Updated: Feb 15, 2021
The transitions from one call of Jesus to the next are very significant in the process of becoming a Mature Disciple and in the process of making Mature Disciples of others. Just as these calls marked milestones or points of demarcation in Jesus’ ministry, a believer’s hearing and responding to each of the second through fourth calls will be watershed moments in his life and in his journey to becoming a Mature Disciple of Jesus.
Although we may not fully appreciate the significance of these transitions at the moment they occur, I doubt that these milestones are ever passed unnoticed or unremembered. Each transition involves a personal breakthrough of brokenness and yielding that will never be forgotten. Each is the evidence of a deep heart-cry and of a stake of the conviction being driven. Let’s look at some of these aspects of the Four Calls.
(“Come and See” → “Come and Follow”) = (Taker → Giver)
Crossing this threshold usually is the most difficult of all. That’s because this transition is HUGE – the biggest step of faith for most men! Perhaps for women, too.
As we saw with those whom Jesus called, Believers often take some time considering this call. They may walk up to the edge, so to speak, several times – or even many times – before finally leaving “everything” to follow Jesus.
Why is this? Because most all of us come to faith with our hands full of many things external to ourselves, things that we have clung to for value, meaning, worth, security, etc. From God’s perspective, every one of these is an idol, something standing between us and totally trusting and loving Him. These may be material possessions or wealth. They may be status, or family, or other relationships, or traditions, or a host of other “things.”
Jesus must call us repeatedly because we only tend to let go of these things one-by-one. We only do so when we decide that following Him and knowing Him more intimately means more to us than the particular “thing” that we've become conscious of holding on to.
A large part of this transition from Believer to Follower is our change from Taker to Giver. When we first receive Jesus, we are just that, receivers or takers. We are happy to “take” Jesus' free offer of forgiveness for our sins and heaven when we die. Salvation is a free gift, and if we are simply willing to be honest and humble enough to admit our sinfulness and our need for a Savior, we are happy to receive or take what Jesus offers. When we realize that the choice is hell or heaven, who wouldn’t? And all the more so if we are a young child or youth, with little or no comprehension of having anything to give up.
But with His call to follow Him, Jesus is asking us to give Him the priority in our lives, to love Him more than any other “thing” – anyone or anything! He brings us to kairos moments that call us to make intentional, transformational choices that transfer our trust and dependence to Jesus from some other “thing” we have been valuing and grasping up till then.
Some of these things may be easy to let go of. Others will be very difficult, requiring repeated kairos moments and decisions before finally choosing to know Jesus more deeply rather than to hold on to that “thing.” If we resist long enough about something of great value to us, we may well become immune to His calls and settle back into the typical church-going Believer who looks like many unbelievers.
This is what George Barna describes in Maximum Faith when he talks about believers experiencing “holy discontent” (i.e., experiencing a prolonged period of spiritual discontent), which was Barna’s Stop 6, but then settling back to “engaged in faith activities” (Stop 5) or even disengaging (Stop 4).
Just to avoid misunderstanding, let me say that becoming a Giver doesn’t just mean in financial terms. Although moving from Believer to Follower very likely will affect one’s financial “giving,” it means much more than just that. In fact, Believers can use their financial “giving” as a way of avoiding giving up other “things” that are idols to them. For example, we may hold on to a job or career with the justification that it enables us to give generously to God’s work, even though Jesus is calling us to walk away from this seeming security in order to do something else which will enable us to know and trust Him far better.
God’s desire is for ME personally, not “my” money or all the other “stuff” that separates me from Him. But before I will trust Him enough to truly follow Him, I need to give up everything else first (which is really just recognizing that all of it is, and always has been, His anyway!). That is what makes the threshold from “Come and See” to “Come and Follow” so huge, high, and difficult for most Believers. As we’ll see in part 4 below, it means giving God the right to decide all the parameters of what most people define as “life.”
Responding to Jesus’ subsequent two calls to “Be with Me” and “Abide in Me” also involve giving. To “Be with” Jesus in the close company of others means giving up the “shell” behind which I hide. This is necessary in order to come into a true community with others. To “Abide in” Jesus means giving up my right to my “self,” that last kernel in me which desires to be something or someone apart from God, i.e., to be my own god. This is necessary in order to come into true oneness with Jesus and the Father, as Jesus prays for in John 17. It is from this oneness that we become and live out all that God created us to be and to do.
Truly grasping what I’ve said in these last three paragraphs is not easy. There are some hard truths in them.
Follow → Be With → Abide addresses Jesus’ Three Great Commands
As we’ll discuss further in the next chapter, the first definition of spiritual maturity given by many Christians is couched in terms of Jesus’ three “Great Commands” from Matthew 22:37-30 and Matthew 28:18-20. These can be summarized as Love God, Love Others, and Make Disciples. There is a powerful correlation between these three commands and Jesus’ three calls to Follow, Be with, and Abide.
First, the call to “Follow Me” is the call to relationship with Jesus, to know Him, not merely have faith (belief) in Him. As we covered in Chapter 5, knowing Jesus and the Father Who sent Him is the definition of eternal life (John 17:3). It is also God’s definition of success (Jeremiah 9:23-24). Trusting God leads to knowing and experiencing God, which leads to loving Him. Crossing the threshold to follow Jesus is indispensable to ever hoping to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Second, the call to “Be with Me” is the call to closeness and community with others, particularly other Followers. This is the call to authentic fellowship within the Body of Christ. This level of fellowship demonstrates the love for one another by which Jesus said all men would know we are His disciples:
“By this, all men will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
How will we love (agapaō) our neighbor as ourselves if we don’t learn to love (agapaō) our brothers and sisters in the Body? Crossing the threshold to a close community with some other Followers is indispensable to ever hoping to love others, especially unbelievers, as ourselves.
Third, the call to “Abide in Me” is the call to oneness (communion) with Jesus and His mission. This is the call to authentic significance as we engage in God’s eternal plans and purposes for us, namely, reaching and discipling the people He brings across our paths. How will we “most gladly spend and be spent” (2 Corinthians 12:15) for the lost and the undiscipled if (1) it isn’t “the love of Christ that controls us” and (2) we “no longer live for (our)selves, but for Him who died and rose again on (our) behalf" (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)?
I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. 2 Corinthians 12:15
For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15
Crossing the threshold to abiding in Jesus is indispensable to living a lifestyle for the rest of our days of being His “witnesses” and “fishers of men” who “bear much fruit that remains” as we “make disciple(maker)s.” (Acts 1:8; Matthew 4:19; John 15: 5, 16; Matthew 28:19)
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1:8
"And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” John 15:16
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” Matthew 28:19
Jesus’ twelve disciples were led to the threshold (not the pinnacle) of minimum essential (not ultimate) spiritual maturity by responding to His four calls. In the same way, you and I must clearly, consciously, and explicitly respond to these same calls if we are to become His Mature Disciples.
In next month's blog, we will continue these observations that help us to conclude our study of Jesus' Four Calls.