelihood and to give it up (not to mention the fortune of fish on the seashore) was quite some sacrifice. Yet Jesus knew that they needed to learn to trust Him as their provider.
Following Jesus is hard and involves sacrifice and self-denial – The call to follow Jesus is not an easy one, after all Jesus said in Luke 9:23 “Whoever wants to be my disciple [i.e. whoever wants to follow Jesus] must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me”. The cross is an instrument of death and a pretty agonising one at that. Following Jesus will involve sacrifice and a ‘death’ to ‘self’ as we choose to live for Jesus and not for ourselves. The call to follow Jesus is about absolute surrender – it’s about following Jesus on His terms and not ours. We will not always get it right and at times we will mess up. Our desire to follow Jesus should motivate us to keep on going and striving to make the choices that Jesus would have us make – the choices befitting a follower of Jesus. We would have to say however that the call to follow is worth it. After all His words in v23 are followed immediately by; “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:24-25). Although the call is tough the reward is matchless.
Following Jesus has to do with faith – We also talked about the fact that the call to follow is about faith and we looked at a number of references to see how this affects our attitude towards family (Matthew 10:37-39), wealth and possessions (Matthew 19:16-30) and Security (Matthew 8:21-22). We saw that in comparison to knowing and following Jesus EVERYTHING fades in comparison. We saw that Jesus saw right to the heart of the rich man and put His finger on the very thing that was a stumbling block to this man following Him. We saw how the man who asked to go bury his dead father (who was not actually dead) was actually trying to wriggle out of Jesus’ call on His life. In each case we asked the question whether Jesus was enough for us; Is Jesus our priority? Is Jesus enough for us in the areas of wealth, possessions and security. For me Jesus’ discussion with the disciples after His encounter with the rich man sums it up nicely; Jesus said “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29). Is it worth it? You bet it is…
Following Jesus will involve a lifetime – The call to follow Jesus must be worked out over a lifetime, not just for University, nor even just for the workplace but for a lifetime. The call is to follow and keep on following. This call will have big implication for us all about our choices of who we marry, the career we pursue, what we do with our money and where we find our security. This call is life-transforming but it is worth it because Jesus is Enough for us.
As we walk this road of faith what is clear is that there are so many things in this world that try too entice us to follow them. We are all following something or someone – that’s what we do; for example wanting to be loved/valued by others, money, wealth, power, friends, leaders, politicians and so on. There are so many things shouting to us that Jesus is not enough unless we also have… The key decision for us however is who are we going to follow ? Jesus says come follow me. Everything else in which we pursue satisfaction and fulfilment will never satisfy. Trust me. If you’ve followed this blog for a while you will know that we have not had the easiest couple of years but what is clear to me is that amidst the pain, the difficult and at times the sense of disappointment one thing has always been true: Jesus is Enough. Whatever the world tells us the only person who can truely satisfy is Jesus Himself.
Following Jesus involves fruitfulness in the lives of others – Finally we spent a few minutes thinking about how Jesus’ call to Peter to follow Him was also a call to be involved in the lives of others. Jesus says “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people” (v10). People were always Jesus’ method and strategy; He poured His life out primarily into the lives of His twelve disciples, intentionally, relationally and in such a way that they could reproduce what He had done with them in the lives of others. When we talk about helping others to follow Jesus this is the kind of involvement in focus In 1 Thess 2:8 Paul writes “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” This is ‘life on life’ and it is for the whole of life! The call to follow Jesus will involve giving our lives for the sake of others.
To listen to the session I gave last Thursday click here