The Offer Of A Lifetime: Follow Me

At Gateway Church in Austin, we conclude our new series, The Offer Of A Lifetime.

What do you perceive as valuable—God, your family, your friends? The people around us, including our children, spouse, co-workers, friends, and other loved ones all often have a front row seat to see what we truly prioritize and what we’re willing to do in order to keep the things we value. Are God and His will among what you treasure most?

Next Steps

These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.

HERE IS THE AUDIO OF THE MESSAGE JONATHAN ENG SHARED:

HERE ARE THE NOTE FROM THE MESSAGE JUSTIN MCCARTY SHARED:

Over the past two weeks, we’ve been talking about Jesus’ invitation to be his disciple — to learn how to live your life your life, here and now, in the kingdom of God; to experience an entirely different quality of life — one of abundance, security, courage, guidance, peace, blessing — as you learn from Jesus how to live in God’s kingdom. This was the power and beauty of Jesus’ life, he is master at living this way — and he offers that same kind of life to anyone who would commit themselves to be his apprentice. It’s a life that he likened to a treasure — it may not seem like much at first, but the dividends add up.

At the same time, there’s a price tag that goes with stepping into the kingdom of God — relinquishing your own kingdom. Meaning, you give up having life go your way as a goal; it’s no longer a primary aim or concern. Jesus called this “carrying your cross” — and it’s a sticking point for a lot of people. It feels like too high a price, no matter what you get in return. It might surprise you to know that Jesus actually encouraged people to do the math — to be clear that life in the kingdom is what they really want. He didn’t advocate dabbling in discipleship – because people get really miserable when they say they want to follow Jesus, but they really intend on continuing to do life their way.

Jesus knew that a clear-eyed moment of decision is essential to a strong start, so he regularly challenged people to count the costs and make a choice — one way or another. In fact, today, I want to take you to two different moments from Jesus’ life when he did just that, and see what we can learn from how the people involved responded, in hopes that it can help us formulate our own response to the offer of a lifetime.

First, check out Matthew 4:17-25

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” As he walked 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 fish for people.” Immediately, they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Matthew 4:17-25

 FOLLOW THE RABBI

Now when most people read this, especially for the first time, this feels a little crazy — like Jesus is the pied piper, casting a spell over them, and they mindlessly follow. But there’s a lot going on between the lines, one that those who originally read this would have caught; these fishermen were actually primed by their culture to grasp that discipleship to Jesus was the offer of a lifetime. In first century Israel, Jewish education and culture centered around the Old Testament Scriptures, and knowing those scriptures were key. Rabbis were the educators, spiritual gurus, trusted teachers — they knew and taught the scriptures. From an early age, Jewish boys and girls were raised, memorizing and digesting the scriptures. However, as they aged, only the “best of the best” students would continue on to higher education; the rest would be sent to their families to learn their family trade — in the case of Peter, Andrew, James and John, fishing.

However, everyone once and awhile, students would rise to the level where they would seek out a rabbi and ask to become their apprentice or disciple. The rabbi would evaluate the student for a time and if they liked what they saw, they would say, “Follow me.” The implication is that the student would do their best to learn to be like the rabbi — in the way they read and understood the scriptures, in the way they thought, perceived God, life. They were learning from the rabbi how to be like them. And it was a huge honor to even get to have this kind of discipleship relationship with rabbi — very rare, very elite.

So when the up & coming rabbi, Jesus, shows up on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, recruiting them to be his disciples, this wasn’t a hard sell. They had washed out of discipleship a long time ago, and there was a rabbi — seeking them out to be his disciple — “Follow me”. The other gospels make it clear they had come to know Jesus enough to know his message about life in the kingdom of God — this was an altogether different kind of rabbi — and he wanted them on his team. It’s doubtful James & John’s dad, Zebedee, threw up any fuss — he was likely cheering his boys on as they dropped their nets and followed Jesus.

When we speak of becoming a follower of Jesus — this kind of discipleship is what we mean. Come to learn from Jesus how to be like him; learn to see God the way he does; learn to know the scriptures the way he does; see people and life the way he does — learn from him how to live your life in the kingdom of God. And the implication is that, just like the men on the shores of Galilee, there will be some massive changes. No one becomes a jet pilot in their spare time; no one takes up neurosurgery as a hobby. Apprenticing in these fields requires an investment of time, energy and above all — intentional focus. You cannot stay the same person you were if you want to become that kind of person.   I remember when that hit home for me… Memorizing the Cub Scout Promise… seemed like an offer of a lifetime (hat, handkerchief, shirt); in order to become a Cub Scout, you have to memorize the Cub Scout Promise. I tried! 6 yrs old — who can do this? It’s impossible!  “I, (say your name), promise to DO MY BEST; To do my DUTY to GOD And my Country; To HELP other people, and To OBEY the LAW of the Pack”. Needless to say, I was able — but unwilling to become the kind of person who makes a great Cub Scout.

RESPONDING WITH JOY

What we see in these first disciples of Jesus is the basic recipe for any successful apprentice. First, Perceive the Offer. If Jesus’ offer of life in the Kingdom of God doesn’t capture your heart, call out your passion, and make you hungry for more, odds are you still haven’t fully perceived what He’s offering. Week 1 we looked closer at Jesus’ parable of the kingdom of God as a treasure buried in a field, worth selling all off all you have to lay hold of it. If it doesn’t impact you that way, don’t write Jesus off — maybe you’re just being invited to look closer, do some digging, really excavate the treasure to determine its true value!

Second, there’s a moment when the general offer gets personal — when you realize, “What a minute, this is for me! I have a choice to make.” When you step into the agreement with the offer, you Receive the Invitation. This is a really important step — no one drifts into becoming a jet pilot or a neurosurgeon, and no one drifts into becoming an apprentice to Jesus. It may come when you are a young child or at the last moment of your life, but there’s a definitive Yes somewhere along the way.

When those two pieces are in place, you see what marked the disciples that day on the Sea of Galilee — Follow with Joy. They traded up, they counted the costs and found the offer of a lifetime. Because they perceived the value of the offer and fully received the invitation, they experienced joy as they followed Jesus. And that joy didn’t just mark that day on the beach, it extended into their future. They went on to experience legendary things as they followed Jesus — walking on water, feeding 5000, healings, miracles, Jesus’ resurrection, miracles, the transformation of cities, a legacy that has changed the world! With it came suffering, beatings, persecution, and for most of them, death. But, if you could talk to them now, I don’t think you would find any of them that have any regrets about their decision that day on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

WALKING AWAY SAD

Contrast the experience of those disciples with another moment from Jesus’ life when he extended a very similar invitation to someone else in Mark 10:

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then, come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away sad, for he had many possessions. Mark 10:17-22

All the same, elements are here as in the first account, but do you see how they play out differently? When it comes to Perceive the Offer, check. This guy runs up to Jesus before he leaves; clearly, he’s been paying attention to Jesus’ teaching. He’s begun to sense the offer of a lifetime, at least enough to ask a serious question of Jesus: “How can I have the life you’ve been talking about?”

Jesus, like a great teacher and rabbi, sees potential in this guy. The passage says, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him…” He loved this guy’s heart, he saw someone who was hungry to live in the kingdom of God — and discipleship was the pathway. So, because Jesus loves him, he points out a lack of readiness in this man. While the fishermen on Galilee knew that dropping their nets was trading up, the wealth this man possessed was going to get in his way. Quick note: Wealth isn’t necessarily the obstacle for everyone. Many people have taken this passage as Jesus is saying “money is evil” or that if you’re really serious about following him, you better be ready to take a vow of poverty. What Jesus IS saying is that wealth was this man’s obstacle. Jesus was helping him see that one thing he couldn’t let go of because he had let it take hold of him; it was more important to him than life in the kingdom of God.  And he finishes his conversation with the same invitation he gave to the disciples — “Follow me.” But something different happens, he chooses to Resist the Invitation. The cost of discipleship seems too high for him, so he opts out.

But unlike the disciples who left the beach with joy that day, did you notice what the scriptures said? By resisting Jesus’ invitation, this man chooses to Walk Away Sad. That is a profound description. Those that resist Jesus invitation walk away sad. We never find out what happens to this man — we only know him by how he chose to respond to Jesus, and he walked away sad.  Still happens today; “sad” is not always how it looks at first.

Would it surprise you to know that Jesus never called anyone to become a Christian? He called people to “Follow me” and become his disciple. Because that’s the only path that will actually lead you into life in the kingdom of God. And in the end, whether we are fishermen or wealthy, young or old, single or married; regardless of ethnicity, sexuality, or culture — we each have to come to a decision about Jesus’ invitation to discipleship.

We start by answering the question for ourselves:  Is Jesus better at life than me? When it comes to his ability to manage and relate to money — is it better than your approach? Do his teachings about sex illuminate a better path than you have managed on your own? Does his wisdom about how to operate in a career bear more fruit than yours? Does he understand the basic nature of what healthy relationships look like and how to lead you into it, or are you better off relying on yourself? Is Jesus a more trustworthy guide about the future, eternity than you? This is what it means to call Jesus “Lord” — he’s more informed than I am, he’s wiser than I am, and he will lead to better outcomes in every respect than I will, therefore I will surrender to his way. Following Jesus is getting clear that Living in God’s kingdom is actually better than ruling mine.

 It requires an extraordinary degree of trust to sign away our own kingdom for a place in someone else’s — even God’s. Which is why Jesus took extraordinary steps to give us reason to trust him. The cross was proof of the heart behind all of this — self-sacrificing love. The apostle Paul, reflecting on this, writes: God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8  The king of the kingdom laid down his life, to atone for our sins, but to also prove that he isn’t a tyrant, he isn’t trying to dominate you. The heart of the kingdom of God is self-sacrificing love — and he has laid down his life to prove it to you. You have nothing to fear from him. Jesus was also raised from the dead to prove that the offer is legitimate — anyone who follows him into the death of self will only find new life on the other side. God raised Jesus to life to prove to us that His power is trustworthy and strong — we will discover life, just as Jesus did. This is why Paul also writes, If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

 There is a standing offer on the table — life now in the kingdom of God — and a personal invitation to you from Jesus — “Follow me”, be my disciple.  He intends that your life become the classroom — your everyday, ordinary life. That is where he wants to teach you how to live in his kingdom. It’s a 24/7 experience. Which makes sense — if you can’t become a jet pilot in an hour per week, why would we think an hour on Sunday would transform us into a disciple? Great skill requires great change.

Friends, Jesus is still accepting students. If you are sensing his personalized, “Follow me” today, for heaven’s sake, don’t walk away sad. Don’t pass on the offer of a lifetime.  For some of you, you may be truly perceiving the offer for the first time today — which means you could receive it. In just a moment, I want to help you do that — to have a moment of decision where you begin as a follower of Jesus.

For others of you, you started following sometime in the past, but you are walking around sad — because Jesus has highlighted the thing that is getting in your way. You don’t have to walk away sad again today — you could trust him enough to follow him in this, to let him be Lord, to live in his kingdom, not yours. You could recover the joy of following Him today.

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