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The Call

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(5/4) Today we’re in our Part 9 in our series Conquering Hurts, Habits, and Hang-Ups based on Rick Warren’s Road to Recovery. This series is based upon a moment two thousand years ago, when Jesus sat down on a hillside, and preached the greatest sermon ever preached. It was called the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:3-12). He started that most famous sermon ever by giving these eight principles that will bring happiness to your life. He tells us that by following these principles we can live a life of victory... a life of fulfillment... a life of significance and meaning. And we need to know that… because that's the kind of life that God has planned for you.

So we’ve been in this series for nine weeks and as we wrap it up I want you to see what we’re going to do with the momentum we’ve obtained. We’re going to join in with the apostle Paul who said, "In all these things we are more than conquerors through Christ" (Romans 8:37). And so today we're going to look at "The Call" to follow Jesus and the abundant life that he has promised. We’re going to look at another one of Jesus' most famous sayings and consider what it teaches us about following him. The passage is found near the beginning of the Gospel According to Mark. Let’s look at chapter one… Mark 1:16-18…

"As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him." (NIV)

Now I always thought this was a little strange, because it sounds like Jesus called out to two complete strangers, they dropped everything, and began walking like zombies, following him with their arms stuck straight out in front of them, like in some creepy movie. But that’s not how it was. Jesus wasn't a stranger… he was neighbor… he was family to John the Baptist… and there's no reason not to think that Simon and Andrew didn’t know him very well.

I say this because I want you to realize that their decision to follow Jesus wasn’t that much different than yours and mine. He called Simon and Andrew just like he’s called you and me today. And so when Jesus said, "Follow me" he wasn’t saying for us to lead, to conquer, or to build for him. He merely called us to follow him. And what that means is he wants us to act like he did, to reflect his values, and to do whatever we do just like he would do it.

So there are three things about Jesus' call to Andrew and Simon that I want you to notice. When Jesus said, "Follow Me" he was saying, "Be like me, live like me, and act like me." So today, the first thing I want to talk about, is "The Call…"

1. To Endure

In His amazing love God gives us the opportunity to make our own choices. He says, "You can choose good or bad, right or wrong, life or death. You can reject me or accept me. It’s your choice." And the reason why, is that God doesn’t want a bunch of puppets. You see, He could have made you where you always do what’s right, but God wanted people who love Him voluntarily. So God has given you free will, but that free will can be a pain, because sometimes we make dumb choices. And those choices cause all kinds of painful consequences in our lives. So it’s good that I’m free to choose… but it’s bad… because I often choose the wrong thing and that choice causes pain in my life.

But not only does God give you a free will, He gives everyone else free will too. And you know, sometimes they don’t do the right thing and you get hurt… you become the innocent victim. Now of course, God could have prevented that hurt from happening to you, but then He would have had to take away that person’s free will and if He had done that… well that’s just not fair. So there’s this dilemma. And the problem is that by having a free will we get blessing, but we also get pain. And God doesn’t want to overrule your will, but he also doesn’t want anybody in hell.

So God uses pain to guide us and get our attention. Pain is the warning light or the alarm system that tells us, "Something’s wrong." Your depression, your anxiety, your fear, your loneliness, whatever… is not really your problem. It’s just a warning light that says there’s something wrong. It’s just a symptom of your problem. You see God whispers to us in our pleasures but He shouts to us in our pain. And pain tells me, "Something is drastically wrong in my life." It’s God’s megaphone for the hard of hearing like myself.

You see, we don’t stop or change our course when we see a fire but we move when we feel the heat. And so sometimes things need to become uncomfortable… sometimes it takes pain to get us moving. In 2 Corinthians: Paul says "I am glad… not because it hurts you but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways" (2 Co 7:9). So pain turns you to God… pain gets your attention.

Do you remember the story of Jonah? Jonah was going one way and God said, "I want you to go the other way." So He gave Jonah a Mediterranean cruise and at the bottom of the ocean Jonah said: "As my life was slipping away, I remembered the Lord…" (Jonah 2:7; NLT). Isn’t that a great verse? "As my life was slipping away, I remembered the Lord…" God uses pain to get our attention.

Paul tells the church in 2 Corinthians, "We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life… But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God, who… has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and… he will continue to deliver us" (2 Co 1:8-10).

God calls us to endure, because we all have hurts, habits, and hang-ups. Nobody’s perfect. And who can better help somebody dealing with the pain of abuse, addiction, or alienation than someone who was abused, addicted, or alienated. So God wants to use and recycle the pain in your life to help others, but you’ve got to be open and honest about it. If you keep that hurt to yourself, you’re wasting it, instead of helping others.

The second thing I want to point out, is "The Call…"

2. To Forgive

Now there’s an amazing story in the Bible, in Genesis, about a young man named Joseph. Now Joseph was good guy, but people mistreated him and the Bible tells us in Genesis chapter 37, that one day all eleven of his brothers decided to gang up against him and sell him to slave traders. Then they went back home and told their dad he’d been eaten by a wild animal. Meanwhile Joseph is taken from Israel into Egypt, where He’s sold into slavery. He’s doing his job and his master’s wife tries to seduce him. But Joseph loves God, he’s keeping his life pure, so he pulls away and says, "No that wouldn’t be right." And so what does she do? She cries, "Rape!" and he ends up falsely accused and thrown into prison. So this guy’s whole life is just messed up.

But God was working behind the scenes and he was preparing great things for Joseph. You see God knew he was faithful and he was putting him in a position to become second in command in Egypt. And God used him to save not only one but two nations from a great famine. And so sometime later Joseph’s brothers would unknowingly come to him to get food, he reveals his true identity, and they expect to have their heads cut off, and rightfully so. But Joseph says in Genesis 50:20,

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people."

Joseph recognized that God was bigger than those people who hurt him. And today, no matter what other people have done to you, God can turn it around and use it for good.

You see, God never wastes a hurt. But you can waste it if you don’t learn from it and you don’t share it with other people. How can other people be blessed… how can other people be encouraged… to conquer their hurts, habits, and hang-ups… if you don’t share your experiences, your trials, and your victories?

Joseph got a raw deal… he was badly mistreated… not once, but twice in his life. And what I like about Joseph is that in spite of the bad things that happened to him, he never allowed himself to become the victim. He was always the winner. When he had the opportunity for revenge on his brothers, instead he chose to reconcile and reunite his family. Even after his father's death, when he could’ve really paid them back, he chose the path of forgiveness, and was able to see God's hand in all that happened.

You know the concept of forgiveness is a beautiful thing… until you’re the one doing the forgiving. It's just not easy to forgive. It's not easy to let go of an offense. But the problem is that the longer we hang on to it, and hold that grudge, the more painful it gets. So when it comes to forgiveness Jesus was very clear. He said... "If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:15). It couldn't be any clearer than that. When you refuse to forgive, you yourself are separated from God… you’re carrying a burden that you don't have the strength to carry… and you’re living the life of a perpetual victim. So forgiveness is a prerequisite to conquering your hurts, habits, and hang-ups. That's why we're called to forgive.

But I’ll tell you, one of the most difficult decisions we make in our lives is often the decision to let go of an offense and to move forward with our lives. There is a tendency to want to hold on, to wait, because we know that change is difficult. It’s difficult to pick up and move on, but it’s in the choice to move that we find the strength to overcome the pain.

We see this principle at work in Joseph's life and we see it in our lives as well.

No doubt our hurts, habits, and hang-ups intended to destroy us. They brought a lot of pain into our lives. But it can end there. The book of Micah says... "Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light" (Micah 7:8).

I've been hurt. I may have been knocked down, but I’m not destroyed. I will get back up and allow the power of God to somehow create good out of this situation. Even though, you may not have yet seen the full revelation of God's redemptive power in your story… you’ve got to continue to trust that he will use your hurts, habits, and hang-ups to bring glory to himself and to bless others.

And third, following Jesus is "The Call…"

3. To Serve

Jesus said, "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:43-45).

You know you’re making progress… you’ve conquered your hurts, habits, and hang-ups… when you begin to focus outside of yourself… when you start saying, "How can I help others?" The proof of your recovery is that you want to help others and you want to share what God has done in you instead of focusing on what’s happened to you.

The Bible tells us in Jude 22-23:

"Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear-hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh."

This usually requires you to take the initiative. As the Bible says in Galatians,

"If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal 6:1-2).

Notice that God doesn’t say, "It’s a good idea if you share." He says, "Do it." If you are a believer, you are to share in the problems and troubles of others. That’s a command. If you’re not doing it, you’re not obeying God, and so I’m just telling you what God said.

But I want to challenge you today… 1 Peter 3:15 says… "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone, who asks you to give the reason, for the hope that you have..." You need to be prepared to give an answer… How did you make it? How did you conquer that whatever? You’ve gotta be prepared.

Then ask God to give you somebody you could share your story with, to share the good news of how God can make a difference in their life. You see you’re the only Bible some people will ever read. The world is full of people who need your story… they’ll never hear me, but you have a story that can reach them, that they can identify with, and God wants to use you.

Once you begin following Jesus, God gives you a whole new purpose in life. The moment you choose to follow, to step across the line, you become a missionary. It’s called the Great Commission. Jesus said, "Go and make disciples…" (Matthew 28:19). It’s part of your job description. If you claim to be a believer, God calls you to share the good news with other people. You don’t have to be a biblical genius. You just say, "This is what happened to me." That’s the most powerful kind of story anyway. Nobody can deny that. It’s your personal experience.

The apostle Paul said this in Acts 20:24, "I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."

What is that task… what work? It’s serving and telling the others the good news about God’s love and favor. There is no greater accomplishment in life than helping somebody find the assurance of heaven… no greater joy, no greater satisfaction, than helping somebody find the good news. God wants to use you to serve, to share your story... He made you for that purpose.

The most significant thing you do with your life is first, give your life to Christ, become a part of God’s family, get involved in a ministry, and start sharing your story. It will far outlast anything you do in your career, your hobby, your whatever, because what we’re talking about here is forever, getting people from darkness into light, from hell into heaven, from an eternity without God to an eternity with God, and people will be thanking you for the rest of eternity. There is no more significant cause in life.

I challenge you to let yourself be used by God… to respond to the call… to endure, to forgive, and to serve others.


Jesus calls us to follow him now. That means you begin today.

Keep in mind, that this isn't merely a call to salvation. It's a call to discipleship. Some of you have been believers for years… even decades… and you keep putting off getting serious about following Jesus. You want to be committed to Christ, involved in serving him, walking with him everyday, devoted to him in prayer... someday. And yet, you keep pushing the deadline back, thinking, "I'll get to this... maybe tomorrow."

Today's the day. Now's the time. Decide right here at this moment to "leave your nets" and get serious about following him. Your life will begin to count like it never has before. You will move from mediocrity to meaning. You'll become a fisher of men. Jesus calls us to follow him. He calls us to take our eyes off ourselves, off our hurts, our habits, and hang-ups, and to focus on others. He wants to use your experiences to help other people. He wants to recycle the pain in your life for the benefit of others.

We end this series as we began it weeks ago, reminding you that Jesus calls you to a personal relationship with him. It begins at salvation, and it continues through the rest of your journey through this life, until you see him face to face. He wants you to encounter him, to know him, to experience him, to become like him. And he wants to fill your life with miracles and purpose.

I hope you will begin a quest in your life to rediscover Jesus, to know him as you've never known him before, to follow him more closely than you ever have before, and to love him more than you ever have before. I encourage you to make an effort to experience his presence and fullness. He's waiting for you to follow him now.

Read past sermons by Pastor John Talcott

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