Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Epiphany 3

"Becoming a Disciple of the Lord"

Matthew 4:18-22

January 22, 2017

When was the last time you had a life-changing, life altering experience? Do you remember what it was and how it happened? Today's Gospel tells us about such an experience for the first disciples of Jesus. He called them from their nets on the shores of Galilee to follow Him as disciples.

Matthew 4:18-22. While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

What did it mean for Andrew, Peter, James and John to leave their nets and follow Jesus? It's not like they were going to take a road trip with Him. Their journey with Him is going to be a life-transforming event. They will follow Him with a purpose. That purpose will be revealed to them over the next couple of years. Although Jesus would reveal it slowly to them, even then, they wouldn't fully understand what it meant until after His resurrection and ascension. Jesus chose a slow and deliberate path for the transformation of these men from fishermen to fishers of men.

Our Lord calls them to be His disciples. A disciple was not only a learner or pupil but an believer who so identified with the teacher that they imitated their teacher in thought, speech and actions. This doesn't happen over-night. It is not a case of coercion or brain washing. The one who became a disciple did so willingly. Over the course of time, these men would come to imitate Jesus in every aspect of their lives.

The Lord also calls us to be disciples. As such, we also strive to imitate Him in thought, speech and actions. Of course, we know that's easier said than done. For most of us, the path of discipleship is a slow but on-going process. For most of us who follow Jesus as His disciples it seems as if we are taking two steps back for every step forward. Often our progress in discipleship is measured in centimeters rather than leaps and bounds. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit works in and through us as we make this journey of faith.

It's not easy being a disciple. The world and the devil have an active ally in our own sinful nature. Our sinful nature resists becoming more Christ-like in our thoughts, speech and actions. The danger for many people who call themselves Christians is developing a "do as I say, not as I do" approach to life.

Our Christian life is more than following a set of rules: "Do this. Don't do that." If life is merely rules, you don't need Christ. Yet, too many Christians view the Gospel as nothing more than rules Jesus laid down for life. The Gospel isn't about rules, it's about Jesus Christ. Without His passion, death and resurrection for us, the rules are irrelevant. In the end we are not asked if we followed all the rules but whether we believed.

Rules are external. That is, they are outside of you. People like rules because they can make a check list of rules to keep track of how well they're doing. Jesus encountered religious people like that. They were the Pharisees. They were proud of all their rules. They had expanded the 10 Commandments to 644 rules. From all outward appearances, they did a good job of keeping the rules. If you had any doubts, just ask them. The problem wasn't on the outside but inside. Jesus said their hearts were not in the right place.

Jesus wasn't impressed with all their rules. He didn't think they had a good track record in keeping their rules either. In fact, He called them white-washed tombs. They were sparkling white on the outside but rotten and decaying on the inside. Our Lord could easily say the same thing about a lot of religious people today. Now ask yourself, could He say the same thing about you? Are you religious on the outside and rotten on the inside?

Being a disciple isn't so much a matter of following certain rules. Being a disciple is developing the mind-set of our Lord over the course of time. Being a disciple is putting off sin and the ways of the world while putting on the attitude of God. The transformation to discipleship begins inside and works its way out.

The discipleship transformation is possible only by the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. As Paul reminds us, "the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." People throughout the generations have rejected the cross. They see it as folly because they believe they're too nice to be condemned by God for this thing called "sin."

They can't understand why the Lord God would send His Son to die such a terrible death. Why some have even accused God of being the ultimate child abuser if that's really what happened. Oh, the silliness and folly of those who cannot or will not believe the great love of God revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We are called to be disciples. Being a disciple isn't easy. Our Lord knew that we can't make the transformation to discipleship by ourselves. We need His help. This is why He places us together in community to aid, assist and encourage one another in our journey of disciple-ship. Our Lord encourages us in His word and comes to us today in the sacrament to assure us of His forgiveness, strengthen our faith in Him and help us to lead a life that reflects His love in and through us.

Today is Life Sunday. We have been called to live our life in Christ. Life and faith are gifts from God to us. Both are sacred in His sight. As disciples, we are called to witness the sanctity of life to our society and culture. Like the early Christians, we defend the weak, speak for the powerless and challenge the culture of death. Our calling is to support, assist and improve the quality of life for those around us.

By God's grace we are transformed by the Holy Spirit from the inside out. Over the course of time, our hearts, minds and lives are transformed from focus on self to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ as His thoughts, words and actions become ours in all we think, say and do to the glory of His name. Amen.


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06/28/2015
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01/25/2015
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12/28/2014
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09/28/2014
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01/26/2014
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