“And he said to them, ”Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)
Last week I heard a word from beyond the grave. I was searching through a file of developing chapel themes when I discovered a note requesting that I speak on a particular theme. The note was from Charlie. He wrote the note in response to a prayer I had written. Charlie said he wanted me to finish it up and he suggested a verse that did so. I read the verse and what Charlie had in mind became even more mysterious. It was Christ’s word to Peter, hinting at the way he would die. Charlie had cardiac disease, so he had a thirty-year hint of the way he would die, too. I wonder if my son Bob, who died at 38 did? But John did not say that Jesus was telling Peter merely the manner of death he would die, but this he said – he would glorify God.
Will your death glorify God? Some do and some don’t. Charlie thought the answer to that question lies in one’s obedience to the command which follows. Jesus told Peter about death and then he told him about life: follow me. Peter wanted to know about the other fellow. Don’t we all? Jesus said, that is none of your business. Your business is simple. Follow me.
If we follow Jesus, where will he go? Perhaps the same way Charlie went. Let me read you a portrait of Charlie: “I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:4-9)
A portrait of Charlie? Some super saint? It was written to the worst bunch of failures in any church described for us in the New Testament! How could Paul write this to the Corinthians?
Why is Paul so thankful for the stumbling, bumbling saints of Corinth? Because of their excellent track record? Because of the grace that was given them. Everything outside of hell is the grace of God, so certainly everyone in Christ is in grace. That’s where we begin in following Jesus: we enter into His grace. The Corinthians had. Charlie began there. Have you?
Where does he lead us, then, once we enter the relationship? A Spirit-enriched life – enriched in every way (vs 5). High octane, super high octane. The working of the Holy Spirit brings a supernatural quality of life and supernatural effectiveness in ministry. This effect of the Spirit’s his work is confirmation that we are truly “in Christ” (vs. 6). As a group, the local congregation, the body in concert will have all the gifts and abilities needed to accomplish God’s purposes in the world (vs 7). If all the members function as designed, that is.
We produce fruit- we are blameless on that day (vs 8). We are spiritually strong. What does that mean? A growing, adult Christian. Our mind is in process of renewal, our heart inflamed with passion for God, we are an authentic reproduction of the original. No one can point the finger, blameless. Not some rare super-saint, just the plain old normal Spirit-enriched Christian life of following Jesus.
If you are a genuine Christian, truly in Christ, you will have, in increasing measure, these two Spirit-signs of God at work: fruit and gifts, what you are and what you do. But, you may say, it isn’t happening in MY life. At least not at any measurable rate of speed. How does it happen? How can one follow Jesus? By what manner of death will you glorify the Lord? It may depend on how well you follow Jesus. Not all do follow closely.