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Sunday, January 28, 2018

[Matt's Messages] "Following Jesus"

“Following Jesus”
The Gospel of Matthew
January 28, 2018 :: Matthew 4:12-25 

Today is our Annual Reports and Vision meeting right after the worship service this morning, and I hope you stick around to eat and fellowship and participate.

But I know that not everyone will stay, so I’m going to “cheat” this morning and cast my vision for 2018 now, before the meeting. I have two main things to emphasize for 2018 for our church, and both of them are in our passage for today. In fact, both of them are in our first Hide the Word verse of the year, which is also in our passage in Matthew for this morning. So it’s all coming together.

This is our sixth message in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew has shared the genealogy of Jesus so that we know Who He is and where He comes from. Matthew has told us about Jesus’ miraculous birth and the meaning of His names. Matthew has informed us about the people searching for the newborn king, some searching to worship Him, some searching to try to kill Him. Matthew has described the forerunner of the Messiah, John the Baptist, who was calling people to repent and then was asked to baptize Jesus Himself. When Jesus was baptized, the Spirit of God descended on Him like a dove and God the Father said, “This is my Son, whom I loved; with him I am well pleased.”

And then Jesus was put to the test. That same Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan.

And Jesus passed the test!

Where Adam had failed.
Where Israel had failed.
Where everybody had failed.

Jesus succeeded.

Using the word of God and believing the promises of God, Jesus said “No” to every temptation, and the devil had to leave Him, and angels came and attended Him.

Jesus passed the test!

And now, Jesus will begin His public ministry.

There are a number of things happened between verse 11 and verse 12 that Matthew doesn’t tell us about. Read the first few chapters of the Gospel of John and you find out that Jesus did a number of significant things before the beginning of His ministry in Galilee starting in verse 12.

All of the Gospel writers are selective. They choose which historical things they want to share with us and place them in a particular order so that we understand the theological picture that they are drawing for us in their authorized biographies of Jesus.

You can tell that some time has passed because of what Matthew says in verse 12.

“When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee.”

I don’t think that happened the second after Jesus was baptized or the second after Jesus was tempted. This is a little bit later in time. Perhaps up to a year. We’ll find out more about John being put in prison when we get to chapter 14.

So after spending some time in the South, Jesus now moves North. Let’s read the next few verses.

“Leaving Nazareth [His hometown], he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali–to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: ‘Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles–the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’ From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’”

The title of this message is “Following Jesus” which is what it’s all about.

Jesus calls His first full time followers, and by the end of the chapter, He has crowds and crowds of followers.

Following Jesus is what it’s all about.

And that’s what our church is all about. We are all about bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ, otherwise known as “discipleship,” being a follower of Jesus Christ by faith.

And that’s what Jesus calls us to in this passage today.

Matthew begins by telling us that Jesus took up residence in Capernaum which is the northern region of Galilee.

Now, is that where the Messiah was supposed to be? Is that where the Messiah would show up and do His thing?

In chapter 2, King Herod asked the Bible scholars where the Messiah to be born. Where was that? Bethlehem. Like David.

So if He’s the Messiah, why isn’t Jesus bursting forth from Bethlehem?

Well, because that’s not the only prophecy about the Messiah that needs to be fulfilled!

Remember, “fulfilled” is one of Matthew’s favorite words! Look at verse 14.

“Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali–to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah [chapter 9, verses 1 and 2]: ‘Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles–the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’”

The Messiah is here!

The King has arrived.

The fulfillment of Isaiah 9 has arrived on the scene.

I love the imagery here. “The people living in darkness have seen a great light.”

The darkness of sin, the darkness of evil, the darkness of oppression. The darkness of despondency.

A now...light!

“On those living in the land of the shadow of death...a light has dawned!”

Yes!

From sadness to joy. Why?

Because Isaiah 9 is being fulfilled.

Matthew quotes verses 1 and 2 of Isaiah 9. Do you know what Isaiah goes on to say just a few verses later as the reason for this joy?

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”

And He will reign for ever and ever!

That’s what Matthew is saying.

Matthew is seeing that Isaiah 9 is being fulfilled in Jesus.

And not just for the Jews. Did you catch that?

He’s ministering in “Galilee of the Gentiles.”

I love that. Matthew is the most “Jewish” of the gospels, but he’s always reminding the Jews that Jesus is also for the Gentiles!

The Magi to the Great Commission. Matthew reminds his readers that Jesus is for both Jew and Gentile.

For both insiders and outsiders.
For both native born and foreigners.

And that’s good news for us. Because that’s what we are.

We are transplants. We are immigrants into the promises of God.

But the light has dawned, even for us.

And Jesus begins to preach. Verse 17.

“From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’”

Hmmm. That sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?

Where have we heard that before?

John the Baptist, right?

To repent means to make a U-turn. To turn around in your thinking and your direction. To change your mind.

It’s a change of heart that leads to a change of life.

You’re going down the road in one direction and you realize that you’re going in the wrong direction, so you do a 180 and head in a new direction.

That repentance.

And it’s the first step of truly following Jesus.

Point Number One for today is simply:

#1. FOLLOW JESUS.

And the way to begin is to repent.

You can’t go Jesus’ direction if you are just going in your own.

“Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’”

So near it’s here!

The kingdom is near because the King is near.

The light has dawned. The Messiah has arrived.

The kingdom is upon us.

So, repent.

Have you repented?

Have you turned from sin and turned to Jesus?

Are you repenting?

Four weeks ago, I asked you, “Of what sins do you need to repent these days? Where is the Lord working on you? What sins is He putting His finger on and asking you to confess and turn away from? ... What needs to change in your life?”

Do you remember what you said then?

Do you remember how you answered?

Have you changed?

Are you repenting?

Are you producing (like John the Baptist said, producing) fruit in keeping with repentance?

Because it’s not just John the Baptist who says that we need to do it!

It’s Jesus.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Turn your life over to the Lord and start going in His direction.

Follow Jesus.

That’s exactly what Jesus asks Peter and Andrew to do. V.18

“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.”

Isn’t that interesting?

Two brothers, Peter and Andrew. They probably had another brother named Isaac and a sister named Robin. But Matthew left that out of the story.

They are fishermen. They are fishing. Not with poles but nets. Great big circle nets that they throw out in the water, trap a bunch of fish and pull back up into the boat.

The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus had a prior relationship with these men. They had followed him before as, perhaps, part-time disciples. But they had returned to their thriving business in Fishtown, Galilee.

Yet on this fateful day, Jesus approached them and called them to give up their nets and their businesses, and come follow Him.

I think it’s great these are just “regular Joes.” They are just hard working blue collar guys, and Jesus thinks they’d make great disciples.

Notice that they don’t pick Him. He picks them.

That’s different from most Rabbi/Disciple relationships of that time period.

Normally, the disciple picked a rabbi, and hoped that the rabbi would allow them to follow him.

Here the Rabbi has picked His disciples.

“You, there. Come follow me.”

Think about what that means.

It’s a lot more than just physically following Him.

For Simon and Andrew, it meant dropping their nets, and leaving their businesses.

That’s a big deal, isn’t it?

For their friends James and John, it even meant leaving their family. Their dad. Verse 21.

“Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”

“And their father!”

That’s a big deal!

Following Jesus meant that (in priority at least), Jesus became their number one allegiance.

Following Jesus meant making Jesus their first commitment.

They made a break with everything to follow Jesus.

Are you a follower of Jesus?

Are you following Jesus?

One way to know is to see if you’re hanging on to your nets.

Or if there are relationships that come ahead of Jesus for you.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

The King is here.

Follow Jesus.

We use that word “follow” very lightly today.

Like, you can "follow" someone on social media.

How many “followers” to do you have?

How many people to do you “follow?”

I think it’s a fine way to use the word, but truly following Jesus is a lot more than just “liking” Him and agreeing with Him. Nodding your head at what He says.

Following Jesus means obeying Jesus as your Lord and Master.

And it means becoming like Jesus and following His example.

Following Jesus means total commitment and total attachment to His cause. To His Kingdom.

Are you following Jesus?

He’s inviting you.

“Come, follow me.” He says.

“Come get behind me. Follow in my trail. I’ll show you the path to walk.”

Notice that He doesn’t say, “Come follow my teaching.”

He could! But He doesn’t. He makes it more personal than that. “Come, follow me.”

We aren’t called to follow Christianity.  We are called to follow Christ.

Are you following Jesus?

That’s point number one of the vision I want cast for Lanse Free Church in 2018.

That we would truly be disciples.

That we would follow Jesus.

Wherever He goes. Whatever He says. Whatever He wants.

He’s the Rabbi. He’s our Leader. He’s our King.

Now, that’s going to mean personal change.

You don’t sign up to follow Jesus and then stay the way you are.

Some people think that grace means that we don’t have to change.

If you are saved by grace, they reason, it’s all free, so you are free to stay the same.

But that’s not the way it works. Abe is going to talk about that next week in his sermon. I’m going to be here listening to it. I can’t wait.

Grace changes us.

You come to Jesus as you are. You don’t have to get cleaned up first. Salvation is a free gift to sinners.

But grace changes you. When you come to Jesus, you repent. You make a U-turn, and then you follow Jesus and He changes you.

Lots of course corrections along the way. Some of them small and some of them big.

But you don’t stay the same following Jesus.

Are you following Jesus?

That’s the goal for 2018, to grow as followers of Jesus. And we’ll have to help each other get there.

You don’t follow Jesus on your own. You follow Jesus with other Jesus followers. That’s why we have a church.

Simon and Andrew and James and John now had each other. And they were going to follow Jesus in community for the rest of their lives.

Following Jesus is a team sport, and this is the team. We help each other to do it.

Let me ask you some pointed questions about following Jesus:

1. Are you repenting of sin?
2. Are you meeting with the Lord regularly?
3. Are you connecting with other believers?
4. Are you using your gifts to the serve the Lord?

Those aren’t the only questions to determine if you are following Jesus, but they are good ones.

We’re talked about repentance already. How about meeting with the Lord?

I mean reading your Bible and praying.

Not to go through the motions, but to follow Jesus.

How about connecting with other believers. Somebody knows you and how you are doing as a disciple. Are you doing that?

A link group, a class, a Bible study, a one-on-one get-together, a prayer-partner, that sort of thing?

And are you doing something with your gifts? Are you serving the Lord and His church?

Following Jesus means doing what Jesus wants you to do.

Not what I want you to do. But what Jesus calls you to do.

“‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said.”

We’re going to learn how to do that in 2018. The Gospel of Matthew will light the way.

It’s not going to be easy. But it’s going to be good!

You can guess what the other main point is going to be.

#2. FISH FOR PEOPLE.

Follow Jesus and fish for people to follow Jesus. V.19

“‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’”

They were fishermen. Now they are fishers of men.

They are no longer going after salmon but after souls. No longer going after minnows but after men.

Part of being a disciple is making more disciples.

Let me say that again.

Part of truly being a disciple means actively making new disciples.

And it’s not optional.

You don’t get to say, “I don’t have the gift for that. I don’t have the gift of evangelism. I’m not a people person. I’m not a talker. So count me out.”

Jesus says, “Come, follow me, and I WILL MAKE YOU fishers of men.”

He’ll do it!

I would imagine that Andrew, James, and John might tried to get out of this. They were fishermen, not salesmen!  Of course, old Peter thought he could do whatever he wanted to do! He had a big mouth.

But Jesus says, “No. It’s not optional. This is what my disciples do. They fish for new disciples.”

Now, that’s going to look different for different people.

But if we aren’t fishing in some way, shape, or form, we are not being disciples!

We are not following Jesus.

Thankfully, Jesus says that He will do the work of making us fishers of men.

At least, He said it to Peter and Andrew, and I think it’s here in the gospels to give us the same idea.

He will make us people-fishers if we allow Him to.

And that’s exactly what we need to do.

And it’s what I want us to focus on in 2018. Fishing for people.

Anybody remember this fishbowl?

Ten years ago, we set out this fishbowl in the foyer and we encouraged everybody to think about whom they are praying for and hoping to talk to about Jesus.

And we put their names in this fishbowl and we committed to praying for them.

And I still carry around in my Bible the names of the people we prayed for back then.

And praise God, a number of these people have trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord since we began praying for them ten years ago.

Some of them are in this room right now.

Some of them have trusted Jesus and have died already.

And some of them, we’re still praying for.

I want do it again.

Abe is our prayer coordinator for the Wild Game Dinner.

He and I are going to put this fishbowl out in the foyer with little blue cards that say, “Please pray for...” and then you put a name down. Put your name on there, too, if you would. So we know who we are praying with.

And Abe is going to get those names to prayer warriors. Our prayer meeting, our Harvest Prayer Time, myself, and other folks that are going to commit to praying for these precious people.

And we’re going to do it beyond the Wild Game Dinner.

It’s not just for the Wild Game Dinner.

It’s for anyone that you are praying for...that you want to fish for!

We’re not going just going to pray fro them. We’re going to pray for you. We’re going to pray for opportunities. And for boldness!

Following Jesus means fishing for people.

It’s God’s work, but He wants to do it through us.

“‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’”

What are we fishing with?

What is the bait?

It’s Jesus Himself.

We aren’t trying to get people to buy into the church or some philosophy or even some movement.

We are trying to get people to consider the claims of Christ and give their lives to Him and His kingdom.

Look how precious He is. V.23

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. [What a ministry!] News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.”

Now, we’ll see that many y of those turned out to not be true followers.

But see how attracted they all are to Jesus.

What an amazing Person!

That’s Whom we want to introduce people to.

Jesus is the Good News.

We’ll talk about His teaching. And we’ll talk about His healing. Those will come up again and again. But look at the middle one in verse 23 again.

“Preaching the good news of the kingdom.”

The kingdom is near. The light has dawned.

And the kingdom is good.

The kingdom is good news.

Because of the good news of the King.


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