Faith

3 things Jesus is calling us to, and it’s not more work

Reverend Edmund Chan, Leadership Mentor, Covenant Evangelical Free Church // February 23, 2020, 10:57 pm

Not if but when

The following is extracted from the transcript of Reverend Edmund Chan’s message at the Celebration of Hope wrap-up meeting, where he spoke on 5 defining questions for demystifying discipleship. This article has been adapted from Question 3: “What is discipleship all about?”


What is discipleship really all about?

The simplest answer is it’s really all about following Jesus. In Matthew 4:19, Jesus said to His disciples, who were fishermen: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

You know what Jesus seems to be saying? “Follow me and I will give you more work.”

It’s like, thanks, but no thanks. I mean, we are busy. In this busy age we live in, we don’t need more work.

In fact, what we need is a six-month vacation twice a year. We don’t need more work like an Eskimo would need more ice, right?

I would suggest to us that we have totally missed the point of what Jesus meant when He said those words. It was not “follow me and I will give you more work”. There are three things to this call to follow Jesus. 

A CALL TO A HIGHER PURPOSE OF LIFE: “FISHERS OF MEN”

Firstly, it’s a call to a higher purpose of life: “Follow me and you don’t have to live through this mundane life of just ‘making a living’. You have the joy and the power living the life.” Making a living, for the disciples, was being fishermen. That was their livelihood. Jesus said, “Follow me and be fishers of men. You have a higher purpose in life.”

Pastor Edmund Chan on the world’s greatest need

Now, notice how Jesus did not say “follow me and I’ll make you successful” or “follow me and I’ll make you happy” or “follow me and I’ll make you rich”. Not even “follow me, I’ll make you a well-adjusted person”.

No, He said, “Follow me and I will so transform you to a higher purpose and a higher calling in life, that you live for something more than just mere existence.”

You move from just your own career to your calling, from your occupation to a vocation from God, from the mundaneness of life to a mission for God – and we have to be missional as disciples of Jesus.

Jesus did not say “follow me and I’ll make you successful” or “follow me and I’ll make you happy” or “follow me and I’ll make you rich”.

If we’re building disciples in Bible studies and discipleship groups and we don’t give them a sense of mission, a sense of the nation, a sense of the heart of God, a sense that there’s so much up for grabs in the world today among the nations, and if they don’t have a missional Cross in their hearts and missional engagement in their lives, they cannot be true disciples.

But the minute they catch those things and are willing to sacrifice everything for that mission, everything for that treasure, they understand radical discipleship because they have become missional. They live for a higher purpose. 

A CALL TO A GREATER REALITY: “FOLLOW ME”

The second: Jesus is calling us to a greater reality. Follow me.

David Wells wrote an interesting book called God in the Wasteland and he says that for Christians, God has to be the vision and culture, the context. But we have reversed it: We have made God the context, and culture our vision.

The subversion of God as the ultimate reality

Now what he meant by that is: God should be the defining reality of our lives, and culture the context by which we live for that reality in God.

But now culture has become the defining reality for the Christian, and God has become the context of light church talk on Sunday mornings.

In this culture war, we all need to calm down

And when these Christians go back into the world, they don’t know how to engage with the world in their Christian faith, or engage with the Christian faith in the world, simply because God is not their defining reality, culture is.

So the cultural narrative becomes the truth, rather than the Word of God being the ultimate reality and truth.

The futile search for meaning 

Young people, in particular, are searching for meaning in life.

But this is what we’ve got to learn: You cannot find meaning in the search for meaning. Why? Because meaning is a byproduct.

You find meaning in ultimate reality.

It’s like happiness or humility. Happiness is a byproduct of something else. Humility is a byproduct of something else.

If you try to seek humility by pursuing humility or find happiness by pursuing happiness, you can never find it. In the same way, holiness is a byproduct. Discipleship is a byproduct. Meaning in life is a byproduct.

A byproduct of what? I have learnt through reflecting on the Scriptures theologically and on life existentially and meaningfully that you cannot find meaning in meaning – you find meaning in ultimate reality.

So, here’s the question, what’s the ultimate reality of life? If Jesus were here today and we interviewed Him on this, He would have one answer, and it’s right there in the Scriptures and in His preaching – the ultimate reality of life is the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of God is our ultimate reality

Do a study on the kingdom of God in the gospels and you’ll find that right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, at the end of His ministry and the post-Resurrection teaching of His ministry, for 40 days after He rose from the dead. There were many things they needed to know, but He taught them one thing: the kingdom of God.

Choosing the better part

Here’s why: Because the Kingdom of God is the ultimate reality, and the heart of the kingdom of God is the King. In other words, you cannot have a kingdom if there is no king. It all points back to the kingship of Jesus.

What is discipleship all about? Discipleship is all about the Lordship of Jesus Christ as the greater reality and vision for life.

I have learned as a young man: If Jesus is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all. Mean business with God.

The refusal to surrender control

Here’s our main problem: We dare not make Jesus “Lord”. Why? We’re afraid to surrender.

We’re afraid to surrender because we don’t want to lose control. And the only reason why we don’t want to lose control and surrender to Jesus is that we have an illusion of control.

We don’t realise that in reality, we don’t have control. We don’t have control of tomorrow. We don’t know tomorrow. We don’t hold tomorrow. That’s why there is angst, an existential frustration because of the uncertainties of tomorrow, without realising we have no control for tomorrow.

Step into full-time ministry? I didn’t want my boat to be rocked

But here’s the thing we have: We have a God who knows tomorrow and holds tomorrow and He says: “Trust me, I am in control.”

That is the smartest thing to do. Since I don’t have control, I might as well surrender to the One who truly has control.

That’s what discipleship is all about: “Follow me”. Not just to a higher purpose, but to a greater reality.

A CALL TO DEEPER TRANSFORMATION: “I WILL MAKE YOU”

And here is the third thing: it is a call to a deeper transformation – “I will make you.”

Jesus did not say: “Okay, I want you to follow me but first, you go and change your life, go and straighten out your life, go and ‘unmess’ your life then come follow me.”

If Jesus ever said to me “hey Edmund, go and straighten your life first then follow me”,  I will be condemned, doomed and a failure because I cannot.

I want to; I know my own heart. But I cannot. I often come before the Lord crying, saying, “Lord, You know my heart, I love You. But look at the mess I’m in.”

My heart resonates with Peter when he was answering Jesus’ question of “do you love me?” – “Lord, you know I love You”.

I love You but I’m a mess. And what does Jesus reply? “Follow me.”

Follow me, and I will break you, I will transform you and I will so change you in that mighty transformation. You will have newness of life, newness of purpose, newness of mission in your life. 

That’s what discipleship is really all about.

THINK + TALK

  1. What is your current purpose in life? Are you looking for a higher purpose?
  2. Where do you derive meaning in life? What are areas you struggle to surrender to God?
  3. Do you desire deeper transformation? Commit to trusting the Lord to mould you into His image, whatever it takes.