“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” Jesus told Peter, Andrew, James and John (Matt. 4:19). This call, in many ways, is shocking. These were experienced fishermen—they had jobs, families, nets ready to burst with fish thanks to a miracle performed by Jesus (Luke 5:2-11).
Now they were being told by this relative stranger, “Leave everything and follow me.”
What did they do?
“Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” (Matt 4:20)
There’s something powerful in this call—something that believers today, and particularly those of us in North America, may be missing.
A call to self-denial
This call to leave everything seems extreme, even silly. So we dismiss it, treating it as a call for the first disciples, but not something applicable to us today.
David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, in Birmingham, Alabama, wants to correct that. “Somewhere along the way, amid varying cultural tides and popular church trends, it seems that we have minimized Jesus’ summons to total abandonment,” he writes in his new book, Follow Me (Kindle location 213).
Platt wants to help Christians recover this understanding of the call of Jesus—that becoming a Christian is not, as many have come believe, “acknowledging certain facts or saying certain words…. the call to follow Jesus is not simply an invitation to pray a prayer; it’s a summons to lose our lives” (location 214).
Put simply, Follow Me is about one thing: Recovering the understanding that the one who truly believes Christ obeys Him—and that necessarily calls us to make disciples. While it seems obvious, if we take a quick look around us, we clearly see it’s anything but.
Many of us are too busy chasing our best lives now to see that the life Jesus calls us to—the life of self-sacrifice—is so much better and more fulfilling than any pleasure this world can offer, even when it causes us grief. So we settle for a good show instead of good fruit. We tell people to “come and see,” rather than us “go and tell.” We have exchanged praying a prayer and one-time decisions for Christ for an all-encompassing view of true worship.
We, like the child in C.S. Lewis’ famous analogy, are far too easily pleased, making mud pies to enjoy a holiday by the sea.
The evidence of faith
Platt’s concern is that we’ve made being a Christian too “easy” in some ways. We take a verbal belief, a mental assent of Jesus’ death and resurrection, as the proof of one’s salvation. But, Platt reminds us, this isn’t what Scripture tells us is the evidence. “Even the demons believe—and shudder,” James warns against such simplistic assertions (James 2:19). He writes:
Such “belief” clearly doesn’t save, yet such “belief” is common across the world today. Just about every intoxicated person I meet on the street says he “believes” in Jesus. Scores of people I meet around the world, including some Hindus, animists, and Muslims, profess some level of “belief” in Jesus. All kinds of halfhearted, world-loving church attenders confess “belief” in Christ.
We can all profess publicly belief that we don’t possess personally, even (or should I say especially) in the church. Hear the shouts of the damned in Matthew 7 as they cry, “Lord, Lord!” Jesus replies to them, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (location 355)
“Clearly, people who claim to believe in Jesus are not assured eternity in heaven,” Platt continues. “On the contrary, only those who obey Jesus will enter his Kingdom.”
This, for many readers, is an immediate exit-point. The idea of works-based salvation is rightly condemned within Scripture—any attempt to secure our salvation through our own merit will always fail. Nevertheless, there’s no getting around the clarity of Scripture on this point: genuine belief is evidenced in a changed life, in Spirit-filled, Spirit-enabled obedience to Christ.
The fruit of faith is obedience to Christ.
“Once people truly come face-to-face with Jesus, the God of the universe in the flesh, and Jesus reaches down into the depth of their hearts, saves their souls from the clutches of sin, and transforms their lives to follow him, they are going to look different,” Platt writes. “People who claim to be Christians while their lives look no different from the rest of the world are clearly not Christians” (location 391).
His words sting like the faithful wounds of a friend ought to (Prov. 27:6).
It’s no exaggeration to say that this kind of commitment radically changes lives. It definitely did for me and my family. Up until two years ago, we owned a home on a busy street in our city, had two very young children and were desperately house-poor. We were in a position where giving wasn’t about sacrificing luxuries, but necessities.
We looked at our lives and realized that, if we were called to follow Jesus into the unknown, we couldn’t. We felt trapped by the burden of something that for many is a blessing.
So we left it behind. Some folks looked at us as though we had two heads, but we followed what we felt to be God’s leading. We sold the house, went back to renting, had a third child… and now we are, for the first time in our lives, really feeling like we’re prepared to do whatever He would command. If it’s to go, we could go. If it’s to settle in, we can do that, too.
While not everyone should follow our example, the call is still there: If Jesus calls you to follow Him, what will you be willing to let go of? Is there anything that shouldn’t be on the table?
What will you do with this book?
Follow Me is nothing if not challenging—and Platt, being a good pastor, doesn’t want readers to be content with merely checking the book off their “to-read” list and shelving it. If it’s not lived out, it’s worthless. One of the most helpful elements of the book is personal disciple-making plan. He challenges us by asking:
- How will I fill my mind with Truth?
- How will I fuel my affections for God?
- How will I share God’s love as a witness in the world?
- How will I show God’s love as a member of a church?
- How will I spread God’s glory among all peoples?
- How will I make disciple makers among a few people?
The goal of these six questions is to move us into obedience with the call of Christ—to be disciples who are making disciples, a notable pattern among this year’s new releases. Of all the things I’ve read in this book, so far, this is probably the elements I’m most carefully considering how I answer. I don’t want to give willy-nilly checkmarks, I want to be intentional about making disciples, sharing the gospel with those around me (even when it’s hard) and encouraging others to do likewise.
In the end, the point is simple: a careful reader cannot walk away from Follow Me and do nothing with it. Platt’s challenge to see how we’re obeying Jesus’ call to follow will motivate, convict—and hopefully inspire you to greater fruitfulness in your faith.
Title: Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live.
Author: David Platt
Publisher: Tyndale (2013)