Missionary and martyr Jim Elliott once wrote, 'He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.' This was basically the message Jesus gave to His disciples when he called them to carry a cross and follow Him. Will you accept that call today?
MARK - THE GOSPEL OF ACTION
“THE DEMANDS OF DISCIPLESHIP”
Take your Bibles and turn to Mark, chapter 1, and stand with me, if you would. We’re going to read a few verses of scripture before we continue our series in this gospel of action. Mark, chapter 1, and let’s start with verse 14. Mark, chapter 1, beginning with verse 14. “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel.’ Now as He walked by the sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, ‘Come ye after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.’ And” - immediately, or - “straightway they forsook their nets, and followed Him. And when He had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. And” - immediately - “He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after Him. And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day He entered into the synagogue, and taught. And they were astonished at His doctrine; for He taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.” Thanks. Be seated, if you would.
Theodore Roosevelt once wrote that, “There has never yet been a man who lived a life of ease who’s name is worth remembering.” We are about to be introduced to four men who are worth remembering because they gave up, as it were, their lives of ease and they followed the Savior. And, I think, that they represent something that I want to distinguish for you this morning. We have, I think, in our evangelical world or the world of Christians, two people or two individuals. There are those who are believers and then there are those who are disciples. There are those who believe only and for them, Christianity is a convenience. And then there are those who are disciples and for them, Christianity is a crusade. I want to introduce you to these four men. Now, between verse 13 and verse 14, there is a period of one year. You might jot that into the margin of your Bibles. And during that year, the Lord Jesus has been preaching the gospel of the kingdom, “Repent and believe.” More than likely, since His base of operation would be in Galilee, these four men had heard Jesus preach many times. In fact, it’s a likelihood that Jesus knew these men already, by name. They had heard Him. And it was about the time for Jesus to begin to call to Himself the band of men who would, not only believe, they were probably followers of John, had already been baptized, but those who would become disciples.
Notice who they are, verse 16, “Now as he walked by the sea”. The word “by,” is the word “para,” which means that Jesus probably took His sandals off and He was, literally, walking along the seashore, down by the water. “he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishers.” - or fishermen. In my study, I discovered that there were two kinds of nets. There was a net that they would skillfully throw out of a boat and, as they threw it, it would form something like an umbrella and it would land in the water and then they would scoop up all the fish that they could catch. Then there was the other kind of net, which they were throwing here. It was a net that was very large and was weighted along the bottom. And they would unroll it off the side of the boat and it would sink until it was totally extended. And the water surface would be right here and then the boat would begin to move and this net would move this way, catching all of the fish in it’s path. You remember the story, in Luke, where, evidently, this kind of net had been dropped and they caught so many fish that it was beginning to pull the boat under. And when they tried to raise up the net, you remember, they had to call to some other men with their boat to come along and help them with the haul. These men were diligent about their business and they were fishing on the Sea of Galilee.
But you notice who they are. Four men, underline their names in your Bible, if you would. Simon, who’s name will be changed to Peter, or “petra,” which means “rock.” Simon, the impetuous one. If I were choosing disciples, I’m not sure I would have chosen this man. I’ve often wondered, where in the world he got a sword. You remember, in the garden, somebody was coming after Christ, in fact, the army was there and he’s got a sword. I think this man was constantly armed, ready for a fight.
Andrew had absolutely no leadership ability at all. In fact, whenever he is mentioned, he is usually referred to as, “Andrew, Simon Peter’s little brother.” Simon Peter’s brother. In fact, the four occasions where his name is mentioned in the gospels, he’s hiding behind someone else. He’s kind of pushing someone else forward to introduce him to Jesus Christ and he stays in the background.
And then you’ll notice, in verse 19, that there is James and John. Two men, totally filled with self-ambition. In fact, after following the Lord for three entire years, their perceptive question, after all of His teaching, is, “Lord, who’s going to be number one in the kingdom? Who’s going to have the chief seat?” Men who are totally ambitious for personal gain.
These are the four men that He chose. But I want to give you four reasons why, I think, He chose them. Four words, you could jot them in your notes or in the margin of your text. First of all, they were diligent men. As Jesus Christ was walking along the shores of Galilee, picking His way among the pebbles there as the water would lap across His feet, He saw men who were already working, who were already diligent. And I believe that there is a relationship between the kind of individual who makes a good disciple and the kind of individual who makes a good employee or a good housewife, a good worker. I remember hearing one man stand up and say one time, he said that, “Even God cannot steer a parked car.” And I never forgot that. He is looking for individuals who are already diligent in their business so that all He needs to do is redirect their energy toward the cause of the kingdom.
They were also available. And this is so easily overlooked. Look at verse 18, “And” - immediately, Mark uses that word forty some times in the gospel - “they forsook their nets, and followed him.” The word “forsook,” is in the aorist tense, which means that they “once for all,” left their nets. It was a decision that they made, then and there, at that part of their life, and they never went back to fishing. They forsook immediately. They were available.
Thirdly, they were flexible. You know, I like the thought that the Lord chose men whose minds were uncluttered by the traditions of the religious world. You see, they had a saying, back during this time, that if you wanted to be religious, if you wanted to be spiritual, you lived in Jerusalem because the temple was there. And you would go and worship and have sacrificing. So, if you wanted to be spiritual, you lived in Jerusalem. If you wanted to be rich, you lived in Galilee. And because that was, in part, true, these men were considered something of an outcast of the religious system. As a result of being away from the synagogues or the temples, they did not hear the Talmud, as we talked about, and the Mishnah taught and all of the additions to the laws. You remember how one law said that you couldn’t walk more than a thousand yards on the sabbath day. But if you took a rope and you strung it from your doorway to a door a thousand yards away, then you could begin from that point and walk another thousand yards and be safe. You see, they didn’t care about that kind of thing. I think these men had clear eyes and they could see right through the facade of religiosity. Uncluttered men, very flexible and available to be taught something totally revolutionary. These men were mavericks. Jesus, when He chose His disciples, did not go to the local institutions of learning. He did not ask, “Well, who’s the Rabbi with the most learning available.” He went to men who were fishermen. As we think of them, they were totally out of the picture with the religious world.
I think of William Carey(?), a man who would open up the world of India by foreign missions. As a young man, he approached a group of clergymen, and there they sat in all their starch. And William Carey(?) stood up and he presented his burden for India. Nobody had ever gone there. All they knew was there were plenty of heathen over there. And in the middle of his proclamation of his burden, one of those men stood up and said, “Young William, sit down and let’s have enough of this talk of people in India. If God wants them saved, He will save them alone.” Fortunately, William Carey(?) disagreed and began to swim against the current of popular opinion and went to India. Maybe you’ve heard of his name. He’s worth remembering. He gave up a life of ease.
And then, finally, they were teachable. And this characteristic introduces the second question I have in your notes, “What was the curriculum?” There is one key word in the training process of Jesus Christ with these disciples. If we could sum total it up, and I say this cautiously, but if we could total everything up in this teaching process of making men disciples, what was the key to His curriculum? I want you to write down one word, and that word is, “association.” Association. There are two key phrases for disciples only. If you are to be a disciple, if you are to follow or to stick to Christ, if you are going to have this kind of lifestyle that demands more than a simple belief and inconvenience and a crusade type of existence, two phrases would be for you. He gives them in the gospels. The first one is the phrase, “Come to Me.” He said, “Come ye after Me”. “Come to me.” Literally, the word could be translated, “Stick to Me.” It’s used throughout the scriptures and even secular Greek writers would use this as an individual who would walk the same road as the teacher. Jesus Christ is saying, “Look, get on the road that I’m walking and stick to Me, associate with Me.” You know, in this curriculum, there were no textbooks. There weren’t the handouts and there weren’t all of the exams. The curriculum was association with the person of Jesus Christ. They would live with Him. They would watch Him eat. They would watch Him respond. They would listen to Him teach. They would see His life. My friend, if you and I are to be disciples, we must be associated intimately with the person of Jesus Christ. But you notice what He would teach them. Look at verse 17 again, He says, “Come ye after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.” The word “become,” is the word “ginessi(?),” which refers not to an overnight process. You know, you want to be a disciple, take two of these, drink lots of juice and next weekend you will be a disciple. No. It was a long, tedious, conforming process. It took a lot of time. In fact, after three years, you’d think that some of these guys had even gotten off the dime. But, He would make them to become, “ginessi(?),” the process of totally turning about their characters and their personalities.
But look at what they would become, “fishers of men.” You know, I can just see Peter now, pulling the Lord aside, “Now, Lord, it’s obvious that you’ve spent too much time in the carpenter shop. And, by the way, have you ever even baited a hook? You should know that you do not fish for men, you fish for fish.” I can just see Peter instructing the Lord in the way more properly. And yet, you never hear a response from the men, even though Jesus Christ is using terminology that they know everything about. You see, they knew everything about fishing. And yet, they knew nothing about the hearts of men. And Jesus Christ said, “If you follow Me,” - “I will make you to become fishers of men.” The word “fisher,” is translated “catcher,” “catcher of men.” The word is used only one other time outside of the gospels. And it is used in reference to Satan, who catches men. It’s as if Jesus Christ is saying, “Listen, Satan and his world system is seeking to catch men for his kingdom and I want to train you to catch men for My kingdom.” And it’s as if there is a battle going on for the souls of men. Listen, ladies and gentlemen, if you are to be a disciple, you are going to be a catcher of men and women for the kingdom of God. As you look back over your life over the last six months, or year, or two years, have you ever shared Jesus Christ with another individual? You say, “Well, no. No, I haven’t.” My friend, you are not a disciple, you are a believer. He says, “I will make you to become fishers of men.”
Now, what was the cost? Third question that I want to answer this morning. Jesus Christ would say, in another passage of scripture, “If any man would be My disciple, let him” - do two things. Number one, “let him deny himself”. And secondly, “let him . . . take up his cross”. “Let him deny himself,” literally means, “let him learn to say, ‘No,’ to himself.” It’s like a mother who has a child who wants something to eat and the Mom knows that it would be unprofitable for the child. Perhaps the child wants to do something that the mother or the father knows would not help them grow up to be healthy and wise. And so, the Mom and Dad learn to say, “No,” to save that child from ruin. Jesus Christ says that, “If you want to be My disciple, you need to learn to say, ‘No,’ to the things that are unhealthy, to the things that are unwise, to the things that would hinder your knowledge of My character. I want you to learn to say, ‘No,’ to that.” You must deny yourself. Learn to say, “No.” Secondly, you must take up your cross, or literally, put to death any personal ambition. It meant to throw away your life. You see, what we’re hearing today is that Jesus Christ stood on the shores of Galilee and said, “Follow Me, and I will make you popular. Follow Me, and I will make you wealthy. Follow Me, and I will make you healthy. Follow Me, and I will make you happy.” Isn’t that the popular, prosperity theology that we are hearing today? Ladies and gentlemen, Jesus Christ says, “Follow Me, and I will make you unwelcome wherever you go. Follow Me, and I will cause you or make you to suffer persecution. Follow Me, and I will make you endure hardship. Follow Me, and I will make you the laughing stock of Judaism. Follow Me, and I will cause you to live in the minority. Follow Me, and I will make you face the lions and the burning stake.” You see, when Jesus called men to Himself, He has absolutely no motivational gimmicks at all. You see, there wasn’t any motivation to follow Him, other than this: that you might learn of Me, that you might know Me, and that you might serve Me. Like the apostle Paul, who said, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings”.
Why were there casualties? The next question. Turn ahead to the Gospel of Luke. The Gospel of Luke, chapter 14. You know, the question that I would have is, here is this man, visible, performing miracles, doing all of these things which attested to the fact that He was indeed the Son of God, why weren’t there hundreds of disciples? Why so few? I’m going to give you the reasons in this chapter, Luke, chapter 14. Look at verses 16 to 20, “Then said he unto him, ‘A certain man made a great supper, and bade many;’” - evidently they all accepted, look at verse 17 - “and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden”. Now in the eastern days, because everyone wasn’t wearing a Seiko or a Timex watch, you were invited to a banquet and then, because it took hours to prepare, you would receive another invitation when all of the food was hot and ready. So the master would send the servant out to all of those who had accepted the invitation. And all of these people had initially accepted. Then the servant came knocking (knock, knock, knock), “Look, the supper is ready.” Notice what they said, “And they all with one consent began to make excuse.” Now, I want you to understand that behind any excuse is a lack of desire. But notice what they said, “The first said unto him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it; I pray thee have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them;’” - or to test them - “‘I pray thee have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’” Now let’s take just a hard look at these excuses because to the master it was obvious that there was a lack of desire. These men were either liars or foolish businessmen. Imagine buying a piece of land without seeing it. Imagine buying some oxen without ever testing them to find out if they could even pull the plow. “Well, I bought a piece of land. Now, I think I ought to go and see it.” What a lame excuse. “I bought some oxen. Now, I need to go see if they’re alive.” That’s even worse. The worst one is the third one. (laughter) I don’t know why you’re laughing! He’d married a wife. Why in the world wouldn’t he bring his wife with him? Why not invite her to come along? You know, we have three reasons here that are so lame, it’s amazing that they ever give them. Do we do that today? No! Of course not!
You know, I came across something in my file, that I had put away, and it’s excuses that people gave an insurance company as to why they got into an accident. Have you ever heard of that? People write in because they’ve been in an accident and it’s their fault but they give an excuse to try to get out of paying the premium. Some of you may work for insurance companies. You’re nodding. I’ve seen some of them. I came across a few of them. Let me read you three of them. One lady writes, “I turned a corner and a telephone pole hit my car.” You know, I picture in my mind, lurking behind the corner, this mischievous telephone pole, ready to pounce on some car! One lady writes, an even more classic one, “The man didn’t know which way to run so I ran over him.” Can you imagine? And then this is the classic of all, this man writes, “I pulled away from the curb, glanced at my mother-in-law and headed over the embankment.” Lame excuses! Man! We come up with them!
But, you know, let’s drill home just a little bit more practically, we have three reasons that these men gave and they are reasons that exist today: real estate - possession, oxen - business, a wife - natural affection. What’s holding me back from being a disciple, from turning Christianity into a crusade? Is it my business? Do you not understand that that business is your mission field? That’s where you are to crusade. But they gave their excuses. And in the last part of this chapter, three times, maybe you ought to underline them, verse 26, “he cannot be my disciple.” Verse 27, “he cannot be my disciple.” Verse 33, “he cannot be my disciple.” Disqualified, unable, convenience, a believer only but not a disciple. When I read this passage, ladies and gentlemen, it fills me with fear. Am I a disciple of Jesus Christ or am I a believer only? Is there a personal challenge to this? Absolutely.
Am I a believer or am I a disciple? And I want to give you three things that will give you the symptoms as to determining in your own life, not the person next to you or in front of you or behind you, but in YOUR life, are you a disciple or are you only a believer? Three things. First of all, do I have a hunger for the word? I want to be practical this morning. Do you come to church on Sunday and kind of (blow) blow the dust off the pages and wipe it off and say, “Yep, it’s that time of the week again. Get my Bible out. Unstick the pages.” Or is there a real hunger for the word? Are you in this book?
Secondly, do you have a commitment to the body of Christ? A hunger for the word and a commitment to other workers. You know, back in that day, Jesus Christ was presenting the kingdom program. If you were a disciple, you got on board and you followed that kingdom program. Today, in the age of grace, Jesus Christ has instituted the body. That’s the plan. Are you part of it? Or are you sitting by and watching?
Number three, right out of the text, do I have a burden for a lost world? “Follow Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.” D. L. Moody was visiting a church and he was looking out the window, on this second story office building, into this massive city and he was watching the teaming people as they strolled down in the cars and all of this. And the pastor came up and he said, kind of stuck out his chest, “What do you see?” He was impressed with the city and the location of the church. And D. L. Moody said, “I see hundreds and hundreds of people who do not know Christ.” You see, if I am a believer, I can get by with only a perusal of this book, perhaps on Sunday, or maybe a Proverb some time during the week. If I am a believer only, I’ll put in an appearance in the local assembly but I’ll never have a commitment to the body of Christ. If I am a believer only, and not a disciple, I will say, “Yes, my next door neighbor is unsaved.” Or, “Yes, the people at work that I work with, I’m not sure if they know Christ but I will never open my mouth and present Him and say, ‘Let me tell you about Jesus Christ and what He did for me.’”
On the morning after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, more than 2,000 soldiers galloped out of Washington in pursuit of Booth, the assassin. On April 26th , a detachment of 25 soldiers, led by two detectives, finally tracked Booth down in a tobacco barn in Virginia, just 60 miles outside of the capital. Now, Stanton had ordered that these men, Booth and his cohort, be brought back alive. But, they were stationed in the barn and they had revolvers and they were fighting their way and the soldiers could not get in. And so finally Daugherty, the lieutenant in charge of that commission or those men, decided to burn the men out. And so, he made a rope of straw and he lit it and he threw it into the barn. And soon the flames licked at the straw and there was a blazing fire. And Daugherty had men stationed all around that barn and one man, in the rear of the barn, could see Booth through the slats in the barn wall. Booth had his rifle, as if he were ready to fire, and so this soldier, compulsively and against orders, raised his revolver and fired. And the bullet hit Booth in the back of the head, almost in exactly the place where Lincoln had been shot. And he sagged forward on the burning floor and the soldiers rushed in and pulled him out and they finally pulled him up to the porch of the nearby house. And they thought Booth was dead but when they splashed water in his face, he revived and he began to move about a little bit. He was delirious with pain. His voice was just a whisper. And one of the soldiers was leaning down near his mouth and he heard Booth whisper, “Tell my mother, I thought I did what was best.” And then he asked that his paralyzed arms be raised so that he could look at his hands. And he uttered his last words, as he looked at his hands, “Useless. Useless.” Two hours later, as the morning sun rose, Booth died.
You know, ladies and gentlemen, one day there is going to be an account given and I wonder how many of us will say, in light of eternity, our lives, “We did what we thought was best for ourselves.” But, when you sum total it up, absolutely useless. Is Christianity a crusade? Are you a believer only or ARE YOU A DISCIPLE?