Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Called by Grace

by Gregory A. Johnson

We see much grace displayed by Jesus as He handpicks ordinary people to be His followers. He gives the imperative to follow Him, but all will have to choose whether or not they will obey Him. We learn through Scripture that receiving the grace of the Kingdom offered to us by God through Jesus is a choice—Jesus calls us to follow Him, but the choice is ours.
While the world today is looking for leaders to step up, Jesus is looking for followers to step out. The call to step out and follow Him is all grace. The act of stepping out will require faith and that faith is initiated by Jesus in those whom He calls. Jesus calls us right where we are; He calls us just as we are. He makes us into what He wants us to be, as we answer the call and follow Him.

"Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.' And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him" (Mark 1:16-20).
At this point in Jesus' ministry, John the Baptist is in prison. Jesus could have gone through the land ministering to people all alone, but that is not His plan as revealed in the Gospels; His plan is to call people to follow Him. Jesus will train, empower, and direct those who follow Him—He trains by example; empowers by the Holy Spirit; directs through His Word.
Notice with me that Jesus started right where these people were located. He did not set up an office in a building and expect people to come to Him; Jesus went to where the people were located. In this instance, He went to their workplace. Their business was fishing; their workplace was the sea.
Fishing was a very lucrative business in Jesus’ day. It was hard work and the hours were long, but it paid very well. Fish was a main source of meat for the people’s consumption. The fish would be sold fresh or preserved by salt. The fresh fish was very expensive and considered a delicacy in Rome.
The brothers Simon and Peter had a small two-man operation. James and John were part of a family-owned business that was much larger, as we are told that they had hired workers. More than likely, their father Zebedee ran the business, and his two sons were in line to take it over.
These that Jesus called were common folk. They worked hard for a living. Like everyone else, they had made mistakes in their life. They had experienced both good times and bad times. When they were not working, they would spend time with friends and family. They lived this life day by day, but on this day Jesus upsets the routine and comes to them at work; their lives would never be the same. Jesus calls them right where they are and just as they are; He calls them specifically to follow Him. They were not at that time what Jesus wanted them to become, but He promised to make them what He wanted them to be. What they will become will depend upon them answering the call to follow Him. He's offering them grace but will they receive it?
Friend, if you are not yet following Jesus, please know today that Jesus is calling you. His call is the same as it was on this day alongside the Sea of Galilee. He calls you right where you are, and He calls you just as you are. You are not what He wants you to be yet, but that does not matter to Him. He calls you anyway, and He promises to make you what He wants you to be. What you will become depends upon you answering the call to follow Him. You don’t have to wait and go to a church service, walk an aisle, and repeat a prayer after a pastor. Jesus did not teach that at all. All you have to do is to step out of what you have grown accustomed to—the boat that you are in. Let go of whatever you are holding onto with a white-knuckled intensity—your nets. Just receive the grace He offers; drop the nets; get out of the boat and follow Jesus. He will take you on an exciting and rewarding journey from earth to glory.
Jesus’ call demands an immediate response. These ones alongside the Sea of Galilee this day would have to leave their former way of life and its agenda. They would have to leave the security in which they had grown comfortable. They would have to place themselves under the authority and teachings of Jesus. They would have to trust Him. They would have to walk in the faith that Jesus was now initiating in them in order for that faith to grow and one day reach perfection. It would not be an easy journey, but it would be a rewarding journey. They made the right choice that day, and it was immediate. They dropped the nets; they got out of the boat, and they followed Jesus. What will you do?
Beloved, it’s not as much about who we are and what we have become as it is about what Jesus can make us into by His grace. Those Jesus calls He will make into what He desires them to be, and the finished person will not look like the one that answered the call. All who are called must keep their eyes fixed on Jesus and follow Him. Along the way, He will perfect the faith that He initiated in them when He first called them. God’s Word says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Excerpted from the book, The Kingdom According to Jesus by Gregory A. Johnson. Copyright © by Gregory A. Johnson. All rights reserved.

Know that you are loved,