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The Call of Jesus

3 May, 2004 1:30 PM

Today I've been thinking about the way Jesus called his first disciples and comparing it to the way we tend to do it today.

Matthew 4:18-20 - One day as Jesus was walking along the shore beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers--Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew--fishing with a net, for they were commercial fishermen. Jesus called out to them, "Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!" And they left their nets at once and went with him. - New Living Translation

Jesus gives one simple reason why they should follow him. 'I will show you how to fish for people'.

After 32 years of growing up in church, I cannot ever remember anyone giving an altar call like that. I've heard a number of altar calls in the last year that have taken different approaches...

Of course I'm paraphrasing and generalizing but I wonder how our approach of today compares to the call of Jesus. It strikes me that a lot of the above approaches are very much about the state of the individual being called. Follow Jesus and YOU will find purpose, prosper, not go to hell, be united with God etc...

Jesus seems to take a different approach in this particular calling... 'follow me and I'll teach you how to have an impact on others - I'll teach you how to do what I do.'

I know I'm looking at three verses in isolation here, that I'm ignoring other examples of people being called to follow Jesus - but sometimes I wonder if set new Christians up for a rather selfish, passive and consumeristic Christianity right from the very beginning.

Thinking out loud here - interested in your thoughts...



This is an excellent post. Right on! I'm going through the same thinking process.

Susan » 30 April, 2004 12:54 PM

I've been thinkin about this kind of stuff too. I'm interested in behavioural issues - particularly with how we treat new Christians. So much of what we do or how we behave in relationships is about perceptions. What we see in ourselves and how we perceive others. When we become Christians our perception of ourselves, others and our view of the world can be turned upside down. 'An inner revolution of attitude and actions'. This can be a difficult process. Change is necessary yet we are so resistant to change on many levels. I was amused and then saddened to read a letter to a problems page in a magazine recently where a person asked for advice on whose responsibilty it was to insert the plastic divider between groceries on the supermarket checkout conveyor belt - yourself or the person behind you! This is the kind of stuff that exercises some people's minds! So much of what Jesus teaches is about radically changing the way we perceive everything around us, including ourselves. I meet lots of Christians who are not prepared to do this. Would be interested in your thoughts!

Andy » 30 April, 2004 7:21 PM

I've been noticing a lot of trends towards individualism recently. I think a lot of the stuff that's going on in the church is being driven by it. The stuff you mentioned seems like a negative aspect of individualism but I think there are some positive aspects too.

Dan » 30 April, 2004 7:50 PM

I think this is a great point, true their are other examples to look at. But I think this being the first example is a point to be made. I wonder how people would respond to a call like that? I think before I believed I would have repsonded more to that then the other kinds (although our church never did alter calls).

I totaly agree that the current ways of asking people to come to faith in Jesus sets up a lot of peole for a self centered faith rather than a selfless faith.

TravisM » 30 April, 2004 8:10 PM

interesting observations, we come up with our own formulae, the cross forming a bridge being my personal best! we are trying to make followers of Jesus!

helen » 30 April, 2004 10:59 PM

I find it humorous that we are using the spelling of altar as alter.

Of course the main idea is that when people come to the altar they are altered -- so I guess it works.

Generally I also agree with the point Darren is making, however Erwin McManus talks a lot about the widely felt need to have purpose and meaning in his appeal to 'cross the line of faith'. It is a subtle variation between -- you need a life of purpose and God gives a life of purpose or Christ will teach you a life of purpose -- perhaps even two sides of the same coin.

Just a thought (or two).


Glenn Teal » 1 May, 2004 1:04 AM

Much of the discussion above ignores the fact that the call Jesus made to the fishermen was very different from a call to salvation.

It was a call to follow Jesus in ministry. Those disciples were already followers of God. Some of the disciples had already excitedly met Jesus earlier, had previously been disciples of John the Baptist, and even already identified him as the Messiah (see the Gospel of John). And considering John the Baptist had pointed towards Jesus as someone greater than himself, the call from Jesus later may have been no surprise.

It seems possible that they were even hoping to do ministry with him, and were waiting to see if or when Jesus would issue the call. They may have prepared themselves in advance to leave everything and follow Jesus. This may be why they were able to do it quickly, if this is what the Gospel of Luke is indicating when it says, "So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him" (Luke 5:11).

But on the subject of evaluating how appropriately the church is calling the lost to salvation - we should look for biblical accounts where Jesus or any of his exemplary followers are doing the same.

I would welcome comments from those who see things in Scripture that contradict any of the points in the above view. Compare the gospels and see what you think. I would be interested in seeing some further discussion on this.

James » 2 May, 2004 10:18 AM

I agree with James. I was going to say something like that. The whole community that Jesus was dealing with were pharasees and the like. They're already religious and go to meetings(church) or gatherings on a regular basis. But they're just religious, they have no power. What Jesus was calling is the discipleship, which means, they're to be reduplicated. And without His power and enabling, you just can't do discipleship.

Susan » 2 May, 2004 3:01 PM

As I was thinking more about the ways Jesus deal with sinners, this two methods come into my mind, which is working miracles(which in a way can be sharing testimonies) and presense(when people are in the presense of the Holy Spirit, they just get convicted). The calling that Jesus give to the believers, or as the commission, is to go and make disciples. And He'll give them power to perform miracles when they follow Him.

Susan » 3 May, 2004 12:24 AM

"Calling the lost to salvation" vs. "following Jesus in ministry"

Are they different? Should they be?

Jon Reid » 5 May, 2004 5:39 AM

Jon, in answer to your questions, I would say, "In a sense yes, and in a sense no." That's the answer to so many questions about spiritual truth.

So, on this topic, in what sense yes? Well, the two calls were different for the disciples featured in the discussion. They happened at different times and applied to different seasons of their lives. So the point at the end of my post was that we can't use the focus that Jesus gave on being "fishers of men" in Mark 1 as an example of how we should call people to salvation - because Jesus wasn't calling those disciples to salvation at that point. This LivingRoom discussion started out examining the focus we use, or the reason we give, in calling people to salvation. Some other Scriptures explicitly calling people to salvation have a different focus, for example, the address by the apostle Peter, in Acts 2.

I'm not assuming that you've missed the point of the discussion. You're quite entitled to raise the new question of whether the two types of call should be different.

And, I believe that in a sense, the answer is, "No" - because I believe it is true, as you suggest, that all believers are called to follow Jesus in ministry from the day they are saved.

James » 8 May, 2004 11:24 AM

Just last night at our home group we were discussing some of the same issues. One of the best ‘alter calls’ heard of was the one Jesus gave to Peter… But whom say ye that I am?… (see below)
The key here is the source or origin of where Peter got his information. We do not receive the knowledge of Spiritual things (salvation, entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, the light shinning into the darkness etc.) from external sources and then make some sort of judgment of their worth. That was the reasoning in the Garden… that is the knowledge or the privilege of deciding good and evil. Spiritual things must be received from Spiritual places.

We will be addressing this question further… check out www.glorytoglory.info.

Matt 16:13-17
13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Mark Gfiffin » 27 June, 2004 2:30 AM

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